Sunday, December 6, 2009

The God Equation

I came across this on PZ Myers' blog "pharyngula". Read more on PZ's take on this The God Equation?  
So now we have the God equation (again).

This one is

  • Hl is the radio frequency of the hydrogen fine transition in space
  •  π (pi) we all know from high school math is the relationship between the circumference and diameter of a circle
  •  Ω is the number 0.0123456789; it represents all the characters of the base 10 number system
  • C is the speed of light in a vacuum - approximately 300,000 km/sec
In addition to the points that Mr. Myers brings up, I would like to know what are we solving for? An equation has a variable for which we are to solve. If everything is defined, where is God? Is He the culmination of light speed, a decimal carried out to 10 places, the frequency of an element in space, and pi?
That's silly.

Additional possible equations:
  • From the The Church of Yahweh the sufficient condition for the self existent being to be able to generate a universe I + WILL = EXISTENCE.
  • X is God according to ( a + bn )/n = x There is a story that has made the rounds in mathematical history books about the well-known mathematician Euler embarrassing the philosopher Diderot. This quote is from which was Condensed from Men of Mathematics by E.T. Bell (1937, Simon and Schuster), and An Introduction to the History of Mathematics , 4th ed., by Howard Eves (1976, Holt, Rinehart and Winston):
    Diderot had been invited to the court by Catherine the Great, but then annoyed her by trying to convert everyone to atheism. Catherine asked Euler for help, and he informed Diderot, who was ignorant of mathematics, that he would present in court an algebraic proof of the existence of God, if Diderot wanted to hear it. Diderot was interested, and, according to De Morgan, Euler advanced toward Diderot, and said gravely, and in a tone of perfect conviction: "Sir, ( a + bn )/n = x , hence God exists; reply! " Diderot had no reply, and the court broke into laughter. Diderot immediately returned to France.
    However, this is apparently a fabrication. Read of the debunking on explained by Dirk J. Struik, from his book A Concise History of Mathematics, Third Revised Edition, Dover, 1967, p. 129:
    This is a good example of a bad historical anecdote, since the value of an anecdote about an historical person lies in its faculty to illustrate certain aspects of his character; this particular anecdote serves to obscure both the character of Diderot and of Euler, Diderot knew his mathematics and had written on involutes and probability, and no reason exists to think that the thoughtful Euler would have behaved in the asinine way indicated. The story seems to have been made up by the English mathematician De Morgan (1806-1871). See L. G. Krakeur and R. L. Krueger, Isis, Vol. 31 (1940), pp. 431-32; also Vol. 33 (1941), pp. 219-31.

Too bad that story was a hoax; I liked it. Stupid philosophers, they should get some comeuppance!
Anyway, let's wrap all of this up with an enlightened quote from a Nobel Prize winning Physicist Steven Weinberg, "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

So be good for goodness sake!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remember When MTV was Cool?

Liquid Television was an experimental short animation show on MTV - back when it was cool. Example One:
Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions - written and directed by Henry Selick

Sunday, September 6, 2009

More Galaxies than People

Feeling big today? Think about this:
"There are far more galaxies than people." -Carl Sagan

But, by the same token, don't feel bad; think of the uniqueness of you in the face of the rest of the cosmos. Only once ever has a configuration of atoms come together to have your thoughts and experiences.

Now, finish your beer, get another, and go watch SportsCenter...


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Philosophy of Death

Philosophy of Death
By Shelly Kagan from Yale U.

There are 26 lectures. The first one can be skipped; it mostly lines out what the course will cover - not science, not religion, but the philosophy of death. Also the first lecture covers some classroom expectations and grading scale (boring).

So skip the first one and jump into the second one - Dualism vs. Physicalism

Academic Earth is a Web site that offers full video lectures from many great universities.

The Galaxy Zoo

You can help classify the heavenly bodies - sweet!
The following is quoted from their Web site:
"The Galaxy Zoo files contain almost a quarter of a million galaxies which have been imaged with a camera attached to a robotic telescope the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, no less). In order to understand how these galaxies — and our own — formed, we need your help to classify them according to their shapes — a task at which your brain is better than even the fastest computer."

