Sunday, November 29, 2009

Historic papers available on line

The Royal Society has put 60 historic papers on line for free public access. It is available here.

Franklin's paper about his experiments with lightning and Newton's with color components in white light appear to be well worth a visit.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Must read!

Check out the new PHD Comics offering: Buzzwords!

This clearly shows the evolving importance of various research topics. By the way, a big part of the "Carbon" peak would be due to the "nano" peak: Carbon Nanotubes.

Also, anyone from my generation has to be amused to see "blog" passing "postmodern" in the post-postmodern era.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Return to The Village!

The Prisoner returns on Sunday on AMC.

Can it match what Patrick McGoohan created (all of the old episodes are available) back in 1967?

Only time will tell, but I rather like the updated version of The Village, with what look like the twin towers in the background. It has that ticky-tacky ersatz village feel one can see in the real town of Seaside, where "The Truman Show" was filmed.

It might also help that they pulled it into just 6 episodes. The original was a bit much for the casual viewer!

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Now something for Sherman Dorn ...

Time to post something amusing about educational outcomes and testing.

The british are complaining that math exams are getting easier while a separate article looked at how science exams were being dumbed down. The latter is particularly interesting because they slipped some 50 year old questions in among contemporary ones on a chemistry exam. This classic bit of exam norming was a real wakeup call.

But the best part?

Both articles contain links to old exam questions!

One of the conclusions in the article was not too surprising to me. "Experts who have been looking at the results concluded that students today are required to do fewer complex calculations." Less critical thinking has been the norm, but I think that statement is true even for my exams today compared to some I still have from the past. I am more likely to ask easily graded pieces of a problem rather than a complex problem where a class of 50 students might come up with 35 different answers resulting from 20 different mistakes. However, my exams today are getting harder as I find ways to challenge them while still being able to grade the problems in a reasonable time.

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Upcoming unemployment data

The lead in this article says "unemployment could crack 10%. I have little doubt of that, because passing an inflection point in unemployment only means we are on our way to a turn around, not that we are there already. I'd be surprised if monthly unemployment numbers for this depression fail to reach 10%, and not too surprised if they surpass those for the worst recession in my memory -- which was 10.8% (quarterly average of 10.7%) in late 1982.


The change in the slope seen between my first post on the subject in June and my most recent post in October is indicative of a turnover, but there are indicators that it will coast upward for a few more months.

As another recent article put it, the pace of layoffs is slowing ... which means there are still layoffs and that means unemployment is still growing. The weekly claims are falling -- but are still high at 500,000. As currently shown on this page, where the employment and unemployment numbers will appear on Friday, job cuts peaked in January (the inflection point?) but we are still losing jobs.

Except for changes as people drop off of the unemployment rolls, which becomes less likely as Congress again funds an extension of unemployment benefits, we need to see job growth -- not just jobs saved -- before the unemployment rate turns around.

That is bad news for the new Republican governor of NJ, who is clearly hoping that an Obama recovery will make it possible for him to cut taxes, eliminate an 8 billion dollar deficit, and balance his budget without draconian cuts in education, medical care for elderly in nursing homes, and public safety.

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