Links for 2010-08-03

  • A new non-profit science blog collective, including several people who left ScienceBlogs in Sodamageddon.
  • "So if you're Doktor Kaboom!, Professor Ker-Splat, or Nobel Laureate "I Didn't Think It Would Blow Up But Then It Totally Went Pfweeeeeeeeeeeee!," maybe it's time to vary the act a bit. Forget about the eyedropper in the 2-liter soda bottle and put together a show based on what scientists actually do.

    Good morning, children, and welcome. Today's science demonstration will require a laptop, a printer, and 20 liters of coffee. This experiment is called "Applying for Funding.""

  • "The Stardust's primary mission was to bring back bits of a comet that it passed in 2004, but scientists also hoped that it would also trap some interstellar particles within a wispy concoction known as aerogel that served as a cosmic dust collector.

    The spacecraft completed its seven-year ride through the solar system in 2006 and, as it swung past Earth, detached a capsule containing the collected particles, which parachuted down.

    Then -- with help from an army of amateur researchers -- scientists began the painstaking process of distinguishing the interstellar specks from ordinary solar-system dust. "

  • "Several studies have documented a "summer slide" in reading skills once school lets out each spring. The decline in reading and spelling skills are greatest among low-income students, who lose the equivalent of about two months of school each summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association, an education advocacy group. And the loss compounds each year.

    Now new research offers a surprisingly simple, and affordable, solution to the summer reading slide. In a three-year study, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville found that simply giving low-income children access to books at spring fairs -- and allowing them to choose books that most interested them -- had a significant effect on the summer reading gap."

  • "Who or what is responsible for the disappointing portrait of America's system of public elementary and secondary education? Multiple answers are typically offered: Uncaring parents, uninspired teachers, unqualified principals, selfish teachers unions, corrupt politicians, partisan school boards, politically harassed superintendents and disgraceful school buildings. Social ills such as poverty, racism and drugs are in the mix as are the debilitating impact of television and twittering. We blame the lack of money but that collides with data showing that many poor performing schools and school districts spend more per student than good schools.

    What is missing from this litany of the obvious? The free pass being given to higher education. "

  • "For many years, critics of the SAT have cited a verbal question involving the word "regatta" as an example of how the test may favor wealthier test-takers, who also are more likely to be white. It's been a long time since the regatta question was used -- and the College Board now has in place a detailed process for testing all questions and potential questions, designed to weed out questions that may favor one group of students over another.

    But a major new research project -- led by a scholar who favors standardized testing -- has just concluded that the methods used by the College Board (and just about every other testing entity for either admissions or employment testing) are seriously flawed. While the new research doesn't conclude that the tests are biased, it says that they could be -- and that the existing methods of detection wouldn't reveal that."

  • "My psychic powers tell me that in the next few weeks, as the back-to-school rush hits, we'll be inundated with complaints about textbook costs. This is about as risky a prediction as guessing that the sun will rise in the East."

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