where's george? today i learned of an interesting and unique place in the internet. i guess it's unique; i've never seen another site like it. apparently this site has been around for about 8 years. (that must have been the 8 years i spent under my rock)
anyhow, the idea is quite simple - but may have some cool scientific value. the idea is to track dollar bills and see where they go. if you have a dollar bill, you enter the serial number and the site tells you if the bill has been entered into the system and if it has it can tell you some history about where it has been. you also include your zip code when entering the information. it sounded like a fun and harmless experiment, so i entered the serial numbers of 10 - one dollar bills that i had in my wallet. then i immediately spent 9 of them. :)
apparently the site will email me when any of the bills get re-entered into "where's george", and it will tell me the general area of where it is. i suppose by now you are either bored to death because you already now about this OR you are ready to start entering your bills info. (you possibly might think it's some sort of scam for someone to try to steal your dollar bills, but i doubt it)
now for the science... it was brought up that studying how money travels between people might be a good indicator as to how viruses travel. this idea has some flaws (i usually give viruses to people i know, and money to people i don't.... go figure) but i guess the concept is pretty good overall. some scientists are quite concerned about how an avian (bird) flu outbreak might travel. i'm all for helping scientists, so i joined up. if my dollar bills end up somewhere, i'll certainly post the details.
next time i'll be posting about stardust @ home.... till then.
the next couple days could be an exciting time for the private space flight industry. friday february 10 is the newly scheduled launch date for the falcon 1 rocket developed by spacex. spacex, founded by elon musk, is aiming to put the first privately funded spacecraft into low earth orbit.
tomorrow they will conduct a full system test of the rocket, which includes a brief ignition of the engine. the engine burns a potent mixture of liquid oxygen and purified kerosene.
december 19 was the original launch date, however that launch had to be scrubbed due to a faulty pressurization valve on the first stage fuel tank.
tomorrow i will try to have a blog source for the launch. to the best of my knowledge, that may be the only available coverage of this historic event.
yesterday i posted a blurb about the state of science education in the united states. i rambled on about how most science teachers are not properly preparing our children in the areas of science and technology. go read it if you haven't.
today i want to veer off in the direction of science application in the workforce. so many times i've heard that if we don't do a better job of educating our children (in science and math) we'll be over taken technologically by other countries. then it's predicted that the next great wave of wonderful advances will not be made in the united states but by countries that have educated their children to a higher level. this all makes sense, and in no way am i stating that the united states should have the sole power to invent every last thing that mankind will ever need.
now here's the part for discussion. how many times have you heard of someone that has devoted a huge amount of time (and money) to school, only to graduate with a phd in astronomy, physics or math and not be able to find a job. what the hell?!... then they end up teaching at the university where they did their doctorate. this should make no sense at all, but it probably does.
in some ways it sounds like most kids today are smarter than we give them credit for. we wonder why more kids aren't pursuing careers in the sciences, but yet when a few of them do, they struggle to land that job they had in their dreams.
but when that science dream job never comes above the horizon, there's always the business side of the world. the united states is so incredibly in love with business and making money that it makes my stomach turn. it's all over the news (enron), it's in prime time tv (the apprentice) and it's changing the culture of america. in order to make money, you need to be a ruthless s.o.b. and not get caught. the united states is focused only on what makes money (right now) and not what makes a healthy and growing economy.
as long as our intent is immediate gratification, long term subjects like science and research will unfortunately never be rewarded. these things take time... and time is money.
on a recent science friday podcast (12/30/2005) [website] the argument of why the number of scientists graduating today is much less than it was in the mid 1950's, when today there are more people than ever are graduating from college. i found this topic quite interesting, since i once had the idea that it might be fulfilling to teach high school science.
the guests discussed reasons which mainly focused on students in high school not being properly prepared. this is partly stemming from a lack of teachers that posses a passion for science, and also the no-child-left-behind act forces schools to teach memorization of science terms in order to pass achievement testing (and get government funding). science classes no longer have the opportunity to teach problem solving and from my experience, high school science rarely uses the laboratory. everything is theoretical bookwork. science today forces (or makes it desirable) to always get the right answer. in real life scientists rarely get the right answer. conversely they come up with ideas (problem solve) and then try to prove each other wrong. i also suggest that it is much less clear to a young adult what career choices are available to people with highly skilled science degrees. if you lose your job, there are not many want ads in the paper for an astrobiologist.
do you have an opinion on how our public schools teach science? if you do, i'd enjoy reading your comments.