Archive for the ‘Logic and Reason’ Category

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.

Scratch programming language demo.

Scratch programming language demo. Click to see larger version.


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.

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Web I see doomsday predictions about 2012 almost everywhere these days. Even students ask me if the world is going to end in 2012 when I am doing workshops.

The reason everyone is so… I am not sure if scared is the right word, but let’s use that. The reason everyone is so scared is because the Mayan calendar ends in the year 2012. Now, this would not be a big deal if it were not for websites, TV shows and movies turning the lack of 2013 in the Mayan calendar into some sort of prediction that there will never be a 2013.

Below, I have included some links that debunk theories about the end of the world in 2012 but here is an argument I have not seen presented elsewhere so I will do it.

Why might a calendar, any calendar, end in 2012?

Suppose you were to make a calendar for yourself. How many years would you include in your calendar? It is reasonable to say that you would not create a calendar that went 200 years into the future (unless you expected to live that long).

For a society creating a calendar, the creators not only have to think about themselves but future generations as well. For a society as a whole, it makes sense to create a calendar that is longer than the lifetimes of the individuals of that society. But would it make sense for them to create a calendar that went on for thousands of years? I don’t think so. I am sure that the members of that society have better things to do than work on creating calendars that go on forever.

Even with the advent of computers, which makes it easier to calculate future dates, the computer I wrote this on will not let me set its date to be after December 31, 2099.

So, according to my computer the world will end on December 31, 2099, not in 2012 like “predicted” by the Mayans. Of course, I am being facetious. I hope you see my point.

Are we in the clear?

Yes and no. We do not have to worry about the end of the world in 2012 but there are very serious threats that face us in the future. I believe that CLIMATE CHANGE and the LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY will threaten the existence of humans. The GOOD NEWS is that we can do something about it. But, just because I say something will threaten the future of our existence does not make it so. Do your own research about the effects of climate change and loss of biodiversity, use the evidence presented to make your own conclusions and then decide what you are going to do about it.

Resources

There you have it. While the end of the world will make good movies and TV shows, and it is interesting to think about, 2012 is NOT the year when the world will end.

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Hey Kids! This post may not be very interesting to you, although I think it is an important one. That is the reason I am posting it; to get as many people aware of the need for science. If grown-ups you know do not read this blog, this is the one post you want to share with them. What would be even more awesome is if you and a grown up watched the video below together and then discuss some of the things that are mentioned in the video. Of course, you are more than welcome to discuss them with me by making a comment or sending me an email.

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When I was younger, before I realized I really like science, math was my FAVORITE subject. The reason I liked math was simple, it was EASY. 1 + 1 always equals 2.

Well, you say, of course it is easy. What about x2 + 5x – 2x = 10? OK, that may not be that easy to solve right away, but my point is that the correct answer to a math problem can ALWAYS be proven. There can be no doubt as to whether your answer is correct or not.

Compare math to an English essay; which is open to interpretation. Two people could write an English paper on the same subject, both free of spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors, but still get totally different grades.

Where does science fit in?

So, how does math RELATE to science? Math is the language of science. Math lets scientists like you express ideas to others in a way that is easy to understand. For example, consider the following conversation.

Rachael: Dude, you should have seen how fast I raced my bicycle down the hill yesterday.
Johnny: How fast did you go?
Rachael: VERY FAST!
Johnny: Does that mean you were going faster than a train, or were you going faster than a turtle.
Rachael: Very funny. I was going 25 miles per hour.
Johnny: Wow, that is pretty fast for a bike.

Johnny was teasing Rachael about how fast she said she rode her bike. But, when Rachael gave Johnny the specific speed that she was traveling, he was really IMPRESSED. Yeah, this is a very simple example, but I hope it makes my point.

Side story.

When I was a science teacher, I made the mistake of telling my students that it is not matter how they behaved in my class; if they knew the answers to the questions on theirs quizzes and exams, they would still get good grades. I could not give Anna’s answer more points than Paul’s answer if they were the correct answer. As you can imagine, there were a few students who took that as a challenge and gave me a really hard time but still got GOOD grades.

