Category Archives: Academic

Happy Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day, 2008!

March 14

Pi, Greek letter (π), is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi = 3.1415926535… Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th.

Follow it here: http://www.piday.org/

Hello? Is anyone there?

OMG, is anyone still here? I have been gone so long that I wouldn’t be surprised if y’all took off. What can I say? Earning a living is just taking more time than ever. (I’d like a higher pay rate, shorter workweek employment, please. (-:  ). Must confess that there is some volunteer activity in that busyness too.

  

Anyway, I have got a couple of interesting websites for you to look at.

 

http://voicethread.com/  allows adding voice comments to documents and videos.

 

http://www.scribd.com/ allows you to store and share documents via the Web.

 

I haven’t used these sites yet (see busy above) but they show potential. Let me know how well they work if you try them out.

  

What else? Here is an excerpt from a piece by Heidi Storl that I really enjoyed in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

 http://chronicle.com/weekly/v54/i25/25b02001.htm “I think now that I might have met Mephistopheles in college, though at the time I thought only that I was encountering my first philosopher. I was a biochemistry major, looking forward to a career in genetics. I still needed to fulfill a number of those basic-education requirements that students seem either to get out of the way early or put off until the bitter end. As I stood in the registration line, memorizing the molecular structures of proteins, fate intervened. The easy history course that I had planned to take was full. Determined not to lose my spot in line, I scrambled to come up with another course and chose philosophy.The professor was a little late for the first philosophy class. He was a short, bearded man with a limp, and my first thought was that if he wore the right kind of hat, he’d make a perfect elf. But then he looked at each of the 10 students in turn, and spoke: “Does God command an action because it is good, or is an action good because God commands it?”Whoa! I sat up, put my chemistry notes away, and started thinking. Fifty minutes later, I was exhausted. As I walked to my next class, two thoughts jumped about in my head. First, I liked — really liked — the way I had felt in philosophy: out of breath, struggling to keep up with the argument, my mind on fire. Second, what was this course going to do to my GPA?”

I should have majored in philosophy though I suspect that the pay rate would have been even lower in that case, assuming one found employment as a philosopher in the first place.

 

Anyway, I have been listening to lectures on the philosophy of science on a set of tapes published by the Teaching Company. Quite informative and enjoyable. Listening to material from the Teaching Company (http://www.teach12.com/) is a good way of catching up on the liberal education one may have missed in college. BTW, I bought some of the material as a download rather than ordering it as CDs or tapes. Guess what? I haven’t got around to downloading it yet even though it has been a couple of months! (See busy above!!) Just goes to show that if it involves extra steps or equipment, one isn’t going to get around to it. There is a lesson in there for all you marketers and product managers.

 

So what is new with you? Tell me about it?

 

Before we end, given that this is election season, here is a column that you may enjoy.

 

Scientists’ Political Dream World

Completely separately, you may want to scan this little tidbit from me here.

 

Lecture at U Minnesota about Medieval Islamic Automata, Thu, Nov 8, 2007

 http://events.tc.umn.edu/event.xml?occurrence=403208

 Thursday, November 8, 2007 4:00 PM

Room 125
Nolte Center for Continuing Education
Minneapolis Campus

Free Lecture

“Simulations of Time and Life in al-Jazari’s Automata: Islamic Symbolism, Teleological Mechanisms, and Ontological Difference”: a talk with Ayhan Aytes

Sponsored By:  Institute for Advanced Study
Additional Sponsors:  Center for Medieval Studies

 Ayhan Aytes’s research focuses on a series of examples from al-Jazari’s Book of Ingenious Mechanical Devices written in 1206. By using media archeology, his study addresses the symbolic depiction of the concept of time such as in al-Jazari’s Elephant Clock, as it simulates a unique mechanistic conception of the universe. Because of the highly syncretic nature of the symbolic system to which these machines refer, al-Jazari’s works are also a subject to the discussion of knowledge transmission of medieval technology. Ayhan Aytes is a graduate researcher in the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. This event is also part of the University Symposium on Time.

Thanks to Aurangzeb for the tip.

Top 100 Software Tools for Learning and Productivity

Oh, hey. I have been meaning to post this link for while. Here is a list of the top 100 software tools selected by learning professionals (i.e. people in the education community). Lots of free tools are listed here. Some will be quite familiar to you but others may be new.

The list is here.

I have tried out some of the less commonly known tools (i.e. tools other than WordPress, Skype, GoogleMaps, etc.).  Of these:

Audacity– the digital sound editing tool provides tremendous functionality and is also easy to use.

diigo– is a “social annotation” tool i.e. it lets you mark up web pages and share those marked-up pages with your friends and colleagues. Pretty useful for discussions about design and content though I really haven’t had a chance to use it (is that because I don’t have any friends )-:  ).

Tiddlywiki– is personal wiki tool i.e. you can download a wiki template and use it for creating hyperlinked documents. It is basically an html file with some Java Script and the template file size is only 269 kB. In essence you can do pretty much the same kind of stuff with Microsoft Word and its hyperlinking capability but Tiddlywiki is a bit easier to use in this manner, is free, and you only need a browser to use it.

You do know that there are MS Office-compatible free suites available, right? Some are listed in this Top 100 list; have a look.

Not quite a double helix: Watson on race and Crick on consciousness

Hi, I haven’t been posting much (too much “real” work and other activity (-:  )  but here are a few snippets that may interest you. (By the way, I post some material at Qiyas as well so you may want to drop in there too). 

You may have heard about DNA co-discoverer Jim Watson’s comments about differences in the intelligence of various races. Well, that has created quite a flap, as you can imagine. I have not followed the issue but the original remarks are reported here, and there are additional reports here, here, here, and here. In all of this brouhaha it is difficulty to tease apart science from prejudice from hype. You can listen to a discussion about this flap in the Guardian’s weekly science podcast.

Interestingly you can also listen to ideas about consciousness from Watson’s old colleague and DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick, in this podcast. Wonder what Crick thinks of Watson’s remarks.

His Last Lecture

Prof. Randy Pausch is living out the last few weeks of his life.

He is only 46.

Prof. Pausch is professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University and co-founder of the CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), which is a collaboration of the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts at CMU. ETC already has a branch campus in Adelaide, Australia, and will soon have branches in Korea and Singapore.

Prof. Pausch is also the director of Alice, a freely downloadable software system for teaching computer programming in a 3D graphical environment, and which will soon feature characters from the SIMS video game. He is also the creator of a project course on building immersive, interactive virtual worlds.

Prof. Pausch’s lecture is about achieving one’s childhood dreams. He really wrote the material for his three very young children but he also shared it with students, colleagues, and friends, more than 450 of whom came to hear him. You can listen to the lecture too, here.

Let’s salute the man – for his achievements and fortitude. May his days be filled with peace and love.

Science websites with Web 2.0 technology

I would like to bring two interesting websites to your notice.

 SciVee

The first one is called SciVee and is a joint offering of the the Public Liborary of Science (PLoS), the National Science Foundation, and the San Diego Supercomputing center. It allows scientists to publish papers and also to upload presentation videos that provide a guide to their work. It has been called a YouTube for scientists.

Explore SciVee here.

 nanoHUB

The second website called, nanoHUB, is devoted to nanotechnology and provides many resources to help people learn about it. It uses Web 2.0 technlogy to provide online presentations, animations, simulation tools that you can use (after free regsitration), and much more.

nanoHUB can be accessed here.