29 January 2009

Critical Thinking

I just ran across the following list of skills that comprise critical thinking.

* Evaluate and interpret the meaning of the textual material.
* Support a thesis with evidence appropriate to position and audience.
* Organize and connect ideas.
* View situations from different perspectives.
* Compare and contrast source material so that analysis can be made and theories can be proved or disproved.
* Draw inferences, suppositions, and conclusions from source materials.
* Perform a medley of solutions to a possible problem and present those solutions in a logical, coherent manner.
* Differentiate between fact and fiction, concrete and abstract, theory and practice.
* Make estimates and approximations and judge the reasonableness of the result.
* Apply quantitative and/or qualitative techniques, tools, formulas and theories in the solution of real-life problems and recognize when to apply those techniques, tools, formulas, and theories.
* Interpret data presented in tabular and graphical form and utilize that data to draw conclusions.
* Use quantitative relationships to describe results obtained by observation and experimentation.
* Interpret in non-quantitative language relationships presented in quantitative form.
* Apply the scientific method including methods of validating the results of scientific inquiry.

By these definitions, any course can be a critical thinking course! What do you think?

15 January 2009

Physics Today: Applying Title IX to Science Departments

The link is a reposting of a Physics Today article about applying Title IX criteria to college and university science departments.

14 January 2009

Naming the Sky

The second video in my series for my online course.

08 January 2009

What is Science?

I'm working on creating an online course that is the equivalent of my face-to-face intro astronomy course. Think of it as an "astronomy for poets" course, as there's very little math, and it's an overview course. Below is the first online lecture for it, or if the embedding doesn't work well for you, here's the direct link.

05 January 2009

Physics Limericks

Have I mentioned I love order of magnitude estimates?

How Fermi could estimate things!
Like the well-known Olympic ten rings,
And the one-hundred states,
And weeks with ten dates,
And birds that all fly with one... wings.

--David Morin, Harvard University

There's plenty more physics limericks on Dr. Morin's webpage or in his physics textbook.

Metric Conversions

When I teach the metric system, I try to help my students get a feel for metric units so they can do what I call a "sanity check" on every problem ("Does your answer make sense?"), but many still do better converting to Imperial units first. I think from now on I'll show them this graphic.

click through to original for alt text

04 January 2009

Mercury Falling

Look for Mercury tonight in the West after sunset. Jupiter will appear moderately bright and very close to the horizon. Venus will be brighter and higher in the sky to the South-West. And Mercury will be fainter near Jupiter, for about an hour after sunset. Make sure to find a low western horizon, or you won't see this at all.

I have yet to spot Mercury myself in the night sky, so I'm really hoping it stays clear tonight!