"Telling Lies to Children"

Posted: Oct 26 2011 by Kim Kastens & Dana Chayes
Topics: Metacognition, Interpretation/Inference

(Co-author Dana is Kim's 15-old daughter, a veteran of the New York State Earth Science Regents course, now taking integrated biology and chemistry. She is also an avid reader, currently working her way through the 42 Discworld books of Sir Terry Pratchett.)

Book cover:  Science of Discworld In The Science of Discworld, Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen make the case that education necessarily involves telling "lies to children." We realize that telling lies to children is a pretty common part of traditional parenting (Santa Claus, stork, etc.), but in school! in the citadel of learning and truth! How can this be? More

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Embedded Energy versus Embedded Cognition

Posted: Sep 7 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Energy, Solving Societal Problems

"Embedded energy" refers to the energy that was used to create an object–including mining or growing or catching the raw materials, manufacturing and assembling the pieces, transporting the raw materials and finished product, and installing the object in its place of use. A spoon, to take a simple example, required energy to mine the ore, to smelt the ore to make the metal, to shape the metal into spoon shape, plus more energy to transport ore to the smelter, metal to the factory, spoon to the store. Embedded energy is contrasted with the energy required to power or use the product during its lifetime.

There is a somewhat parallel concept, which refers to the knowledge and thinking that was required to design and perfect the object. More

You Map It; You Own It

Posted: Jul 15 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Field-Based Learning
Oblique view of Lamont SeamountsClick here for video.
In honor of World Oceans Day, Google Earth has updated their coverage of seafloor bathymetry, using data from the Global Multi-Resolution Topographic (GMRT) Synthesis. The GMRT folks work upstairs from me and I love beautiful maps, so I went to check out the site. The perky voice of Google's narrator on the highlights video lures the viewer in: "Let's begin by visiting the Lamont seamounts." The screen view plunges dramatically down through the sea surface, and brings us to a line of three seamounts off the coast of Mexico.

To my eye, these weren't just any old three seamounts. I know these seamounts well. Actually, I discovered them. More

Data-Driven versus Concept-Driven Animations

Posted: May 28 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Spatial Thinking
One of my early Earth & Mind posts explored how Clark & Wiebe's (2000) idea of "concept-driven visualizations" and "data-driven visualizations" would play out in geosciences. A concept-driven visualization is generated from a concept or theory in the mind of a scientist or scientific illustrator. Although the concept was originally constructed from observations of the earth, the visualization itself is not directly tied to a specific empirical data set. In contrast, a data-driven visualization uses empirical data to formulate the visualization. There is a direct digital chain of custody from the data set to the visualization.

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

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In which I encounter a "Merchant Of Doubt"

Posted: May 24 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Solving Societal Problems, History of Geosciences

Cover of "Merchants of Doubt" In the course of my work with science and environmental journalism students, I had repeatedly heard of efforts by various people and organizations to stir up doubt about the scientific evidence concerning prominent medical and environmental issues. Thus it was with great interest that I opened a new book, Merchants of Doubt, by Namoi Oreskes and Erik Conway. The book promised to tell me "How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Climate Warming," with chapters on acid rain, the ozone hole, second hand tobacco smoke, global warming, and DDT.

A short way into the book, my interest took a sharp turn towards the personal. One of the four protagonists of the story turned out to be Dr. William Nierenberg, who had been the Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography during the years that I studied there for my PhD. Nierenberg starred in two chapters: on acid rain and global climate change. More

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