Archive for November, 2006

Carnival of Education

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Week 95 of the Carnival of Education is up. I submitted my post about a science concepts college project I did.

Oh, barnacles!!!

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

Big barnacles are causing headaches here in Florida.

Every boater knows that barnacles are a big pain.

Now the emphasis is on big. Mega barnacles have arrived in Florida. Some are large enough to make into a dice cup, a pencil holder or even a bud vase.

An ordinary barnacle in the Sunshine State doesn’t get much bigger than a dime or a nickel, but these foreign giants that hail from the Pacific Ocean are turning up from North Carolina to South Florida.

USGS Open House

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

The Florida Integrated Science Center’s 8th Annual Open House and Earth Science Day for Fourth Graders:

This year’s theme is: “Be a Citizen Scientist.” Scientists explore, investigate, experiment, monitor, record, analyze, observe, measure, collaborate, map and report. There is a scientist inside each of us. Come learn and see what scientists do. Learn how you, a citizen scientist, can learn more about the world around you.

The USGS will host displays to show the general public and visiting fourth graders what kind of work USGS scientists do.

Explore the exciting world of scientific research and meet our scientists and staff. We will have exhibits that highlight geology, coastal processes, hurricanes, tsunamis, coral reefs, native fish and wildlife, sinkholes, ground water, and bacteria.

This event will take place on two days at the FISC St. Petersburg Office. The first day is for the “USGS Open House for the General Public” Wednesday, November 29, 2006, from 3 to 6PM.

The “Annual Earth Science Day for Fourth Graders” will take place Thursday, November 30, 2006, from 8:30AM to 1PM.

Evidence of Design Conference report

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Florida Citizens for Science board member Pete Dunkelberg attended the Evidence of Design Conference earlier this month (November 3–4, 2006 — Clearwater and Tampa, Florida). Quoted from the promotional material, here is what the conference was to be about: “This conference will enable Christians and others to use simple evidence to demonstrate there is in fact a designer of life and that he is Jesus Christ.” Needless to say, evolution was the enemy.

Pete filed the following report about his adventure (originally posted at Panda’s Thumb):


Had the Discovery Institute had found some startling new evidence just since the Dover trial? Brimming with curiosity, I drove all the way to Clearwater to hear the news. Nelson gave two talks, of which the first turned out to be the best. What follows is little more than my raw notes of that talk. The slides with quotes and citations came quicker than I could take them all down, and as the night wore on my note taking became rather sketchy, but you will get the gist of his presentation. Draw your own conclusions.


Annual meeting summary

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Joe Wolf, our president, filed this report about our annual meeting:


The annual meeting of the members of Florida Citizens for Science was held in Orlando on November 11, 2006.

Present were: Mary Bahr, David Campbell, Pete Dunkelberg (Treasurer),Brandon Haught, Joe Meert (Vice President), Phyllis Saarinen (Secretary),Jonathan Smith, Curtis Wolf (a member), and Joe Wolf (President).

The primary job of the annual meeting is to elect a new board.  Before we did that we increased the number of members on the board from 11 to 13.  We did that primarily because we wanted to add two members to our board that are also members of the board of the Florida Association of Science Teachers (FAST).  This is a great organization and we need to work with them.  We can mutually benefit each other.

All of the current board members we re-elected : Mary Bahr, David Campbell, Pete Dunkelberg, Jennifer Hancock, Brandon Haught, Joe Meert, Henry Neufeld, Phyllis Saarinen, Jonathan Smith, Joe Wolf.  We also elected Curtis Wolf and voted to invite two FAST board members to join us.  Victor Hatfield has agreed to serve and the second person I have not been able to contact yet.

In a separate meeting after the membership meeting the Board got together and voted for new officers.  All officers were continued in office:  Joe Wolf – President; Joe Meert – Vice President; Phyllis Saarinen – Secretary; and Pete Dunkelberg -Treasurer.

All of the board members bring unique perspectives, talents, interests and experiences to the board. I thank them all for their service.

We also voted to move the annual meeting to the second Saturday in January starting in 2008.  We realized that November is getting into the holidays and thus a busy month.  We are hoping that more members will be able to attend in January.

Several changes were made in the strategic plan and so it was tabled for further work.  I am currently working on it.  Hopefully it will be complete soon.

Our project to rewrite the state science standards is going well.  A rough draft has been completed and the review committees are working on them.

We changed web servers this year and the new one is working well. Paypal will be added to the web site to make it easer for those who want to be voting members to pay their annual dues.

That pretty much covers the annual meeting.

We had a good year last year.  This is our first year in existence and we have been building infrastructure. We also started a major project of rewriting the state science standards. Next year we will apply for 501(c)(3) tax status, continue the state science standards process and add new activities as we have resources and people to do them.  If anyone has experience with applying for the 501(c)(3) statuse, please leave a comment.

