Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bill Nye the Science Guy: Opening Keynote at #LSCON

These are my live-blogged notes from the opening keynote at Learning Solutions 2016 happening this week in Orlando. Forgive any typos or incoherencies.

What about our perception of the world is wrong?

Bill Nye's parents -- his mother's father wouldn't let them get married until she graduated from college. His dad went off to the Pacific to build an airstrip. 1941. And then Pearl Harbor happened. And then he was captured and became a POW. "If you ever have a chance to be a POW, don't do it."

His mom was at Goucher (?) College. She got recruited by the US Navy Cryptographers and she went off to work on the Enigma Code. In 1992 they were declassified -- and still these women wouldn't talk about what they did.

44 months his Dad was a POW.  His parents lived through the war. 

There are 88 constellations in the sky (from the western perspective). And the darkness of Japan prison camp, his Dad learned them all. And he learned about sundials. "Sundial people want everything to be a sundial." His Dad invented the sand dial. "We'll make dozens of dollars on this thing!"

Bill thought, as a teenager, that he was unaffected by this sundial thing. And then, he was at the beach...and he found himself making a sundial. 

If you look at a shadow outside in the sun, there's a blue-ish tint. This is the color of the earth's sky. There are other sources of light than the sun. Cerulescence.

He was in a meeting for the Mars Rovers....and they were looking at a metal post that did something and it had a shadow with a yellow-ish tint. And Bill wanted to turn that metal stick into a sundial. And so there are 3 sundials on Mars now!

And if you look at the Mars sundials, the shadows have an orange tint. From the dust in the Mars sky.

And why does he tell us all this about sundials?

Science and learning starts with observation.

He went to work at Boeing out of college. People talked about this mythical guy - Tex Johnston. He shows a video of Text flying an early Boeing jet -- a huge one -- and doing a barrel roll. This is the Boeing "Dash-80". No one told Tex Johnston to roll the plane upside down. "What are you doing, Tex?" said the Boeing staff.

"One test is worth a thousand expert opinions." ~ Tex Johnston

The upside down pyramid of design:

  • At the bottom is design -- where you've got a few # of people. No matter what you're designing, a car, a plane, a piece of learning software. It's a few number of people. You're not paying that much.
  • As you start making the thing, you go up to quality assurance and material planning -- you're talking more money. And you've got to write a check. You start spending ore money.
  • Then the welders, the painters, the delivery. (when you're building an airplane, there's no truck - you have to build your factory next to a runway!)
  • Then you get to the customers and you've spent a lot of money. Every step of the pyramid you spend more money.

You can have a great design. And you have great people. But if you're starting with a Ford Pinto (the car that exploded) -- on the best day, all you're going to get is a Ford Pinto. If the design sucks, the car is going to suck. If it gets hit from behind, it's going to blow up.

The more time you can spend at the beginning, at the design, the better chance you have of coming up with a good product. If the design is good, you have a shot at making a good product.

When making the Science Guy: they put science education into 3 buckets and within each category there are two things:
  • Life Science (biology, human body), 
  • Physical Science (physics, chemistry), 
  • Planetary Science (astronomy, earth)

These fundamental ideas led to 100 shows.

Once you figure out the design, you can expand it. You've got a shot. It started with these 3 ideas -- not 100.

His first kids' book was written in 1993. He was talking about climate change.
Educational Public Outreach is now from the point of view of outer space. He took Astronomy from Carl Sagan! (Hey -- I didn't know Bill Nye went to Cornell!)

A couple of years ago he did a debate with this guy Ken Ham who believes the earth is 6,000 years old. Bill Nye thought he must've been in on it, but the guy really believes it.

"Bill Nye the Science Lie" was the mantra in town after that.

And now Ken Ham is selling the idea that the "earth is cooling again." Bill Nye says, "Noe, this is wrong." These climate deniers are wrong.

Florida Governor Rick Scott instructs his staff that they are not allowed to discuss the term "climate change."

Going back to fact based presentation -- 2015 was the warmest year on record.

We have a huge opportunity right now to change the world. The enthusiasm for science is extremely high and building. 

The Big Bang Theory is the most popular show on tv right now -- a bunch of geeks talking about science and being human in the background.

The Martian

(If we had more kilometers, we'd sell more things overseas. We're the last country on the miles and inches.)

Day before yesterday, they launched exomars. It's on its way to Mars to look for methane. The main way you get methane is via living things. If the occasional plumes of methane that we've sniffed on Mars -- if those turn out to be the result of living would change the world.

Two questions we all ask:
  1. Where did we all come from? How did we get here and what are we doing here?
  2. Are we alone in the Universe?
If we can detect methane on Mars - then we're not alone!

marsexo was launched by a collaborative effort with a russian rocket and the european space agency. He shows the Canadian 5 dollar bill -- with an astronaut - the space program is important to them.

Space exploration brings out the best in us. It's inherently optimistic. There is a future. 

We are stardust. When we send missions to pluto to take photos of Pluto -- we spend millions, but it's a worthy investment. We find out more about ourselves.

We cannot let the earth be hit by an asteroid. There is no evidence that the ancient dinosaurs had a space program. You just don't want that to happen.

So people have proposed different ways of dealing with it. (Hint: don't send Bruce Willis. The fragments after you blow it up will make it worse.) 

You need to nudge the asteroid ever so slightly so it misses the earth. An astronaut has a patent to build a gravitational tug boat. The mutual gravity of the spacecraft and the asteroid would pull the asteroid off course. But you would need tons of fuel. That's the challenge.

The laser bees -- shine sunlight on the asteroid to burn it up!

You only need to give it the tiniest of nudge to make an asteroid miss, if you had enough time.

This is important. This may come up in our lifetime.

And the more technically literate our students are, the better our chances of getting through it.

Scientists confirmed that in the summer, there is water flowing on Mars. On Earth, every place we find water, we find life. We may find life on Mars! For the cost of lunch for the US military.

I hope some of you or your students go to Mars. And go up to one of those 3 rovers. Those rovers costs billions of dollars, and they're just sitting there -- they're not even locked. One of the rovers is still running well beyond its warranty period -- that's your tax dollars at work!

On each rover is the Mars dial.

Science and learning is all about the JOY OF DISCOVERY. Our ancestors felt that joy. 

We're all from EARTH. That little speck in space. That's the whole deal.

There about 100 times as many stars as there are grains of sand on the earth.

It's easy to feel insignificant -- we're each just another speck, standing on a grain of sand, which is a speck.  "I'm a speck on a speck, orbiting a speck, with another speck! I suck..."

But then with my can imagine all of that. And with your brains, we can change the world!

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