So go now and help; it'll be the coolest nerdy thing you've done since selling your Everquest character for $200 and a case of Mountain Dew!

Free Games to Waste a Day or Ten Minutes

A calming puzzle game, Loops of Zen:

However, if you want to throw knives at politicians and celebrities:

Knife Throw 2

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fish Itch Also

Preliminary research on mice indicates that there are nerve cells that pass along an itch signal to the brain that appear to be seperate from the pathway for pain.

NPR - Scientists Identify 'Itchy' Neurons In Mice
by Jon Hamilton

Monday, July 27, 2009

Icky (living?) Thing in a Sewer

A Sewer pipe, Cameron Village, Raleigh, North Carolina

Apparently, it's just a cluster of invertebrates called bryozoan, which are commonly found in both the sea and fresh water environments, says Thomas Kwak a biology professor at North Carolina State University's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

Does it live?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Enjoy Some Flea Market Photos - VIII

I really can't stand Ann Geddes' so called art, babies with flower petal hoodies and other babies as seemingly random vegetable matter. This one is a baby kitten doll in her style; isn't that cute...ralph.
So it's a baby wearing a donkey outfit next to a teddy bear wearing a camper's outfit sitting on a plate in a picnic basket. I'm not hungry anymore...

I know this one may not initially look all that odd or offensive. Two sculpted faces (in the style of the 80s) looking hopefully to the future. However, consider that the sculpture is made of leather. That's right; not one leather face but two. It's even creepier to touch; believe me.

This one is not so weird, but in a previous post, I pointed out wastes of resin castings. It is missing Beethoven in the mix.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Poetry Contest part 4 - The Saga has Sputtered Out

This post references a few previous posts; the last one was
Poetry Contest part 3 - The Saga Continues

What a disappointing ending. I was trying to get an interesting story out of the scammers at and they just stopped contacting me. Evidently, my poem wasn't good enough for their anthology. It might have something to do with me not paying for their fine leather bound books...
It's been more than six months and nothing, but wait let's go visit them again and read some of the past winners. That's always good for a chuckle.

Hmm...the website looks different. Let's take a look at the "Welcome" link. Well, this says it all, "*, an award winning Internet company, recently purchased the URL '' from the previous failed business that owned it."

Stay tuned; I'll be submitting there soon. Maybe I'll get that story after all...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's Crop Circle Season Again

Well, summer is approaching, the grains have reached the perfect height, and it's crop circle season again...
No, it's not UFOs, but it is awesome rural graffiti!
Check out the jelly fish!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jonny Lee and Wii

Let's all go to RadioShack! Watch Johnny Lee's Ted Talk presentation and you'll know why.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Enjoy Some Flea Market Photos - VII

Since when do clowns belong in baseball? Rodeos sure, but not baseball. I hate clowns. Although Bobcat Goldthwait did make a funny clown movie once (Shakes the Clown), but that hardly makes up for the fact that clowns suck. They're never funny or cute or wanted at parties.

Brass monkeys those funky monkeys...

Help me robot angel! Do robot angels dream of collecting little kids gold teeth?
Brass angel? Why not gold or silver? Brass is for monkeys and saxophones.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Enjoy Some Flea Market Photos - VI

Okay, at first I was "Ohh weird, pain killer cookbook" then I was, "Eww, creepy, that child is too happy about something," then I was, "Aww, that's sad. Why is he happy and hungry?"
That a whole lot of emotion for one cookbook. Then I thought, if you are poor enough that you need recipes to ease hunger pangs, then perhaps you should not be spending money on a cookbook. Instead, spend that money on some more food. I wonder how many copies it sold?

