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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Does "form follows function" apply in geosciences?

Posted: Mar 18 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Energy, Spatial Thinking, Perception/Observation

"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

Learning to Learn from Data

Posted: Feb 15 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Spatial Thinking, Temporal Thinking, Interpretation/Inference, Metacognition, Field-Based Learning, Quantitative Thinking
Scientists learn from data. Learning to learn from data is obviously an essential aspect of the education of a future scientist.

These days, however, many other kinds of people also learn from data–including business people, investors, education leaders, and people who care about pollution, disease, or the quality of their local schools. My daily newspaper is rich in data-based graphs and maps–and so is the newsletter from my local library. These days, learning to learn from data is a necessary part of everyone's education.

However, learning to learn from data is not a typical part of everyone's education. This post explores what might be required to construct a thorough learning progression for learning from Earth Science data, beginning where a good elementary school leaves off and carrying on through to what an upper level college course or adult job might demand. More

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