Archive for the ‘education’ Category
I wish had an interesting John McCarthy story but mine is hum drum. I was at a talk at MIT circa 1990. It was most likely about software patents but I don’t recall the topic exactly. Someone a few rows over stood up to ask a question (actually he made a statement, a good one) and a revered hush spread across the room as we collectively recognized the father of Lisp. He said his piece, sat down and that was that. Since I was actually a Cognitive Science major (who realized I only needed a few more courses for a resume-burnishing Computer Science major) the artificial intelligence topics were especially interesting. I spent a lot of time in LISP and Scheme during college and while I’ve never used them in my career, I’ve always strived for that elegance of expression.
Above is my copy of “K & R”. It’s actually my dad’s. In college we were first taught Pascal. When I found out nobody actually used Pascal in the real world, I used this to try to learn C one summer and then borrowed it when I went back to college. I still have it. My favorite part is the opening for “Pointers and Arrays”:
Pointers have been lumped with the goto statement as a marvelous way to create impossible-to-understand programs. This is certainly true when they are used carelessly, and it is easy to create pointers that point somewhere unexpected. With discipline, however, pointers can also be used to achieve clarity and simplicity.
Rest in Peace, Dennis Ritchie.
I mentioned this four years ago and it’s worth a repeat. 24 girls, aged 16-19, are attending Camp Blaze this week in Bellevue, Washington. Started in 2001, the camp gives girls a taste of life as a firefighter. They rappelled off the Bellevue Fire Department’s training structure, learned to use the equipment of the trade including the jaws of life, and put out simulated fires. Their trainers, professional firefighters, volunteer their time and the camp is free to attend, funded by donations. It’s a unique opportunity for girls to challenge themselves, build confidence, and try out a male-dominated career with other like-minded campers.
They can’t bring back Mister Rogers but they are carrying on his Neighborhood of Make Believe in a new series. PBS has announced the animated series “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” which features the same characters from the original show all grown up with their own preschool-aged kids. Title character Daniel is actually the four-year-old son of the first Daniel the Tiger. He’ll talk directly to the TV audience, just like Fred Rogers did, though nowadays kids are used to that technique used in many other shows. The main puppet characters had all been voiced by Fred Rogers himself. I’m curious to see who else will make an appearance in the new series. Will cranky Lady Elaine Fairchilde or her offspring fill the antagonist role again? Will Henrietta Pussycat’s kid have a larger vocabulary than her mostly meows? And is the Neighborhood of Make Believe still a monarchy? The show starts in Fall of 2012 so we’ll have to wait a year to find out.
The N.Y. Times reports that several museums are adding graduate degree programs like the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History. Only 4 or 5 students are year are accepted into the AMNH’s degree PhD program and they get hands on experience in paleontology, evolutionary biology, and access to the museum’s vast collection of specimens and laboratory equipment. They also learn the essential skill of grant writing.
For no reason other than I had the random thought of doing it (which is why this weblog is called “Random”) here’s a word cloud comprised of the lyrics to every Ivy League university/college’s alma mater. Most of these were composed in the decades around the turn of the century (1900) and a few were rewritten to reflect the addition of women students.
Bell Labs produced a film in 1975 to recruit women engineers. It begins and ends with college students’ impressions of whether women can be engineers. The majority of the film shows the home and work lives of five women at Bell Labs. What’s most striking and indicative of the age of the film is that the questioning and justifications of women as engineers are not really about the industry but about women having careers outside the home at all, any career. The film’s subjects make the statement that it’s OK for both the husband and wife to work, to have kids in daycare, and that those who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen should be ignored. We’ve come a long way in some respects, and yet in others we haven’t. There may be more women in engineering jobs now than in 1975 but there still aren’t enough.
On a recent “Top Chef Masters” episode, each chef was assigned a scientific principle and a scientist for the Elimination Challenge. The scientists served as both consultants and sous chefs, explaining the scientific principle each chef had selected and helping to create dishes to demonstrate it. They’re writing about their experiences at the weblog Science Fare. There’s also a set of posts from the artist who created the posters used as backdrops during the demonstrations. The acidity poster lists the pH of several foods (also stomach acid, blood, and bleach) . During the episode, Chef Hugh Acheson made a crack about how his partner scientist, Augustine Urbas, had learned how to fry okra at MIT. It reminded me that I had heard mention of an MIT cooking course. “Kitchen Chemistry” has been taught by Patricia Christie in MIT’s Experimental Study Group since 2000. The 2009 course materials, syllabus and recipes (including Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream!) are online at MIT OpenCourseWare. The textbook is, of course, Harold McGee‘s “On Food and Cooking“. On my recent visit to the MIT campus, I spotted a poster for the Laboratory for Chocolate Science (“the only group on campus that orders more than 500lbs of chocolate a year”).
The N.Y. Times City Room blog takes a look at former college dorm rooms of the famous. This being the Times, the elite abodes at Yale, Princeton, and Harvard are examined, with campus maps for the first two. Notable students from recent celebrity (Michelle Obama, Elena Kagan) to truly historic figures (FDR, JFK) are called out. More interesting are the many comments which bring out that ol’ college lore, passed down from student to student. From my alma mater, the tale of the Mayling Soong room in Tower Court, and from Smith, the residences of Sylvia Plath. (Yes, I did have to look up my Wellesley dorm room number; but I can still rattle off my student ID#.)
“That’s crazy,” said Kounts, looking at line after line of the perfectly slanted script in the Constitution.
Washington state does not require cursive in school curriculums. Most teachers still teach it anyway, but that doesn’t mean students use it much. A Latin teacher at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School noticed the decline in her students’ handwriting, from cursive to print around five years ago and in some cases very messy print. She asked a friend, a retired third grade teacher to give her A.P. Latin class a cursive refresher. In addition to reviewing the basics, the teachers brought in letters and historical documents written in longhand that the students, raised on computers, marveled over. But the reality is that cursive can go the way of the dodo bird and much won’t suffer, except perhaps the thank you note which still seems to have a hold, albeit a weak one, in modern etiquette. But I have to wonder… where will girls wistfully scribble the initials in hearts that decorate notebooks and book covers when those go away? Annotation and post-it apps in their e-books?