I have joked for years with my wife that I was going to start collecting salt and pepper shakers; I may start with these...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

One More Disembodied Foot Found in Canada

Well, here we are again, it's random, severed foot time. Place your bets! I've got ten bucks on left foot and male.
Everyone get your tarps and hacksaws.
I'll admit for the first few feet, I thought, 'No big deal. Feet fall off all the time; the world is an imperfect place.'
(See Breakfast Club quote)

Canada 7

But now the count is up to seven (for Canada and only one for the US - sounds like the winter Olympics gold medal count). Normally, some consider that a lucky number, but in this case...nah.

Quebec farmer finds winter boot containing severed foot

Published: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 | 5:56 PM ET
Canadian Press Andy Blatchford, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Dang, it's a right foot. Double or nothing on it being male, that hasn't been determined yet.

For a catalog of the previous six visit the Wikipeda article Discoveries of human feet on British Columbia beaches, 2007–2008 (yes, can you believe that there is a Wikipeda article on the number of severed feet that wash up on Canada's shores - tis a weird, weird world we have here)

And if you read the Wikipeda article, and I did, you'll see that four of the eight feet match two people, one man and one woman who was wearing New Balance running shoes. Also, there was a hoax foot - not funny.

The CBC is maintaining an interactive map of the locations of the found feet. They have pictures of some of the shoes. "What!" you say, "Yes, they do!" I say. Go look. Of course, they took the feet out, you sicko.

So the count is as follows:
New Balance (woman) 2
Nike (man) 2
Reebok (man) 1
Low-cut Hiking boot (man) (unidentified brand) 1
Unidentified shoe (man) 1
Unisex boot (sex as yet undetermined) 1

In addition to the source that brought this to my attention (credited below) I did some independent Google searching for more facts. Normally, no big deal but when I did there were some 'Sponsored Links' shown that I hope were auto-generated, because if someone planned them, EWWW! Gross! This is not Photoshopped; this is a genuine screen capture!

"Cut Feet Online" and "Low prices on severed foot." Someone needs to review their keyword auto-gen system. Please! You do a Google News search for "severed foot" and see what you get; I'd be interested to see yours.

Oh and to give total source credit, because a good English major hates plagierism and always quotes the sources; I got the articles from a tweet by Rachel Maddow. A news woman interested in severed feet - swoon...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Enjoy Some Flea Market Photos - V

Dolphin or Whale and Butterflies

Okay, they're whales. Really, they don't look anything like dolphins. Anything.
"Hey, I calls 'em like I sees 'em! I'm a whale biologist."
And if you don't get that quote, you should watch more Futurama!
Butterfly Ball. Do they do this in nature?

Okay,... Ball Cluster. That's all I'm saying. Ball Cluster. Do people really buy ball clusters of butterflies? What a waste of resin. We could have used a few more thousand resin frogs, or birds, or clowns, or little girls with umbrellas, or wolves, or Beethovens.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Agave Plants Cultivated Since 800 AD

Tequila goes way back - we all know that it's agave squeezings that make that mythical passout booze tequila. It looks like the native cultures of the US southwest raised agave as a food crop.

Visit the web site here
Images by Annette Heist/Science Friday, Wendy Hodgson and Melissa Kruse-Peeples. Filmed and produced by Flora Lichtman.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Enjoy Some Flea Market Photos - IV

This one deserves a post unto itself. I did not stage this; I innocently walked around the corner and there it was. Either someone has the same sick sense of humor that I do, other booth owner thought that might be a good way to keep dust out of the doll head's hair.

Typically a cloche (bell jar), covers garden plants planted in early spring from cold weather and surprise frosts. The first use of bell jars (in the West) is attributed to the French; ironically enough they are also well-known as doll makers.

Also the title of Sylvia Plath's only novel, the bell jar is the metaphor she uses to describe her mental illness. She is trapped in a bell jar and can't breath. Ironically, depriving herself of breathable air is how she finally committed suicide. She sealed up the kitchen with wet towels under the doors and gassed herself in the open oven.

