Marcus Winters on teachers’ unions versus educational standards.
The premise underlying the policies favoured by the teachers’ unions, which govern so much of the relationship between public schools and teachers, is that all teachers are uniformly effective. Once we can objectively distinguish between effective and ineffective teachers, the system of uncritically granted tenure, a single salary schedule based on experience and credentials, and school placements based on seniority become untenable. The unions don’t want information about their members’ effectiveness to be available, let alone put to practical use.
So without any conspiracy we seem to be betting trillions on science that does not adequately coordinate to prevent control data from entering real data sets, has practices in the discipline that are inadequate to guard against undue weight, and is taking large chunks of its data from weather stations whose error bars far exceed the global warming signal we’re all supposed to be worried about. At this point a finding of “no conspiracy” would not reassure me. It should not reassure us at all.
James “King of the World” Cameron is lecturing you about your unearned sense of entitlement. Isn’t that cute? [...] Why is it okay for James Cameron to devote whole rooms full of energy-sucking computers - and the Red Bull-sucking nerds in front of them - to creating photorealistic cat people, but I get a lecture when I leave my cell phone charger plugged in? [...] It’s not enough to be rich and famous if you’re not somehow “relevant.” Whether it’s Prince Charles or Al Gore or Leonardo DiCaprio or any of these other guys, they all have the same message: “Hey, I deserve to live like this. Now shut up and shiver in the dark, you peasants.”
I began my work at a time when invisibility was not fashionable at all.
Physicist Ulf Leonhardt, quoted here, in a piece noting how research into cloaking technologies has become popular and very nearly respectable. Needless to say, there are still one or two problems.
It’s difficult to find anybody in the know who expects there will ever be a device that hides itself and its contents at all wavelengths - if you can’t see it in visible light, then perhaps radar, infrared, ultraviolet or X-rays would reveal it. But optimism for practical uses is growing.
And there’s an issue I don’t recall being acknowledged in Star Trek.
If a cloak were to make an object fully invisible to the outside world, then the outside world would be invisible to the object within the cloak. A thing (or person) inside a perfect cloak is not only invisible. It is blind.
Just 8 km in diameter, Saturn’s moon Daphnis casts its shadow. The tiny moon’s gravity creates waves in Saturn’s A ring that extend above the plane to a height of 1.5 km. Image taken by Cassini in visible light on June 26, at a distance of approximately 823,000 km from Daphnis.
The mother [of the bridegroom] and other female relatives may look at the bride’s hair and neck, and may smell her private parts… But the groom is forbidden to look at any part of her except her face and hands.
The video of Professor Al-Rauf being interviewed has an endearingly demented quality, as these things often do. But it’s probably worth noting that the professor previously appeared on Saudi Arabia’s Iqra TV, explaining to viewers the finer points of wife-beating. Specifically, that, “beating [one’s wife] doesn’t mean beatings with a rod or beatings that draw blood… The beatings are intended to instil fear… declaring that [the husband] isn’t satisfied with this wife.”
The result of this careful study was that the homeopathic treatment was no better than a placebo. But the homeopath authors do not conclude that homeopathy did not work; they speculate the tablets had not been stored properly or that the wrong combination of sugar pills was made. At no point do they propose as a possibility that homeopathy can have absolutely no effect on a third-world child with [diarrhoea].
Readers may recall Silke Hilsing’s flexible interface prototype, Impress, (mentioned here), which allows users to squeeze and grope their information, modifying its features. Another Hilsing project, Virtual Gravity, gives a physical weight to data, with heaviness depending on, for instance, an item’s importance or popularity.
The point? I’m not quite sure. But it’s pretty and it’s blue.
Much to my embarrassment, I hadn’t considered some of the mortal dangers faced by giraffes.
“If there’s a lightning leader already approaching the ground, it will certainly look for something tall to hit in its immediate vicinity,” says Professor David Smith of the University of California’s physics department. “Since water is pretty conductive (particularly salty water), your giraffe is a pretty good conductor and probably does attract lightning pretty well.”
Lightning strikes may be a significant danger to giraffes in environments that have few tall trees and are topographically or geologically predisposed to attract lightning. One eyewitness report suggests that, during lightning storms, giraffes lower their heads and may even compete with one another to become lower in height… Between 1996 and 1999 the Rhino and Lion Reserve near Krugersdorp, South Africa, had two of its three giraffes killed by lightning - the third animal, a juvenile, was also struck but survived. Betsy the giraffe was killed by lightning at Walt Disney World in Florida in 2003 in front of lots of witnesses.
I’m guessing the combination of giraffes and lightning isn’t something readers had given much thought either. See? We’re learning together.
The astronauts were more than excited to feel the ground, though standing on it was too hard for them after spending so many days in the state of weightlessness.
After 191 days, Soyuz TMA-11 and its three human occupants returned to Earth from the International Space Station, landing in Kazakhstan, April 19, 2008. A partial separation failure caused a ballistic re-entry that in turn caused the spacecraft to land 475 km from its intended landing site. The occupants, Yuri Malenchenko, Peggy Whitson and Yi So-Yeon, were assisted by local residents who discovered the charred spacecraft resting in their fields.
