A Study Found WHY Teens Like Science, Not Science Class


It turns out liking science isn’t the same as liking science class.

New reports from sources that advocate for STEM education, found that while teenagers are interested in subjects like physics, biology, and engineering, they tend not to enjoy their in-school classes – based on an online survey of more than 1,500 teens from around the country.

This discrepancy means there’s room both in and out of school to dramatically improve STEM education offerings for teens, mostly by making them more hands-on and engaging.
Some 81 percent of teens said that they were interested in science. Seventy-three percent were interested in biology in particular. But only 37 percent of students said they enjoy their science class, and even fewer — 33 percent — liked biology class. That’s less than the 48 percent who said they enjoyed non-science classes.

The sample was balanced by region and ethnicity. Differences in outcomes by race, ethnicity, and income were tested for significance at the 95 percent confidence interval. All differences noted in the brief and infographic are statistically significant.

Explore the survey outcomes more fully (PowerPoint).

While many teens find more hands-on experiences like field trips and experiments to be most compelling, most instruction in science class involves either textbooks or in-class discussion. A chart compares preferred learning styles compared to teaching methods:

Most used / most liked

The survey also examined the relationship between students’ family income and access to and interest in STEM fields. Lower-income students were less likely to know an adult involved in biology and less likely to participate in a science club.

Overall, more than 80 percent of teens reported that they thought knowing adults in their desired field of work might help them advance, but just about a third actually knew adults in that field.

The authors of the AmGen and Change the Equation report argue that schools should adopt more inquiry-based STEM curricula and that teachers should receive training in how to teach it. They also argue for stronger ties between businesses and community members and schools.

STEM often makes news when students create or achieve remarkable things—consider thestudents at the White House Science Fair, who shared projects related to everything from pollution to artificial intelligence. The subjects are a priority for federal, state, and local policymakers, who often raise concerns about the dearth of of young people pursuing degrees and career in STEM. The Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor to No Child Left Behind, includes more flexibility for districts and states looking to create or support STEM programs. But this survey hints at the fact that in many schools, science education is still less-than-inspiring.

A few other findings from the report:

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Original Source (Education Week)

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EU Wants All Scientific Papers to be Open Access by 2020


The European Union recently decided that enough was enough and will be granting open access to all European scientific papers to the public by 2020.

From a legal perspective, this mandate can only be enforced on publically funded research, but they are hoping that privately held research firms will soon follow suit. Scientific journals are ultimately not very happy about this decision, as the previous subscription-based models would effectively be eliminated. In the current state, scientific journals can also selectively release the content that they want to the media, given them control over the knowledge that gets spread publically.

This decision was the result of a meeting between the Competitiveness Council, which included leaders in the scientific and technological communities.  All parties were in agreement with the goal to make scientific papers open access, according to Futurism, and the goal is to have it completed by 2020.

Making all of this knowledge open access would mean that the entire world would have access to millions of papers and scientific research that usually only paid subscribers and other higher up members of the scientific community would have.

The deadline is actually a fairly close one, and the council has provided no information on how the progress will be overseen. Making sure that every paper is open to the public will require a lot of work and oversight, but plans are beginning to be formulated on how to accomplish this task. Hopefully, having open access to all of this research will allow generations to become more science literate and increase the overall state of knowledge and education.

Original source

Optimism on Climate Change


Al Gore has three questions about climate change and our future.
First: Do we have to change? Each day, global-warming pollution traps as much heat energy as would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs. This trapped heat is leading to stronger storms and more extreme floods, he says: “Every night on the TV news now is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.”
Second: Can we change? We’ve already started.
Third and big question: Will we change? In this challenging, inspiring talk, Gore says yes. “When any great moral challenge is ultimately resolved into a binary choice between what is right and what is wrong, the outcome is foreordained because of who we are as human beings,” he says. “That is why we’re going to win this.”

Cientistas desenvolvem computador que imita forma de aprendizagem de humanos


Um grupo de cientistas desenvolveu um computador que imita a forma como os seres humanos aprendem novos conceitos, o que significa mais “um pequeno passo” no campo da inteligência artificial, refere um estudo divulgado hoje na revista Science.

