Saturday, January 12, 2019

NSSMER - 2018 Sci/Math Teacher Report...

Well, DUH!

The 2018 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education was just released to the public. With all the fancy statistical talk and confusing methodology, it is the same old story; our science & math teachers are ill-prepared.

Here's my take on this study as well as my take on my 41 years as a Math, Physics, & Astronomy teacher. MOST high school science teachers are simply not trained, certified, and/or qualified to teach their subject matter. Period. There are several exceptions, like Greenwich HS (CT) physics department in the early 2000's. There were five of us and I felt the LEAST qualified even though I was nationally recognized as a "good" one. However, by the time I left in 2016, there were a couple "newbies" who I felt were lacking quality. Just me.

In my 41 years I witnessed MANY totally unqualified science/math teachers. Teaching kids things like [ACTUAL QUOTES]:

"Cold air rises. That is why it is colder at the tops of high mountains."
"I'm still not convinced dinosaurs existed." (Direct quote to me from a 6th grade teacher who preferred to believe the Bible literally...)
"If this stuff is confusing to you, don't worry. I don't believe it either, remember it is only a theory." (A quote by a BIO teacher during a lesson on evolution! Witnessed directly during a Middle-States Eval visit in NJ)
"If the so-called Big Bang actually happened, why hasn't anyone heard it?" (Astronomy teacher-colleague during a lunch room Q&A. I barfed...)

This report highlights/lowlights:

1. Sci/Math Teacher Degrees

As you can see, Elementary Sci teaching is almost non-existent. Only 3% of ElemSci teachers have a science degree of any sort. That number increases to 42% for MiddleSci. THAT means that MORE THAN HALF of your Middle School science teachers do NOT have a degree in science. Now, you'd think that this is rectified by the time we get to high school, right? Nope. 79% of high school Sci teachers have a degree in a science. This means that one out of five high school science teachers are teaching without a content degree!

NOTE that I do not include "Science Education" as a science degree. Sci Ed is a degree that is designed to teach a teacher HOW to teach science, NOT what science is. It is not a science CONTENT degree.

Math & CompSci are in worse shape than even the Sci! 1% Elem Math, 26% Middle Math, & 55% HS Math! That means that three out of five Middle School Math teachers have NO DEGREE in Math! About HALF of the HS Math folks have NO DEGREE IN MATH! WTF? CompSci? Forget about it!

My takeaway? Many folks I've talked to through the years wonder why we high school / college teachers can't get these kids to learn science so we can rank among the top countries of the world instead of 28th (We beat Lebanon, Sri Lanka, and France!) according to the last TIMSS report. It's simple, actually. Since a vast majority of the students coming into high school have been taught science by NON-SCIENCE educated folk, they come in with serious misconceptions and huge black hole sized gaps in their science content. One thing I'm sure of is that it is so much easier to teach a topic than it is to UN-teach a topic. If a student has a firm deep-seated "belief" that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects, it requires magic tricks to convince them otherwise. Further, even AFTER I'm convinced they no longer believe the bad thing, they will eventually circle back to it and ignore everything I did... sigh...

2. Sci/Math Teacher Degrees PER TOPIC TAUGHT

Now, for the sad part. The above Table 2.6 shows a lack of "science" and "math" degrees among the science & math folks. Take a gander at the next table up for grabs on our show, Table 2.15.

Wow. Just, wow... Synopsis so you don't have to crunch any numbers: A. HS Teachers WITH A DEGREE IN THE FIELD THEY TEACH: 63% for Bio, 42% for Chem, 24% for Physics, 15% for Earth, & 11% for EnviroSci. If this doesn't make your sphincter pucker up, nothing will. I'm not getting into the Middle School numbers because my sphincter hasn't loosened up since I saw that! What does this mean for high school students?

-2/3 of all Bio teachers have NO DEGREE in Bio. Further, a full 6% of them have not only no degree, but NO COURSEWORK IN BIO BEYOND Intro!
-6/10 of all Chem teachers have NO DEGREE in Chem. Further, a full 10% of them have not only no degree, but NO COURSEWORK IN CHEM BEYOND Intro!
-3/4 of all Physics folks have NO DEGREE in Physics. Further, a full 34% (1/3 !) of them have not only no degree, but NO COURSEWORK IN Physics BEYOND Intro!
-Earth/Space Sci? Ridiculous. 17/20 of all EarthSci folks have NO DEGREE IN EARTH! Further, a full 57% (MORE THAN 1/2 !) of them have not only no degree, but NO COURSEWORK IN EarthSci BEYOND Intro!

So, next time you wonder why little Jimmy isn't getting a full scholarship to Drexel Engineering University, reflect on the fact that only about 1/3 of ALL high school teachers even have a degree in the field they are teaching! Think of it this way, how effective would you learn investing strategies from your auto mechanic? How qualified is your beautician in building your new dream home? Would you trust your dentist, as educated as he/she/it may be, to rebuild the transmission on your beloved original Bumblebee 1969 Chevy Camaro SS350 convertible?


Yes, MINE!

Cheers!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

An "Open Letter" to my Vegee Friends... UPDATE 01/08/2019

NOTE: The following RANT was written long ago. 2010 comes to mind... I just realized it was never published. Here it is. It was prompted by a Vegan attack online where I had to bow out due to stupidity and threats of "I'm coming over to your house and eat your dog!" type of thing. Kamal, one of the smartest guys I've ever worked with may understand. If not, Kamal, please understand that the last time we spoke in California, it took all my inner strength not to eat you. I'm thinking Kamal Kababs...

I have been passively involved with an on-again off-again online, via the evil-axis of Facebook, personal email, and North Korean Dictator posts, discussion of the Satanic ways of my meat-eating. It all started when a very intelligent young man whom I'm associated with through NASA made a post including a video of cow abuse at a slaughterhouse at the hands of two idiot human workers and made a comment about "Think of this next time you drink your milk". Now, I am not a confrontational type human, (I am actually on lifelong probation from physical altercations after the Texas Roadhouse Incident of 1981...) but I had to ask what a slaughterhouse video had to do with my milk. Last time I milked a cow, I didn't kill the cow first, second, third, or last. I can't imagine what kind of bizarre teat accident could result in the death of the cow. He, let's call him Lamak, went on a small rant about how my personal consumption, thereby human consumption, of animal products including milk, has caused the wide-spread abuse of animals in society; even 3rd World Countries.
Then it escalated to the point where one contributor of our online conversation, not Lamak to his credit, actually wished me a long and painful cancer-riddled death because of my evil meat-eating ways. It was then I bowed out of the conversation since it had slid into the sensationalism of emotions and personal attacks instead of a slightly higher exchange of ideas.

Well, it started again. I re-posted a simple image of a combat soldier petting a dog. Image below.

Somehow, that simple image, sentiments of which I agree and feel deeply about, took on another meaning for some Veggies. Comments like "Does this include all animals? Don't you eat meat? How can you explain that?" and "How can you be so hypocritical? Would you eat a dog?" Short answer, yes, if I had to. Why do these Veggie's (Vegetarians, Vegans, and other Democrats) think they have the right to force their philosophy on me? Can't I eat my fatty burger (NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF RED MEAT IT IS MADE FROM!) without someone shouting that I am killing THEM? I would NEVER try to force my meat-eating tendencies on them! sigh...

NOTE AGAIN (ADDED 01/08/2019): About 4 years back, my lovely wife and I were dining at Bobby's Burger Palace at Mohegan Sun Casino in CT. Yes, BURGERS. The raw-er, the better! Get over it. I had a burger and a spiked milkshake, since they didn't have any good beers on tap, in front of me (Their shakes are the best!) when another patron lit up a "smokeless" vaping apparatus and started blowing that thick-fog shit everywhere. Even though we were at the other end of the short bar, the nicotine-fueled "vapor" bothered me because I know what the "F" is in that "S". ("F" means Fuck and "S" means Shit.) I asked him to stop and he became irate for a moment until the bartender tried to smooth things over. "No smoking at food establishment..." statements didn't sit well with this guy. He yelled across the bar that I was killing myself with my milkshake. Yes, I probably am. However, I was more than happy telling him that "I am not shoving my milkshake shit down your throat." At that, he stopped vaping and I went ahead and lost a month of retirement money at the tables... This post is aimed particularly at the "documentary" Earthlings that Lamak sent my way and claimed that I couldn't watch it without doing something about it. I quote Lamak:

Aren't you being a tad bit hypocritical? If can you watch the whole of Earthlings, a free documentary available to view online at http://earthlings.com/?page_id=32 and you don't see anything wrong with it then I guess it is OK to go on treating some species of animals as friends and others as food.
When I replied the video is a "work of fiction" mostly due to its sensational lack of facts, I was called a liar. In fact, I lied to myself. I'm so ashamed. I should be spanked. Here's my run down of this "documentary".

