Archive for the ‘Computers and Technology’ Category
The cool thing about new technologies is that they can be used to study our universe with better SENSITIVITY than ever before. The downside to this is that with better instruments comes more data than all the professional scientists can currently analyze without outside help. Thank goodness for the internet, which makes it possible for virtually anyone, any age (well, old enough to read and use a computer) to help those scientists with the FLOOD of data they have to deal with.
One such source of data is the ROBOTIC telescope of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which has been taking images of galaxies (among other objects) since 2008. It has photographed about a MILLION galaxies so far with more to come. There are 4 main types of galaxies, each of which has certain unique characteristics. Because galaxies are so far away, the images taken by Sloan survey are not as crisp as photographs we might take of flowers and mountains. While there exists computer programs that can differentiate between different objects in a picture, the image quality of Sloan galaxies is not good enough for a computer to help in this area.
This is where you come in. Galaxy Zoo invites internet users to help scientists classify galaxies. Over 150,000 people are already participants and some have DISCOVERED never before seen objects like the Voorwerp, which was discovered by a school teacher who volunteered some of her free time to classifying galaxies.
Getting started is pretty easy. You sign-up, there is a brief tutorial on how to use Galaxy Zoo and identify different types of objects and then you are off making YOUR OWN classifications and, perhaps, new discoveries. There is usually not a right or wrong answer, just what you think an image represents. A few other people are shown the same image to garner some sort of agreement on the classification.
Well, what are you waiting for? Head over to Galaxy Zoo and get started. You might see YOUR name listed on a scientific paper along with professional scientists. That would be really COOL!
A new week, a new TWIST.
Do you Kodu?
I have talked about the joys of graphical programming before. This week there is a NEW entry in easy and fun to use graphical programming language designed to get kids into programming. Microsoft has release the technical preview download for KODU, which “a visual programming language made specifically for creating GAMES. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone.” While this has been available for the Xbox 360 for sometime, now anyone with a decent PC can jump in and start making games EASILY. Kodu’s website has all that you will need to get started and the program comes with samples of what can be accomplished with it. The cool thing is you can edit those samples and add your own flavor to them. If you make a game that you wanna show-off, feel free to post a link to it in the comments.
Quantum computer makes quantum leap.
In science, quantum is the SMALLEST piece of an object. Therefore, it is weird to me when people say that they have made a “quantum leap” to indicate a giant progress.
Anyhoo, things at the quantum level do not behave like everyday objects. Strange things can and do happen. One STRANGE thing is an object can be in two states at the same. It would be like you being asleep and awake at the same time. Scientists have been for a long time trying to use this strange behavior to build POWERFUL computers. The basic idea is what with a quantum computer it would be possible to try out all the solutions to a problem at once and extract the correct answer instantaneously. You can easily imagine how hard that is. For example, consider a simple math problem, which only has one answer. Well, there are an INFINITY of numbers to pick from, how do you create something that can hold an infinity of anything?
But, just because something may seem hard does not mean we should not try. After all, that is what makes science fun!
It was reported this week, that scientists have built a quantum computer to model the hydrogen atom. Hydrogen is the simplest of the elements consisting only of one proton and one electron so it was a great way to demonstrate the computer since it can be easily checked against other methods. The question is, once they can build a quantum computer that can solve ANY mathematical problem, will we still have do to homework?
Anyway, here is the first TWIST.
Planet hunter’s first catch.
Kepler, the planet hunting satellite has FOUND 5 planets in the first 6 weeks it has been searching for them. Kepler looks for planets that might lie in between Kepler and another star by measuring the dip in the amount of light coming from that star as the planet goes around it. These planets are not Earth-like (these will take longer to detect), which is what Kepler is primarily looking for but it is a good thing anyway since it shows that Kepler is WORKING as expected. News article.
3D or not 3D?
CES, or the Consumer Electronics Show, takes place very first week of January where technology companies bring out their LATEST and GREATEST gadgets along with cool technologies that will be available in stores soon. This year was no different. One of the coolest emerging technologies is 3D televisions. Yes, I know that 3D has been around for a while but it hasn’t quite taken off. This year it will be different. The technology has improved a lot and some TVs don’t even require you to wear those annoying glasses. While a 3D TV may not exist in every home, this is the year when every TV store will start carrying TVs that allow you to watch movies and play games in TRUE 3D. How 3-D TV Works.
You CAN touch this!
This is also the year of the TOUCH computer. No longer will you have to drag your mouse around and enter text using a keyboard. Touch enabled computers allow you to USE your finger(s) to open, close programs, draw pictures and do anything that you used to do with a mouse. You can also write directly on a touch computer as if you were writing on a piece of paper. What’s great is that your input is AUTOMATICALLY converted to text as if it were typed in. This technology has existed for a while but computer screens that could accept touch input were very expensive. Not any more. Some of these computers will just be a screen with no keyboard or mouse, although you could attach them if you wanted to. But why? Here is a good example of what a touch PC would be capable of: Microsoft Courier. Too bad this product was not actually announced so we don’t if it will ever be available for sale.
One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is an international program with a mission “To create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. When children have access to this type of tool they get engaged in their own education. They learn, share, create, and collaborate. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.”
In October of 2009, Uruguay became the first country to provide all students in 1st through 6th grade with a laptop with plans to expand it to other grades. If you have been looking for a reason to CONVINCE your parents to get you a computer (not the OLPC version, which is not available in retail stores), I cannot see a more compelling reason than this. They have become very affordable, some models costing less than popular game machines out there.
Computers are EVERYWHERE these days. The can be fun to use, and more and more they are becoming a necessary part of our daily lives. The sooner one starts learning to use computers, they better ADVANTAGE they will have going forward.
