Politics

Teachable Moments In Science: Kiera Wilmot

Photo via WikiMedia

Photo via WikiMedia

Science is fun! Part of the fun is failing, failing again, and pushing a hypothesis forward or rejecting it based off of evidence. This involves a ton of mistakes - some of which are more dangerous than others.  We need to learn how to turn reasonable mistakes into teachable moments.

16 year old Kiera Wilmot of Bartow High School mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil on school grounds without supervision, resulting in a small non-harmful explosion. She was expelled for violating the school code of conduct, and faces felony charges of "possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device." The gory details, including the full police report, are located on the Miami New Times website.

Kiera Wilmot, via Miami New Times

Kiera Wilmot, via Miami New Times

The real problem is with the school and the police. When a kid makes a mistake that's not severe, it can be easily turned into a teachable moment. How about suspension instead of expulsion, with the requirement of a lab assignment based on the very experiment that was tried by Kiera? How about requiring a presentation by her to the class and/or principal to show mastery of the subject? This solution combines a reasonable punishment with additional academic work to help Kiera learn the proper way to conduct experiments. It also gives the adults involved another way to gauge her understanding of the scientific method. The penalties should go up for repeated offenses, up to and including expulsion. 

For more about how scientific curiosity helps us all win, check out my post Curiosity Kills the Gap.

This post also appears on TWIB.

The Sequester & Captain Caveman: Bad For Science

The Sequester & Captain Caveman: Bad For Science

The good old USA has decided to enact legislation that no one wanted to enact. In awesome doomsday terms, it's known as the sequester. It doesn't really make sense to me - but apparently our government couldn't decide whether to focus budget cuts on entitlement programs or revenues, so they just decided to cut everything! Unfortunately, that everything includes science and tech. 

One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Elias Zerhouni, the former director of the National Institute of Health. He states that the sequester will set back medical science for a generation.  He answers one common defense of the sequester, which is that scientists can just go work for private industry.​

That’s ridiculous. That’s the most ridiculous, caveman statement I’ve ever heard. That’s not the way science works. Science works with bright young people who are attracted to science. David Baltimore had the Nobel prize at 35 for a discovery at 27. Today he wouldn’t even get a grant from NIH. The average age for grant recipients is 38 or 39. Research is an investment, it’s not an expense.

Research institutions will get less money, which means less research being done. Charles Bolden of NASA has outlined how the cuts will affect the U.S. space program with a loss of $51 million, which includes delaying and/or canceling several projects that will lead to the return of manned spaceflight. 

My hope is that we get our house in order and squash all of the politics and beef between the House and the Senate. Until we do, our country will continue to suffer.​

Source: Scientific American, via Slashdot