Main Issue: It starts with a quote about the "Three Stages of Truth"; ridicule, violent opposition, then finally acceptance. I'm always skeptical of documentaries that begin with a quote from a philosopher. I'm doubly skeptical of any source of information that doesn't credit the sources of their own information. This is a quote from a dead philosopher, not an original quote by the filmmakers. In this case, Arthur Schopenhauer, a 19th century German philosopher. Fact? No. Science? No. A philosophical view? Sure. If I place a quote by some other person on one of my own class lessons and don't attribute to the owner of that quote, I am creating a false sense that it is mine. I believe that is intellectual theft and should not be tolerated. Even though I do it all the time...
How's this for a quote on truth? "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." -Albert Einstein. [Note to Lamak, don't try to out-quote me by using Big Al. I'll kick your quoting buttocks everyday.] Summary: Any documentary that starts on a philosophical note has already set the theme; it's all about philosophical/personal beliefs and not the facts. Reminds me too much of the methodology used by Al Gore at the beginning of his Mockumentary, Inconvenient Truth. After showing a few hundred smoke stacks (spewing mostly clean water steam, by the way) and dead carcasses on dry desert floors, a nuclear blast mushroom cloud was shown. Where's That From? (My way of saying WTF to my students...) Yeah, nuclear explosions will be caused by anthropological global warming. Geeze... Not to mention that Gore's hurricane is rotating in the wrong direction...

So, onto my "review" of Earthlings.

Opening statement: "...these are the industry standards for...". Says who? I was raised on a farm in central PA. I have a tad bit of knowledge on the killing of animals for food. How many Veggies ever been to a real working farm? A real slaughterhouse? Doubtful it's more than a handful and they all have hidden cameras just waiting for something stupid. So, where is the data for that statement? The industry standards? I can show you instances, videos in fact, that show human parents abusing their own small children. Does that mean it is the "humankind standard"? I can show you instances of extreme kindness and true heroism between humans. Does this kindness then extrapolate into some kind of a "humankind standard"? Not everyone is an idiot, Lamak. Not everyone is a genius. Not everyone is a hero. Sorry, but bold statements like this need bold evidence. The video offers nothing other than repeating that sensationalistic unscientific claim over and over.

The very first narration of this mockumentary uses a very narrow definition of "earthling" as "one who inhabits the earth." Then goes off trying to claim that every living thing on the planet is an "earthling"; us, fish, birds, lobstahs (which I just steamed a batch yesterday... Alive, yes.), all living creatures big and small. Even my Mother-In-Law. You want fact-checking, Lamak? Here's a few real dictionary definitions of "earthling".

[American Heritage Dictionary Online] earth·ling (ûrthlng)n. 1. One, especially a human, that inhabits the planet Earth. 2. A person devoted to the world; a worldling.
[Collins English Dictionary Online] earthling [ˈɜːθlɪŋ]n (esp in poetry or science fiction) an inhabitant of the earth; human being
[Online Etymology Dictionary - Word Origin] earthling : O.E. eyrþling "plowman" (see earth); the sense of "inhabitant of the earth" is from 1590s. Earthman was originally (1860) "a demon who lives in the earth;" science fiction sense of "inhabitant of the planet Earth" first attested 1949 in writing of Robert Heinlein. [Mirriam-Webster Online] earth·ling /ˈɚθlɪŋ/ noun (plural earth·lings) [count] : a human being living on Earth ◊Earthling is usually used in stories and movies that involve creatures from outer space.

So we are now using science fiction terms to make science arguments? I'm not going down that path. An earthling is a human. Not the slime or black mold in my basement.

Right after the previous "definition" of earthling, images of African slave trade(circa 1500AD), KKK (1950), Hitler(1929), Suffragettes(1920)?? Are you kidding me? Where's That From: WTF? Can't they even do things chronologically? So, they equate Hitler's absolute evil to a pork-eater because my species "uses another species for my benefit"? I can't even begin to tell you what non-sequiturs these images are to the issue at hand and what kind of insult this is to thinkers and those who were actually affected by these atrocities. Anytime one cannot explain his/her view to another, images of Hitler or some other idiotic comparison is made and it is counted as legitimate. How utterly stupid. (Pun intended...) If you can explain to me what Hitler and human slave trade have to do with my Bobby Flay's rare burger, then I may have a better grasp on how AGW will cause nuclear explosions.

Moving on so this post doesn't end up being a 90 page rant...

Main issues: 10 Billion animals are slaughtered in the US every year for food. Well, now, if true, that means every man, woman, and child in the US eats 28.6 whole animals per year! WOW! Now, I can eat one whole deer in 6 months; I get two per year from a buddy in Jersey. I do consume my fair share of animal parts throughout the year in the form of chops, steaks, lobstahs, burger, jerky, sausage... However, for me to eat 28 entire animals in one year? I couldn't even eat 28 little chickens per year! Where did this number come from?
Funny you should ask because PETA's own website claims the number is a little larger: Every year in the U.S., more than 27 billion animals are slaughtered for food. OK, now that means I eat, on average, 77 animals per year! WOW! I'm the cause of all this fuss! Let's look at the real numbers, shall we?