Otherwise known as computer science.
Before I continue, let me define something I will refer to often in this post. A programming language is what a computer programmer uses to give instructions to a computer to make it do what she or he wants. Just as there are many languages in the world what allow people to communicate with each other, there are a variety of programming languages that allow people to “talk” to computers.
Why should you be interested in computer science? Well, besides the OODLES of money you could make and the fact that almost everything these days seems to have a computer inside, it is a lot of FUN and can help you become better at other things.
How can computer programming be fun?
Ever played a video game? It had to be programmed. Have a favorite website you visit often? It had to be programmed. Enjoy 3D animated movies like, Up or Wall-E? People had to program the tools used to make those movies. Like all the cool things your phone can do? They had to be programmed. Want to build your own robot friend? You will need to PROGRAM it. How else would it know to do your chores for you? There are a lot of fun things you can do with a little bit of computer programming knowledge. Of course, once you start, I can almost guarantee that you will not want to stop.
Computer programming has also become very easy compared to a few years ago. There are graphical programming languages that allow you to create computer programs by dragging and dropping programming elements onto a work area. It is almost as easy as building something with Lego. A couple of great examples of graphical programming languages designed to help young people create games, animated movies, music, etc. are:
If you are looking for something more challenging, I recommend either Visual Basic or C# (my favorite programming language). Free versions of both programs are available from Microsoft along with plenty of videos and tutorials geared towards young people on how to GET STARTED.
How can computer programming help you at other things?
Computer programs have to be written in a very linear way, which means you have to tell it to do this, then that, then the other thing. Therefore, as a programmer, it causes to you to think about all the steps you need to take in order for the program you are writing to do what you want it to do in the order you want it done. After you have done this a few times, you will notice that you start using a similar process in your everyday life. Why is this GOOD?
Sometimes, when we have a TASK, especially complicated ones, to do, we may find it very hard to think about where to begin, what to do and when to do it. Having the view of a computer programmer really helps because you are able to DEFINE your goals and carry them out in an efficient and orderly way, and that helps you finish the task FASTER so that you can move on to other things you would rather be doing.
The second thing with learning a computer programming language is that it helps you understand other computer programming languages; precisely because they are very structured. You may not become proficient in making computer programs in the new language but you will be able to help out a friend or just FIGURE OUT what it is that the computer program is designed to do without actually executing (or running) it.
I am sorry that it took me so long to write about this topic. Contrary to what you may have seen (I am talking about pictures and movies where most scientists are guys), girls make GREAT scientists. I consider myself a fairly smart person, placing in top 10 in my elementary and high school classes but I was always, ALWAYS “out-smarted” by girls. Even in college, while studying physics, a girl was the smartest person in our class.
This is not a new thing either. Women scientists have EXISTED as long as men scientists. That link only lists the women scientists we know about. There are probably many more women scientists that we do not know about because either they did not get published, or they were shy, or whatever reason.
Although their contributions to science and humanity are important, this post is about you. If you are a girl who LIKES science, and thinking about a career in science, I am here to say, “YOU GO, GIRL!”
Being a scientist is a WONDERFUL job. You get PAID to figure out how things work. You know, stuff you are curious about anyway. How much better can it get?
How to become a famous women scientist.
How do you keep on track to becoming a SUCCESSFUL women scientist? Besides the regular stuff, like doing well in school here are some other pointers:
1. Declare your intentions of becoming a women scientist.
Letting others know of your intentions, does a couple of things. First, now that you have said you are going to so something, it acts as MOTIVATOR for you to actually do it (like keeping a promise). Don’t worry, you can still change your mind later. Second, if you let others know what it is that you want to do, they will be able to better help you with your interest.
2. Ask questions.
So, you like science. Great! What kind of science exactly? Do you like astronomy, astrophysics, astrobiology, cosmology, etc. It’s OK if you do not know the difference between all those words. That is WHY you have to ask questions.
3. Find other girls with similar interests.
You would be lucky if you know of many other girls in your class who share your interest for science. Having good friends that SUPPORT you in what you want to do is important. If you can’t find other girls in your classes, or neighborhood who are interested in science or you cannot get your friends to get interested in science, the internet is a great place for you to find other girls your age who share your interests. I have listed some websites where you get find such friends.
4. Don’t give up.
BECOMING a famous woman scientist takes hard work. That is why it is also fun. Imagine playing a game where you always won. I doubt it would be fun for very long as there would not be any challenge in it. On your road to becoming a famous woman scientist, you will encounter problems, problems like lots of homework, math problems, and, unfortunately, people who will doubt your abilities, discourage or make fun of what it is you are trying to accomplish. Sometimes, these things will want to you stop chasing your GOALS. Anytime, I ran into something like this, it made me even more determined to succeed. You may encounter set backs but never EVER let anything or anyone from reaching your dreams.
5. Become a famous women scientist.
If you do all the other things, this part will be the easiest. Let me talk about what it means to be a famous scientist. A scientist is someone who works to discover new things, or create them. Things that no one before her or him knew about. Things that will change how people do things. Things that CHANGE the world. So, you may not become someone who has their name mentioned on TV all the time, you will become someone who will go down in history as a person who discovered or created something that changed our understanding of the universe and how we interact with it.
If I have missed something, please share it with me and my readers by making a comment below.
Here are some websites and organizations that budding, young women scientists like yourself will find useful.
- GEMS: Girls Excelling in Math and Science
- Girls Go Tech
- Engineer Girl
- Plugged-In: Scientific Stuff – Just for Girls
- Expanding Your Horizons
- Women of NASA
- Sally Ride Science Camps
- Aspire – From the Society of Women Engineers