“Estamos a tentar reduzir a diferença entre a capacidade da aprendizagem dos seres humanos e das máquinas (…) e descobrir a razão pela qual os seres humanos são tão bons a generalizar conceitos”, disse Joshua Tenenbaum, um dos responsáveis pela investigação, do Departamento de Ciência Cognitivas do Instituto de Tecnologia de Massachusetts, nos Estados Unidos.

Segundo o estudo, a principal virtude dos seres humanos é a sua “velocidade” e “diversidade” na hora de aprender novos conceitos e aplicá-los em novas situações.

“Os computadores têm dificuldade de generalizar a partir de amostras individuais” disse Brenden Lake, da Universidade de Nova Iorque e autor do estudo.

Os investigadores concentraram em aprender caracteres escritos à mão de vários alfabetos e desenvolver um algoritmo que permita a sua generalização a partir de alguns exemplos.

“O computador não tem um programa que se aplica a cada situação, mas um programa completo de diversos programas de aprendizagem que se adapta a cada circunstância”, acrescentou.

Ao comparar a capacidade daqueles computadores quando confrontados com tarefas de aprendizagem, incluindo a criação a partir de exemplos de caracteres vistos apenas em poucas ocasiões, com outros computadores e seres humanos, comprovou-se como superavam outros computadores e igualavam-se aos seres humanos.

Em muitos casos, os resultados dos seres humanos e este novo modelo cognitivo eram “praticamente indistinguíveis”.

“Na inteligência artificial não há grandes resultados. Existe um conjunto de boa ideias que funcionam. Esta é outra boa ideia, mais um pequeno passo”, disse Lake.

What Has Science Ever Done for Us? The Knowledge Wars Reviewed


Many people ask the same question of science. Since the 16th century science has given us electricity and anaesthetics, the internet and statins, the jumbo jet, vaccines and good anti-cancer drugs, the washing machine and the automobile. But what has it done for us lately?

In fact, for many people, what science has done for us lately hasn’t been dancin’ till one thought one would lose one’s breath. Rather, it has delivered emotionally-charged fights over issues such asvaccination, whether everyone should be taking statins, anthropogenic climate change, genetically modified foods, wind farms and high-tension power lines.

Indeed, while most of us are happy with most of the products of science — not least our iPods, white goods and light bulbs — when it comes to some of the more contentious issues of science we’re not such a happy bunch.

You only have to look at comment threads on articles about these topics to see just such unhappiness and disgruntlement. In such discussions, science isn’t a benign tool for understanding the natural world, but a villain intent on unleashing industries and technologies we don’t want, or forcing us to give up our SUVs or eat our broccoli.

In this sort of world you can understand why, when considering the state of things, many scientists have taken on slightly exasperated air.
We’ve all heard lines about “global conspiracies of scientists.” Yet no one who has a passing understanding of how science works could imagine getting a global community to agree on anything remotely doubtful.

At times The Knowledge Wars feels like a Wikipedia binge, ranging widely and wildly through invention and events of the last 500 years (although, to be fair, that’s often how I spend my Saturday nights). And, perhaps more fundamentally, it sorely misses a nuanced take on the economic sociology and history underpinning that period. For example, although central to much of scientific and social history of the last half millennium, “capitalism” doesn’t make it to the index.

But the bigger lament I have after reading The Knowledge Wars is one perhaps I share with Doherty. Modern science began with the birth of Renaissance men; with individuals who understood that wise governance requires an embrace of statecraft as well as high art and the latest advances in science.

Yet now, the very idea of Renaissance men and women seems anathema, a foolish dream that could never happen in this crazy mixed up world we now live in. But is that really so foolish?

Citations Aren’t Enough: Academic Promotion and Scholar’s Presence in Popular Media


Scholars all around the world are almost solely judged upon their publications in (prestigious) peer-reviewed journals. Asit Biswas and Julian Kirchherr argue that publications in the popular media must count as well. After all, these publications are crucial in informing practitioners’ decision-making.

Many of the world’s most talented thinkers may be university professors, but sadly most of them do not shape today’s public debates or influence policies. Indeed, scholars often frown upon publishing in the popular media. “Running an opinion editorial to share my views with the public? Sounds like activism to me”, a professor recently noted at a conference, hosted by the University of Oxford. The absence of professors from shaping public debates and policies seems to have exacerbated in recent years, particularly in the social sciences. Even debates among scholars do not seem to function properly.

