Distant, difficult and broken classrooms: South Sudan, 2016

March 30, 2017

Millions of students across the world miss educations they should be getting, due to war, famine, weather or poverty.

ICRC caption: In the town of Kodok, South Sudan, a boy stands in a shuttered school, where classes have been closed for months after fighting intensified in the area. Photo: Jason Straziuso/ICRC

ICRC caption: In the town of Kodok, South Sudan, a boy stands in a shuttered school, where classes have been closed for months after fighting intensified in the area. Photo: Jason Straziuso/ICRC

What are the odds this boy will, within a few years, take up a gun to fight in a war, instead of finishing his education?

What can we do about it?


Distant and difficult classrooms: Yemen 2017

March 30, 2017

From the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross):

Red Cross caption: No books, no chairs, no safe place to learn: This is a classroom in #Yemen where 2 million children are out of school according to @UNICEF.

Red Cross caption: No books, no chairs, no safe place to learn: This is a classroom in #Yemen where 2 million children are out of school according to @UNICEF.

Two things essential for a classroom: Student, and teacher.

Ponder that next time your local school board denies raises to teachers. And remember this classroom in Yemen, where students want to learn, and a teacher goes into hell to let them do that.

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Malaria uptick in Botswana: No, more DDT can’t help

March 28, 2017

Health workers in Botswana use a cell phone to report malaria diagnoses and commencement of treatment, enabling real-time tracking of malaria outbreaks and rapid public health service responses. Photo from MalariaNoMore.

Health workers in Botswana use a cell phone to report malaria diagnoses and commencement of treatment, enabling real-time tracking of malaria outbreaks and rapid public health service responses. Photo from MalariaNoMore.

Interested, and interesting, to discover Botswana has a Facebook page where it appears is posted almost every press release or news item from the government.

I found it because some wag claimed on Twitter that Botswana faces a malaria crisis, and therefore DDT should be ‘brought back from the dead.’

Botswana did post about a malaria outbreak, but the nation appears to have good sense about how to fight malaria. The Tweeter missed that Botswana is already doing what a nation would use DDT for, Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), and that phrase alone means Botswana’s malaria fighters are alert to any need for DDT should it arise, but also to the severe limitations on DDT use. DDT doesn’t work in about 95% of the nations on Earth.

Botswana is among the ten nations remaining on Earth who use DDT when and where they find a population of mosquitoes still susceptible to DDT. Almost all nations on Earth signed the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty (POPs, or Stockholm Agreement), which requires annual reporting of DDT use. But there are 11 other pesticides the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for IRS. Botswana is unlikely to use DDT where it won’t work, which is most places.

Botswana is one of the DDT Ten in 2016, too. But this is down from 43 nations in 2001. DDT’s effectiveness and time as a tool to fight malaria is mostly gone, vanishing quickly.

Botswana has DDT if it can find a use for it; no more DDT is needed. A malaria outbreak in Botswana is no reason to remove the ban on DDT use on U.S. farms.

Here is the story/press release from Botswana’s government:

MALARIA CASES RISE IN OKAVANGO

North West District has been hard hit by a malaria epidemic with 670 recorded cases and five deaths since the beginning of the rainy season.

Head of the District Health Management Team, Dr Malebogo Pusoentsi revealed this at a press conference aimed at evaluating efforts made in the district to control the disease, recently.

A task force was in the district to assess and appreciate the situation as well as discuss what more could be done going forward.

Dr Pusoentsi said the highly affected region was Okavango which recorded over 90 per cent of the cases.

Highly affected areas include Shakawe, Xakao and Seronga in the Okavango District while in Ngami, Tsau and Mababe were the most affected.

Out of the affected people, it was reported that males were mostly affected as compared to females, and that more than 30 per cent of the affected were children. The most affected areas were said to be schools.