I shall name this doll head, Sylvia Lackabottom. Say hello, Sylvia.
"Mmph, emphy bodmphy...."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Photos from the Vault - July 4th 2008

With the 4th of July quickly approaching, I felt the need to post these photos. These are the feeling that are supposed to be encouraged by our (the USA's) desire and pleasure at what some black powder and fire can produce. I'm only making a little fun; I seriously love fireworks. And you don't need a lot of money to create awesome havoc: the basic firecracker, bottle rockets, and Roman candles are enough to make an amazing catastrophe.
Honestly, who hasn't blown their fingers numb or set themselves on fire at least once as a kid; and if they're like me continue to do so.
Light my punk, and let's go!

Ahh, the Ultimate Encore. Sounds good, doesn't it? Just when you thought the show was done, you don't just get the encore you've been waiting for, but you get Freebird and Stairway to Heaven and a BJ all rolled into the Ultimate Encore! Mmmm...

That's either a BFG or a boombox on her shoulder, either way...Fire Goddess Walk with Me!

This one, well...someone has be watching the old pirate movies, you know, Errol Flynn and crap like that. That's no Keith Richards shitty-pig drunk on rum with six eyes kind of pirate. Hide your booty and your bum.

Did vikings have fireworks? Who cares! There is something about a buxom blond with a horned helmet holding a sword with dripping blood that gets your pressure up and makes your pants tight. Super-buxom means that each breast is the size of her head - get a ruler and measure them; I dare you. I haven't even mentioned that she's got 24 shots; I don't even know what that means out of a woman with a sword, but it's still hot! I almost bought this one.

Small Festival Balls. Not really a lot to say here, other than, WARNING Shoots Flaming Balls! Okay, it was a ball joke, but really, you were thinking it; I just typed it.

Power and Pride. What else is there to the holiday? The Statue of Liberty on one side, a bald eagle on the other, with the old stars and stripes behind - nothing is more American. Did you happen to notice the "String o' Pearls" sitting next to the box?

This is America. We blow shit up for fun while drinking beer. Don't mess with us, we're crazy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sixth Sense Device

"This demo -- from Pattie Maes' lab at MIT, spearheaded by Pranav Mistry -- was the buzz of TED. It's a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment." -TED


Friday, May 8, 2009

Enjoy Some Flea Market Photos - III

Here are some more great (blech) finds. If you didn't believe that fact is worse than fiction take a gander at these. Happy misshapen head clown - he's not really happy, it's just that he likes kids - a little too much...

and black velvet clown not as kitschy as Elvis or dogs playing poker and somewhat evil looking like Sideshow Bob (from the Simpsons). I must say the execution of the painting was surprising good, but the subject matter is straight from a sub-par cranked-out (not the drug - something quickly done to capitalize on your fame to make money before your fame dies and not concentrating on the originality or the quality of the story line), Stephen King novel. Ta-da...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Enjoy Some Flea Market Photos - II

More pic of things that will never sell. A different day, a different Flea market... more weird stuff. A copper can, with mirrors and a cow skull hot glued on it. And I don't even know what that blue crap is...
Does this one remind you of a song? Perhaps, a song by the untalented girlfriend of a dead talented grung rock star? Maybe a song by a drug thinned, bleached blond that only became famous after screwing the aforementioned grung rock star? Not coming to you? I bet she doesn't smell like teen spirit...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Enjoy Some Flea Market Photos

Okay, so there we were walking along looking at crap and there was this baby doll on a shelf (I don't think I need to mention what is wrong with it). And then I saw this rug on the floor, and I just couldn't take it...

I hope you are as freaked out as I was; art is objective.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Adam Savage, Dodo Skeletons, and the Maltese Falcon

How do all of those things relate? Two are obsessions of one, and two are unaware of the other two...
No really. Adam Savage (of Mythbusters) gives a high-speed talk about his personal artistic obsession.