Science news roundup

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Just some tidbits for your reading pleasure …

Evolution can happen quickly:

Evolution happens. But it can also stop and turn on a dime.

A new study of lizards in the Bahamas shows that the natural selection pressures that drive evolution can flip-flop faster than previously thought — even in months.

“Darwin was right about so many things,” said Jonathan Losos, a former Washington University biologist who led the study. “In this case he was wrong. He thought that evolution must occur slowly and gradually.”

Scientists say that, from a political perspective, the cases offer a vivid reminder of the continuous process that some people imagine proceeding only in fossilized fits and starts: first monkey, then man.

But for the scientists themselves, the cases show that evolutionary biology has, well, evolved into a predictive, experimental science like any other.

Lucy’s U.S. tour:

The trappings of her planned U.S. tour would befit a rock star — hype, controversy, strict security and the promise of huge crowds. However, the star of this tour has been dead for 3.2 million years and her appearance left a lot to be desired from a showbiz standpoint — an ape-like female only 3½ feet high, walking upright on two feet but retaining the ability to scamper through the treetops when necessary.

It is Lucy, whose partial skeleton was discovered in 1974 and who for about 20 years was the earliest known human ancestor, a member of a branch of hominids that lived 3 million to 4 million years ago known as Australopithecus afarensis.

A deal between the Ethiopian Natural History Museum and the Houston Museum of Natural Science would bring Lucy, accompanied by 190 other fossils and relics, to the United States next September for a six-year tour.

Some scientists oppose the trip, arguing that Lucy’s remains are irreplaceable and too fragile to be moved. But, as has been noted, other fragile and priceless artifacts — the King Tut exhibit and the Dead Sea scrolls, for example — have been safely transported and displayed, with a subsequent swell of public interest in archeology. Lucy would likely do the same for anthropology and paleontology.

And with assorted activists disputing evolution, Lucy’s appearance could hardly be more timely.

Plasmid’s gifts for geeks:

Remember the clocks that chimed a different birdcall each hour? The battery-powered, ion-spewing electric hair brushes? How about those personal air purifiers, foot massagers and devices that played the recorded sound of falling rain?

If there’s a geek in your life, you’ve probably made one of these costly holiday gift mistakes. If you find yourself considering another shake flashlight or Scrolling Message Center, you need Plasmid’s help.

You don’t have to spend a great deal of money to make a geek happy.

Science Concepts project

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Earlier this year I had a college project to do concerning what people understand about some basic astronomy concepts. This was a fun project that produced what I thought were startling results. Feel free to leave your comments on how I did and what you think of the project results. My final evaluation by the teacher was great!

Students were assigned a Science Concepts Task. The instructions were to survey approximately 10 people concerning basic science concepts, analyze the information gathered from the survey and then interpret the results in a report with graphs.

Students were to choose one of two science questions to conduct a survey about. I chose to use both questions during my surveys with the objective of then doing a report about one of the questions that resulted in the most interesting results. Students were instructed to ask the question(s) and record the results without assisting the interview subject in any way. The questions were:

What makes the seasons?

What makes the phases of the moon?

When I asked these questions, though, I found that the subjects’ answers tended to be very simple and vague. I was afraid of influencing their answers by probing with questions of mine. So, to further refine the subjects’ answers, I used five multiple-choice questions found on the “A Private Universe Project” website ( These questions directly related to the two main questions and helped the subjects express their understanding in more detail.

When I approached each subject, I first made sure we had uninterrupted time to conduct the survey. I then briefly introduced the reason for the survey: This is a school project of mine about understanding science concepts. I explained that there would be two open questions and five multiple-choice questions, all about two aspects of basic astronomy. Once the subject understood, I then posed the two open questions one at a time. I made sure the subject understood each question when asked and then had the subject answer without any further prompting from me. I wrote down the answers as they were verbally given to me.

Without discussing the answers, I then gave the subject a packet of papers containing the five multiple-choice questions. I had the subject take his/her time reading each question and giving me each answer that I then recorded.


Teachers make Science Hall of Fame

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Six Brevard County teachers were the first to be inducted into the school district’s Science Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, I can’t find much more information about the honor on the Internet. It looks like the Space Coast Science Education Alliance has something to do with it, according to the news brief.

The Brevard County School Board has officially inducted six teachers into the district’s first Science Hall of Fame.

The teachers each won the exemplary science teaching award from the Space Coast Science Education Alliance two times, retiring them into the Hall.

The inaugural inductees are: Jana Gabrielski, Carolyn Howell, Raul Montes, Nancy Rehwoldt, Lisa Scott and Guytri Still. Photos of the six teachers now hang on a wall in the district’s main office in Viera.