Tweetisms for the 21st Century: on Science, Education, and the Human Condition

 Posted by DrJeff on May 5th, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog


Photo caption: The Eyjafjallajökull Volcano erupting in Iceland as seen from NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite on May 2, 2010. How dare it interrupt the lives of all those folks on business travel.


This is a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffisms post.


This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.


OK, so I’m a regular on Twitter, and proud of it. I guess that makes me a Tweep, and if you aren’t, I’ve got something to tell you. There are lots of folks that think Twitter is where you go when you’ve got this intense need to broadcast to the world what you had for lunch. Mostly these are folks that stay away from Twitter ’cause they either don’t understand it or its power as a social medium. But there are also a whole bunch of Tweeps out there that do think I’m interested in their lunch today—let’s call them lunchies.


So to Twitter avoiders, and to the lunchies, I’d like to add my two cents. Twitter is a water cooler for the 21st century. At this cooler you can meet fellow human beings from across the planet, and share thoughts about life, our world, and our children—common thoughts that bind us all, regardless of nationality. In an age when as never before humanity faces a perfect storm of global problems, it’s precisely this kind of water cooler you’d like to see, and to frequent.


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Happy New Year and Some Fun Facts

 Posted by DrJeff on January 1st, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog


This post is a Teachable Moment in the News and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.


It’s been a wonderful year for me here at Blog on the Universe. We launched in May 2009, not knowing if the concept would catch on. It did, and in just 7 months I’ve had the good fortune of reaching and conversing with tens of thousands of educators, science and space enthusiasts, science writers, environmentalists, homeschool moms and dads, ed techs, and scifi fans. The Blog now has a pretty eclectic following … which is very cool.


To all of you that follow the ol’ blog, may you and your families have a healthy, joyous, and prosperous 2010! And my advice is live in the moment.


Now for something completely different (Monty Python?) While I was tweeting to my PLN earlier today I came up with some New Years fun facts and Jeffisms of sorts. Thought I’d collect them all and share them here with you. Teachers and parents, you might want to discuss these with your kids!


Ponder this: From the moment the New Year began to the end of the first day in 2010, YOU on Earth have traveled a whopping 1.6 MILLION miles (2.6 MILLION km) along Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

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Let’s Ban English in School …. Except in English Class

 Posted by DrJeff on December 18th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



Dr. Jeff on Mathematics Education


This is a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism and a Dr. Jeff Speaks Out.



Math is the language of nature. If you yearn to know

how she operates, you must speak her language.

—Dr. Jeff


I wrote this essay because I needed to get something off my chest. It first appeared as a foreword to a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge posted on June 15, 2009, but I think it’s so important that I decided to commit it to a formal Resource Page here at Blog on the Universe. My Resource Pages are all found in the right navigation column under the section titled “Pages” and under the subsection titled “Dr. Jeff on Stuff – The BotU Resource Pages” (take a look at right.) I dedicate the Resource Pages to essays on important topics like: the Nature of Our Existence, the Art of Teaching, Scientists and Engineers as Heros and Role Models, and the Crisis in Science and Technology Education. I felt that an important essay on mathematics and mathematics education should be a dedicated Resource Page.


So here now is my sure to be viewed as an outrageous essay:


Dr. Jeff on Mathematics Education

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment on that page. Also—you can read more about this Blog’s Resource Pages HERE.


The Milky Way: Our City of Stars

 Posted by DrJeff on August 10th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


HST Sag Final2

This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.


First a word from our Sponsor—

Come back Thursday August 13, for my take on the White House blue-ribbon panel looking at the future of NASA’s human space flight program.

Come back Monday, August 17, Rod Serling will be posting here on BotU: “Weekly Challenge 6: Today’s Special in the Cosmic Kitchen is …”



There’s no sight like the sky on a cloudless night far from city lights. The heavens filled with seemingly countless stars is overwhelming. At those moments, I cannot help but wonder if on a planet orbiting that star over there might be someone also looking heavenward, and in their sky is our Sun as one star among many. It touches the depths of one’s soul to look up into the night sky and wonder who might be staring back.


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Extra Wrapping Paper? Let’s Gift Wrap the Biggest ASTEROID. (oooh I’m so scared of the IAU)

 Posted by DrJeff on July 10th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Final Ceres

This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.


Last week on BotU, I used boat-loads of wrapping paper to gift wrap the Moon. I can’t believe that I actually bought TOO MUCH of the stuff! What to do with the leftovers, what to do. Hey, I know! I’ll wrap the largest asteroid Ceres! (Oops … can I say that? Are the IAU police listening?)


What? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Don’t you remember the whole ‘Is Pluto a Planet’ thing in 2006? Well it spilled over to poor old Ceres. In its infinite wisdom, the International Astronomical Union—the IAU—renamed Ceres a “Dwarf Planet” ’cause what they did to Pluto had a ripple effect across the Solar System. BUT they forgot to let the rest of us know if we should still call Ceres an asteroid. Or maybe they just don’t write very well (see below.)


