Sunday, January 29, 2023

Zero to Infinity

I cannot be the only one who noticed this. The title graphic for this episode of NOVA reminded me of the title cards used throughout 2001: A Space Odyssey. Specifically the one used to announce the final act: "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" (Buzz Lightyear's catch phrase is based on this act's name.) All caps Futura in white against a dark background, and an invocation of the infinite. Subtle? Yes. A coincidence? I'm saying no.

In any case, Talithia Williams' tale of numerical extremes is told through dancing animated aliens, masterful tabla playing, pizza slicing, and a visit to a hypothetical hotel. Zero was missed by the Sumerians, Mesopotamians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Infinity unlocks the vast potential of calculus.

Asides: It was Williams' mellifluous voice that guided us through the Universe Revealed NOVA miniseries. And I did have to add a new custom category on this here blog and to my Lessons of Phyz store on TPT: Math. So if you know of any other compelling math documentaries that could benefit from a question set, let me know.

As your science sommelier, I was struck when Williams synopsized the episode as being about "nothing and everything". It rang a bell! So I would say this episode pairs nicely (perhaps whimsically) with Jim Al-Khalili's Everything and Nothing. Williams is telling a math story; Al-Khalili is telling a physical science story. 

Arctic Sinkholes

It's worse than the models predicted. 

If you've been feeling that climate \change has been running ahead to schedule, there may be a reason for that. This episode of NOVA lays it out. Spoiler alert, it's permafrost thaw and perhaps fossil methane chimneys. 

"Thawing permafrost, right now on NOVA" apparently doesn't attract Viewers Like You, so producers looked for a sexier hook. What they found was arctic sinkholes, first seen in Russia's Yamal peninsula. At first glance, maybe large-scale, remote versions of sinkholes like those that have been swallowing cars around the world. Nope. These are explosion craters surrounded by debris fields. The calls are coming from inside the house. "Arctic sinkholes, right now on NOVA." Now we've got an episode.

The focus of the program is nevertheless permafrost thaw and the investigation of an ongoing release of ancient methane previously deemed safely sequestered. Nontrivial new greenhouse gas emissions that were not accounted for in the 2015 Paris Accords. So yeah, it's worse than we thought.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Earth Revealed

It seems there was a wee Golden Age of college telecourses that preceded the explosive dawn of the World Wide Web. In physics, we had The Mechanical Universe. In chemistry, there was The World of Chemistry, and in geology, there was Earth Revealed. They had been preceded by more multidisciplinary documentary series such as Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man, James Burke's Connections, and Carl Sagan's Cosmos.

These telecourses ran 26 half-hour episodes, and were intended to be fairly comprehensive. The Mechanical Universe actually got a second season, for a total of 52 episodes. If there are programs with matching ambition produced in The Age of Search (21st century), I am unaware of them. Chemistry: Challenges and Solutions (2014) does a great job, but tells its story in a mere 13 episodes.

The Buggles proclaimed that Video Killed the Radio Star in the first song played by the VJs of MTV. Did the web kill broadcast college telecourses? My guess is that the web allowed colleges to conduct their own telecourses, albeit less slickly produced, so that demand for these more broadly-targeted telecourses went extinct.

Earth Revealed shows the physical processes and human activities that shape

Monday, January 2, 2023

Leave a review, get a TPT credit

I only became aware of this recently; it seems like a pretty good deal. A post that details the craft that goes into the creating of the Lessons of Phyz video question sets is directly below this post, if you're looking for inspiration for leaving positive reviews. And you can still write a better review than Open AI's ChatGPT can.

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