Dr Pusoentsi explained that malaria infection in humans was mainly transmitted through the sting of the female anopheles mosquito, adding that the disease in people could present clinically as either uncomplicated, complicated or asymptomatic, especially for people living in malaria endemic areas.

She stated that prevention of malaria remained a priority with strategies aimed at vector control. She said two strategies have been used to control mosquitoes in the area such as indoor residual spraying and the distribution of the long lasting insecticide treated nets. She added that 57 000 nets having been distributed across the country.

Regarding indoor spraying, Dr Pusoentsi revealed that for the transmission period of 2016/17, the district achieved an average of 69 per cent coverage as compared to the 85 per cent target.

Asked if the district was winning the battle, she said they were on the right track as health officials have doubled up efforts to tackle the epidemic.

She said social mobilisation was effective as the community and leadership were taught to make malaria a priority in their agenda, adding that if one member of a family was affected, chances were high that the rest of the family were also at risk.

Furthermore, Dr Pusoentsi explained that many opportunities still existed at community level to effectively control the spread of malaria, citing the cleaning of surroundings to minimise the breeding spaces for the mosquitoes.

Another strategy was to work collaboratively to ensure community knowledge and participation during the epidemic period. She urged the community to visit health facilities if they experience any symptoms of malaria so that they could be assisted on time.

She noted that common signs and symptoms include high temperature, headache and rigors, pallor and vomiting.

Dr Pusoentsi also noted that Botswana was among the countries which were aiming to eliminate malaria by 2018, adding that as part of the strategy, all efforts and investments had been put in place to control the spread.

Effective surveillance mechanism, she said had been put in place to monitor the disease burden and response efficiency at all times.

In addition, she pointed out that case management and drug supply had been strengthened to ensure quality management of cases of malaria to avoid deaths. (BOPA)

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Can we fly the U.S. flag in March?

March 27, 2017

U.S. flag displayed by horse-mounted marchers in a San Francisco St. Patrick's Day Parade (perhaps 2014); image from United Irish Societies of San Francisco (UISSF).

U.S. flag displayed by horse-mounted marchers in a San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade (perhaps 2014); image from United Irish Societies of San Francisco (UISSF).

I usually put up a post near the first of the month listing the occasions upon which U.S. laws urge us to fly Old Glory. March usually slips by without such  post.

No good reason, other than in most years, March offers no regular commemorations upon which flag flying is urged. The odd year is when Easter comes early. Easter is one of the holidays the Flag Code says flags should be flown.

But, most years, Easter falls in April, as it does in 2017.

The Flag Code urges residents of states to fly the U.S. flag on the anniversary of their state’s entering the union, on statehood day. Those are the only dates in March, most years.

Flag fly dates, for March (already past, in 2017):

  • March 1, Ohio statehood (1803, 17th state)
  • March 1, Nebraska statehood (1867, 37th state)
  • March 3, Florida (1845, 27th state)
  • March 4, Vermont statehood (1791, 14th state)
  • March 15, Maine statehood (1820, 23rd state)

A lot of St. Patrick’s Day revelers and parade marchers display the flag, but it’s not an official U.S. observance. I keep hoping, but I get little traction for a law urging flying the flag to observe Freedom Day, on the birth anniversary of the Father of the Constitution, James Madison.

People gathered on the lawn of James Madison's home in Montpelier, Virginia, to display the U.S. flag in a card display, 2011.  AP photo?

People gathered on the lawn of James Madison’s home in Montpelier, Virginia, to display the U.S. flag in a card display, 2011. AP photo?

Much irony, and great history, in the U.S. colors being shown so dramatically on St. Patrick’s Day, a day relatively uncommemorated in Ireland, and commemorated in the U.S. chiefly to help overcome bias against Irish immigrants.

I’ll try to keep up better, next year.

Sure, you may fly the U.S. flag every day in March. You need not wait for sanction from a Presidential Proclamation or a Congressional Resolution. You may fly the flag every day. (Just follow flag etiquette when you do.)