So you know what? I’m going to call it a dwarf planet AND the largest asteroid. “Now, now kids, don’t fight …Shimmer … it’s a floor wax AND a dessert topping (SNL.)”


Now for the cool part—


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If I Could Gift Wrap the Moon

 Posted by DrJeff on July 2nd, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



This post is a Teachable Moment in the News and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.


Have you ever just stopped on a cloudless night and stared at the Moon? And I’m not talking about a 2 second passing glance, and a smile. A jewel in the night, it is a sight many of us learn to ignore. Yet it is ANOTHER WORLD, and we can see it clearly from our backyards. That to me seems like a gift.


Now for my gift to you. If you’ve never done it, or you haven’t recently, PLEASE just take out a simple pair of binoculars (forget the telescope) and look at the Moon. Do it with your children. Teach them an appreciation for what’s in their sky. It is a stunning site.


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THE SOLUTION TO Weekly Challenge 3: What Can You Do With a Humongous Piece of Xerox Paper?

 Posted by DrJeff on June 23rd, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Read Original Challenge HERE.


This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.

Last week on BotU, your challenge was to take an imaginary, truly humongous piece of xerox paper—but with normal xerox paper thickness—and figure out how many times you’d need to fold it in half so the folded thickness is the height of you, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Mount Everest. For those that really wanted to challenge themselves, I invited you to keep folding so it would be thick enough to reach the Moon, the Sun, the nearest star, and beyond.

How’d you do?

BUT WAIT! If you haven’t yet read Weekly Challenge 3, DON’T LOOK AT THE SOLUTION HERE JUST YET! First read Weekly Challenge 3, or I’ll take back my paper.

First, a word from our sponsor—

You Want Me To Do What With a Bathroom Scale?

Weekly Challenge 4 to be posted Monday, June 29, 2009

Other Posts coming soon:

A Voyage in Corpus Christi

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, History Tells How Far You Are

Lessons of Earth

MESSENGER: Target Mercury

And now the answers—

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Weekly Challenge 3: What Can You Do With a Humongous Piece of Xerox Paper?

 Posted by DrJeff on June 15th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.


Math is the language of nature. If you yearn to know

how she operates, you must speak her language.


Before getting to the awesome challenge this week, I need to get something off my chest. It’s something very relevant to the challenge, but you might not think so at first—


My first language is English. I have very strong beliefs about how English should be taught in schools. I guess I’m a traditionalist. I also think that my views apply to how any language should be taught in schools around the world.


I think English belongs in English class. Period. You want to speak and read and write English, well do it in an English class. It doesn’t belong in a history class, or a science class, or for that matter a class on economics, art, sociology, psychology, or the law. Let’s keep English where it belongs. It’s just a language. So no English in those other classes. Just sit there and learn the concepts, nuances, big ideas, and emotional content of those subjects through …. osmosis. Think your thoughts toward other members of the class and share brain waves. And please, please … when you do this—DO NOT THINK YOUR THOUGHTS IN ENGLISH!


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My Really Long Drive with Jordi

 Posted by DrJeff on June 6th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog




This post is a Driving with Jordi, and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.

“Daddy, how long would it take to drive around the Sun?”

So there we were on the Washington, DC, beltway heading for his elementary school. We were cruising at 60 mph—yes, on the beltway, I know!! (© Craig Ferguson, CBS).  Jordi said, “daddy, how far has this car gone since you and mommy got it?” I looked down at the odometer and read 249,000 and some odd miles. Cool! The ’95 Camry was doing just fine. Besides getting close to the 250,000-mile mark, the space guy in me knew that the Earth’s circumference is about 24,900 miles. “Jordi! This car could just have gone around the entire planet Earth 10 times!” He wasn’t expecting that answer. He thought that was … way cool. Cars aren’t supposed to be able to go around an entire planet are they?

But before we get to the rest of the story, first a detour at a Jeffism

Science Education is about conceptual understanding

at an emotional level.

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Apples and You

 Posted by DrJeff on May 21st, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



This post is a Jeffism’ by Dr. Jeff and a Dr. Jeff Speaks Out.

Last time on the blog, I used astronaut John Grunsfeld’s recent Business Trip to the Hubble Space Telescope to show you that the perceived limitless ocean of air under which we live is really not limitless. At an altitude of 62 miles (100 km) above Earth’s surface, you’re effectively at the top of the atmosphere (since 99.99% of it is beneath you.) So let’s really put this in perspective with a Dr. Jeff Jeffism:

Earth’s atmosphere compared to Earth is thinner than

the skin of an apple compared to an apple.

I truly hope that makes an impression on you. Read it again and let it sink in. Then take a moment and reflect on what you’re thinking.

Now … for the rest of the story—

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