Waco Tribune gets it: Science is golden

December 31, 2007

The Waco Tribune offered its editorial support to science, and evolution theory, today.

Texas education officials should be wary of efforts to insert faith-based religious beliefs into science classrooms.

* * * * *

Neither science nor evolution precludes a belief in God, but religion is not science and should not be taught in science classrooms.

Those are the opening and closing paragraphs. In between, the authors scold the Texas Education Agency for firing its science curriculum director rather than stand up for science, and cautions the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board against approving a course granting graduate degrees in creationism education.

Support for evolution and good science scoreboard so far: Over a hundred Texas biology professors, Texas Citizens for Science, Dallas Morning News, Waco Tribune . . . it’s a cinch more support will come from newspapers and scientists. I wonder whether the local chambers of commerce will catch on?

Death penalty: Cruel and unusual punishment?

December 31, 2007

A note today from the Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell University’s Law Library notes that a big death penalty case is set for argument on Monday, January 7.

The issue in Baze v. Rees is whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore prohibited under the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. Plaintiffs Thomas Baze and Thomas K. Bowling argue that there is an impermissible chance of pain from the execution process.

Two lower courts ruled against the plaintiffs. In a rather surprise move, the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari on September 25 to hear the case, which some interpret as the Court’s willingness to review the cruel and unusual argument in the light of a majority of the states now refusing to use the death penalty, while others think it means the more conservative Roberts Court is willing to quash death penalty appeals with a ruling that injection is not cruel and unusual.

This highlights the 8th Amendment. Discussion of this topic may help students cement their knowledge of the amendment and Bill of Rights. News on this case generally highlights court procedures, procedures, legal and constitutional principles that students in government classes need to understand.

News on the arguments in this case should go into teacher scrapbooks for later classroom exercises. Teachers may want to note that the decision will come down before the Court adjourns in June, but it may come down before the end of the school year. Teachers may want to have students review information about the case and make predictions, which predictions can be checked with the decision issues.

Below the fold I copy LII’s introduction to the case in their Oral Argument Previews, with the links to the full discussion, which you may use in your classes.

LII operates off of contributions. I usually give $10 or so when I think of it — these resources are provided free. You should be using at least $10 worth of stuff in your classrooms — look for the donation link, and feel free to use it in the support of excellent legal library materials provided free of cost to teachers and students.

Read the rest of this entry »

December 30, 1924, Hubble Day: Bigger universe than you can imagine

December 30, 2007

Edwin Hubble

December 30, 1924, Edwin Hubble announced the results of his observations of distant objects in space.

In 1924, he announced the discovery of a Cepheid, or variable star, in the Andromeda Nebulae. Since the work of Henrietta Leavitt had made it possible to calculate the distance to Cepheids, he calculated that this Cepheid was much further away than anyone had thought and that therefore the nebulae was not a gaseous cloud inside our galaxy, like so many nebulae, but in fact, a galaxy of stars just like the Milky Way. Only much further away. Until now, people believed that the only thing existing outside the Milky Way were the Magellanic Clouds. The Universe was much bigger than had been previously presumed.

Later Hubble noted that the universe demonstrates a “red-shift phenomenon.” The universe is expanding. This led to the idea of an initial expansion event, and the theory eventually known as Big Bang.

Hubble’s life offered several surprises, and firsts:

Hubble was a tall, elegant, athletic, man who at age 30 had an undergraduate degree in astronomy and mathematics, a legal degree as a Rhodes scholar, followed by a PhD in astronomy. He was an attorney in Kentucky (joined its bar in 1913), and had served in WWI, rising to the rank of major. He was bored with law and decided to go back to his studies in astronomy.

In 1919 he began to work at Mt. Wilson Observatory in California, where he would work for the rest of his life. . . .
Hubble wanted to classify the galaxies according to their content, distance, shape, and brightness patterns, and in his observations he made another momentous discovery: By observing redshifts in the light wavelengths emitted by the galaxies, he saw that galaxies were moving away from each other at a rate constant to the distance between them (Hubble’s Law). The further away they were, the faster they receded. This led to the calculation of the point where the expansion began, and confirmation of the big bang theory. Hubble calculated it to be about 2 billion years ago, but more recent estimates have revised that to 20 billion years ago.

An active anti-fascist, Hubble wanted to joined the armed forces again during World War II, but was convinced he could contribute more as a scientist on the homefront. When the 200-inch telescope was completed on Mt. Palomar, Hubble was given the honor of first use. He died in 1953.

“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.”

That news on December 30, 1924, didn’t make the first page of the New York Times. The Times carried a small note on February 25, 1925, that Hubble won a $1,000 prize from the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.

Update, December 31: CBS’s Sunday Morning has an “Almanac” feature weekly; Hubble was featured on December 30. Unfortunately CBS has not posted the video. However, I did find a description of Hubble’s work on YouTube — in true, irritating internet fashion, stripped of citations. The video is below. If you know details — who made the video, where good copies might be available — please note it in comments.