Ted Talks, I love this site. Okay, so now I want to make my own Dodo skeleton with the skull of a monkey...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Patterns Made by Sound

Okay, you artsy people get on this one. I'll expect something like an animated short made by sand and sound soon. [God, I love alliteration]

I found this on NPR Science Friday hosted by Ira Flatow.
The video was made by Wake Forest University Department of Physics,
Sam Eisenberg and Peter Scherpelz/HMC 08,
Hendrik Orem/HMC 09,
Hyung Joo Park/HMC 08,
Patricia Sparks/ HMC Physics,
Jon Jacobsen/HMC Math,
NPR story produced by Flora Lichtman.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dreaming About Twitter - the Game

I can't believe it finally happened. Last night, I dreamed about using Twitter.
What has happened to me?

And what was even cooler (depending on how you view dreaming about Twitter - good v. bad) was that I was using it in a city-wide game of Marco Polo.

You need two things:
  • a city
  • an mobile device with Internet access plus camera
Scratch that, three things; you need a Twitter account.

Crap. Scratch that, four things; you also need a friend...with a Twitter account.

How to play:
You travel to somewhere in the city and get comfortable - I suggest a Pub, but that may be too easy to find. Maybe pack a lunch and a book. When your friend is ready they tweet you "Marco". You take a pic of something around you (not too obvious like a street sign) and tweet back "Polo" with a tinyurl to the pic.
They try and figure out where you are and tweet back. If they don't get it in three guesses, they have to go to a new place (verified by pic and tweet) and "Marco" again. And you send them a new pic and "Polo".
And so on...

Hey at least it was fun in the dream...

Intellagirl, I blame you.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Flickr is cool, but what about space?

No, I'm not talking about storage space for your files; I'm talking about space proper. The great, great out of doors - the night sky of stars, planets, clouds of Ort, and jazz of that sort. Well, Flickr has some eye candy for you space lovers too!
Check out this blog post called "Stargazing" by Fiona Miller; you'll get your fix. And if your camera is high tech enough or you are Wile E. Coyote (TM Warner Bros.) genius enough and built your own space pic taken camera you can enter the Astronomy Photographer of the Year project.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Radiology Art by Satre Stuelke

Who knew that using a CT scanner to look into everyday objects would turn into art? But take a look!

My favorite is the movie of the Barbie doll. It makes me think of the pre-production stage of the making of the animatronic girl friend of the future. The freeze frame of the hair looks like the product of the first night of testing the horizontal features...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Teenagers' Class Project Takes Pics at the Cusp of Space

A group of Spanish teenagers pulled together a camera, a balloon, and some parts to send it all 20 miles up to take some snapshots.
Kids today, I swear. They've got nothing better to do than to make my childhood seem ridiculous. No wonder I didn't win at the high school science fair.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Opinion Paper: Instant Messaging in Education and its Usage


Instant messaging (IM) is a common way for technology savvy young people to stay in constant communication with their friends. The question as to whether or not instant messaging could be used as a tool for education is still being debated. Some want to ban it outright from the schools, saying that it is an enormous distraction when students are allowed to use it. Others however, see opportunities for learning situations in which instant messaging can benefit the exchange of knowledge and, they are exploring its uses. This is not a black and white situation. Instant messaging can be a bane and a boon for instructors.

Instant Messaging in Education and its Usage

Instant Messaging (IM) has become a ubiquitous tool for communication via the Internet. The key points that distinguish it from other forms of communication are that it is text-based and in real-time. Email is text-based, but you must wait for a reply. Phones are real-time, but people around you can eavesdrop on your conversation.

The IM programs used today seem to vary quite a bit from laptop to cell phones, but there are several commonalities in which they all seem to participate. You have a username that may or may not be your real name. You maintain a list of other people with whom you chat, and you can see when they are available for chatting. You can set your availability status to show that you are 'in' when you want to chat, or 'out' or 'busy' when you do not want to be disturbed. Text is the primary element of communication, not pictures, video, or audio, although some or all of those extra elements can be combined with the text message.

While considering the usefulness of IM, there is an obvious division that should be established. In regards to education, IM can be used inside and outside of the classroom. On the surface this may seem like a trivial distinction, but it does impact the usefulness and the purpose of IM in schools.