The UN has a site, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, which keeps track of all this stuff for each and every country in the world. All you need to do is click on the country (US in this case), the animal, and "slaughtered", and numbers are given. Let's see what the UN says about number of animals slaughtered FOR FOOD in the US in 2010, the latest data year.

Cattle - 35 Mill
Pigs - 110 Mill
Chickens - 8 BILL
Turkeys - 242 Mill
Sheep - 3 Mill
Camel - 0

This amounts to, also according to FAOSTAT, gross production values of:

Cattle - $44 Billion USD
Pigs - $15 Billion
Chickens - $22 BILL
Turkeys - $3 Bill
Sheep - $300 Mill
Camel - $0

This yields a number total of roughly 9 BILLION animals (MOST of them, 88%, are brainless chicken!) amounting to over $74 Billion gross production cost! Sounds like I just argued myself out of a job here, doesn't it? Well, nope. Look at the exporting. According to the US Consensus of 2011, the US exported $17 BILLION of meat & poultry. $6 BILLION in fish. Only $1 BILLION is alcoholic beverages... That's because no one in their right minds wants to import Bud Light! Now, I'm not looking any further for the numbers breakdown. $23,000,000,000 dollars in exported meat, chicken and fish going to mostly poor countries as foreign aide. I don't know and don't care how many this $$$ represents; I know it's a crap-load. I hate folks who spout numbers without knowing what those numbers entail.

So, take the USD production amount of ~$74 Billion and the $23 Billion sent abroad amounts to about 1/3 of the total. That means we, as a nation, are only 2/3 as bad as most Veggie's think we are. Go figure.

Main issue: Animals are pumped full of dangerous hormones. Yeah, right. I don't have the finger strength to fight this stupid claim again. Stop. Just stop.

Main issue: You shouldn't need to make up stories of "happy" animals dying "happy deaths" in order to choose to eat them. Well, now. Going back to the late 60's; my oldest brother and I worked at a meat-packing plant in Middletown PA. Never have I considered "happy" animals going through "happy" deaths. I was not directly involved with the killing of the cows coming to the plant, but I was involved with the slicing and dicing and packing of all that red stuff. I can assuredly tell you there was never any abuse of the animals. Never any idiot human being cruel to the doomed animals. Never. NEVER!
Have you ever visited a slaughterhouse or packing plant? The industry is so heavily regulated by the Federal Government that showing these "undercover" videos of mistreatment toward the animal is at best an exaggeration, at worst a false generalization created for simple shock value.

Main issue: Point by point reply to Lamak's comments.

Lamak: I am not trying to convince to you stop eating animals. I just want to show you how things really are. You are a man of science, don't you want to know the truth? I sure do. Now, I have presented evidence to show that most farmed animals live horrible lives and die horrible deaths. You say my evidence is false but you don't point me to any evidence that shows for a fact that Earthlings was made up in a Hollywood studio (or something similar). I tried to back up your theory by doing various searches along the lines of "Earthlings documentary is a fake." I came up with nothing. Obviously, you have some info I don't. Please share it. I am not trying to convince to you stop eating animals. I just want to show you how things really are.

No, you aren't. You are feeding me sensationalistic non-substantiated "documentaries" of dubious origin. This is not "the way it is". Yes, animals are killed. Yes, we eat them. Your point?

Lamak: You are a man of science, don't you want to know the truth? I sure do. Now, I have presented evidence to show that most farmed animals live horrible lives and die horrible deaths. You say my evidence is false but you don't point me to any evidence that shows for a fact that Earthlings was made up in a Hollywood studio (or something similar)."

Like I said above, have you ever visited a slaughterhouse or even a real working farm? Seems like your only "evidence" is "shocking" video. Oooo. It makes me so scared. I assume you have never gutted a deer or black bear after hunting and killing it. I assume, from your own comments, your only evidence for your own beliefs comes from these videos. I assume you also believed Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth was a documentary with no flaws or intentional lies.

NOTE: Lamak, just read your most recent post on your blog. Follow your own advice. I quote your 2nd paragraph: "There is nothing wrong with a healthy debate. What I don’t appreciate is the vitriol and name-calling in these discussions. Nothing will be accomplished if all we do is dig our heels in and go into attack mode." And you are right, I have fact-checked "Earthlings". It's bunk. Pure and simple. I'll take it apart for you segment by segment and statement by statement when I have some time to write it all up. Further, I don't appreciate being called a liar because I'm a dog-loving meat-eater. Go figure.

