Science Verse…….

Science Verse I have read many children’s books and Science Verse is one of my favorites. The illustrations are bold and the layout is designed to break the rules in a fun, playful way. Jon Scieszka’s science poems are set to traditional rhymes and luckily, there are no clunkers. For instance, instead of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star there is Twink- about a twinkle-less black hole.

Twink-

Twinkle-less, twinkle-less Spot of black, In the starry Zodiac. Sucking in all Matter and light. Turning sunshine Into night. Twinkle-less, twinkle-less– LOST CONTROL! Now we’re trapped in the black hole.

Since this is a concept driven book there is a real danger of the creators being clever for no other reason than to prove they can. Kids are generally not impressed by this and it gives adults cause to cringe when they read the book. Thankfully, this is not the case. The rhymes are fun and stand up to repeat readings.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess my deep respect for science. It is one of the most powerful tools humanity has invented to better understand the physical world. The thought of a return to the dark ages holds no romantic appeal for me. I would much rather risk having my feeling hurt over a factual disagreement than be burned at the stake as a heretic.

Citizen Science…….

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."  -Benjamin Franklin

ben franklin

Science was once the gentlemanly pursuit of the Enlightenment. This revolutionary philosophy was based on rationalism and the belief, that through careful experimentation using the scientific method, verifiable facts could be discovered.  Facts, which could be harnessed for the public good and the belief in human progress.

This was a direct threat to the older method of explaining the nature of the physical world, which relied on a powerful authority, usually embodied by the church. Above questioning, the church was believed to posses the one truth. Scholars spent their time creating elaborate explanations, which harmonized any troubling natural observations with the official story offered by the church.

One American who embodied the spirit of the Enlightenment was Benjamin Franklin, who conduct experiments to better understand the nature of electricity.  He was the first to suggest that the different behavioral characteristics of electricity could be related to its charge.

Mr. Franklin also introduced the concept of the conservation of charge. This discovery led to the invention of the lightening rod. In fact, Benjamin Franklin’s experiments concerning electricity earn him membership into the elite Royal Society of London.

The motto of this prestigious group illustrates its radical break from the past and its embrace of rationalism. The motto reads, "Nullius in Verba" which translates in Latin to be, "On the words of no one." No longer would citation of authority be accepted as an irrefutable truth.

Instead, the truth of scientific matters would be established through verifiable experimentation. Today, science is under attack by those who feel threatened by facts. Citizen science provides a vehicle for the lay person to support the underpinnings of solid public policy by taking part in rigorous and meaningful research.

Using this model, a group or institution designs an experiment and then recruit members of the public to help gather data. It is the 21st Century blend of the do it yourself (D.I.Y) aesthetic and the people powered open source movement.  Imagine Benjamin Franklin in an anorak.

Playlist track five: Billy Bragg with Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards from Workers Playtime

Daily upgrade…….

Science News ( Feb. 25, 2006 Vol. 169, NO. 8 ) published an article detailing the effects of exercise on brain fitness. Recent research has found exercise to boost brain function. More surprisingly, this benefit extends to brains which have been damaged by disease or injury. What is the cause of this boost? During exercise the brain excretes chemicals know as neurotrophic factors. These proteins produce numerous positive effects on nerve cells. They protect against injury, promote growth and encourage neurons to strengthen their connections which is interpreted as a sign of learning. The most important protein in this class turned out to be brain-derived neurotrophic factor which is commonly referred to as BDNF; not only does BDNF produce growth but also acts as a modulator which stimulates other chemicals to switch on and amplify BDNF’s effects. As one researcher, Fernando Gomez-Pinilla of the University of California in Los Angeles noted, "Locomotion played a very important role in evolution. Animals had to move to find food and run away from predators. Exercise had a direct action on brain regions related to cognition. Normally, when two functions evolve in this way, you can’t separate them."