Radio-Activity

So earlier in the week, I had a great opportunity to visit the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). 


It was fascinating to see the reactor, control room, and all the cool experiments–not things you see every day, right? 


For safety, we had to wear devices that measured radioactivity and also go through machines that checked us afterward. 


When one person in our group went through the scanner, it went off with a red alert, and the poor individual obviously got really scared–like OMG is there some contamination on me or something.


But they went through again and it turned out it was just a false positive, thank G-d. 


I guess these really can be dangerous substances to work around, but still so marvelous how the scientists harness these neutron beams and direct them to all sort of fascinating scientific experiments. 


Being around all this science makes me think whether if I could do it all again–wondering aloud–whether I would pursue an education in one of these amazing scientific disciplines and work in the lab like a “mad scientist”–exploring and discovering new things and figuring out the mysteries of the universe and how the world really works. 


What a fun, fun field to work in!  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal and Art by 4th grader, Phillip Kenney)

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Beautiful Virus, Huh?

So this is an image of the Tobacco Mosaic Virus.


Yeah, I never heard of it either. 


It is a virus that attacks and destroys tobacco and other plants. 


Viruses are ugly and evil in that they hurt and kill other living things


Yet in looking at this molecular image, I seriously hate to say it, but it is also beautiful in a way. 


The shape, color, complexity–the design and wisdom embedded in it–what can I say, but even this too is a miracle. 


Sure, it would be better in a mortal sense if there were no viruses to make us suffer and literally eat away at us. 


Yet, surely G-d has a plan even for these nasty virus molecules.  


Do they help us gain immunity to even worse diseases?


Do they help us to use ingenuity to discover, fight, and evolve to withstand their attacks and progress our society in larger ways?


Do they help us learn however horribly to turn to G-d, strengthen ourselves, and somehow try to cope with suffering and loss in life and death.


All sickness is unbelievably horrible and the suffering it causes is truly impossible to understand, and G-d should please, please have mercy on us. 


Yet, looking at this molecular image of even this virus, there is something comforting in the supreme intelligent design and creation of it all.  😉


(Source Andy’s photo of image by Visual Molecular Dynamics)

Make The Right Move To Agile Education

So, unfortunately, our education system in this country is highly troubled


Generally, we teach by strict curriculum forcing children to learn what we consider “the fundamentals”.


But they are anything but that and kids come out not knowing how to do the very basics or survive in life. 


Test scores have not been improving–that’s not the student’s fault, but the education system, which cannot force feed what students minds are rejecting as “old school” and out of touch.


Not only don’t we fish for them, but we don’t even teach them to fish. 


We throw at them esoteric subjects to memorize, spit back, and forget. 


Wash, rinse, repeat. 


We waste years of their life and the productivity and creativity of society. 


Ever really wonder why GDP growth is only around 2% despite all the rapid technology that we are rolling out. 


It is just not drones that we are rolling off the assembly line, but human automatons as well. 


This is where agile education comes into aspect. 


Like with software development, we can gather requirements and build, and then show the customer, and then refine again and again. 


We let the development grow and mature naturally as the code takes shape. 


No more years of development and voila here’s something for you, and with the customer exclaiming loudly, “What the F*** is that!”


So too with education, we need to follow the spirit and train of thought naturally. 


Where we let the students guide the teacher to what their questions are, what they are interested in learning about, where their creative juices take them, and what is relevant. 


Rigidity in the education system leaves our students as dead ends, and not as critical thinkers and innovators.


We have a dearth of leaders we can look up to and a plethora of people that couldn’t survive the Spring without their Visa/Mastercard.  


Ever wonder why so many of our great innovators are college dropouts who built their companies in their garages instead of occupying a seat in a classroom and filling their heads with teacher rhetoric. 


Most people learn by seeing, internalizing, and doing useful things for themselves, not by listening and violently rejecting the irrelevant in their lives. 


Let us release the choking reigns of our education system. 


Teachers should be able to follow the questions and interests and natural evolution of thought and creativity and wonderment with their students. 


The mark of learning is not the answers on a standardized test, but the light bulb of critical thinking and innovation from our progeny. 


Exploration and discovery and skills to be self-sufficient and survive are far more beneficial than what we are giving our children today.


We owe them a better education, but we are not delivering because we are the automatons of yesteryear. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Measurement And Standards Are Our Friends

So I learned that Metrology is the science of measurement. 


And measurement is the foundation of scientific research and creating standards. 


Scientific research and measurement are about exploration, discovery, and innovation.


Further, it is about finding the facts; it is objective; it is truth; it is essential to maintaining integrity. 


Standards also help to ensure dependability, because there is a common reference and you know what you are getting. 


A great true story that demonstrates the importance of measurements and standards is the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.


This was the third worst urban inferno in American history. 


It destroyed over 1,500 building across 140 acres. 


Fire engines responded from as far as New York and Virginia. 


But the problem was that they invariably could not help. 


Why?  


Because their fire hose couplings could not fit on the Baltimore fire hydrants–they were not standardized.


Without standards, we don’t have interoperability. 


We don’t have a reference that everyone can go by. 


It’s as if we’re all working on our own desert islands. 


This defeats the power in numbers that make us together greater than the sum of our individual parts. 


Science and technology help us advance beyond just ourselves and today. 


Measurement and standardization help us to build a better and stronger society. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Future Home For Mankind

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Thought these artist renderings of the Trappist-1 Star were awesome. 


NASA discovered this star and 7 Earth-size planets around it that could conceivably have water and sustain human life. 


As we continue to gobble up Earth’s resources and build incredibly powerful weapons that may one day soon destroy it, we need to have a viable Plan B.


Hence, the race to find another planet(s) with resources and environmental conditions where human civilization can survive and thrive.


I’m not sure what is more exciting than finding that magic planetary home of the future, where everything is new and pristine again like the Garden of Eden.


A place to go where hopefully we take not only the bits and bytes of our current world, but also the lessons learned to do it better again. 😉


(Source Photo: NASA JPL here and here)

To MARS and Beyond

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So excited about the new show called MARS (and yeah, it’s on National Geographic). 

I watched the season premier and it was awesome!

They did this cool combination flipping between the non-fiction of the here and now on Earth in 2016 with all the plans and advances being made to go to settle Mars someday, and the fictionalized future 2033 actual voyage and colonization there. 

The spaceship, rovers, colony are all pretty amazing and it seems so real like we’re practically there!

Elon Musk (SpaceX) does a nice job explaining the vision and the reusable rockets they are focused on to get us cost-effectively to the Red Planet and beyond. 

The imperative is clear for us becoming a true multi-planetary species, so that we drastically reduce (hopefully to zero) the risk of an extinction level event to humanity.

There was a good quote that I remember, something like:

“We go into the dark, so others can follow the light.”

The leap forward of us actually making it to and colonizing Mars is so mid-boggling great that just about everything else literally pales in comparison. 

Mars is just the first real step…after that the possibilities are truly endless. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to NASA Jet Propulsion Lab)

Happy Jewish New Year 5777

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May it be a truly sweet and wonderful year. 


It should be a year filled with happiness, health, peace, prosperity, love, and unity. 


May G-d forgive our transgressions, judge us with mercy, and inscribe us in the book of life. 


Let it be a year of meaning, inspiration, innovation, exploration, discovery, and ushering in better times for all mankind. 


Thank you Hashem for all your everlasting kindness, for safeguarding and keeping us, and bringing us ever closer to redemption and to you. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)