Video of the day

Drilling metal in slow motion is super-cool.


Teach to learn

I had never heard of the VSauce educational Youtube channel, but it’s got lots of cool, fun, education videos, e.g., What would happen if Everyone Jumped at Once.  Anyway, the Atlantic article about Michael Stevens, the mastermind of Vsauce, gets several of his tips on teaching and learning and I really liked this one:

Know your subject well enough to explain it to someone else:

You have to be able to explain the topic, so that other people can understand it. If you can’t do that, then you don’t really know it. What I’ve found is that even the most common things are things that we think we know, until we are really asked to explain it to other people or to say exactly what it is. Everyone knows what diabetes is, for instance, but could you explain to me, at a molecular level, what really happens? I think you really have to step back and force yourself to really explain something such that no one can have a problem with the explanation. That’s when you really get into full understanding, when you are really ready to teach something to someone else.

On rare occasions, I discover I don’t actually know my particular sub-topic well enough to teach it to someone else, and that’s not good.  But never happens again on that topic.  A friend told me his high school daughter often has homework assignments to explain things like how probability works to a family member.  This is a great idea.  I’m always learning better because I have to teach things.  No reason to restrict the concept to teachers and college professors.

Photo of the day

From National Geographic Found:

The Britannic, a massive British steamer and sister ship to the Titanic, launches from Belfast Harbor in 1914. The Britannic sunk two years later after encountering a German mine field in the Meditteranean sea.No Credit Given

The Britannic, a massive British steamer and sister ship to the Titanic, launches from Belfast Harbor in 1914. The Britannic sunk two years later after encountering a German mine field in the Meditteranean sea.NO CREDIT GIVEN


Common Core reading and NPR

While driving today, I listened to this excellent NPR story on how the Common Core is working to change reading education.  I learned so much in just a few minutes and was struck by how thoughtful and nuanced the story was.   And then it occurred to me this is why I love NPR.  Could ABC, CBS, CNN, etc., produce stories like this?  Absolutely,  Do we ever get anything remotely this good?  Not that I can tell (but I gave up on all those guys a long time ago).  Sure, one can argue reading is a different, but a TV story could have nicely been fleshed out with a student struggling over some hard words while getting a helping hand from a teacher, or whatever.

Point being, this is the kind of stuff that I think is really valuable for citizens to know.  Exactly how Common Core aims to change how we teach kids to read and how it’s being implemented.  I imagine your typical TV news story would just have political “experts” partisan sniping at each other over the issue with very little understanding of what’s going on.  Of course, one can also get good stories like this from myriad on-line sources, but it is nice that there is at least one broadcast medium (and something I can listen to while I’m driving) that takes good news so seriously.

And, oh, yeah, read the whole series.  It’s hard not to be impressed with how the Common Core is approaching reading.

My microbiome

So, you know you’ve been waiting for it… The results of the analysis of my very own gut bacteria is finally in.  Cool to look at, but not really all that illustrative (if you click on the image below, you’ll get a nice full-size version).


What we can most clearly see is that my microbiome is fairly distinct from most other similar people.  Those large circles in each of the lower visualizations represent how similar I am to others and we can see that I’m out on the edge.  Whether that’s good or bad, we cannot say, but given that I’m generally quite healthy, I’m going with good.  The chart on the top left shows that I am somewhat unusual in the large portion of firmicules in my gut.  The cool part here is that my sample looks almost exactly like Michael Pollan’s– that’s got to be good, right?  Anyway, I wasn’t actually inspecting any great insights from this– I wanted to be part of the science.  And as more and more microbiomes are analyzed the researchers will be able to draw some conclusions that might reveal some more about what my results mean.

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