In the classroom, the established rule is that anything interrupting the attention of the students from the front of the room is a disruption and should be stopped by the teacher. Passing notes and whispering in class have never been permitted, and now some schools and instructors hold IM in the same regard. Since IM became widely available to students via computers, laptops, and cell phones, it has become a major method of communication for them. "Studies show that some 75 percent of teenagers use instant messaging, making it one of students' primary modes of written communication" (Martineau, 2007, ¶ 2).

However, some advocates for its removal from schools say it can be used as a way to share answers and cheat. In 2007, the Toronto Canada District School Board banned the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in the school citing the easy ability to cheat as one of the factors. One unidentified 9th grade student admitted to cheating and said, "You take notes by text message and save them, then you pop [the cellphone] out. It's quiet and nobody sees. It's not like paper. It doesn't crinkle" ("Toronto Students Banned," 2007).

In addition to cheating, there is the distraction factor. Many in education subscribe to the idea that students must be in a focused environment to learn, and any allowed deviation from that focus invites laziness or daydreaming. After some discussion at the Smoky Valley High School in Lindsborg, Kansas, the school's technology committee decided to allow the students to use IM, via the Apple chat client iChat, during class as they took notes and worked on their laptops. Sharon Texley, a member of the committee, said:
As time went by, the folly of that decision became apparent. Students did use iChat to communicate, but not the way we idealists had envisioned. The constant 'iChatter,' instead, included who's going out with whom, who went to the party last weekend, who's bored in class, and so on. In addition, many of them shared answers on tests and other work meant to be done individually. (Texley and DeGennaro, 2005, p. 2)
IM does make chatting and cheating easy. Anyone with experience in front of a class full of children would agree that students can create enough distractions on their own without one extra being given to them. In classes where individual work is important, maybe allowing IM is a bad idea, but what about situations where group work is appropriate?

Many say that since students already know how to use IM (most use it with a high proficiency) why not make educational use of it (Martineau, 2007, ¶ 4). There can be learning situations where communication and shared work is suitable. Elena Nehrebecki is an English language instructor at Hudson County Community College in Jersey City, NJ. One way in which she uses IM in the classroom is to ask students to translate some of their instant messages into grammatically correct sentences. She feels that she connecting with the students by using something already know, and it shows them the difference between casual and proper language (Martineau, 2007, ¶ 7).

IM holds a special place in Distance Education class. Since the classroom is already conducted virtually, IM becomes the fast way to communicate. Even though audio chat usage is on the rise, many people still do not have the bandwidth necessary to make that a viable communication tool. Many universities that have a Distance Education program use a Course Management System (CMS) to manage the classes and give the instructors a secure place to post a syllabus, assignment list, receive assignments electronically, and etcetera. Many CMSs have an IM feature built into their courseware. This benefits the student in several ways. The instructor can have office hours in a chat room that is only open to the class. Since the IM client is integrated in the CMS there is no additional account to sign up for and manage. If the instructor is not online the student can leave a message that the instructor will see the next time they log in.

Another use for IM in the classroom comes from classes with a large number of students present at once. When teaching large classes, instructors often have little time for taking questions. If the students could submit questions via IM then during a pause, the instructor could quickly review the submitted questions to see how well the students understand the lecture. In some large classes the instructor has an assistant, and that person could answer questions in the chat room while the instructor proceeds with the lecture (Kinzie, Whitaker, & Hofer, 2005, p. 158).

Outside of classroom, IM has a much more developed and accepted educational support role. For instance, it is a useful supplement to a second language class. When learning a second language, classroom work is important, but that is only a few hours per week. To learn a language well it must be practiced daily. IM can help the student by giving that instant communication to clarify a problem or just extra practice with the instructor or the instructor's aid outside of the classroom. One of the most helpful methods of learning another language is the understanding of short messages. Eventually reading long passages from a book will be natural, but understanding short communications helps to foster the ability to think in the other language. Even though IM cannot help with pronunciation problems, is very helpful for fostering understanding of the written text (Sotillo, 2006).

