One Year Ago Today

Exactly one year ago today was our final day of full operations in the old library. The old library remained open only for our children’s summer reading program and for the sale of trash permits for Haysville Clean-Up.

It’s been a very busy year.

Published in: on May 31, 2010 at 5:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Books, #40

I have always imagined that paradise will be some kind of library.
— Jorge Luis Borges

Published in: on May 31, 2010 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gulf Oil Slick, 2

Here’s the more immediately harrowing prediction from NOAA, the companion to their surface oil forecast appearing in our immediately previous post. This projection focuses on the nearshore surface oil slick. Again, for more information and updates see the website for NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration.

Published in: on May 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gulf Oil Slick

Gulf Oil Slick 29 April (NASA -- Terra Satellite)

NASA’s Earth Observatory website features a series of images of the massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico – the largest disaster of its kind ever – gleaned by the Terra and Aqua satellites. Collectively, they are very disconcerting, indeed.

Gulf Oil Slick 25 May (NASA -- Aqua Satellite)

Below is the latest prediction for the oil slick’s evolution from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. You can get updates each evening at their emergency response website.

For more information on measures to control and mitigate the damage, see the official website of the Deepwater Horizon Response team.

For information on the threat the oil slick poses to wildlife, see the US Fish and Wildlife Service webpage on Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response.

Published in: on May 28, 2010 at 3:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Electromagnetic Spectrum

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate has produced a thirty minute video Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum, the first third of which is unqualifiedly excellent. Superb imagery, vivid illustrations and precise commentary make it exemplary.

Unfortunately, twelve minutes and fifty four seconds into the video, the visual display begins an expert analysis of the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, while the audio portion, with equal expertise, begins to discuss visible light. While both the commentary and the video continue to be exquisite, they remain unsynchronized for the final 18 minutes of the presentation.

Strangely, despite this flaw, this educational video is well worth a look – particularly the first 13 minutes.

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 4:13 pm  Comments (1)  

Earthshaking Predictions

We now have an excellent, if imperfect, understanding of why earthquakes occur, where they occur and, in general, how frequently (more or less) they occur.

But can we predict with precision exactly when and where they will occur? Is it even possible to make such predictions?

In American Scientist, Cosma Shalizi reviews Susan Hough’s Predicting the Unpredictable: The Tumultuous Science of Earthquake Prediction.

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

New Stellar Nurseries Discovered in Milky Way Galaxy

Milky Way Galaxy Map (NASA/JPL/CalTech - R. Hurt)

Utilizing infrared data gleaned by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in concert with surveys performed by the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array radio telescope, scientists at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory have discerned a substantial number of new star-forming regions within our own Milky Way Galaxy.

The discovery not only improves our understanding of the structure of our galaxy, but will also open new pathways to analyzing its chemical composition.

For further details, see Astronomers Discover New Star-Forming Regions in Milky Way at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory site.

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Books, #39

Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.
— Ray Bradbury

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

US National Debt Exceeds $13 Trillion

This week the US National Debt exceeded $13 trillion for the first time ever – more than $42,000 per citizen, more than $118,000 per taxpayer, and more than 90.37% of the Gross Domestic Product.

For a continuous update of the estimated national debt and a host of related items, see US Debt

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ideas and the Triumph of Humankind

“The more scientists discover, the bigger the evolution puzzle has become. Tool-making itself has now been pushed back at least two million years, and modern tool kits emerged very gradually over 300,000 years in Africa. Meanwhile, Neanderthals are now known to have had brains that were bigger than ours and to have inherited the same genetic mutations that facilitate speech as us. Yet, despite surviving until 30,000 years ago, they hardly invented any new tools, let alone farms, cities and toothpaste. The Neanderthals prove that it is quite possible to be intelligent and imaginative human beings (they buried their dead) yet not experience cultural and economic progress.

“Scientists have so far been looking for the answer to this riddle in the wrong place: inside human heads. Most have been expecting to find a sort of neural or genetic breakthrough that sparked a “big bang of human consciousness,” an auspicious mutation so that people could speak, think or plan better, setting the human race on the path to continuous and exponential innovation.

“But the sophistication of the modern world lies not in individual intelligence or imagination. It is a collective enterprise. Nobody—literally nobody—knows how to make the pencil on my desk (as the economist Leonard Read once pointed out), let alone the computer on which I am writing. The knowledge of how to design, mine, fell, extract, synthesize, combine, manufacture and market these things is fragmented among thousands, sometimes millions of heads. Once human progress started, it was no longer limited by the size of human brains. Intelligence became collective and cumulative.”

. . .

“Trade was the most momentous innovation of the human species; it led to the invention of invention.”

Late last week we took a quick look at Matt Ridley’s new book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves. Ridley further explores the ideas at the heart of his book in an excellent article on Humans: Why They Triumphed in the Wall Street Journal.

Published in: on May 26, 2010 at 4:38 pm  Comments (1)  

On Books, #38

Come, and take choice of all my library,
And so beguile thy sorrow.
— William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus

Published in: on May 26, 2010 at 11:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Books in the Home Significantly Increase Children’s Educational Achievement

“What kinds of investments should we be making to help these kids get ahead? The results of this study indicate that getting some books into their homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed.”
— Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno

A twenty-year study of over 70,000 cases in 27 countries has concluded that parents who have books in the home significantly increase the level of education their children will attain.

“Whether rich or poor, residents of the United States or China, illiterate or college graduates, parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain, according to a 20-year study led by Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics.

“For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.”

“Even a little bit goes a long way,” study author Evans explains, “in terms of the number of books in a home. Having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit.

“You get a lot of ‘bang for your book’,” she said. “It’s quite a good return-on-investment in a time of scarce resources.”
“In some countries, such as China, having 500 or more books in the home propels children 6.6 years further in their education. In the United States, the effect is less, 2.4 years, than the 3.2-year average advantage experienced across all 27 countries in the study. But, Evans points out that 2.4 years is still a significant advantage in terms of educational attainment.

“For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Americans who have some college or an associate’s degree, but not a bachelor’s degree, earn an average of $7,213 more annually than those with just a high school education. Those who attain a bachelor’s degree earn $21,185 more each year, on average, than those with just high school diplomas.”

For further details, see the write-up at the University of Nevada at Reno website, or visit this item at EurekAlert!

Published in: on May 25, 2010 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment