Adventures in Ethics and Science

I’m blogging again from the lovely Vienna Cafe in West Lafayette, Indiana, at the end of Day 2 of the BCCE. I gave my own talk this afternoon as part of symposium session on incorporating ethics in the chemistry curriculum (along with 5 other very interesting talks). I think it went well, but I always enjoy conferences more when I’ve finished my presenting and can be an undistracted audience for the other presentations.

Below the fold, some of the things I learned in today’s various talks and events:

  • People who do their research in chemical education are often marginalized or ignored by their research-chemist colleagues. Part of this has to do with the fact that educational research is rather different (in required duration, human subjects issues, controllability of variables, etc.) from most chemical research.
  • Sing-alongs in the middle of early morning plenary sessions are attention-getting … but not all of it is good attention. For future reference, some audience members might be more willing to actually sing along if provided with mimosas on their way into the lecture hall.
  • Undergraduates naming vibrational modes in formaldehyde (in an exercise with computer simulations of the molecular vibrations) identified a CH2 “rock” and a CH2 “scissors”, but no CH2 “paper”
  • Carrots can catalyze the conversion of ketones to alcohols. Probably it’s an enzyme in the carrots (though no one has isolated it yet — all that pesky beta carotene).
  • On 4 October 1957, Sputnik was launched — as was “Leave it to Beaver”.
  • In classes with good teaching, students are more likely to cheat if the goal structure is performance based (out-compete your classmates) than mastery based (if everyone masters all the material, everyone can get an A). In classes with bad teaching, it doesn’t matter what the goal structure is — students are more likely to cheat than in classes with good teaching.
  • “I’m buttery” is an anagram for ytterbium (which is soft but not especially buttery).
  • Free drinks hosted by an instrument company aren’t really free — there’s a sales pitch. Saying, “I teach philosophy” may remove one from the sales rep’s tractor beam, but if you came to the party with a science educator, it’s rude to leave her to listen to the sales pitch alone.
  • Judging by the offerings in the exhibit hall today, there are loads of cool toys, books, and other science-y resources for kids. I’m poring over catalogs tonight.

There are two more full days (and then another half day) on the program. Super-saturation seems like a real possibility (at which point you might be able to get rock candy from my skull). Stay tuned!

Comments

  1. #1 Bill Hooker
    August 1, 2006

    at which point you might be able to get rock candy from my skull

    Candied brains, ew.

  2. #2 Josie Bracken
    August 1, 2006

    Undergraduates naming vibrational modes in formaldehyde (in an exercise with computer simulations of the molecular vibrations) identified a CH2 “rock” and a CH2 “scissors”, but no CH2 “paper”

    Veeeery funny!!!