Up to 1.5 million peer-reviewed articles are published annually. However, many are ignored even within the scientific community: 82 percent of articles published in humanities are not even cited once. Rarely do scholars refer to 32 percent of the peer-reviewed articles in the social and 27 percent in the natural sciences.

If a paper is cited, though, this does not imply it has actually been read. According to one estimate, only 20 percent of papers citedhave actually been read. We suspect that an average paper in a peer-reviewed journal is read completely at most by no more than 10 people. Hence, impacts of most peer-reviewed publications even within the scientific community are miniscule.

knowledge policyImage credit: oscar cesare (Wikimedia, Public Domain)

Many scholars aspire to contribute to their discipline’s knowledge and to influence practitioner’s decision-making. However, it is widely acknowledged practitioners rarely read articles published in peer-reviewed journals. We know of no senior policy-maker, or senior business leader who ever reads any peer-reviewed papers, even in recognized journals like Nature, Science or The Lancet. No wonder: First of all, most journals are prohibitively expensive to access for anyone outside of academia. Even if the current open-access-movement becomes more successful, the incomprehensible jargon and the sheer volume and lengths of papers (mostly unnecessary!) would still prevent practitioners (including journalists) from reading them. Original Source (LSE Impact of Social Sciences)

Facts (and Minds) are Stubborn Things


Above the Market

When making his defense of some British soldiers during the Boston Massacre trials in December of 1770, John Adams (later the second President of the United States) offered a famous insight. “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  Legal Papers of John Adams, 3:269. In a similar vein, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that “[e]veryone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

I have often warned about our proclivity to and preference for stories to the exclusion of data (for example, here, here and here). Because stories are so powerful, we want the facts to be neatly packaged into a compelling narrative. Take a look at John Boswell‘s delightful send-up of this technique in the TED context below.


We crave “wonder, insight [and] ideas.” Facts?

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Selects the 8 Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read


How to “glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”

In December of 2011, Neil deGrasse Tysonchampion of science, celebrator of the cosmic perspective, master of the soundbite — participated in Reddit’sAsk Me Anything series of public questions and answers. One reader posed the following question: “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?” Adding to history’s notable reading lists — including those by Leo Tolstoy, Alan Turing, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Stewart Brand, and Carl Sagan — Tyson offers the following eight essentials, each followed by a short, and sometimes wry, statement about “how the book’s content influenced the behavior of people who shaped the western world”:

  1. The Bible (public library; free ebook), to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself
  2. The System of the World (public library; free ebook) by Isaac Newton, to learn that the universe is a knowable place
  3. On the Origin of Species (public library; free ebook) by Charles Darwin, to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth
  4. Gulliver’s Travels (public library; free ebook) by Jonathan Swift, to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos
  5. The Age of Reason (public library; free ebook) by Thomas Paine, to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world
  6. The Wealth of Nations (public library; free ebook) by Adam Smith, to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself
  7. The Art of War (public library; free ebook) by Sun Tzu, to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art
  8. The Prince (public library; free ebook) by Machiavelli, to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it

Tyson adds:

If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.

(What has driven it, evidently, is also the systematic exclusion of the female perspective. The prototypical “intelligent person” would be remiss not to also read, at the very least, Margaret Fuller’s foundational text Woman in the Nineteenth Century, which is even available as a free ebook, and Betty Friedan’sThe Feminine Mystique. But, of course, the question of diversity is an infinite one and any list is bound to be pathologically unrepresentative of all of humanity — a challenge I’ve addressed elsewhere — so Tyson’s selections remain indispensable despite their chromosomal lopsidedness. My hope, meanwhile, is that we’ll begin to see more such reading lists by prominent female scientists, philosophers, artists, or writers of the past and present; to my knowledge, none have been made public as of yet — except perhaps Susan Sontag’s diary, which is essentially a lifelong reading list.)

Complement with Nabokov on the six short stories every writer should read, then revisit Tyson on genius and the most humbling fact about the universe.

Original Source – Brain Pickings (Maria Popova)
Maria Popova