Update:  See the 2009, improved  Hubble Day post here.

See the 2010 post here.

Flag burning suspect arrested

December 30, 2007

CBS-3 News in Springfield, Massachusetts, reports a man has been arrested and arraigned for the burning of three U.S. flags in the area.  He entered a “not guilty” plea.

Can we keep up with the Russians Indians, Chinese, Europeans, Japanese, Saudis?

December 29, 2007

Sputnik’s launch by the Soviet Union just over 50 years ago prompted a review of American science, foreign policy, technology and industry. It also prompted a review of the foundations of those practices — education.

Over the next four years, with the leadership of the National Science Foundation, Americans revamped education in each locality, beefing up academic standards, adding new arts classes, new science classes, new humanities classes especially in history and geography (1957-58 was the International Geophysical Year) and bringing up to date course curricula and textbooks, especially in sciences.

On the wave of those higher standards, higher expectations and updated information, America entered an era of achievement in science and technology whose benefits we continue to enjoy today.

We were in the worst of the Cold War in 1957. We had an enemy that, though not really formal in a declared war sense, was well known: The Soviet Union and “godless communism.” Some of the activities our nation engaged in were silly — adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance smoked out no atheists or communists, but did produce renewed harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses and anyone else opposed to such oaths — and some of the activities were destructive — Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s excessive and ultimately phony zeal in exposing communists led to detractive hearings, misplaced fears of fellow citizens and serious political discussion, and violations of Americans’ civil rights that finally prompted even conservative Republicans to censure his action. The challenges were real. As Winston Churchill pointed out, the Soviet Union had drawn an “Iron Curtain” across eastern Europe. They had maintained a large army, gained leadership in military aviation capabilities, stolen our atomic and H-bomb secrets, and on October 4, 1957, beaten the U.S. into space with a successful launch of an artificial satellite. The roots of destruction of the Soviet Empire were sown much earlier, but they had barely rooted by this time, and no one in 1957 could see that the U.S. would ultimately triumph in the Cold War.

That was important. Because though the seeds of the destruction of Soviet communism were germinating, to grow, they would need nourishment from the actions of the U.S. over the next 30 years.

Sen. John F. Kennedy and Counsel Robert F. Kennedy, McClellan Committee hearing, 1957

Sen. John F. Kennedy and Counsel Robert F. Kennedy, McClellan Committee hearing, 1957; photo by Douglas Jones for LOOK Magazine, in Library of Congress collections

Photo from the Kennedy Library: “PX 65-105:185 Hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate Improper Activities in Labor-Management Relations (“McClellan Commitee”). Chief Counsel Robert F. Kennedy and Senator John F. Kennedy question a witness, May, 1957. Washington, D. C., United States Capitol. Photograph by Douglas Jones for LOOK Magazine, in the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LOOK Magazine Collection.”

Fourteen days after the Soviet Union orbited Sputnik, a young veteran of World War II, Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy, spoke at the University of Florida. Read the rest of this entry »

Horace Mann schools – how many?

December 29, 2007

Education majors know he had something to do with creating modern public education. Ed.D.s probably know more about Horace Mann‘s actual life, actions and philosophy. Local school boards know enough to name a school after him from time to time.

But has anyone actually kept count? How many schools in the U.S. — or anywhere else — are named after Horace Mann? Is there a registry somewhere? We know of a few:

Antioch College continues to operate in accordance with the egalitarian and humanitarian values of Horace Mann. A monument including his statue stands in lands belonging to the college in Yellow Springs, Ohio with his quote and college motto “Be Ashamed to Die Until You Have Won Some Victory for Humanity.”

There are a number of schools in the U.S. named for Mann, including ones in Arkansas, Washington, D.C., Boston, Charleston, West Virginia, Marstons Mills, Massachusetts, Salem, Massachusetts, Redmond, Washington, Fargo, North Dakota, St. Louis, Missouri, Chicago, North Bergen, New Jersey and the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, New York. The University of Northern Colorado named the gates to their campus in his dedication, a gift of the Class of 1910.[9]

Horace Mann Arts & Science Magnet Middle School, Little Rock, Ark

If you know of a Horace Mann school, would you comment? Tell us about it, where it is, and how long it’s been there.

And if you know of a list of the schools, let us know.

151st Carnival of Education

December 28, 2007

Two good reasons to check out the 151st Carnival of Education:

  1. There are several important posts, a couple that are fun — I’ll wager you find no fewer than five relevant to your job as a teacher.
  2. Hosting the venerated carnival this week is Elementary Historyteacher at History is Elementary — a blog you should be reading regularly apart from the carnivals.

Horace Mann School, Winnetka, Ill (1899-1940) - Winnetka Historical Soc

%d bloggers like this: