I'm thrilled to report that the book that grew out of the Synthesis project, the parent project of this blog, is now out: Earth & Mind II: A Synthesis of Research on Thinking and Learning in the Geosciences, Geological Society of America Special Publication 486, edited by Cathy Manduca and myself. It's available from the Geological Society of America bookstore
However, having shared my thrill at holding the book in my hands, I have to admit that there are some ideas in the book that I have already outgrown during the months that the book has been in production. More
Recently my "Teaching & Learning Concepts In Earth Sciences" students and I renovated one of my old data-using lab activities, from the days when I used to teach "Planet Earth" to non-science majors. The old version of the activity led students step-by-step through a series of manipulations of an on-line global data base, using a professional data visualization tool. The old directions provided a lot of scaffolding for how to make data displays of ocean salinity in and around the Mediterranean Sea, but little support for how to extract insights about earth processes from those displays. The new version assumes that students are already pretty adept at getting computer apps to do what they want, and refocuses the scaffolding on how to think like a geoscientist, how to think about the meaning of the data. More
"Here we must speak the truth. Yes, this level of debt is unsustainable. It is also immoral. Yes, this debt is a mortal threat to our country. It is also a moral threat. It is immoral to bind our children to as leeching and destructive a force as debt. It is immoral to rob our children's future and make them beholden to China. No society is worthy that treats its children so shabbily. 'A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children', Proverbs reminds us. For too long, Washington has been ignoring this time-honored principle. These are the remarks by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, Nashville, TN as delivered February 27, 2011. In preparing this speech, it is clear that Speaker Boehner is concerned about long-term impacts of our country's current spending practices, is worried about unsustainable budgetary policies, and advocates for a sense of responsibility to future generations. Implicit in these remarks is an understanding of the consequences of exponential growth, the ability to conceptualize really big numbers, and rationalization of competing rates of inputs (revenues) and outputs (expenditures) that lead to systemic instabilities that must ultimately be rectified. The alarm surrounding the burgeoning levels of the federal debt resonates with many. But one has to wonder: why does this econo-logic not translate into eco-logic?
Two years ago in this space, I wrote about "Turning Nature into Numbers," humanity's accomplishment of developing instruments and methodologies that can turn the fleeting qualitative impressions that we have of our surroundings into quantitative values–numbers–which can be readily stored, shared, transmitted and compared.
Numbers are great, but it seems to me that for developing an opinion or making a decision, humans often want categories rather than numbers. More