Archive for February, 2018

Unearthly Stats on Spaced-Out Tesla Roadster

Spaceman calmly motoring over Earth in his Tesla Roadster

Powered by the most powerful booster since NASA’s Saturn V, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket lifted off earlier this month with a Tesla Roadster as its payload. The FHR’s two side boosters stuck their simultaneous landing as you can see and hear (double sonic booms!) here. Unfortunately, the rocket’s main booster missed its landing on an offshore drone ship. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, attributed this failure to a shortfall of ignition fluid, for which the “fix is fairly obvious.”

Starman’s Tesla Roadster will be a very high-mileage car by the time it crashes back into the earth, or perhaps Venus or maybe the sun, after about 10 million years. (As detailed here the calculations remain very uncertain.) If you wonder where Starman might be, go to this website. As of today, he’s over 3 million miles away from earth, moving at a rate of 7,463 miles per hour. It’s good that Starman is a dummy because otherwise he would suffer from the worst earworms ever, having already listened to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” 5000 times in one ear and the singer’s Life on Mars in the other ear nearly 7000 times.

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Weakest students hurt worst by shift away from face-to-face teaching

The January 21 New York Times featured a thought-provoking critique* of online courses by Susan Dynarski, a professor of education at the University of Michigan. She cited growing evidence that the trend away from classroom training in high schools and colleges hurts less proficient students who need ‘hand-holding’ from skilled teachers. However, research suggests that the greatest harm comes from courses going fully online. “Blended” training, which presents the opportunity for interaction with a flesh-and-blood teacher, evidently overcomes this disadvantage.

An interesting wrinkle on blending face-to-face with online education comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They offer free online courses on economics. Students who do well can apply for a master’s program which requires only one semester of class on MIT’s Cambridge campus to graduate. This weeds out those with weak academic skills, whereas many high schools mistakenly go the opposite route—students failing face-to-face classes get sent to remedial online classes.

“For advanced learners, online classes are a terrific option, but academically challenged students need a classroom with a teacher’s support.”

-Susan Dynarski

*”Online Courses Fail Those Who Need Help”, p3, Sunday Business Section.


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Ear, ear: 7-year-olds hear 70% from right versus only 55% of speech to left

Jo Craven McGinty, the Wall Street Journal “Numbers” columnist, provided in the February 3rd issue the surprising ‘heads-up’ that children understand much less of when spoken to from the left than from the right.  The difference in comprehension stems from a discrepancy in lengths to which speech must travel through the brain.  This had been thought to become moot as nerves develop—the “right-ear-advantage” (REA) becoming clinically insignificant by adulthood.  However, as reported by WSJ, new findings presented by Auburn University researchers in December to the Acoustical Society of America, indicate that even at ages 19 to 28, a challenging communication may be understood at a rate of 40% more when delivered to the right ear.

The Remarkable History of Right-Ear Advantage published in the January 2018 Hearing Review reveals that REA returns with a vengeance at age 60 and beyond.  Perhaps a podcast will be produced to speak on this phenomenon.  If so, I plan to put the sound bud into my right ear.

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