IM's educational assistance can be as simple as to help people in different locations communicate. "IM was viewed as a better tool for communicating with the instructor than e-mail or the telephone" (Jeong, 2007, p. 32). Many instructors make themselves available for contact via IM instead of holding regular office hours. The local student population (not Distance Education enrollees) who use IM as much or more than email communication, almost unanimously approved of this practice. Also some students are shy and reluctant to ask a question in front of a classroom of twenty, thirty, or more students. But, IM expands the comfort zone of the student and they are able to ask those questions (Jeong, 2007, p. 32 - 33).

On the whole, students like the ability to use IM to communicate with their instructors outside of the classroom; it is an improvement over past methods and at least equal to email in the ease of use. Before such technologies, if a student needed to contact an instructor they had to wait for designated office hours and either physically visit the office or telephone; both were a hit or miss approach. With email and IM, office hours can become whenever the instructor is willing.

There seems to be very little reason not to use IM outside of the classroom. Of the students that preferred to not use IM as a contact method for their instructor, they either had usability issues or would have rather used other methods of communication. The students that did not use IM still appreciated the option, as long as it was not required for the class. As for the students that were able to get along fine without it, they were indifferent about its use (Jeong, 2007, p. 33 - 36). For the students that needed the extra method of contact, it was helpful, and for the students that did not need it, it did not interferer with their learning. That sounds like an ideal tool.

It is agreed that as a communication tool, IM is useful and omnipresent. However, on the topic of whether or not to use it as an educational tool, the answer is affirmative, but with limitations. The highest value of IM seems to lie outside of the classroom as a method for contacting instructors. Although, inside the classroom there are also uses to be explored for language class, group work, asking questions, and others. The value that IM adds to in-class work should be weighed against the potential for lost student focus.

Consider the phrase, "If you give them an inch they will take a mile." I am not sure whom that that phrase originally referred to, but it applies students. If IM is freely allowed in the classroom, the virtual notes will be flying even while the instructor is facing the class; no longer would students need to wait for teachers to turn their backs. It has been shown that outside of the classroom the value of IM can be great. And it has also been shown that IM can be used in the classroom to benefit the learning situation, but it must be controlled or limited in some fashion.


Martineau, P. (September 2007). Tapping Instant Messaging: Once frowned upon, IM is now used in schools for language lessons. Education Week's Digital Directions. Retrieved February 14, 2009, from

Toronto Students Banned From Using Cellphones in Schools, (April 19, 2007). CBS News Canada. Retrieved February 15, 2009, from

Texley, S., and DeGennaro, D. (2005). Should We Ban Instant Messaging in Schools? Learning & Leading with Technology 32 (7). Retrieved February 14, 2009, from

Kinzie, M. B., Whitaker, S. D., & Hofer, M. J. (2005). Instructional Uses of Instant Messaging (IM) During Classroom Lectures. Educational Technology & Society, 8 (2), 150-160. Retrieved February 15, 2009, from

Sotillo, S. (2006). Using instant messaging for collaborative learning: A case study. Innovate 2 (3). Retrieved February 15, 2009, from

Jeong, W. (2007). Instant Messaging in On-Site and Online Classes in Higher Education. Educause Quarterly (No. 1) Retrieved February 14, 2009, from

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Coprophagy [kŏ-prŏf'ə-jē]
eating of dung, or feces, considered abnormal among human beings but apparently instinctive among certain members of the order Lagomorpha (rabbits and hares) and in at least one leaf-eating primate (genus Lepilemur). It is thought that these animals obtain needed vitamins in this way. The diets of certain insect species, among them the dung beetles and dung flies, are primarily or exclusively coprophagous.
cop⋅roph⋅a⋅gous [kuh-prof-uh-guhs]
feeding on dung, as certain beetles.
Origin: 1820–30; copro- + -phagous
Definitions retrieved from

While researching for a post on the topic of rabbits and hares (Lagomorpha) I came across this interesting bit of disgusting trivia. Apparently, rabbits (and hares) eat their first shit so that they can digest it in a unique part of their stomach and recover all of the nutrients from it before they shit it out a second time and are done with it.

