Science Education in the EU

October 12, 2007

Everyone talks about there being fewer ‘young people’ interested in Science and Engineering in ‘the West’. The EU is outlining some efforts to do something about it.

which side of the fence are you on?

October 11, 2007

Well, here goes my first I-Science Blog post. I hope it is ‘on target’!

I am an “Educational Researcher” in the Physics Department. This is an oxymoron – perhaps. Usually (please do correct me if I am wrong, I am very likely to be!) Physics or positivist science tends to view the Universe as a kind of gigantic clock, admittedly with lots of cogs and gears and all sorts of other elaborate mechanisms, but ostensibly, you wind it up and it ticks away. The problem then becomes what do the cogs and gears and other fantastically inspirational bits of machinery actually look like? Its a very valuable quest and has led to numerous concomitantly fantastic insights and associated developments but has its time come and gone?

Take human beings, for instance (the subject of my current research, i.e. you!), one soon notices that they don’t quite respond in a timely and predictable fashion! OK, we may like them to at times but, I’m afraid, Nature just isn’t like that! So, we move to a paradigm known as post-positivism where we accept the centrality of the Universe not behaving predictably or deterministically and, instead, welcome the complexity!

Further, since we accept that our reality is complex (and us too!) we need to accept that no one will ever establish A Theory of Everything. What we can say, however, is that this is me, this is my interpretation of the way things may be but its up to you to make your own mind up! This is, kind of, known as relativism, as opposed to absolutism.

Finally, relativistically, every version of the truth may be just as valid so, whilst I tend towards relativism, I don’t necessarily think absolutism – or positivism – is ‘wrong’. Its just that there are alternatives and the more we progress with the positivist paradigms the more we start to realise their limitations. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with this. That’s the way of paradigms (Kuhn put it much more eloquently than me!) The only solution is to keep talking, work out our differences and reach conclusions we are all happy with, for the time being at least!

So, I guess this was an introduction to me. As I’ve said, its useful to tell you who I am before I start to state my own views on things. Who are you? 🙂

Integrated Sciences – 100% successful

September 13, 2007

Time for a bit of auto-trumpet-blowing. The Integrated Sciences course this year has been 100% successful. By that I mean that every graduate, each single one, is either in graduate employment or on an extending education course like teacher-training. Not only can we tell prospective students at open days that industry is eager for a degree like this, we can back it up with a figure.

Congratulations to all the graduates.

The new iPods: Curiously unimpressive

September 6, 2007
“Show me another sales figure Steve.” Photo (cc) only alice.

Now I know how the dinosaurs felt when they saw small creatures running around with their new fur upgrades. There’s lots of excitement on the blogs about the new range, but I can’t see the point. To me yesterday’s iPod launch looks like a triumph of presentation of content.

For instance it started with Apple taking a step back with the iPod shuffles. The electronics are as before, but now you can buy it in a number of much more boring colours – and red. Either this is a cunning ploy by some marketing guy to push red Shuffles, or else it’s a deliberate downgrade so that next time around Steve Jobs can say how they’re improved the colours by reverting them back to the previous range,

The Nano was really overplayed. The step up from 2G to 4G at the cheap end and 4G to 8G at the higher end is welcome but hardly ground breaking after a couple of years, especially as there was already an 8G black nano. The design is ugly, but that might not be an issue – the big problem is video.
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The Coolest Band at Live Earth

July 8, 2007

There were concerts on every continent for Live Earth, but only one band played the Antarctica gig. Nunatak are the house band of the Rothera research station operated by the British Antarctic Survey and are representing the continent because no-one can get in or out during the winter. It’s just a shame it’s a shame because it looks like the perfect venue for James Blunt.

The British Antarctic survey have added this video as part of their YouTube channel.

The Kubica Accident at Montreal

July 7, 2007

If you follow F1 then you’ll know about the massive crash suffered by Robert Kubica. There’s an argument for Kubica’s survival being a miracle by the previous Pope because Kubica is Polish. Less faithful persons might put Kubica’s safety down to the advances in Formula One cars over the past decade. Here’s an animation highlighting the parts of the car which may have saved his life.

via Be Lambic or Green.


June 20, 2007

Scitalks, Smart people on cool topics.

A directory of the various talks and interviews you can find about scientific topics around the web. Its got lots of material on various topics, so you’ll almost certainly find something interesting.

via A Blog Around the Clock.