Other comments from Lamak:

Lamak: What is fictional about it, Daryl? Did you even see it? Fact-checking IS powerful. I am guessing you "fact-checked" the documentary and found it fictional. I would love to see your evidence. I must say, that is some photo realistic fictionalization, don't you think? What do you think of these undercover investigations: http://www.mercyforanimals.org/investigations.aspx ? If you can find any evidence that they are also fiction, again, I would love to see them.

As I said earlier, sensationalism is not science. Where in this video does it have any, ANY, evidence that what they show in their little hidden blurry videos is anything other than strange. Animal slaughter and meat packing are heavily regulated and, yes, as is the case for any endeavor, some things go wrong from time to time. Just because someone has a 10 second video doth not make it so. Mercy For Animals is a crap piece of crap journalistic crap. Should I tell you what I really think about it? According to Animal Charities, MFA lost their top rating as a charity because of their high priority with media attention and the lack of fiscal transparency. As a charity, they are given a "D+" due to utilizing less than 30% of their donations for actual animal causes. So, yeah.

Lamak:: Consider this, 10 BILLION land animals are raised and killed in the US every year for human consumption. Given that there are only 300 Million people and we see them all the time, why is it that most people don't see 10 Billion farm animals in their day to day lives? I've already discussed the numbers. Ain't 10 Billion for US. It's 9 Billion for the FRIKKIN' WORLD! All 7.5 Billion of them! So, stop this crap about 15 animals die each day because of me! I'd like to have just ONE!

Lamak:: Sure, I understand the need for survival when there aren't any other options. It's also OK to be a"an unapologetic meat-eater." But do you think it is OK to lie to oneself (e.g. calling Earthlings a work of fiction) to be able to continue consuming animal products? If you are gonna be unapologetic, be unapologetic about the whole thing. You shouldn't need to make up stories of "happy" animals dying "happy deaths" in order to choose to eat them.

Duh. See above. Happy? Only me while I'm sinking my incisors into my Bobby Flay burger.

Lamak:: I am not trying to convince to you stop eating animals. I just want to show you how things really are. You are a man of science, don't you want to know the truth? I sure do. Now, I have presented evidence to show that most farmed animals live horrible lives and die horrible deaths. You say my evidence is false but you don't point me to any evidence that shows for a fact that Earthlings was made up in a Hollywood studio (or something similar). I tried to back up your theory by doing various searches along the lines of "Earthlings documentary is a fake." I came up with nothing. Obviously, you have some info I don't. Please share it.

When the only evidence shown is a blurry sensationalistic video put together by a batch of tree-huggers, no. It's not evidence. It's sad.

Who Asked For My Opinion On the White House Astronomy Night 2015?

Oh, thank you for asking. I tuned in for the WH Astro night back in 2012. What a mess. Online schedule was absolutely inaccurate; scheduled to start at 7 didn't start till 7:42. None of the 100's of demonstrations were shown on camera. As soon as King Obama made a speech riddled with science errors, the static WH cameras showed people milling around aimlessly holding adult beverages with the WH in the background for 45 F'in minutes! WHAT? So, this year, I told all my kids to tune in because the famous Mythbusters (TM) were the hosts and how bad could it be with them there? Well. What a mess. Online schedule was absolutely inaccurate; scheduled to start at 7 didn't start till 7:37. None of the 100's of demonstrations were shown on camera. As soon as King Obama made a speech riddled with science errors, the static WH cameras showed people milling around aimlessly holding adult beverages with the WH in the background for 45 F'in minutes! WHAT? (SOLILOQUIE) This will tell you how "with it" I am. One of my students had a home-made posterboard with pasted-on pictures and such and glitter-laden lettering. I sat at her lab desk to help her with a Fizzix question. I looked at the poster and asked what the word "Fing" meant... All 4 or 5 kids within earshot giggled and peed a little. It was "F'ing" and meant to pervey exactly what my previous "F'in" means. sigh... So, back to my current rant. Are you telling me that the White House and Discovery Channel (Sponsoring site) can't get their act together to not only start on the advertised time, but to actually CARE about all the invited science folks? WHO was in the physical audience at the Astronomy Night 2015? Oh, let me guess. Bill Nye. NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden. All of the Mythbusters; Adam and Jamie. Rob Sparks, astronomer from NOAO. Mae Carol Jemison, the first black female astronaut. Several other unnamed and un-introduced experienced astronauts of the Shuttle program. Several members of Congress. Yet, the most buzz on Twitter was the young Texas kid, Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested for making a homemade clock, bringing it into school, getting questioned about it, then playing coy about it. Let it be known now that if he walked into my physics/asto classroom carrying a briefcase with strange looking wires hanging out of it and then NOT being straightforward about what EXACTLY it was, David Muir of ABC News would have been showing cellphone video from my students of me tackling and covering him in an attempt to protect my own kids. Just sayin'. So, after Obama made references to Carl Sagan, a man he probably has no clue about, I shuddered just a little. Speech-writers have a lot of leeway. However, when Obama claimed that, "Recently, NASA announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet in a far away galaxy", I broke my small LCD screen.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

"Super-Duper Moon" Next Week...

Morning, Kids. There's another "Super Moon" coming next week. Prepare yourselves for the onslaught of misinformation and utter stupidity about this relatively common occurrence.

No, it won't cause the Earth to shift in orbit and kill us all Hollywood-style.

No, it doesn't signal the end of mankind as we know it; the current presidential election is doing that just fine, thank you...

No, these are not that rare; we have six of these in 2016. We had Super Moons in March, April, and May. Now, we have them in October, November, and December.

Sunday and Monday (10/13 & 10/14) will be, if the darn weather cooperates, an unusually bright full moon referred to as a "Super Moon." Coincidentally, this November full moon is called the "Beaver Moon" since it was time to set the beaver traps before the swamps and lakes froze over. So, why "Super?" This is because the Moon is not only at perigee, point of closest approach in its orbit around Earth, but this perigee coincides with the timing of a full Moon. This Perigee hasn't occurred within an hour of full Moon since 1948; the last time Cleveland Indians won the World Series! Also, the next time for this Super-Duper-Moon is 2034; the next time the Indians win the World Series...

So, just what makes a Moon "Super" and/or this "Super-Duper" one? Take a look at the following image of our Moon orbit.

Notice the Moon orbits earth in an elliptical orbit, NOT a circular one. This means our Moon is closer sometimes and further away sometimes. When it is the closest, we call it "at perihelion"; Perigee on above image. Conversely, when it is furthest away, it is "at Aphelion"; Apogee. A "Super Moon" is nothing more than a full moon that happens to occur at Perigee when the Moon is closest to us. This gives the full moon a slightly bigger appearance, by about 14% bigger, and brighter look, by about 30%, than a typical full moon.

So head on out Sunday, Monday or even Tuesday after sunset. You can't miss unless you are under thick clouds. this Super-Duper-Moon. It rises right at local sunset and lasts through the entire night.

"Super-Duper Moon" Next Week...

Morning, Kids. There's another "Super Moon" coming next week. Prepare yourselves for the onslaught of misinformation and utter stupidity about this relatively common occurrence.

No, it won't cause the Earth to shift in orbit and kill us all Hollywood-style.

No, it doesn't signal the end of mankind as we know it; the current presidential election is doing that just fine, thank you...

No, these are not that rare; we have six of these in 2016. We had Super Moons in March, April, and May. Now, we have them in October, November, and December.

Sunday and Monday (10/13 & 10/14) will be, if the darn weather cooperates, an unusually bright full moon referred to as a "Super Moon." Coincidentally, this November full moon is called the "Beaver Moon" since it was time to set the beaver traps before the swamps and lakes froze over. So, why "Super?" This is because the Moon is not only at perigee, point of closest approach in its orbit around Earth, but this perigee coincides with the timing of a full Moon. This Perigee hasn't occurred within an hour of full Moon since 1948; the last time Cleveland Indians won the World Series! Also, the next time for this Super-Duper-Moon is 2034; the next time the Indians win the World Series...

So, just what makes a Moon "Super" and/or this "Super-Duper" one? Take a look at the following image of our Moon orbit.

Notice the Moon orbits earth in an elliptical orbit, NOT a circular one. This means our Moon is closer sometimes and further away sometimes. When it is the closest, we call it "at perihelion"; Perigee on above image. Conversely, when it is furthest away, it is "at Aphelion"; Apogee. A "Super Moon" is nothing more than a full moon that happens to occur at Perigee when the Moon is closest to us. This gives the full moon a slightly bigger appearance, by about 14% bigger, and brighter look, by about 30%, than a typical full moon.

So head on out Sunday, Monday or even Tuesday after sunset. You can't miss unless you are under thick clouds. this Super-Duper-Moon.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Great Solar Eclipse of 2017! Get Your Sacrificial Chickens Ready!

Hey There! Hi There! Ho There! It's been well over a year since I've posted anything. I decided to concentrate on my last year of teaching and not have all these side things going on. So, just in case you are interested in the petty little thing I call my life, I retired for a 2nd time in June of this year and am now happily ensconced in New Hampshire with my lovely bride of a dozen years looking for a few canine buddies to rescue.

So, anyway, just a quick blast to let you know of the TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE happening next year!

334 days 22 hours 19 minutes 33 seconds to go! 32 seconds... 31 seconds.... 30 seconds...