U.S. colors led the St. Patrick's Day parade in Seattle, Washington, in 2014. Photo from IrishClub.org

U.S. colors led the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Seattle, Washington, in 2014. Photo from IrishClub.org

U.S. colors stood out in a field of green at the St. Paul, Minnesota, St. Patrick's Day parade, 2015(?). Photo from VisitStPaul.com.

U.S. colors stood out in a field of green at the St. Paul, Minnesota, St. Patrick’s Day parade, 2015(?). Photo from VisitStPaul.com.

Members of the Yorktown Irish Pipes and Drums Corps march in the 35th annual Northern Westchester-Putnam St. Patrick Day Parade, in Mahopac, New York, 2011. Photo by Seth Harrison

U.S. flag displayed as members of the Yorktown Irish Pipes and Drums Corps march in the 35th annual Northern Westchester-Putnam St. Patrick Day Parade, in Mahopac, New York, 2011. Photo by Seth Harrison


Serena Williams is REALLY good

March 16, 2017

Serena Williams portrait in the New York Times Magazine. Credit Christopher Griffith for The New York Times. Stylist: Sarah Schussheim. Hair: Johnnie Sapong. Makeup: Fiona Stiles

Serena Williams portrait in the New York Times Magazine. Credit Christopher Griffith for The New York Times. Stylist: Sarah Schussheim. Hair: Johnnie Sapong. Makeup: Fiona Stiles

Tough to track down the original screen capture — genius in recognizing it, whoever did it first — but it’s clear that Serena Williams is one of the better things to come out of America, and to some, America’s only hope in a time of Trump.

Headlines make it appear Serena Williams has a more effective foreign policy and military deterrent than the U.S. under Trump’s regime.

You get the idea.

Two copy editors in different departments write headlines, and they get mashed up by a third editor or some robot. Hope results. Not vain hope, we hope.

Two copy editors in different departments write headlines, and they get mashed up by a third editor or some robot. Hope results. Not vain hope, we hope.

Didn’t know it was an old screen cap — hadn’t seen it before. It’s timely again, and I needed the laugh.

 

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Happy coincidence: Pi Day is Albert Einstein’s birthday

March 14, 2017

How many ways can we say happy birthday to a great scientist born on Pi Day?  So, an encore post.
E=mcc - logo from AIP

E=energy; m=mass; c=speed of light

Happy Einstein Day! to us.  Albert’s been dead since 1955 — sadly for us.  Our celebrations now are more for our own satisfaction and curiosity, and to honor the great man — he’s beyond caring.

Almost fitting that he was born on π Day, no? I mean, is there an E=mc² Day? He’s 138 years old today, and famous around the world for stuff that most people still don’t understand. 

Fittingly, perhaps, March 14 now is celebrated as Pi Day, in honor of that almost magical number, Pi, used to calculate the circumference of a circle. Pi is 3. 1415~, and so the American date 3/14 got tagged as Pi Day.

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, to Hermann and Pauline Einstein.

26 years later, three days after his birthday, he sent off the paper on the photo-electric effect; that paper would win him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

In that same year of 1905, he published three other papers, solving the mystery of Brownian motion, describing what became known as the Special Theory of Relativity and solving the mystery of why measurements of the light did not show any effects of motion as Maxwell had predicted, and a final paper that noted a particle emitting light energy loses mass. This final paper amused Einstein because it seemed so ludicrous in its logical extension that energy and matter are really the same stuff at some fundamental point, as expressed in the equation demonstrating an enormous amount of energy stored in atoms, E=mc².

Albert Einstein as a younger man - Nobel Foundation image

Albert Einstein as a younger man – Nobel Foundation image

Any one of the papers would have been a career-capper for any physicist. Einstein dashed them all off in just a few months, forever changing the fields of physics. And, you noticed: Einstein did not win a Nobel for the Special Theory of Relativity, nor for E=mc². He won it for the photo-electric effect. Irony in history. Nobel committee members didn’t understand Einstein’s other work much better than the rest of us today.

