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I have a long-standing interest in the use of data in education, so I've been reading with interest several articles and a book concerned with the so-called "Fourth Paradigm" of science, in which insights are wrested from vast troves of existing data. The Fourth Paradigm is envisioned as a new method of pushing forward the frontiers of knowledge, enabled by new technologies for gathering, manipulating, analyzing and displaying data. The term seems to have originated with Jim Gray, a Technical Fellow and visionary at Microsoft's eScience group, who was lost at sea in 2007. The first three paradigms, in this view, would be empirical observation and experimentation, analytical or theoretical approaches, and computational science or simulation. Earth and Environmental Sciences are well represented in the book, with essays on data-rich ecological science, ocean science, and space science.
I am finding these readings very stimulating and worthwhile. But I question whether this way of making meaning from the complexity of nature is really so new. More
All in all, I'm a fan of the New York State Earth Science Regents course and of the accompanying Earth Science Regents exam. New York state enrolls more students in high school level Earth Science than any other state, and confronting the common exam has helped to build a community of practice among New York State Earth Science teachers that is the envy of Earth Science teachers in other states. I especially like the emphasis on building and assessing representational competence--the ability to understand and make inferences from diagrams, maps, profiles, block diagrams, graphs and other visual representations.
However, I have to say that the most recent Earth Science Regents exam (August 20ll) had two really terrible diagrams, so bad that I think they are more likely to sow confusion than illuminate earth processes. More
I now realize that a similar distinction can be drawn among scientific animations. We can think of "concept-driven animations," and "data-driven animations." More
"Form Follows Function." I've run across this idea a number of times, and it has tickled the spatial thinking part of my attention span. Cups, bowls, bathtubs, and spoons share a fundamental attribute--their concave upwards shape. This shape or "form" follows inevitably from the requirements of holding a liquid in the presence of gravity. Bird wings and airplane wings share a cross-sectional shape, flatter on the bottom and more rounded on the top, to perform the function of lifting the wing as it moves through the air.
I'd always considered "form follows function" to be a poor fit to most objects I care about as a geoscientist. More