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Watch the International Space Station at 6:30pm tonight

Via email from astronomer extraordinaire Chuck Bueter:

“Tonight is a good night to look up. The International Space Station zooms over Michiana from 6:34 p.m. to 6:39ish, southwest to northeast. You can’t miss it, so take a friend or family member outside with you.

Then the Geminid meteor shower happens late into the night and morning darkness. I’ve been watching some dazzling Geminds the past few nights. The weather forecast is favorable (again, in Michiana), and the moon is nearly new, so out of sight. For details see “Go Outside December 13-14” at http://www.nightwise.org/blog/. ”

I’ll be watching:) ~ Tom

Speed of light and STEM culture


Yesterday the world heard from CERN the announcement of a remarkable preliminary finding: that neutrinos arriving at the OPERA detector seem to be showing up too early…about 60 nanoseconds too early. That doesn’t sound like much of an offense. But that 60ns early arrival corresponds (very roughly) to the neutrinos being more than ten yards further along in their journey than they could have possibly traveled in that time frame, if Eistein and lots of subsequent physics is right that the speed of light is an upper limit on how fast anything can travel. And the early arrival seems especially well documented, with more than 10,000 events in a context where the distance of the more than 700 km trip is known to within 20 cm and the timing to within 10ns. So the offense seems real, and seems to challenge a central tenet of modern physics. This interpretation seems unlikely to everyone, but very serious efforts to interpret the measurement in some other way have so far not succeeded; this is at least part of the reason why the experiment opened up their results to the world, so that others might help to find an alternate interpretation. So far, no one has. So the OPERA announcement is interesting news in itself.

I had a chance to watch the announcement live (now here on video) from CERN with three high school physics teachers at Mounds View High School in Minnesota. We were gathered in an I2U2 CMS e-Lab workshop, and were scheduled–not kidding, here–to do an overview of the “big questions” in particle physics at that very hour, which we accomplished differently than expected by watching 90 minutes of the OPERA announcement. These teachers (the four of us) are all QuarkNet teachers, participants in a program designed to connect high school teachers with high energy physics. I cannot imagine a single snapshop which better testifies to the success of QuarkNet than the image of four teachers engaged in a professional development activity in a high school setting, their scheduled review of big physics questions being set aside for genuine participation in a major announcement from CERN.
These teachers had interacted sufficiently with particle physics in recent years to absorb–drinking from the hydrant though we were–the main thrust and many of the details of the 90 minute modestly technical presentation to the world’s high energy physics community. In fact, these teachers are part of that community in a broad but very real sense. They could hardly wait to share the news in their classrooms, thus inviting students into participation in STEM community as well. QuarkNet has made research in high energy physics, the core activity of the particle physics community, look good to high school teachers: we were spellbound by the presentation, and wouldn’t have wanted to be doing anything else at that very moment. Culture makes what is good, look good. That’s just what QuarkNet has made happen for teachers, and for this group of the four of us in particular. The CMS e-Lab is one strategy for making it happen for students, too.

Teaching Well Using Technology

How can you not like this tool? It’s one of my favorites from a workshop offered by the Kaneb Center: Teaching Well Using Technology . Jamie Antonelli and I attended the workshop today. Perhaps unlike my favorite tool linked above, many of the tools and tips we received were quite useful.

The workshop uses a wikispace site, on which Jamie and I created a project page, advancing a project (also hosted on a wiki) begun last year.

Without any pretense of coherence, below is a list of highlights from the workshop.

One very interesting tool to which I”ve just now been introduced is EtherPag (or in this case, a free version called TitanPad. This tool allows anyone to set up a “backchannel” during a workshop…something like a chat room where notes can be gathered and responded to as the workshop advances. Everyone can type into it at the same time. Lots of online presentations use a backchannel of this sort, and I find them helpful. But this is the first time I’d run across a free version which can be integrated into almost any other technology (such as a wiki home page for the workshop.) If I had just employed the correct rule of thumb–“if you can think of it, it exists online, and is free”–I’d have found it earlier:)

Another new tool for me is grooveshark (mentioned only incidentally in the workshop, but of great interest to me.) Grooveshark enables you to share music, even in a widget; my first experiment with it is here.

Jamie Antonelli found the “insert invisible frame” solution to navigating through a single slide in Prezi. (I’ll hyperlink his solution from here when I gain access to it.)

McKeechie’s Teaching Tips was recommended as a great useful text for folks teaching in higher ed.

Here’s a Google slideshow illustrating 66 ways to use Google Forms in a classroom context.

More resources used and/or recommended in the workshop can be found here. Enjoy.

Step-wise implementation of TOW, while thinking through our social media strategy

At yesterday’s meeting we introduced and set up a “topic of the week” (TOW) strategy for adding interesting content to our blogs.  I’m proposing that we try that strategy here, “in public” but not “to the public”, in our management blog, prior to rolling it out to our delicate shoot of new subscribers (137 as of this posting.)  I’d like to propose that at the same time we take a little time to see what strategies successful social media strategists recommend. If we like what we produce in the “topic of the week” series after two or three weeks, we can then advance the series as a whole, or perhaps just a few blogs at a time, to the MichianaSTEM Community blog.  So, Val, would you kick off the weekly topical discussion here in the management blog?  I think this is a very good idea and I want to help make it work.  There is some risk that keeping it to ourselves at first may quench enthusiasm.  Let’s try not to let that happen.  If it’s a workable idea, we should be able to push it into existence here, first, and then into a broader stream.  I’m no expert, but I think that’s a sensible approach to managing our public profile.