Yes, it's never to early to plan for something like this. August 21 2017 will see the first total solar eclipse sweeping across the entire continental US since 1918! The last total eclipse to hit the US at all was in 1978, but it only clipped 5 states in the Northwest and it was cloudy & raining...

For starters, below is a map showing the progression and local times from Newport OR @ 10:15 AM MT to Charlotte SC @ 2:46 PM EDT.


(Image stolen from GreatAmericanEclipse.com )

I'll be in Kansas with my lovely wife for the viewing with a real astronomer buddy of mine, Mike Ford, a real honest-ta-goodness observatory director (Banner Creek Observatory, KS) and past NASA co-worker.

You may notice from the above map that CT, Corrupticut, where most of the recipients of this incomparable newsletter reside and the state of my most recent happy departure, will be at about 75% total. It'll look sorta kinda like this image:


Image Stolen From Wiki

SOME DETAILS:

DETAIL #1: Totality, occurring within the yellow strip in the map above, means the Moon will totally block out the Sun. Totally, Dude. Everywhere else in the continental US, Canadia, and Mexico will witness various degrees of partial blockage. The following image is totality from 2015 taken in Norway. Notice the prominent Corona I warn you about later. Yikes and GadZooks.


(Images: NASA 2015 over Svalbard, Norway; Astronomy Picture of the Day )

DETAIL #2: The other two types of solar eclipse are Annular and partial. Annular is when the Moon is, indeed, directly in the path of the Sun, but is too far from Earth in its elliptical path to block it all. It's sometimes referred to as the "Ring Eclipse". Partials, right image, will be seen everywhere in North America on 08/21/2017 away from the totality path.


(Images stolen from WikiPedia...)

DETAIL #3: DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE ECLIPSE AT ANY TIME! NOOOOOO! That is a bad thing. A very bad thing. Not even if someone gives you the dreaded TRIPLE DOG DARE YA! Even though it will seem like it's nighttime during totality, there is so much pure EM radiation in several forms of high-energy photons coming from the Sun's invisible atmosphere, the Corona, and surface, the Photosphere, that you would cause irreparable harm to your poor little melting retinas. In fact, if you look long enough, your head would explode. Well, maybe not really explode, but...
I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH! After every solar eclipse, there are plenty of stories of stupid people blinding themselves because, "All I did was look. How was I supposed to know?" These miscreants belong in the same category as the idiots who blow off their hands playing with a "harmless" firecracker in front of their kids. Idiots... But, I digress...
THIS website offers the cheapest Eclipse Viewing Glasses I've found. Coincidentally, that website is Eclipse2017.org... As cheap as $1.50 each when ordering a dozen or more... Other sites I've found are running $8 or more per pair. Buy a batch of them and protect your loved ones! The idiots are on their own...

So, start planning your trip now! This would make a great Pre-School event before heading back to the trenches of Academia. To help in planning, here are some cool websites to head to:

1. WEBSITE #1 : Full graphical description of where and when totality occurs all the way from Oregon to S Carolina. Examples of TN and SC below.

2. WEBSITE #2 : Astronomy Magazine's "25 Things You Should Know" about this eclipse.

3. WEBSITE #3 : The Great American Eclipse 2017 full scale hard-core science knowledge. More here than anyone would ever need.

4. WEBSITE #4 : Sky & Telescope magazine sponsors a 5-Night tour centered in Nashville with plenty of side travel and experts. At $2999, I find it a little pricey, but who am I to deprive wealthy teachers and students from an educational event...

I will send out more at a much later date, but NOW is not a bad time to plan a family trip of a lifetime! Head to Oregon! Head to Wyoming! Head to any of the 14 states this monster will be hitting! Except Montana... Poor Montana... The eclipse does hit Montana, but the entire path of darkness is in an area where there are no roads, no towns, no people that anyone else cares to know; only critters that would kill you and sage brush that scares me...

Cheers.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Apparently NSTA Espouses ANTI-Science! Enough is ENOUGH!

Well, it's taken something as stupid as this to get me off my widening retired ass and back on the blog-O-sphere.

Next week (04/02 - 04/05/2014), the NSTA is hosting the annual Science Teacher Conference in Boston, MA. Cool. Right up the proverbial road for me. I'll be there.


[Image Source: NSTA.org]

Oh, wait! No I won't. The keynote speaker this year is Mayim Bialik. Yes, she's a real honest-ta-goodness neuroscientist with a real PhD and everything. However, and this is a huge HOWEVER, she's an anti-vaccine proponent! Yes, you heard right, the largest gathering of science teachers in the world, some 14,000 of them, will be learning about the controversial Common Core, how to teach better, how to grade better, how to learn all the new glitzy technology vendors have to offer, and then pay big bucks to listen to an anti-vaxxer!

