Monday, June 26, 2023

The Brain

Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity.

The Brain at TPT

Monday, June 19, 2023

Our Planet II

Our Planet (2019) represented something new in the well-traveled wildlife documentary genre. It included stunning photography and footage acquired at considerable expense and difficulty; that's the price of admission. But David Attenborough's script did not shy away from revealing the less appealing facts of habitat and species decline. The realities of human impact were documented. Not heavy-handidly. But not ignored, either.

This follow-up miniseries centers on migrations and seasons. Well, months more than seasons as it trots the globe's northern and southern hemispheres throughout one calendar year. It's perhaps a bit gentler regarding the message of anthropogenic climate change, because that science is very settled. Our Planet II was designed with bingers in mind. Each of the first three episodes ends in a cliffhanger.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Colosseum: Roman Death Trap

Among the most hackneyed of tweet opening phrases is "I don't know who needs to hear this, but...". The author is attempting to signal an imminent dose of universal wisdom.

This episode of NOVA popped up as this week's summer rerun for NOVA. I visited the Colosseum in April and saw a lift made of lumber in the bowels (hypogeum) of the structure. This program tells its story, and much, much more. As the title implies, it was not a place of joy, mirth, or happiness for those who participated in the spectacles. 

But there was state-of-the-art engineering going on in there. So ... I don't know who needs to use this, but there is cromulent STEM content in this episode: mechanical and hydraulic engineering as well as emission spectroscopy and bone-strengthening nutritional supplements for gladiators. Gladiators were trained in fight schools and were provided with health care. Not all gladiator fights were allowed to end in a death (given the investments in these fighters). But releasing wild apex predators into the arena via lifts and trap doors kept audiences coming back for more.

Crypto Decoded

By early June, 2023, regulators were coming after cryptocurrencies. And NTFs had not really caught on fire. Maybe I've come to this episode of NOVA too late. And it's not that old. But 2022 was a long, difficult year for crypto. 

NOVA traces the origins of crypto and what some hoped it might be able to do. From the blockchain to Ethereum, this episode does what it can to decode crypto.

From Bitcoin to NFTs, crypto is making headlines. But what exactly is it, and how does it work? Experts go beyond the hype and skepticism to unravel the social and technological underpinnings of crypto – exploring how it came to be and why this new technology may change more than just money.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Honda Cog Ad

I always loved this two-minute ad from Honda UK. It merited an exhaustive Wikipedia entry. I showed it during our Energy units, since there were so many energy transfers and and transformations. Creating a student assignment around it was challenging, though. And doing so sat on the back-burner for some time.

Eventually I settled on a "phenomena-match" where I created a list of physics phenomena and broke the video into 33 distinct events, with titles!

Students are asked to read the list of phenomena and then watch the video. Then they're asked to watch the video again and label each event with at least one phenomenon shown. (Some events show multiple phenomena, and students are encouraged to label as many as they see.) 

But there are some restrictions. All 33 events need to tagged with at least one phenomenon, and each phenomenon must be assigned to at least one event by the end of the video. And no single phenomenon can be assigned to more than five events.

Fun, engaging, and with just a pinch of tension (as you come up on your fifth citation of "collision").

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Spin the Cradle

The Newton's Cradle likely spends most of the school year collecting dust. Adding this will diminish the accumulation a little bit.

Center that cradle on a low-friction turntable, and you've got the makings of a nice demonstration for AP Physics 1. There's a classic uniform circular motion free-body diagram to be solved. And the solution speaks to the angle a ball will swing to when things are set into motion.

A curious counter-intuitive interpretation of the mathematics is explored. It's nerdy stuff, appropriate for the more deeply-set plow we use in the advanced level high school course.

And how cool is that cover photo, with the balls of the cradle seeming to repel one another?

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Secrets in Our DNA

When the direct-to-consumer DNA tests were splashing onto the scene a few years ago, I noticed that some of my colleagues at school were getting their 23AndMe or AncestryDNA tests done. None of them were science teachers.

My immediate take was that the more you knew about DNA, the less likely you were to buy into these tests.

I haven't purchased a test, myself. But I might get one someday. There seems to be some entertainment value and some medical value. But it's important not to set expectations very high.

That said, there is a story here. A story with several compelling threads. And this episode of NOVA gets at this story.