Sunday, 22 September 2013

11:16 – Autumn is here and our weather reflects that. Our highs over the next week are to be mid-70s F (~24 C) and our lows in the mid-50’s F (~13 C).

Which reminds me of a little-known fact. One of my undergrad chemistry professors was adamant that “C” stood for “centigrade” rather than “Celsius”, no matter what any standards body said. As he pointed out, on the centigrade scale water freezes at 0 degrees and boils at 100, whereas on the Celsius scale water freezes at 100 degrees and boils at 0. So, to this day, I speak the name of the scale as centigrade rather than Celsius.

I picked up Barbara at around 1800 yesterday. I got there at 1705, just in case. I didn’t want her and Marcy to end up standing in the rain waiting for me. Colin and I are delighted that she’s home. Colin’s behavior changed while Barbara was gone. If there was one thing his mother taught him as a puppy, it was that paws require frequent washing. Ordinarily, Colin washes my front paws every chance he gets, several times in the evening while we’re watching TV and at least a couple of times in the middle of the night I’ll wake up to find him washing my front paws. And he does a good job. It normally takes him at least four or five minutes per paw. If they’re particularly dirty, he’ll chew gently as well as licking. The whole time Barbara was gone, he didn’t wash my paws even once. Last night, he started back in on washing them. It took him much longer before he was satisfied, seeing as how they hadn’t been washed for a week. He finally called it done and went to sleep again, but he woke up later and did a second pass on them.

I’m still working on stubbing out the manual for the EK01 Earth Science Kit. Public schools teach earth science as both a middle-school course–usually grade eight–and as a high-school level course. I think the middle-school level courses are pretty much wasted. The rigor is typically very low, and the expectations correspondingly so. Few colleges even consider the middle-school level science courses in a student’s transcript, and rightly so. So I’m going to do this manual and kit at the high-school level, if not first-year college physical geology. There’s nothing there that a bright 14-year-old shouldn’t be able to handle.

But “earth science” as taught in most schools isn’t just geology. In fact, the course is often named “earth and space science”. So, although there’s no need for a kit for astronomy, I think I’m going to include an astronomy lab component. Of course, for astronomy, “lab” is really observational astronomy. I’ll keep the “labs” simple and try to require only a binocular or perhaps an inexpensive telescope like the 4.25″ Orion StarBlast. Or perhaps I’ll just make the kit cover geology labs and perhaps one or two on topology and so on.

I frequently hear from homeschool parents with kids who are destined to major in STEM. They’re concerned because four years of high school gives them time for only four lab science courses, unless they double up. But there is an alternative, and it’s what I did when I was that age. I spent summers dividing my time between playing tennis and doing science. In other words, I did a full year’s worth of science every summer. A semester is 18 weeks or 90 school days, basically a quarter of a year. Kids typically do classes 180 days a year, or half a year, spread over two-thirds of the year. That’s roughly 500 school hours per semester, or 1,000 school hours per year. But homeschool parents have complete scheduling flexibility. Trying to do four full semesters a year would be really pushing it, but doing 2.5 or even three is within the realm of possibility. Assuming a summer break of roughly 12 weeks and running summer school three hours a day five days a week is sufficient time for the equivalent of one full-year course or two one-semester courses over the summer. If that time is devoted to science, that means a student has time in grades 9 through 12 to take eight full years of lab science rather than only four. Even at only 1.5 hours per day five days a week, that’s six years of science instead of only four.

That’s time to do two full years of chemistry, two full years of biology, and two full years of physics. And if the kids do two semesters’ worth of science every summer rather than one, that leaves time for four full semesters of additional science. Things like microbiology, molecular biology, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, biochemistry, physical chemistry, an engineering course or two, and so on. Knowing what I know, if I were 14 years old now, that’s what I’d do. My real goal would be to skip undergrad entirely, be accepted into grad school at age 17 or 18, and get my doctorate at age 21 or 22.


32 thoughts on “Sunday, 22 September 2013”

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celsius

    I’d heard years ago that centigrade was replaced by Celsius because the former conflicted with another definition:

    ‘Since the 19th century, the scientific and thermometry communities worldwide referred to this scale as the centigrade scale. Temperatures on the centigrade scale were often reported simply as degrees or, when greater specificity was desired, as degrees centigrade. The symbol for temperature values on this scale is °C.

    Because the term centigrade was also the Spanish and French language name for a unit of angular measurement (1/10,000 of a right angle) and had a similar connotation in other languages, the term centesimal degree was used when very precise, unambiguous language was required by international standards bodies such as the BIPM. The 9th CGPM and the CIPM (Comité international des poids et mesures) formally adopted “degree Celsius” (symbol: °C) in 1948.[13][14]

    It was not until February 1985 that the forecasts issued by the BBC switched from “centigrade” to “Celsius”.[15]

    For scientific use, “Celsius” is the term usually used, with “centigrade” otherwise continuing to be in common but decreasing use, especially in informal contexts in English-speaking countries (the French “grade” is known as the gradian, grad, or gon in English).[16]’

    Also, an explanation for the reversal of direction of the Celsius scale:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celsius#History

  2. Yes, so we should really refer to degrees Linnaeus. Celsius was a non-starter.

  3. Since English is the world language we should forget the meaning of centigrade in other languages and go back to using it. I always preferred it.

  4. I sure wish the US would fully adopt metric. Even government offices use metric. The FCC posts antenna height in meters. NOAA and NWS use Celsius behind the scenes, then convert to Fahrenheit on their public forums. If you read their discussions, they are always in metric. Returning to the hodgepodge of measuring units we use in the US and the $1 bill has been no fun at all.

  5. Does the US still have $1 notes? I thought it was replaced by a coin years ago. And you should use multi-coloured notes like we do.

    I know what some non-metric measures are but have only a vague idea about Fahrenheit. I always think of my height in Imperial (6’1″) but my weight in kilos.

    I think we should use degrees Kelvin, much nicer not having to use a minus sign.

  6. One change that happened while I was in Europe, is that temperatures used to be called minus 9, minus 15, and gawd forbid an occasional minus 20, but nowadays everyone says “negative 9”, “negative 15”, “negative 20”. “Minus” is easier to say than “negative”. I’m still using minus, but younger people have to think about it. All the weather people on radio and TV now use “negative”.

    Germans, on the other hand, call a “dash” a “minus”; a double-dash is “minus, minus”. Website addresses often have a dash in them, so they say “minus” to describe that.

  7. Yes, we still have dollar notes, still with G. Washington on them; agreed on the use of multicolor notes, whatever, it’s all just fiat currency anyway. We also have various dollar coins, also fiat.

    I will go to my grave thinking and writing in terms of Farenheit, feet, yards, and miles and the rest of the world be damned. I may go back to weight in terms of stone. Keeping fathoms, also. Not to worry; my rotten generation will be dead all in due course.

  8. I will go to my grave thinking and writing in terms of Farenheit, feet, yards, and miles and the rest of the world be

    Yup. God wants water to freeze at 32 F and boil at 212 F (at sea level). I’m fairly sure that is in the Bible somewhere.

    I’ve always thought that barleycorn was an interesting length unit. I like a units system where the base measure changes on the basis of dry or wet.

    I may go back to weight in terms of stone

    Hey, I weigh 17.8 stone, I like that!

  9. I sure wish the US would fully adopt metric.

    The conversion cost to US industry would be immense. For example, the entire US aerospace industry is set up for English measurements, and there are damn few aerospace standard fasteners and connectors made in the US that are metric. We tried to go metric on Orion, but when NASA saw how much it was going to cost, we got a waiver to continue in English units. Except for navigation, which will be in metric.

    Oh, and I prefer Kelvins for temperature. I got used to it working on my BA in astronomy. Strange thing, back in the 70s, astronomers tended to use CGS (centimeters/grams/seconds) instead of MKS (meters/kilograms/seconds) for scientific papers. It’s just a couple of orders of magnitude difference…..

