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Autodidactism | Philomathy by Danny Fekete

Pokémon Go and iNaturalist

Santiago Sanchez and Sam McNally: Endless Forms Most Battleful

Santiago Sanchez and Sam McNally: Endless Forms Most Battleful

It’s too soon to tell if Pokémon Go is a transformative, niche-lifestyle-gone-mainstream-because-money phenomenon, or if it will burn out like Furbys and Pogs, but as I dodged past a pair of parallel-playing Poképedestrians this morning, I realized that my easy scorn was hypocrisy: I had merely already satisfied my own urge to collect and catalogue, though on reflection, my way was obviously superior, and therefore I was allowed to be smug again.

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This isn’t your Father’s Supernova.

Danny from 2017: I came out of undergrad with a passion for (extremely) amateur astronomy and an interest in cool public atheists/sceptics like Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Sam Harris, and, as below, Phil Plait.  I’m grateful for what they’ve taught me, but I gradually realised that I preferred my critical thinking in Sagan’s voice rather than Dawkins’, so I don’t follow this crowd nearly as much.

 

Still grumpy as heck about bad science in movies, though.

 

It looks like grudging enjoyment of the new Star Trek movie isn’t just for curmudgeonly jerks like me anymore, but I also got some pleasure out of watching for, identifying, and then riling at the bad science showcased therein.

(More constructively…) A good article, if you’d like a catalogue and readable analysis of the foibles by a sympathetic Trekkie may be found in the lair of the Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait.  Dr. Plait is a lucid promoter of the public understanding of astronomy (and science generally), and Bad Astronomy may be worth a visit if you’re interested in knowing about things.

Galaxy-destroying supernovae indeed.

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Elementary Education

As I’m now on the other side of my final paper for Recurring Issues in Higher Education, I’m hoping to get back into a regular posting schedule. My goal is one substantial post per week, starting now with one of the culprits for my slow scholastic progress: the eminently dilatory Periodic Table of Videos. Leave now if you’ve work to do and poor impulse control.

Chemistry was my weakest science in high school, and after grade eleven I really only bothered with it when I had to slog through the rudimentary organic chemistry unit in OAC Biology. I was reacquainted with it much more gently and palatably during Astronomy in First Year when we studied fusion in stellar cores and supernovae, and I think I took to it more readily then because the reactions seemed simpler (at least, the expectations were lower—this was Astronomy for Arts Students, alas) and more exciting, and we really just had to collect the lore of the knowledge, with no pesky calculations. Moles die in outer-space, obviously.

I haven’t really had occasion to think deeply about chemistry since then, so when Geoff dumped the Period Table of Videos on me, my resistance to dilettantism here was at low ebb. The project is an on-going production of videos, produced by a team from the University of Nottingham chemistry faculty, with discussion of each element in turn. As an Open Educational Resource, these are pretty Web 1.0 (with ultimate production being in the hands of the provider institution), but updated videos frequently have the team referring to comments and emailed suggestions, so there’s definitely some give and take.

Here are some reasons why 118 shortish videos are worth your time:

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