117 years later, Einstein’s work affects us every day. Relativity theory at some level I don’t fully understand makes possible the use Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which revolutionized navigation and mundane things like land surveying and microwave dish placement.

Development of nuclear power both gives us hope for an energy-rich future, and gives us fear of nuclear war. Sometimes, even the hope of the energy rich future gives us fear, as we watch and hope nuclear engineers can control the piles in nuclear power plants damaged by earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.

English: Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp

Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If Albert Einstein was a genius at physics, he was more dedicated to pacifism. He resigned his German citizenship to avoid military conscription. His pacifism made the German Nazis nervous; Einstein fled Germany in the 1930s, eventually settling in the United States. In the U.S., he was persuaded by Leo Szilard to write to President Franklin Roosevelt to suggest the U.S. start a program to develop an atomic weapon, because Germany most certainly was doing exactly that. But while urging FDR to keep up with the Germans, Einstein refused to participate in the program himself, sticking to his pacifist views. Others could, and would, design and build atomic bombs. (Maybe it’s a virus among nuclear physicists — several of those working on the Manhattan Project were pacifists, and had great difficulty reconciling the idea that the weapon they worked on to beat Germany, was deployed on Japan, which did not have a nuclear weapons program.)

English: USSR stamp dedicated to Albert Einste...

Everybody wanted to claim, and honor Einstein; USSR issued this stamp dedicated to Albert Einstein Русский: Почтовая марка СССР, посвящённая Альберту Эйнштейну (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Einstein was a not-great father, and probably not a terribly faithful husband at first — though he did think to give his first wife, in the divorce settlement, a share of a Nobel Prize should he win it. Einstein was a good violinist, a competent sailor, an incompetent dresser, and a great character.

His sister suffered a paralyzing stroke. For many months Albert spent hours a day reading to her the newspapers and books of the day, convinced that though mute and appearing unconscious, she would benefit from hearing the words. He said he did not hold to orthodox religions, but could there be a greater show of faith in human spirit?

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

When people hear clever sayings, but forget to whom the bon mots should be attributed, Einstein is one of about five candidates to whom all sorts of things are attributed, though he never said them. (Others include Lincoln, Jefferson, Mark Twain and Will Rogers). Einstein is the only scientist in that group. So, for example, we can be quite sure Einstein never claimed that compound interest was the best idea of the 20th century. This phenomenon is symbolic of the high regard people have for the man, even though so few understand what his work was, or meant.

A most interesting man. A most important body of work. He deserves more study and regard than he gets, in history, diplomacy and science.

Does anyone know? What was Albert Einstein’s favorite pie?

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I get e-mail: Pi resources for classrooms, from PBS

March 14, 2017

The good folks at PBS work to provide great resources for teachers, and they’ve got some for Pi Day, as we might expect. In an e-mail, PBS said:

Discover how one number is so important and why it gets its own day!

Pi is a very special ratio which calls for a very special holiday! Learn about the origins of “Pi Day” and find out how it’s celebrated around the world by challenging your students to find the circumference of circular objects in their classroom! Discover More

Three exercises math and science teachers may find useful and fun.

Recommended Resources

Pizza Pi: Circumference and Area of a Circle – Grades: 6-8

Help students strengthen their understanding of key math concepts using real-world examples! New vocabulary includes: circumference, diameter, ratio, radius, and pi. Explore More

Calculating Pi with Darts – Grades: 6-12

Discover the immersive, perplexing, and hands-on side of physical science with Physics Girls who calculates Pi using a random sample of darts thrown at a square and circle target. Explore More

Pi and the Fibonacci Sequence – Grades: 6-12

What do flower petals, pinecones, and rivers have in common? Math! That’s right – math reveals itself in the most unexpected places. Explore intriguing appearances of Pi and the Fibonacci sequence in the natural world. Explore More

Images from PBS


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