General updates 2011: Mar/Apr

Welcome to another general update. It’s a bit late because I haven’t been feeling my best for the last couple of days (nothing to worry about, just lethargic, that’s all).

I’ve been doing some interesting projects at work recently. I’ll save the details for another time, but one of these projects is the poetry of Pam Marlow, the friend of mine who died of cancer last year. She always intended to have her poetry published but never actually did so in life, so with her family as the client it’s now being done through the graphic design place that I work for. I’ve been looking forward to this assignment for quite some time.

I have little else to say about real life for now. Most of what follows are web page recommendations.

Khan Academy:

I recently watched Salman Khan’s TED talk, let’s use video to reinvent education. This introduced me to the Khan Academy, an educational website featuring instructional videos, exercises for practicing school-level mathematics, and a system of points and similar rewards. It’s very well put together, and I hereby challenge you to earn a target of 250,000 points through whatever combination of videos and exercises pleases you best. I did this much myself in a fortnight; here’s a screenshot to prove it.

Seriously, it’s probably been a while since you last practiced your long multiplication and division among other things, and the Khan Academy exercises are a perfect opportunity to revisit them and think critically about how you might improve. For example, I was struck by an idea for improving the way I lay out long division. Related: one of the Khan Academy videos introduced me to lattice multiplication, which is new to me.

One weakness of the site is arguably that it’s less international than it could be, and I can’t help expecting that Salman Khan would find inspiration by browsing curricula and textbooks published in other countries. That said, the differences are largely trivial, for example I learned that American schools teach the formula for a straight line as y=mx+b instead of y=mx+c as schools in Australia, Britain, etc do.

Other links:

One of the big astronomy stories in March was a more accurate measurement of how fast the universe is expanding, and confirmation that we don’t live in the middle of a giant bubble.

Don’t forget to celebrate Neptune’s first anniversary on July 12. Also in future astronomy, here’s a fun video of how the Curiosity rover will land on Mars.

A new kind of mineral has been discovered in a meteorite.

Long article about the study of ecosystems in human bodies versus lakes.

Escalators are good for your soul.

I catch up with TED talks on Youtube every now and then. Patricia Kuhl’s talk on the linguistic genius of babies (uploaded in February) covers research I’ve previously linked to, adding the more visual perspective that only video can.


3 Responses to “General updates 2011: Mar/Apr”

  1. ElshaHawk Says:

    So that’s why my kids love escalators!!
    Actually, I still love them. It’s also probably due to the fact that there is only one escalator in my entire town and it is at the mall, where I spent many of my teen years desiring to go as if it held some magic social dust that would improve my rating at school. I wasn’t a frequent Mall Rat.
    Then there is the different perspective, looking down on people from above like a spy, as well as the momentum propelling you forward without your control.
    For some reason, I always have great thoughts while riding. Not just positive, but insightful, too. I always have to ride more than once to satisfy my kids, so I have plenty of seconds to think. ;) An escalator is like a way to travel between worlds, an escape from reality, even for a few moments.

  2. Flesh-eating Dragon Says:

    Interesting. I have no escalator-related stories to tell. The only childhood memory I can think of is wanting to go up the down or down the up, and being dissuaded from doing so.

  3. ElshaHawk Says:

    They just opened a new Barnes and Noble Monday, so we are a two escalator town again! (There is a broken escalator in town that hasn’t worked for YEARS)
    You must not have been denied the chance to visit one whenever you wanted. :P

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