What does NSTA have to say? According to NSTA's Facebook page,

NSTA members have asked us some thoughtful questions recently about Mayim Bialik speaking at our national conference. In response, NSTA Executive Director David Evans has made the following statement: “Mayim Bialik holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience. She is also an enthusiastic advocate and passionate ambassador for science education who encourages students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. These are the reasons we invited her to speak on the topic of ‘The Power of One Teacher.’ Bialik’s personal views, including those regarding vaccinations, are just that—personal. We appreciate her dedication to science and her ability to inspire and motivate teachers. We look forward to hearing about her unique experiences as both a scientist and TV actress.”

To paraphrase George Takei, Oh MY! What the WHAT? I've been a physics and astronomy teacher for 40 frikkin' years and this really has my panties in a bind! How... Why... What... ??? AAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Let's take a look at this in detail and perspective.

1. Mayim Bialik is a real science-trained human. I never even knew who she was till I started watching the Big Bang Theory TV show; she plays my alter-ego's girlfriend. According to Wiki, she obtained her PhD in 2007 from UCLA; congratulations. Her dissertation was an investigation of hypothalamic activity in patients with Prader–Willi syndrome. I have better things to do with my life than argue or even pretend to know what that is. She is an advocate for science education, congratulations and thank you.

2. She is probably best known as "Blossom" from an earlier, late '80s, TV show that I never saw. She is currently playing Dr. Sheldon Cooper's somewhat amorphic girlfriend, Amy Farrah Fowler, on CBS's Big Bang Theory; a show worth watching for us geeks.

3. She is an anti-vaccine practitioner.

4. The NSTA, National Science Teachers Association, has hired her as the keynote speaker for the 2014 National Conference in Boston next week.

If you care about #1 and/or #2 above, I don't. Big Deal. She's an actress and a neuroscientist. Like I said, congratulations on the PhD. However, if you don't care about #3 above, then just stop reading this now and go spend some quality time with your doomed non-vaccinated children who will soon be gasping for breath and coughing so violently from pertussis that you will wonder how that small human isn't gone already. If you don't care about #4 above, then let's just agree that you are dumb and leave it at that.

FACT: Vaccines work. Period. I remember several of my elementary classmates walking around with heavy metal-laden leg braces. Suffering from polio. A few sugar cubes later, polio was all but eradicated from the world. Jonas Salk developed that vaccine in 1955. By 1965, polio was a memory. Measles, mumps, rubella (nasty German measles), chickenpox, all memories. However, vaccines work by a process called herd immunity. You must first understand that a vaccine is NOT a cure, it's a preventative. If a vast majority of the population is vaccinated, the general population is protected. Yes, a few slip through the "cracks" and still get sick. However, as Spock said, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

A great discussion of this can be found at Dr. Phil Plait's BadAstro blog on Slate here and here. Not only is he a personal friend and hero, but pretty close to the smartest person I've ever met. Quoting Dr. Phil P:

We need people talking about the need for vaccines more than ever right now. Measles cases have nearly doubled over last year in the UK. My hometown of Boulder is suffering through an outbreak of pertussis. California is on its way to having serious epidemics due to lower vaccination rates. In North Carolina just a few days ago, a two month old infant died from pertussis. Let me repeat that: babies die because of diseases that can be prevented by a simple vaccination. Factually-bereft antivaxxers - cough cough Meryl Dorey cough - claim that no one dies from these diseases any more. They are wrong. Antivaccination beliefs are bad science, pure and simple. Vaccines don't cause autism. They don't have toxins in them that can hurt you in the doses given. They don't overtax the immune system.What vaccines do is save millions, hundreds of millions, of lives. They protect us from diseases that used to ravage entire populations. And they save babies' lives. We need to keep up our herd immunity if we are to keep ourselves healthy, and that includes adults. Talk to your board-certified doctor and see if you need a booster. Please.

Bottom line? I am very upset that my NSTA is either directly or indirectly endorsing such an anti-science stance. Will the NSTA approve my next workshop application titled, "Global Warming: It's a Joke!"? Nope, but it's my personal view; just as valid as Bialik's anti-vax personal view. Only problem is, once you become a "celebrity" in today's society, you are looked up to and can do much good or much harm. How many needless deaths have been caused by the likes of Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vax / autism bullshit links? At last count, 1375! McCarthy is the deadliest of all; a nude model, an actress, and now a talk-show host. Yeah, real science credentials there. Granted, Mialik has a PhD, but it's in neuroscience, not immunology.

NSTA, wake the hell up!