40 years ago today, some hairless apes did a very daring and clever thing. Around half a billion other hairless apes watched it happen on TV. Such was the daring and cunning involved, and such was the uncertainty of the outcome, it’s worth reposting this. Here’s David Sington’s 2007 documentary, In the Shadow of the Moon, in which the surviving Apollo crew members recount their remarkable, at times moving, experiences. There’s previously unseen mission footage, an excellent score by Philip Sheppard, and keep an eye out for Kennedy’s extraordinary speech, about 13:20 in.
Arts establishment claims to be “suppressed,” sneers at the little people, demands free money.
I’m not convinced that the reduction of taxpayer subsidy for loss-making plays qualifies as “suppression.” And reluctant taxpayers please take note: Despite all the years of providing handouts, you’re now on the side of the oppressor.
The comedic potential of Women’s Studies newsgroups.
As a result of all this “questioning” and “confronting” of logic perhaps we can look forward to the first feminist computer, which will presumably operate on more “wholistic” non-logical principles. If such a device could be built, I’m confident it would generate answers that are ideologically agreeable, if not actually correct.
Atom bombs and Moon landings. The photographic essays of Michael Light.
One incidental detail… illuminates the unique comic potential of practical nuclear physics. Ted Taylor was a miniaturisation expert involved in many of the early atmospheric experiments. On June 5th, 1952, during the test explosion of a 14 kiloton device in the Nevada Desert, Taylor used a parabolic mirror to focus the bomb’s glare and light his cigarette.
In January 2004, the carcass of a 50-ton sperm whale explodes in a Taiwanese city centre. [National Geographic Channel] examines the physics and the biology of this 100,000-pound animal whose body was destroyed by its own internal forces. On the way to Tainan University for research, the whale exploded due to volatile gas build up in the abdomen.
At this point, further comment seems unwise. It would only lead to jokes involving the ending of Watchmen and “volatile gas build-ups.”
Notions once considered reactionary, even extreme, have insinuated themselves into the mainstream of right-thinking (that is, left-thinking) social idealism. When you encountered someone of professed left-of-centre opinions, you used to be able to draw broad but important, and generally reliable, inferences about what these entailed. They included, at a minimum, commitments to secularism, freedom of expression, individual liberty against collective authority, women’s rights, homosexual equality and the combating of xenophobia. Times have changed. Now these stances are unusual, even heterodox. […]
When, last year, suicide bombers attacked the Danish Embassy in Pakistan, killing six people and wounding more than 20, a Danish journalist writing for The Guardian commented that the attack was “of course, indefensible, but it raises questions about the wisdom of the much-debated cartoons and Danish reactions to Muslim wrath.”
(For more on the Guardian journalist in question and his “of course, but” manoeuvre, see, for instance, this.)
The “of course, but” formulation is worse than a dreary cliché. It indicates a liberalism evacuated of content. Those who prize social unity and order will tend to believe that people’s deepest feelings and beliefs should be accorded respect. But respect for ideas is never an entitlement. It depends on their intellectual resilience in public debate. No free society can treat people’s deepest beliefs as sacrosanct. They are fair game for hostile and derisive criticism. That is how knowledge advances. […]
No one has a right to the protection of feelings. If politics concerns itself with mental states, there is no limit to how far legislation can intrude on people’s lives. The task of progressive politics is to protect liberty, not least by attacking the accumulation of bad ideas. Yet to many on the Left, the individual, inquiring mind is of far less importance than the representation of designated groups.
Colliding Particles is a series of short films by Mike Paterson following a team of physicists at the Large Hadron Collider. The latest film, Problems, covers helium mishaps, staring at blackboards and the search for missing music.
Further to Nick Veasey’s x-ray photographs, here’s another collection of radiological images, taken by medical student Satre Stuelke using a CT scanner. Colours denote the various densities within the objects being probed.
No fewer than 22 times, researchers documented wild chimpanzees on an African savanna fashioning sticks into ‘spears’ to hunt small primates... In each case a chimpanzee modified a branch by breaking off one or two ends and, frequently, using its teeth to sharpen the stick. The ape then jabbed the spear into hollows in tree trunks where bush babies sleep... Anthropologist and study co-author Paco Bertolani witnessed... a chimpanzee successfully extract a bush baby with a spear.
A male chimpanzee in a Swedish zoo planned hundreds of stone-throwing attacks on zoo visitors, according to researchers. Keepers at Furuvik Zoo found that the chimp collected and stored stones that he would later use as missiles. Further, the chimp learned to recognise how and when parts of his concrete enclosure could be pulled apart to fashion further projectiles.
The findings are reported in the journal Current Biology. There has been scant evidence in previous research that animals can plan for future events. Crucial to the current study is the fact that Santino, a chimpanzee at the zoo in the city north of Stockholm, collected the stones in a calm state, prior to the zoo opening in the morning. The launching of the stones occurred hours later - during dominance displays to zoo visitors - with Santino in an “agitated” state. This suggests that Santino was anticipating a future mental state - an ability that has been difficult to definitively prove in animals.