"Lagomorphs produce two kinds of feces. The first kind is basically a first-cut, digestively speaking, from which some but not all nutrients have been extracted. This gooey black feces is eaten as soon as it is excreted, and then re-digested in a special part of the stomach. This second round of food processing extracts more nutrients, and the final-cut feces is in the form of small, hard pellets." (Lumpkin, 2000, paragraph 14)

Lumpkin, Susan. (2000) A Rabbits Tale Retrieved from

My Apploigies to All Thomas Grangers Everywhere

Thomas Granger was the first person (and the first teenager) hanged (to death) in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. What's more unique, I suppose, is that he was hanged for the crime of bestiality. He had a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves, and a turkey under his belt. [pardon the pun].

I'd rather die anonymously than be in the record books for that...
Another icky thought...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Core77 Design Magazine Greener Gadget Contest

Vote Now For Your Favorite Greener Gadget!

Help us pick the top 10 gadgets for the live judging at this year's Greener Gadgets Conference in New York City on February 27th, 2009. Voting ends February 20th. Click, get inspired, and vote below!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Faster than Light Speed Travel?

Okay. Really?
"It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs!"
(Never mind that parsecs are units of distance and not time - oh well, George still made a great movie.)

I know we all want it to be possible. The 'real' theory (not talking Star Trek/Wars here!) is based on an idea by Michael Alcubierre. The propulsion system doesn't really propel the space ship; it would expand space behind the ship and shrink space in front of the ship. The ship would then 'surf' the bubble as it zips through space. It was coined as the "Alcubierre drive."

This idea has been reworked a little (add a sprinkling of dark energy to control the manipulation of spacetime) by Baylor University physicists Gerald Cleaver and graduate student Richard Obousy.

It's an interesting thought experiment. It does seem to escape the problem of Einstein's theory of relativity. The ship is not actually 'moving through space,' but riding the bubble of stationary space. So then no infinite speed requiring an infinite amount of fuel mass.

I'm curious about time. Assuming that this will come to pass as real technology at some point. How will a bubble of space affect the passage of time in and around it?

The idea that space can move faster than light comes from data generated by the WMAP that space expanded faster than the speed of light for a short time after the Big Bang.

Sadly, we won't be able to enjoy the fruits of this theory, unless someone cracks the problem of the human life span. That's a story for another day.

Whole story at
Warp Drive Engine Would Travel Faster Than Light
by Eric Bland

Story with more detail about how dark energy fits into the picture at
Spaceship Could Fly Faster Than Light
by Jeremy Hsu

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How to Use the Three Seashells

Let me preface this by saying I like a lot of movies that others seem to consider bad. Particularly I like Sci Fi, and I like dystopias. I sometimes try to justify my opinion, this time I won't.
I like Demolition Man. I don't like most of Stallone's or Snipes' movies, but this one gets me. I like the dystopia future of San Angles, and the writing is good and humorous.

One of the dialogue jokes in the movie is the mysterious replacement of toilet paper in the bathroom by the use of 3 seashells. The answer is never revealed in the movie. seems to have found the missing instruction poster.
How to use the Three Seashells!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Poetry Contests - in general

I'm still getting comments to a post about a suspicious poetry contest I saw in our local paper. Read all posts on this topic.
This is what I replied to the latest:
"In my experience, the only legitimate contests you'll find are through journals and publications that focus on writing. The contests that are putting together 'The World's Best Poetry Book' are scams wanting you to basically pay for publication.
That is different than a readers fee. Ones that employ a readers fee are looking for compensation for their time, money to pool together for the prize, and perhaps a little extra to pay employees at the press. That's not to say that some of those aren't scams either.
I recommend that you always investigate the publication before submitting, just so you know you are getting back thoughtful comments and criticisms. Case in point, go read some of the poems online at; most are awful, but no one told the authors that because they are spending money on the hack books cranked out."

If you do submit to these suspicious contests, please leave me some comments or email me and let me know how it resolved. I'm very interested!