One Laptop Per Child. Your reason to get one.

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.”

One Laptop Per Child

One Laptop Per Child


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.

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EVIL, movie scientists give science and scientists a BAD rep.

Evil Scientist
Evil Scientist.
Copyright AE0538T

I was watching a sci-fi, superhero movie the other day and it occurred to me how evil scientists are always trying to take over the world or something similar, at least in the movies. It is perhaps because of this or, still, the most recognizable scientist that ever existed, Albert Einstein, that when children are asked to draw scientists, they draw them with spiky hair, lab coat and an evil GRIN, although Einstein is rarely pictured with a lab coat and NEVER with an evil grin.

The point is that some children, and, unfortunately, quite a few adults, always imagine scientists as evil. And, because scientists do science, somehow science is evil too. Well, it is NOT. The reason that scientists are depicted as evil GENIUSES in movies is because they have to stand in contrast to the hero or heroine of the movies. The hero/heroine is usually the underdog who has to overcome great odds (in this case the evil scientist and his evil, scientific gadgets) to save the day. If the hero/heroine was as, or more, powerful than the evil scientist, he/she defeat the villain quite easily and then there would not be much a movie to show.

While the villains are clearly marked as evil scientists in movies, the heroes of many of those movies also tend to be scientists, although that fact is often overlooked. Below are listing of some movie scientist heroes.

  • Indiana Jones – Archaeologist, a person who studies history and historic creatures, including humans, through analysis of their artifacts, inscriptions, monuments, and other remains that may have been excavated (dug up).
  • Mr. Fantastic (leader of the Fantastic Four) – Physicist.
  • Robert Neville (played by Will Smith in the movie, I Am Legend) – Virologist, someone who studies viruses and the diseases caused by them.

I have not listed more only because these are, after all, fictional characters.

There are a lot of REAL hard-working scientists, who, every day, work to find a CURE for cancer and other diseases, make alternative energy solutions more AFFORDABLE and easier to implement, help us understand the universe in which we live, and push the limits of technology to make BETTER computers, which can aid in all these areas. These scientists DESERVE better than to be looked upon as mad, evil geniuses.

Online resources about scientists in popular media.

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Making computers do YOUR bidding.

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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GIRLS + SCIENCE = GREAT SUCCESS!

Girls make great scientists!

Girls make great scientists!

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.

Resources

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.

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Why you NEED a good education!

If you do not believe that robots will eliminate most future jobs or that the President gives good advice about the need for a good education, here is something else to consider about education.

A good education gives you OPTIONS! It exposes you to the POSSIBILITIES of the world.

Example

Suppose you had never heard about or played a video game. You might not realize just how much fun they can be. (If you do not like playing video games, pretend for a while that you do.) In order to realize for yourself whether you might or might not enjoy video games, you have to be exposed to it, either by playing a video game yourself or, at the very least, watching someone else play one.

How does this relate to education? Consider the diagram below. Each concentric circle represents the amount of OPPORTUNITIES available to depending your level of education.

The possibilities available depending on level of education.Options available based on education.

 

If a person is a high school dropout (the inner-most or red circle), the number of options of what that person can do in life is limited to a very few things. If he or she graduates high school, they have a few more options available. It they go to a junior college yet more options are available to them and getting a college degree (outer-most, green circle) brings even MORE opportunities.

People who are in the outer-most circle can do everything in the largest circle as well as any smaller circle. The same is not true for those who are in the smaller circles. They cannot (easily) do what exists in the larger circles.

What if there is something that you really like to do in the smaller circles? Well, how do you know if there isn’t something in the bigger circle that you would not LOVE even more?

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In the future, EVERYONE will be a scientist.*

I am not sure if you have noticed, but when watching a sci-fi movie, it seems that everyone knows a little bit about all the technical stuff that exists in the future. It may be just jargon to us but they seem to know what they are talking about.

I think in the future everyone will have to a strong scientific background to do their everyday jobs. Here is my “evidence.” Up until 10-15 years ago, computers were not part of our everyday lives. Now, it seems that there is a computer on every desk. Anyone who does not know how to use a computer will have a very hard time finding a job.

Sure, there are jobs that do not require much technical knowledge, but they will become rarer as time goes on and anything that can be automated, will be automated.

Example

Future jobs will require creativity and understanding of science. A simple example that exists today is one of a movie stunt coordinator. Since each stunt has to be different and unique, it cannot be automated. In order make it look exciting, the stunt coordinator has to use creativity to choreograph the stunt. To make sure that everything goes smoothly and safely, the stunt coordinator has to know about Newton’s Laws of Motion (e.g. to determine how a car will fly off a ramp),  chemicals and how they react with each other in various quantities (to create explosions) and electronics (to set off the stunts at the right times).

Resources

*As I have posted before, I believe everyone is already a scientist. This post is to show that in the future people will have to be consciously using science in their daily lives rather than sub-consciously as we currently do.

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The world will not END in 2012. I repeat, the world will NOT end in 2012.

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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How would you design a ROCKET?

Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space Image by
mint imperial

“Mission: 10,000 Rockets is an educational project developed to inspire the passion for scientific discovery in young people.”

It is a drawing contest open to K-12 grade students in the United States. Please visit http://10000rockets.com/ to get all the details.

This contest is being sponsored by the Bing search engine.

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Science for parents. The NEED for science.

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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The METRIC SYSTEM. Say what?

One of the most IMPORTANT skills in science is our ability make measurements and calculations on those measurements. The metric system makes measurements and calculations EASY.

Example

Suppose you were measuring distance using the metric system. Let’s say you started with something the size of a piece of paper, moved on to size of adult humans and onto the height of moutains. In the metric system, a piece of paper is measured in centimeters, an adult human in meters and the heights of tallest mountains can be measured in kilometers.

See anything common in the different sizes? The work METERS reappears in each one. In the metric system, the meter (abbreviated to m) is the standard measure of length. All other measurements are some multiple of the meter. A centimeter (abbreviated to cm) is 1/100 meters, which is to say, 100 centimeters equals 1 meter. A kilometer is a 1,000 meters.

A standard sheet of printing paper is 21.59 cm wide by 27.94 cm long. The average height of an adult human is about 170 cm or 1.7 m. The height of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world is 885,000 cm or 8,850 m or 8.85 km. See how easy it easy to convert from centimeters to meters to kilometers. Try doing that with inches, feet, yards and miles. It can be done but not as EASILY.

The metric system can be used to easily express the lengths, masses, and volumes of things as small as sub-atomic particles to bacteria and as large as planets, galaxies and the universe.

Interesting Fact

There are only three countries in the world which do NOT use the metric system as their standard unit of measurement. Those countries are the United States of America, Liberia and Burma. I don’t understand why they don’t, it is SO MUCH simpler.

Resources

Wikipedia article – A comprehensive article about the metric system.
National Institute of Standards and Technology – An easy to print Metric Pyramid along with some other info on the metric system.

A video of the history of measuring and an explanation of the metric system.

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