Think that you are “bad” at math?

USDeptofEd

You are not bad at math

Are you one of those people who tell yourself that you are “bad” at math? Does just the thought of numbers cause you to seize up and maybe start foaming at the mouth?

Relax. You are not bad at math. You have just talked yourself into the belief. Teachers and others may have let you believe it, or may even have encouraged this self-defeating behavior. I do not know why. It’s kind of ridiculous. I’ve even had students seem almost proud of their self-proclaimed ignorance of math (and science). The truly sad thing is simply that anyone would want to think like that.

Apparently there are primary and secondary school teachers and even college instructors who undermine students’ confidence in their math abilities by claiming and displaying their own hatred and contempt for math. This is amazing and very disturbing. If you have ever had such a teacher, I am here to tell you that they were wrong. Math is not some horrible invention of the devil. Instead it is one of the greatest accomplishments of humankind.

Personally, I’m not “bad” at math. I am certainly not a “whiz” at it either, but basic math is simple, easy and oh, so useful. Every adult American — every adult anywhere — should be able to perform simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in their heads. I can, and so can you.

You are not “bad” at math. You have talked yourself into the belief. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Certainly you can do the math I require for my classes. I don’t require much, and I won’t require anything more than you can handle. But if you continually tell yourself that you can’t, then your mind will accept that assessment and make sure that you get the wrong answers or just give up in despair. That is too bad, because you are better than that. You are smarter than that.

I do not intend to turn this into a pep talk, but I do want to point out this fact and drive it home:

You are not bad at math

Want more? Check out this article from the Washington Post: “Stop telling kids you’re bad at math. You are spreading math anxiety ‘like a virus.’”

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What’s With Gravitational Waves?

Simulation of gravity wave productionThe first observation of “gravitational waves,” a prediction of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, was announced in February, 2016.

Although the significance may be unclear to many, the discovery of these immensely tiny ripples in the fabric of space were the last major part of the theory to be confirmed by actual observation. They amount to slight distortions in space. Some have likened them to a sound wave traveling through air or water. However, sound waves are moving compressional waves (alternating areas of compression and rarefaction) in a medium like water or air. Gravitational waves are really more like transverse sinusoidal waves similar to ripples on the surface of a pond, although considerably more complicated. And rather than propagating only along the surface of a plane as water ripples propagate across a pond, gravitational waves travel outward in three dimensional space.

While any interaction between gravitating bodies produce gravitational waves, only waves produced by the interaction of massive bodies (such as black holes or massive stars)  out in space are currently within our observational grasp; the ripples are through what we normally consider a vacuum rather than through water or air; and they are phenomenally weak .

Although the discovery is a major breakthrough for physics and astronomy, and may lead to completely new ways of looking at the Universe, the exotic nature of gravitational waves has spawned some misconceptions.

Shortly after the announcement, a student asked me whether or not these waves could be used to explain such things as the occasional loss of communications with satellites, the purported dangers for ships and planes in the so-called “Bermuda Triangle,” and even the turbulence experienced by passengers on commercial airlines.

The following was my response:

Gravitational waves have nothing to do with any of the things you mention. Really. Nothing at all. Gravitational waves are so incredibly weak and faint that they have nothing whatsoever to do with everyday life, and certainly nothing to do with any disappearances in any area such as the so-called “Bermuda Triangle” and such.

Go to some big lake when the water on the surface is completely flat. Now drop a single small grain of sand into the water at one edge. How easy do you think it would be for someone on the opposite side of the lake to detect the ripple? Now just consider that the gravitational waves recently detected are millions of times fainter and weaker than that. They have no measurable or observable effect on human activities. Einstein himself was convinced that we would never be able to observe them at all.

And again, gravitational waves have nothing whatsoever to do with any loss of communication with satellites (although solar radiation can) and certainly nothing to do with lost aircraft or ships. Many reports of such things are either exaggerated or due to weather conditions and such. We may not have discovered the causes in some cases, but gravitational waves have no effect and it is highly unlikely that they are due to any as yet undiscovered aspect of physics. We may not know all the answers yet, but that doesn’t mean that the answers are anything exotic or due to some unknown force.

Turbulence in airplanes is due to pockets air at different densities, usually caused by uneven heating in the atmosphere, coupled with winds and perhaps other meteorological factors. The causes are complicated, but knowable with our current understanding of ordinary physics.

It is not that we know everything at this point. But we know enough to rule certain things out. There are connections between events and forces that are so subtle and complex that we cannot decipher them easily or at all. In fact there is a mathematic concept known as the “Butterfly Effect” that considers very minor effects that yield large results over time. Even if we were to consider gravitational waves in this context, I don’t think that they would have any effect because they are so small they would be masked and damped out by quantum effects (which is beyond the scope of this class).

For more, see The Landmark Discovery of Gravitational Waves by Brian Greene.

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10 Easy Ways You Can Tell For Yourself That The Earth Is Round

Next time a flat-earth conspiracy theorist confronts you, here are 10 ways to prove that Earth is spherical.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.popsci.com

See on Scoop.itStarman’s Miscellania

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Does the Sun Look Bigger Today?

2000px-Seasons.svgIf it seems warmer than you expect for this time of year, it is not because we are closer to the Sun. Of course, you say, how could we be closer to the Sun in January? It’s Winter, so we must be farther from the Sun, right? Wrong.

Every year, the Earth makes its closest orbital "approach" to the Sun in early January. Yes, early January.

For the Northern Hemisphere, that means that the coldest weather of the year normally comes when we are significantly closer to the Sun than in Summer. This is because the Earth’s orbital path is not a perfect circle, but rather is very slightly oval. The average distance to the Sun is about 150 million km, or roughly 93 million miles. But typically it is slightly closer or slightly farther away, depending on where the planet is in the orbit.

Yesterday, January 2, Earth was a little more than 98% of that distance. In other words, we are nearly 2% closer than the yearly average. That’s about 3 million km or nearly 2 million miles closer in early January. In early July, however, we will be same amount, or about 2% farther away. The fact is, we are closer to the Sun in Winter, farther in Summer. It is not our distance from the Sun that determines our seasons.

The real reason for the seasons is the Earth’s tilt on its axis. In Winter, the Northern Hemisphere tilts back, away from the Sun. If I may be anthropomorphic for a moment, it’s almost like the planet (or more specifically, the Northern hemisphere) were repulsed in fear. This causes the Sun has a shorter path in the sky, rises to a lower altitude at noon, casts longer shadows with slightly less heat and light reaching the surface of the Earth. Barring other factors, such as global climate change and localized weather anomalies, this causes lower temperatures. In Summer, the opposite situation prevails, and the Northern hemisphere tilts sunward as if listening intently. In this arrangement, the Sun takes longer to reach a higher point in the sky, shadows are shorter, and sunlight is more intense due to less absorption in the atmosphere. The result of course is higher summer temperatures.

My point is simply that our yearly variations in distance to the Sun have very little affect on temperatures through the year. The real reason, first and foremost, is the planet’s tilt toward (Summer) and away from (Winter) the Sun. Other factors for variations in this pattern include changes in the atmosphere due to volcanic and geothermal processes, and modifications to the atmospheric content due to biologic activities including the burning of fossil fuels and increased methane due to livestock.

The odd weather some areas currently are having — whether unusually warm or unusually cold or unusually wet or unusually dry — is due to some factor other than our distance from the Sun. Whether climate change is the specific cause of all of these unexpected weather events and conditions is unknown. But it is clear that a change in climate regime — for example, from the relatively clement climate we have grown to consider normal to the warmer world envisaged by most atmospheric scientists — will entail decades or more of wild and unexpected weather events.

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The Difference between Science and Pseudoscience

Discerning science from pseudoscience

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.scientificamerican.com

See on Scoop.itStarman’s Miscellania

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Jane Discusses the Horrors of Trophy Hunting | the Jane Goodall Institute

Original here: www.janegoodall.org

See on Scoop.itStarman’s Miscellania

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North American Skies Email Alert: Perseid Meteors Peak Thursday Before Dawn

Sourced through Scoop.it from: ymlp.com

See on Scoop.itStarman’s Miscellania

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