13 October 2009

Holding place

Not much going on by way of things that I'm writing up. Or at least not that I'm finishing for blog purposes. The better news is that I'm doing more reading, of various sorts. That includes some fun -- Terry Pratchett's _Unseen Academicals_, _The Callendar Effect_ by James Rodger Fleming (biography of Guy S. Callendar, arguably the inventor of the CO2-induced climate change theory) and _Species: A History of the Idea_ by John S. Wilkins (which I've mentioned here before; I should be meeting up with John at the National Museum of Natural History on the 24th). And some also fun, but also more serious, in some respects, reading, including some books on amateur scientist and amateur engineer experiments, and my too-large backlog of Science and Nature (and EOS, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Association for Computing Machinery, ...).

Reading, learning what other people are doing or have found out about the universe, is almost always the start of my own creative activities. At the very worst it is like when I volunteered at the mile 21 water stop for a marathon. At that point, my longest race was 10 miles (16.1 km), and my longest run was a half marathon (13.1 miles, 21.1 km). After seeing the people coming past me, who were still perfectly able to chat, thank us volunteers, ask where to toss their empties, and such, there was just no excuse left for me about finishing my own marathon. Some, I wouldn't have bet a quatloo could run 2 miles from looking at them, much less be cheerfully passing mile 21. They proved to me that if you do the training, you can do the race.

For writing, if I see some very poor stuff, or some stuff that is not all that 'brilliant' (more than one paper has been published on things that I never bothered to write up), then it's a bit of a kick to get up and start my own writing. If it's great stuff, then it's energizing -- look at all that great stuff people are doing out there. Time for me to add a good thought or two. Win-win.

Also to be coming, and in keeping with my aim for educational content, is that I'll be visiting a school at the end of this month. Still working out some details on the what and how for my visit. I want, always, for my visits to classrooms to add to what the teacher was trying to do, and support learning by the students. Plus, obviously, there are some messages of my own I want to get across at the same time -- science is interesting, the universe around us is interesting, and it is understandable, and the students can indeed do some of that understanding and figuring out. Related to that, I'll probably be putting up a note or two. Looks like it's time for something about clouds and hurricanes.

Along with doing my reading, I'll be writing up some thoughts about some of the books. A pair I'll definitely be mentioning shortly are Danica McKellar's Kiss My Math and Math Doesn't Suck. If you are, or know someone who is, in what I take to be the target audience -- teenage girls who are struggling with math, and/or are having boy-induced problems about math -- go ahead and get the books.

Plus the usual odds and ends. Clearly there's a lot more to say about evaluating forecasts, and I'll be doing so. And much more to the world of sea ice, and climate. And ... well, the universe is a very interesting place. Suggestions always welcome too. Several of the notes I've liked most have been from reader suggestions.

In the mean time, for new content I'll suggest again to my adult readers my wife's blog Vickie's Prostitution Blog. Current is a 2 (maybe more, part 1 is up now) part look at How much money do prostitutes make. I give away little indeed in observing that the answer is very, very little. That contrasts starkly with the impression you might have from media, or some economists' write ups (one of which Vickie addresses more directly).


quasarpulse said...

Just to be clear: are you actually recommending McKellar's books? The ones that assume all girls need to get interested in math are a few applications of algebra to shopping? The books filled with teen-magazine tripe like horoscopes and personality quizzes?

Robert Grumbine said...

If you read the horoscopes and answers to the personality quizzes, you'll see why I'm (eventually) ok with them. Yes it's formatted like teen-magazine tripe. But the books are aimed to readers of those teen-magazines. Hence, also, the emphasis on shopping.

quasarpulse said...

I think I've mentioned before that I have a fairly strong suspicion that the observed gender gap in entry-level college achievement in math and physical science is likely related to an experiential gap; even if both are interested in and talented at math, it's more likely that a boy will have experience playing with rockets and Superballs than a girl.

So I'm not in the slightest convinced that reinforcing this division is a good thing (hence also why I strongly oppose single-sex public education, as it almost invariably slides in the direction of making the curriculum more 'relevant' for girls by drawing all the math examples from cooking and shopping).

As much as I hate pink, I'm much more hopeful about things like pink power tools and Barbie rockets for reaching out to and empowering girls and young women in their respective areas than I am about the McKellar books. The difference is subtle, but the pink power tools reinforce only the symbols of stereotypes and not their substance (in fact, they actively rebel against the substance). The McKellar books do not - they seek to feminize math not just by making it look pretty, but by making its content and application appropriately feminine.