Make ocean foam in your classroom!

December 2, 2007

I’m not sure exactly why, but my post on ocean foam in Australia continues to be one of the most popular.

Now you can make ocean foam in your classroom! I suppose this was planned for a science class, but why not use it in geography or world history?

Kid making ocean foam, at NY Hall of Science

Instructions here: What Molecules are in Ocean Foam? (repeated below the fold). This is one of several easy-to-do science experiments promoted at the Pfizer Foundation Discovery Lab at the New York Hall of Science.

Also see this explanation from New Scientist about how foam forms on ocean waves in the first place.

Go ahead. Cover the entire school with it.

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Students rise to the challenge

December 2, 2007

Who will do something about global warming (weirding)?

“We are the people we have been waiting for.”

Listen to Bob Herbert

December 2, 2007

Here’s the trouble:

We’ve got the thunderclouds of a recession heading our way. We’re in the midst of a housing foreclosure crisis that is tragic in its dimensions. We’ve got forty-some-million people without health coverage. And the city of New Orleans is still on its knees.

So you tune in to the G.O.P. debate on CNN to see what’s what, and they’re talking about — guns.

To solve the problem, we have to admit we have a problem. Talk about guns doesn’t even get close to what the problems are.

Herbert has more to say.

Coda on the Oxford Union debate fiasco

December 2, 2007


Alun Salt correctly pins the difficulty of dealing with stupidly planned debates, those that give credence to the uncredible merely by allowing them to appear — in this case, in regard to the Oxford Union’s ill-thought notion to invite neo-fascists and Holocaust deniers in to discuss “freedom of speech.”

This is exactly the same issue that arises when the tinfoil hats group asks a distinguished scientist to “debate” a creationist, or when someone demands a forum for David Barton to discuss the Christian nature of the design of U.S. government.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press include the freedom to be stupid, and the freedom to believe stupid and false things. Our First Amendment does not create a privilege to waste the time of other people who do not share such beliefs.

I wish Mr. Salt had the answer we need in Texas: What do you do when the tinfoil hats people take over the Texas State Board of Education and demand that religious superstition replace science in the science classes?

Why landlords don’t go green

December 2, 2007

I always have trouble explaining the value of environmentally-sound policies in non-AP economics. Especially as presented in the texts, environmentalism looks like an externally imposed cost. The possibility that conserving resources might also conserve money — or make money, as one corporation I advised did — doesn’t jump out of the supply-demand equations.

So I admire anyone who can explain these issues in serious economic terms.

Common Tragedies explains why landlords and tenants miss great opportunities to save money, in explaining why a third party sees an business opportunity in getting office and warehouse landlords to make their buildings greener. Basically, it is an asymmetry of information, or lack of information on the part of the owners and lessees.

Market failures:

The first paragraph indicates that there is a knowledge problem, or asymmetric information: building owners don’t have the same specialized knowledge that the energy auditors presumably do.

The second paragraph makes it sound like building owners don’t have as ready access to capital as the investors. Although it isn’t clear from the article whether this is the case here, many times in building management the use of energy is troubled by principal-agent problems. A classic example is a landlord and tenant: the landlord has access to capital but lacks a day-to-day incentive to save energy, while the tenant would like to save energy but lacks a long-term incentive to make capital investments to do so.

Common Tragedies looks like a good source for real-world examples of economic problems. Don’t miss the “Friday Beer Post,” ripe with warm-up exercise possiblities all it’s own ( “Assume 40 million U.S. families keep a second fridge in the garage . . .”)

( “Common Tragedies” is a play on the title of Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay, “Tragedy of the Commons,” I suppose?)

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