  10. Lynn wrote:

    “Hey, I weigh 17.8 stone, I like that!”

    Is that 17 stone 8 pounds or 17.8 stone? I weigh a bit more than you, can’t remember if you’re shorter or taller than me, but at least my mass is heading in the right direction. I’ve dropped about 25 kg since Christmas.

  11. As with Lynn: “I prefer Rankine. And PSIA.”

    Every now and then I get chided for my use of the same and being non-scientific. My response is: “What worked for Orville and Wilbur at Kitty Hawk is good enough for me.”

    BTW, what system is preferred by the global warming liars?

  12. Of course, the vast majority of the world is metric. The US cannot hold out forever. Funny that the car industry can switch to metric but aerospace cannot. Maybe that is one reason why recent financial commentators are saying Boeing is history: business has to produce what the consumer wants—and the rest of the world uses, and wants, metric. The auto industry gets this. Just keep holding onto the past, and we will be just like the UK—no longer the driving factor in the world.

    The engineers I taught in Berlin marveled that the US grapples with complex math because of our measuring systems, whereas the math is easy in metric.

  13. The only reason US car makers have shifted to metric is that they source parts and the cars themselves from different countries. That’s not an issue for Boeing. Anyone who buys one airliner let alone a fleet of them doesn’t care whether the fasteners are traditional, metric, or completely proprietary. The cost of tools is microscopic compared to the cost of the airliners and spare parts.

  14. Oh, yeah. And the US market is so gigantic that metric countries have to meet our expectations. The converse is not true.

  15. 6’1″. Actually, that was my peak height. I seem to be shrinking as my measured height is now 6’0.5″.

    17.8 stone is 17 stone 11 lbs is 249 lbs.

    Except for navigation, which will be in metric.

    Good, after that unfortunate incident of the spacecraft landing XXXXXX crashing on Mars due to the incompatibility of the software between the flight team and the landing team.

    The internal dimensional units for my engineering software are R, psia, btu, hours, centipoise, feet, lbmoles, etc. But we have addons all over the place in different units, primarily Kelvin and pascals. We support all four major temperature units (F, C, R, K), 17 pressure units, etc, etc, etc. Unfortunately, it is a constant source of bugs in our software.

  16. The only reason US car makers have shifted to metric is that they source parts and the cars themselves from different countries.

    The car manufacturers spun off their parts suppliers decades ago trying to reduce costs. In return they had to go metric but they then got multiple parts suppliers. I do not believe the tags when they say 87% USA or 65% USA parts as the suppliers have suppliers.

  17. BTW, what system is preferred by the global warming liars?

    I am not sure. It is beginning to appear that they do not even know the signs in their equations so relatively simple things like scaling factors are lost in the noise.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2420783/Worlds-climate-scientists-confess-Global-warming-just-QUARTER-thought–computers-got-effects-greenhouse-gases-wrong.html#ixzz2fJhaOUWs

    This is bad science at its worst. Trying to make public policy out of bad science leads to horrible results. Results like people starving as farmers let their land lie fallow rather than grow crops. The models that these people are trying to build are enormously complex and use way too many constants. For instance, how variable is the solar constant and how well can we measure it? And the chemistry of the oceans is barely understood, especially when the pressure goes over 1,000 psia.

    I am continuously amazed at the audacity of the global warming XXXXXX climate change people. Last Friday, the EPA banned new coal power plants and nobody noticed. Meanwhile, the economies of the coal producing states are in total freefall. And the EPA is trying to figure out how to shutdown the existing coal power plants.

    I do understand that our glorious leader has his minions working on a new five year plan for the USA economy and will fix everything for us. Comrades, unite!

  18. Actually, that was my peak height. I seem to be shrinking

    Me, too. In college, I was just a smidgen over 6’4″ tall. I haven’t been measured for a long time, but I’d guess I’m down to about 4’8″.

    I wouldn’t mind that so much, but available evidence suggests my brain is shrinking as well. At least my hat size remains at XXXXXXXL or XXXXXXXXL. Even Big & Tall men’s stores usually don’t carry hats big enough for me.

  19. No, but that may be because people have been telling me I have a swollen head. My usual response has been, “And…?”

  20. Except for navigation, which will be in metric.

    Good, after that unfortunate incident of the spacecraft landing XXXXXX crashing on Mars due to the incompatibility of the software between the flight team and the landing team.

    You beat me to it.

    I consulted at a Lockheed-Martin-run place ten years ago. I got a lot of milage out of busting on them about “now are you sure you’re all talking metric here?” They got tired of it. But guess what? I caught them in an inches-centimeters screwup. Boy, were they pissed. (Even absent my catching it, the mistake would have been caught quickly. The simulation would have given hugely bogus results and someone would have found it.)

  21. This

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrication_in_the_United_States

    seems to address the state of affairs with US adoption of metric. It appears that packaging is the area where the switch to metric is happening the fastest. Interesting to note that aviation uses feet for reporting altitude worldwide.

    Metric is not hard to deal with—much easier than Imperial/English/US measurements—and is easy to get used to. The most difficult was adjusting to meters, but we put a meter measurement on the wall with feet markings to a yard right next to it, and in a few months, it became as easy to deal with meters as it had been with feet/yards.

    Temperature was the best, though. It is very difficult to notice a difference between 76 or 77, but discerning a difference between 22 and 23 is easy. I far prefer Celsius.

    Speaking of temps, Tiny House is getting progressively colder. This may be the first night I need heat. Trying to avoid that, because it will be 81 by Friday, but anything below 60 gets difficult for me to deal with these days. Germany turns the heat off at night, so we were used to cold temps there, but there is nobody to sleep with anymore, so I do not benefit from dual body heat.

  22. Germany turns the heat off at night, so we were used to cold temps there, but there is nobody to sleep with anymore, so I do not benefit from dual body heat

    Ah, the wonders of district heating. Plus most of Germany’s nighttime power is made from wind turbines as that is when the wind blows in Germany. Here in Texas also.

    Sorry to hear continuing issues of spouse loss. When one loses a spouse, there are many, many issues to deal with but I never thought of the loss of body heat at night time. I have watched my father in law bury two wives now and his girlfriend will probably bury him. She won’t marry him because of the loss in her benefits from her first husband. Have you thought about prospecting at your local church or http://www.eharmony.com ?

    And the Brits are stubbornly clinging to their mph speed limit signs. I figure that will the last thing to go here in the USA.

  23. What always struck me as weird was telescopes and eyepieces. Worldwide, the focal length of a telescope is specified in mm, while the size of eyepieces the focuser accepts is specified in inches. So, my 10-inch (aperture) Dobsonian telescope has a 2-inch focuser, which will accept eyepieces with 1.25-inch or 2-inch barrels. Eyepiece focal lengths are universally specified in mm. So, for example, I have a 30 mm eyepiece that has a 2-inch barrel (which allows a 68-degree apparent FOV) and another 30 mm eyepiece that has a 1.25-inch barrel (which allows only a 52-degree apparent FOV, but can be used in smaller scopes that have 1.25″-only focusers.)

    I also think it’s interesting that telescopes with apertures under 100 mm are normally specified in mm aperture, but those over 100mm are normally specified in inches. So, I have a 90mm refractor, a 4.5″ grab-and-go mini-Dob, and a 10″ Dob (which actually has an aperture of 250mm rather than 254 mm). Oddly, I’ve almost never heard aperture specified in cm. If a guy with a 12-inch Dob does use metric, he’ll say he has a 300 mm Dob rather than a 30 cm Dob.

  24. On the subject of English vs. Metric measurements, I often have the suspicion that companies cheat. Just as an example, I recently had an ill-fitting 10mm bolt, and I suspect that the head was actualy cut to 3/8 inch (which would be 9.5mm. Sadly, I sold all my US tools, so I couldn’t actually verify my suspicion.

    I don’t have any idea about the threads – if those are metric or English – but this isn’t the first time I’ve run across a part that seemed just to far off to explain any other way.

  25. Bolt threads in English units are in threads per inch. Small bolts may have as many as 24 ? 32 ? threads per inch. To graduate from TAMU with a mechanical engineering degree, I had to machine a one inch piece of iron bar stock with 10 right hand threads per inch. The instructor had a nut that had to go five inches onto the new bolt. Then I had to machine the threads off and machine a 3/4″ set of 10 ? left hand threads per inch. The instructor had another nut that had to fit also. I got a B in the course.

  26. BTW, moving to the metric system will not stop all dimensional unit conversions. Some people want to use hours, some minutes and others seconds. There is even a group of people campaigning for centi seconds (100), centi minutes (100) and deci hours (10) per day. And there is also a group campaigning to replace degrees (360) with centi degrees (100).

  27. I also think it’s interesting that telescopes with apertures under 100 mm are normally specified in mm aperture, but those over 100mm are normally specified in inches.

    It was the same with lenses for TV cameras when I first started back in the black and white TV days. Zoom lenses were almost unheard of, until color cameras became prevalent, and black and white cameras had a turret complement of 4, sometimes 5, lenses. The shorter lenses were denominated in millimeters, and the longer ones in inches. The black and white RCA TK-11 was probably the most-used camera in the world until Philips came along with their color cameras based on the much smaller plumbicon camera tubes and wiped the floor with RCA, essentially putting RCA out of the TV hardware business. The TK-11 cameras that I worked with, typically had 4 of the following mounted: 35mm; 50mm; 75mm; 90mm; 135mm; 8.5in; or 13in.

    We also had a Zoomar 12:1 zoom lens, but early zoom lenses for TV were problematic. The Zoomar was controlled by a slender rod that went all the way through the camera to the lens in front. Pushing the rod controlled the focal length, and twisting the rod was the focus. The rod would bind when pushing it, so smooth on-air zooms were really impractical. The French company Angénieux bought out Zoomar (at least for TV), and even with Angénieux, we had lots of trouble with their zooms ‘sticking’. They knew what caused it: a rubber cogwheel got out-of-round, but they had no solution other than to put that rubber wheel in the freezer. When put back into the camera, it would work well for about 40 minutes, then start binding during zoom travel again. For what we paid for that zoom, they should have remanufactured that cogwheel to higher specs, and given one to everybody who had bought one.

    Although technical types are wowed by technology (RCA advertised that using a zoom lens would mean fewer cameras would be needed for any particular program—what a croc of you-know-what that is), we creatives who actually made the programs are wary of whiz-bang effects. Thus, on-air zooms are not really used that much, even though the technical people actually think they are. It is an unnatural effect, because the eye is not capable of zooming. Even moving closer to a subject with one’s eyes or a camera, does not alter the width and height of the overall field of view, as zooming does. Usually, it is novices who overuse special effects.

    Here is a link to a PDF of an old RCA TV equipment catalog. Page 37 of the PDF shows the lenses that were typically used in some combination on the RCA black and white TK-11’s. The mm-defined ones are the bottom row, and the longer inch-denominated lenses are the top row.

    http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-Catalogs/RCA/RCA-Cameras-1959.pdf

  28. “Although technical types are wowed by technology (RCA advertised that using a zoom lens would mean fewer cameras would be needed for any particular program—what a croc of you-know-what that is), we creatives who actually made the programs are wary of whiz-bang effects.”

    From your lips to somebody or other’s ear; I’ve been reading Epstein’s book “Deception” about the intel battles long ago between the Soviet KGB and our agencies; the techie and prog types in gummint were all over how wonderful our spy satellites were and our means of collecting data from the Soviets but more rational old hands knew it was hoss shit for a whole host of scientific reasons, including the late Senator Malcolm Wallop. It’s thirty years later and we have all kinds of wonderful new toyz for this but there is no substitute for quality humint.

Comments are closed.