Thursday, May 28, 2015

99.96% Black

A black purer than Ivory soap.

The substance, which is made out of carbon nanotubes and grows on aluminum foil, appears almost like a black hole because, in a way, it acts similarly to our eyes. Black holes produce such a large gravitational pull that light cannot escape it. Vantablack, on the other hand, absorbs so much light, roughly 99.96 percent, that it appears just as dark as a black hole. Even though the two objects are very different, they both confuse our eyes, which are not used to such an utter absence of light.

Click over to the article to see an image. Black can be a difficult subject for photographers.
This Material is So Black That Your Eyes Can't Fully Understand It

What else is black of late on the Internet?

Strindberg's need.

This Norah Jones track.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Colleague and Friend: Alec Hodgins

Point of Personal Privilege.

Alec Hodgins taught French at Rio Americano High School from 1988 to 2014. For virtually all of that time, he and I were either next-door classroom neighbors or across the small courtyard neighbors. In October, 2014, he went out on medical leave. A few weeks ago, he succumbed to depression. Those of us who knew him and loved him were devastated.

The comment I sherec with friends was, "Alec Hodgins was a unique soul whose creativity and diligence made him a pillar of Rio Americano High School. He was passionate about teaching French and playful in doing so. He inspired students. Deeply and permanently. In ways most teachers never will. The school is significantly diminished without his enthusiasm and energy."

Among other things, he was the motivation that energized my 15'x30' mural of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon outside my classroom.

I assembled a montage to convey the Alec Hodgins I got to know over the course of the 26 years I worked with him. It was included at a celebration of life commemoration we held after school last week.

Since the, a few more images were found. A slightly modified version of the presentation is shown below. It's neither brief nor comprehensive.

Alec Hodgins - Wish You Were Here

High school cultures are nothing if not ephemeral. If you went into a profession hoping to leave a legacy, you would have made a mistake in choosing high school instruction.

Physical manifestations of Alec will remain with our adjacent murals. He also instigated a scheme to develop Rio decals (window stickers) to help promote our Blue Ribbon school in the face of districtwide declining enrollment coincident with The Great Recession. He made a nice set of wooden return trays (for graded student work) and mini shelves so I could display the framed awards bestowed upon me and my students: The Wall of Ego.

More importantly, Alec's energy and empathy live on within those of us who valued his many admirable qualities.

If you need a moment at the end of the year

The NOVA episode devoted to the work of James "The Amazing" Randi makes a nice coda to any science course.

In the end, skepticism and critical thinking are important elements we hope we instilled during the year and will remain with our students long after the formula for kinetic energy has faded.

The full video is on YouTube here:
NOVA: James Randi's Secrets of the Psychics

An accompanying question sheet to help keep everyone engaged can be found here:
Video Questions for James Randi's Secrets of the Psychics.

More skepticism in the classroom lessons and links can be accessed from my Skepticism in the Classroom page.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Kinetic Karnival links updated

It seems MySpace (yes, it still exists) changed all the URLs to their extant content. I'd snark, but kicking MySpace at this point just seems merciless and unfair.

Jearl Walker's excellent Kinetic Karnival videos are warehoused there, so all the links I had to his page and videos went bad.

The original post highlighting his videos and my curriculum was this:
Jearl Walker's Kinetic Kanival

Down the rabbit hole: Well, the links to my question sheets were equally outdated. So I've updated them. The linked PDFs are not always the most current, but should be fully-functional and correct.

Happily, I've updated the links, so this post is once again operational, as is the link in the right margin of this blog.

If you see that something's gone awry, please let me know. I'll do my best to get things repaired ASAP.