Is lecture discriminatory?

Lecture is, perhaps, the most time-honored method of college instruction out there. It would seem to create the perfectly level playing field: every student hears the same lecture and every student has the same opportunity to pay attention and learn. But perhaps not? A Gray Matter column in the Times (“Are College Lectures Unfair?“, 12 Sept 2015) presents findings that suggest that lecture-style courses, when compared to active learning courses, put “female, minority, low-income and first-generation” students at a disadvantage.

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Eco-Jeans

Except for the hot months when I can wear shorts, I live in jeans. This graphic on the environmental impact of one pair of 501 jeans blew my mind. See “Cleaning the Clothing Industry” by M. M. Bomgardner, C&ENews (27 June 2016).

501 Footprint

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Scientist as storyteller

Chemists are storytellers out of necessity. A friend of mine just sent me an article that he wrote (and has gotten approved for publication). It begins, “One of the main problems for student comprehension of chemistry is that atoms and molecules are invisible entities.”

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Slow Progress

1975 Caltech Black Student Union & adviser Lee Browne My memory isn’t what it used to be, but when I saw this photo in Science magazine (15 May 2015, “Pioneers of the final frontier” by the late Dr. Claudia Alexander) I was tossed for a loop because I remember this photo so well. I was there.

I wasn’t in the photo myself (obviously), but this photo of Caltech’s Black Student Union in 1975, could have been taken right outside my dorm window on the tiny Caltech campus and it appeared in college publications almost immediately after it was taken. The photo shows 4 members of the BSU, and in the center, the instantly recognizable face of that most energetic of Caltech personalities: Lee Browne. Continue reading

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I don’t work in a startup

“I don’t work in a startup,” writes Prof. Louis Menand in “The Life Biz” (New Yorker, 28 March 2016). He continues, “I work in a brick-and-mortar university, one of the most institutionally conservative workplaces in the world outside North Korea. But my colleagues and I all value flexibility and innovation. We are against routine thinking and rote learning. We teach our students to think outside the box and to be comfortable with failure. We stress the importance of teamwork and interaction; we seek to have our students take ownership of the classroom and to insure that they have a psychologically safe space in which to discuss their ideas. We want them to be smarter, faster, better. If someone said, “Sounds like you’re running a startup,” most of us would be quite offended.”

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Does Climate Change Care About Your Political Affiliation?

I just read Bill McKibben’s “Climate: Will We Lose the Endgame?” (NY Review of Book, 10 July 2014). The article reviews three documents: a book on Antarctica, a report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (fyi – I’m a member), and a US government document (the 3rd Nat’l Climate Assessment). The news is not good:

“slow-motion collapse [of Antarctica’s ice sheets], which will occur over many decades, is “unstoppable” at this point, scientists say; it has “passed the point of no return.”

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Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

Sent to me from teemazing.co (fyi – I would never wear a tie)

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Give yourself time to think

Jerry Mitrovica is a professor of geophysics at Harvard who studies changes in sea-level. He was recently interviewed by the science magazine, Nautilus, (“Why Our Intuition About Sea-Level Rise is Wrong”, 18 Feb 2016) on such topics as how the earth’s shape changes when a ice melts, and why sea levels go down near a melting ice mass, but rise farther away. The last question put to him was, Where do your “A-ha!” moments come from?

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Returning to a Green Campus?

This has been a tough summer in Portland. We’ve set a record for the number of days in which the top temperatures have exceeded 90F (average: 12 days/yr, 2015: 25 and counting). Despite the heat, and drought, and wildfires, Reed students will be returning to a campus that looks mostly green. But how ‘green’ is Reed really?

The Sierra Club has issued their 9th annual back-to-school rankings of eco-friendly colleges and universities and Reed is nowhere to be found. I suspect we don’t even submit any data.

Who are the cool schools? Continue reading

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400 ppm CO2 and Reed says, “not our problem”

  • 403 ppm – CO2 level measured at Mauno Loa in April 2015
  • 401 ppm – CO2 level, April 2014.
  • 393 ppm – CO2 level, April 2011, current graduating class finished high school.
  • 356 ppm – CO2 level, April 1989. I began teaching at Reed.
  • 319 ppm – CO2 level, April 1961. Reed turns 50.

CO2 levels are rising faster than ever.

C&E News, the weekly news magazine of the American Chemical Society, says, “The CO2 level was hovering around 280 ppm prior to the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s, but the level has been creeping up because of the increased burning of fossil fuels. The data show that half of the 120-ppm increase since 1850 has occurred after 1980 and that the growth rate is increasing and now stands at 2.25 ppm per year.”

Can Reed College really pretend that 1961-era thinking about investments and global responsibility still apply today? Can anyone?

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