Please click on the image above to visit a site with an interesting compilation of suggestions for effective blogging.  I think that the very first suggestion is one we should talk about in particular;  we don’t interact very much with other environments.  The GK-12 blog might help change that, but we should explore other avenues, also.  Additional recommendations in this list of 17 suggestions might help us think through our own approach to blogging.

One way to encourage interactions with other blogs is through a blogroll, where links to other community sites are right at hand for everyone who interacts with our blogs.  Perhaps each of us could add one blog to the blogroll (accessible under the links tab in the management interface) 2011-03-23_0856from our areas of interest and/or expertise. For a model, see the blogroll (though thee are all internal sites, and what we need are external sites) for the MichianaSTEM blog.

Science at Swanson Primary Center


Read more about BioEYES and NANO.

Swanson Primary Center, like some 70 other Michiana K-12 schools, has been an active collaborator in Michiana STEM education. At least five teachers from Swanson have attended NDeRC events. This year, Swanson has hosted two programs that bring scientists into classrooms–NANO (above) and BioEYES (below). Moreover, they have put together some very nice online presentations. Kudos to this South Bend Community School Corporation school for their efforts to reach out to university partners.

Brainstorming in DC

Ten members of the Notre Dame extended Research Community are heading to DC this weekend for the GK-12 annual meeting. These meetings are extraordinarily rich times for reviewing what others are doing in university/K-12 relations across the country. This year’s event will be marked by some controversy, since the NSF has announced that GK-12 will be phased out, with no new programs being accepted. This year’s NDeRC contingent–two university faculty, two K-12 teachers, and six graduate students–will be looking for ways to add value to our integrated STEM community here in Michiana, and will share with other GK-12 programs some of what we’ve been busy doing here. Embedded above are slides from last year’s trip. Watch for reports next week!

Invitation to GLOBE at Night collaboration

I’m passing along the invitation below from Connie Walker of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). This concern for light pollution is an important project of our friend and regional collaborator Chuck Bueter of Nightwise.org. So anyone interested in this GLOBE activity might contact Chuck:)

Less of Our Light for More Star Light

Join the 6th annual worldwide GLOBE at Night 2011 campaign: Feb. 21 – March 6

What: The Globe at Night Campaign

When: 8pm to 10pm local time, February 21 – March 6, 2011

Where: Everywhere

Who: Everyone

How: See http://www.globeatnight.org

GLOBE at Night encourages citizen-scientists worldwide to record the brightness of the night sky. During 2 winter/spring weeks of moonless evenings, children and adults match the appearance of a constellation (Orion in February/March and Leo and Crux in March/April) with 7 star charts of progressively fainter stars found at www.globeatnight.org. They then submit their choice of star chart on-line with their date, time and location to help create a light pollution map worldwide.

The GLOBE at Night 2011 campaign dates are February 21 – March 6 (worldwide) and March 22 – April 4 (for the Northern Hemisphere) and March 24 – April 6 (for the Southern Hemisphere). 52,000 measurements have been contributed from more than 100 countries over the last 5 years of two-week campaigns, thanks to everyone who participated!

This year children and adults can submit their measurements in real time if they have a smart phone or tablet. To do this, you can use the web application at www.globeatnight.org/webapp/. With smart phones and tablets, the location, date and time are put in automatically. And if you do not have a smart phone or tablet, there are user-friendly tools on the GLOBE at Night report page to find latitude and longitude.

Through GLOBE at Night, students, teachers, parents and community members are amassing a data set from which they can explore the nature of light pollution locally and across the globe. Please make a difference and join our efforts in 2011. For activity packets, one-page flyers and postcards advertising the campaign, visit www.globeatnight.org/pdf/.

Constance E. Walker, Ph.D.
director, GLOBE at Night campaign (www.globeatnight.org)
chair, International Dark-Sky Association Education Committee
chair, IYA2009 Dark Skies Awareness Cornerstone Project
member, Astronomical Society of the Pacific Board of Directors
associate scientist & senior science education specialist, NOAO

National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO)
950 N. Cherry Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85719 USA
cwalker AT noao.edu

Summer science workshop for middle schoolers: Sensing Our World

Below I pass along an announcement for a very cool week-long summer science program at Notre Dame for middle school students. NDeRC’s Enviro collaboration organized a day-long session in this event last year, and we had a blast. Send this announcement along to middle school students and their parents, cementing your friendship with them for life:)


This year’s Sensing Our World: Science Through Time program will explore themes from Earth’s past, present, and future in biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and geology. Scientific processes occuron time scales from nanoseconds to eons. In the blink of an eye, cells can divide and a hummingbird can flap its wings almost 90 times! At much lengthier time scales, continents move and animals go extinct, like the dinosaurs. Scientists often look to the past to understand the world today. Also, by understanding current processes and trends, they make predictions about the future.

The week will involve hands-on science, including exploring the structure of skeletons at the Museum of Biodiversity, immersing ourselves in nature to understand the complexities of ecosystems, and tackling issues related to climate change –such as, what should we do for polar bears if all the sea ice melts? We hope you’ll join professors and graduate students during this exciting week on the campus of Notre Dame, so complete the application today!

Classes will be held at the Notre Dame campus Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Activities include meeting with ND scientists to learn about their research, and visits to several different academic departments and research labs on campus. We expect a large response to the summer program, so please read through the instructions carefully. The deadline for applications is May 13, 2011. Applications are reviewed by a selection committee, and students will be admitted to the week’s hands-on science exploration program. Selection notices will be e-mailed to students by June 1, 2011.


Sensing Our World 2011: Science Through Time is supported and sponsored by
•The Siemens Foundation
•The Northern Indiana Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Consortium (NISMEC)
•The Joint Institute for Astrophysics (JINA) and the Nuclear Structure Laboratory
•The Department of Biological Sciences
•The Department of Physics
•The College of Science