Summary

All school subjects are important but MATH and SCIENCE are the ones that REQUIRE the LEAST amount of WORK. Once you learn how to solve a math problem or answer a science question, you do not have to worry about different ways of answering those math or science questions like you would for an English class. 

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You have probably heard of the scientific method in your science class. You have probably used it when doing science experiments in school that required a lab report to go with it. It is VERY IMPORTANT in science, your teacher may have told you. All scientists use it. It is true, all scientists use it, pretty much all the time.

Xbox Logo

“Well, I am NOT gonna be a scientist,” you may have thought. Why should you care about the scientific method? Hmm… let me see if I can convince you of the BEAUTY of the scientific method. Let’s see if you can use the scientific method to get yourself a Xbox for your birthday! Wouldn’t that be cool?!

To see the USEFULNESS of it, let’s go through processes that make the the scientific method. So, what’s first?

1. Define a question or a problem you would like to solve.

What does that entail? What might be the question you ask yourself about getting you that Xbox.

Step 1. Question: How do I get an Xbox for my birthday?

DUH! Right? So far, so good. What is the next step?

2. Do some research.

Or, as I like to say, why re-invent the wheel?

Step 2. Research: Does your friend have a Xbox? How did he or she get one? Or, you could ask your parent or guardian, “What would it take for you to get me a Xbox?”

OK, what comes next?

3. Make a hypothesis (or a prediction).

A hypothesis is an EDUCATED GUESS about how you would expect things to turn out based on stuff you know already (the research you have done). Here is the interesting bit about a hypothesis; it DOES NOT have to be correct. That is why it is only a guess, although an educated one.

Let’s say after doing some research, you find out that your parents would love you to improve your grades and help out with some chores around the house. What sort of hypothesis would you come up with in your quest for getting yourself a Xbox?

Step 3. Hypothesis: If you get better grades and help out around the house, like doing the dishes, making sure to clean up your room when your mom asks, you will get a Xbox for your birthday.

Is it enough say that you will work on getting better grades and help out around the house? Nope. You gotta

4. Design and execute an experiment.

Step 4. Experiment: You have to do the things you think will get you that Xbox you have been wanting. You have to get good grades and you have to do your chores.

Your birthday finally comes around and you have done all the things you hypothesized that you need to do in order to can a Xbox. You wake up all excited and you run over to your parents to get your present and eagerly open your present. This brings us to step number 5.

5. Analyze and conclude.

Did you get a Xbox? Remember how I said that your hypothesis does not have to be correct? Your conclusion will either confirm your hypothesis or refute it.

Step 5. Analyze and conclude: If you did all the things you thought would get you a Xbox and you did, GREAT! Your hypothesis was correct! If you did not get a Xbox, you might think about what went wrong. Did you not get good grades in your class? Did you make your mom ask you several times to clean your room before you actually did it?

ALL DONE, right? Wrong! If you did not get a Xbox, you might want to revise your hypothesis and carry out another experiment based on your new hypothesis. I would! I really like PLAYING video games! But, we are still not done. We have one final step to perform.

6. Share your results.

This last part is important. I guess you don’t really have to, but if scientists did not do this last part, we would not have all the cool things like the Xbox. If you are successful, then by sharing your results, you help others become successful. If you are not, sharing your results would prevent others from repeating the same experiment. They might try something different and it might work! And, then, they share their results and someone else is able to get a Xbox! The last part is VERY important.

Step 6. Share: You could tell your friends how you used the scientific method to get yourself a Xbox, or you could tell them, cleaning their rooms won’t help them get a Xbox.

Can you think of other examples where you might use the scientific method? Hopefully, you can see that you use the scientific method (perhaps not exactly in the way I described it) and many aspects of your daily life without even realizing it.

Do you know what that makes you? A SCIENTIST!

Although the scientific method is a series of specific steps, it is also very flexible. The video below gives you another simple example of the scientific method and its flexibility.

Here is another video I found that I thought was cool and will help you remember the steps of the scientific method.

If you have a story about how you used the scientific method to solve a problem or answer a question, please post it in the comments section. I and others reading this blog would love to hear about it.

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