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Hal Harris's picture

The Thermodynamic Sinks of this World by Roald Hoffman

Mon, 06/24/2013 - 16:29 -- Hal Harris

Nobelist Roald Hoffman usually chooses an intriguing topic for his regular contributions to the Sigma Xi bimonthly, American Scientist. For the current issue, he has chosen to examine the question, "What would be the result of mixing a collection of the elements we find on earth and its nearby environment and heating them up enough to encourage them to react?" This "Gedankenexperiment"

Hal Harris's picture

Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier

Sat, 06/15/2013 - 15:53 -- Hal Harris

One of the pioneers in digital media and networks is disquieted by the dominance of the digital landscape by a few Siren Servers, who capitalized not on their superior products or expertise, but solely on their ability to extract a profit from each of the bits that make up Big Data. He thinks we all should be paid for our contributions, or at least the system be changed so as to provide incentives real contributions.

Arrietta Clauss's picture

Using MOOCs to Create a Flipped Classroom

Fri, 05/31/2013 - 10:57 -- Arrietta Clauss

Universities, community colleges, and high schools can use MOOCs to create an environment to enhance student learning.  Last fall a professor at San Jose State used recorded MOOC lectures in an introductory electrical engineering course to create a flipped classroom.  Students passed at a much higher rate than usual—91%, compared with 59% and 55% in two other, more traditional sections of the s

Hal Harris's picture

The Martian Chronicles: New Discoveries on the Red Planet, by Burkhard Bilger

Thu, 05/16/2013 - 15:10 -- Hal Harris

One could argue that the technological triumphs embodied in our robotic explorations of Mars far exceed those that put men on the moon.  Missing, however, is the drama of putting human life at risk, and the ease with which our imagination can put us in the shoes of the explorer. That is not to say that there is not a human element.

Hal Harris's picture

Climate Change Denial in the Classroom

Sat, 05/04/2013 - 23:40 -- Hal Harris

Universities should be and are expected to be sources of truthful and unbiased information about controversial subjects, especially in the sciences.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  Instructors at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada used "academic freedom" to present an egregiously biased and unscientific course that misrepresented the facts of climate change.

Hal Harris's picture

Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order From Chaos

Tue, 04/30/2013 - 21:09 -- Hal Harris

Peter Hoffman is a physicist and materials scientist, and he brings those perspectives and sensibilities to the description of how life converts chemical energy into order and motion.  The "Ratchet" in the title is Feynman's Ratchet, a gedanken experiment described in Feynman's "Lectures on Physics" and reminiscent of Maxwell's Demon.

Hal Harris's picture

The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know has an Expiration Date

Mon, 01/28/2013 - 17:26 -- Hal Harris

Samuel Arbesman, a mathematician and network scientist, uses the idea a half-life as an analogy for the changes in human knowledge that science brings. He discusses both the changing rate at which new science is done and the speed at which old results are replaced by newer ones. The analogy is far from perfect, but it emphasizes some critically important aspects of the processes of science.

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