April Post: A Potpourri of Unrelated Goodies

               I hope that your April vacation days were well spent rejuvenating in preparation for the home stretch of the school year. There is still much work to be done and many things to be accomplished before the year is over, so I hope the weather is on our side from now on. During my free time, I look for inspiration to keep myself focused on the things that matter. For me as the school’s “media specialist” this runs the gamut and includes pretty much everything.

               I have been reading book length works, which I tend not to do during the school year, and I always like to share what’s on my reading list. Over the April vacation I finished both Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes and Joseph T. Hallinan’s Going Up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation. I’m also about two thirds of the way through my first go at Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, since my twenties. Read concurrently, these books make for some interesting, albeit depressing thoughts about the nature of human beings and civilization. I think I’m more like Cornelius than like John Galt.

               Before the vacation, I was recycling magazines that lined my office shelves, titles that go back to 2006 …. but I can’t help peak through each one before I finally let it go. In the process, I find articles that I think are worthy of sharing. Thanks to our fabulous new copier/printer/scanners, I can now scan the articles (in full color) that I want to save and share them as PDF files with our faculty. If you don’t yet know how to use the scan feature on our copiers or if you have forgotten how to use it, stop by the LMC for a quick lesson. It’s a great way to store information digitally and I highly recommend everyone also learn how to store their information in various places (thumb drive, DVD, CD and hard copy).

               Online, I always find videos, sites and stories that I want to share with someone. Below you will find, in no particular order, the potpourri promised in the title:

  • Take a virtual ride to the moon. No one seems to be much impressed with the fact that we’ve been to the moon. It doesn’t seem like that big a deal, until you really think about what’s involved. Seriously, would you sit on top of a giant tank of fuel made to explode in a “controlled” fashion that’s gonna shoot you to the moon? I don’t think so. And if you actually make it to the moon, imagine the danger in LANDING there! Think you can do that math? Didn’t think so. This virtual launch from, We Choose the Moon, does a great job of illustrating just how amazing landing on the moon was and why it deserves to be celebrated as a major achievement in humanity’s history.
  • Carolyn Porco flies us to Saturn. Going to the moon and back wasn’t enough for us, of course. We realized quickly, however, that if we were going to visit any of our other cosmic neighbors, we weren’t going to be able to go in person … instead we would spend the following decades launching satellites and the robotic equivalents of Lewis and Clark, Henson and Hillary to explore our cosmic neighborhood. Planetary scientist Carolyn Porco shares images of Saturn and two of its most interesting companions; the cloud covered Titan, and the deep freeze Enceladus, that appears to shoot jets of ice into space. This is just another in a long line of great TED Talks. 
  • Speaking of TED Talks, may I share one more, that happens to stick with the theme of space (space-time?) and understanding our place in the universe. Big History is presented by David Christian as he attempts to “tell the story” of the complete history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the Internet, in under twenty minutes. In the talk, Christian challenges us to look again at our understanding of complexity, life and humanity, when presented as part of the larger cosmic timeline. 
  • The Scale of Things: In case you’re having trouble imagining the scale of the things that David Christian is talking about in the video above, I suggest you check out the clumsily named Universcale, hosted by Nikon.com. This is a fascinating and interactive website that puts things into perspective … from the barely perceivable level of the subatomic particle all the way to the edges of the cosmic background radiation 13.7 billion light years away. Loaded with interesting facts …. makes you feel tiny and immense, depending on where on the scale you find yourself.

  • A picture is worth a billion tiny particles: While I was down at the subatomic end of the Universcale above, I started thinking that I kind of understood something about the world of physics. When I remembered Feynman’s quote, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Even so, I found this graphic useful as it breaks down what we know about the elementary particles of the universe. Perhaps most striking is that dark matter and dark energy account for 96% of the universe …. and we know absolutely nothing about it. 
  • Back on Earth … A New Map Reveals the Size of U.S. Forests: One of the best things that we do with our technology is measure and document the real world around us. This information boon will become ever more valuable over time, as humans continue to compete for the limited resources available on the earth. Hopefully, our deeper understanding will lead to better management and greater respect for the wonderful bounty that the planet provides us. 
  • Last, but not least, I have just on more gem from our friends at TED Talks, and it is Hanna Rosin: New data on the rise of women. Lifted straight from the website, the description of the video says, “Hanna Rosin reviews startling new data that shows women actually surpassing men in several important measures, such as college graduation rates. Do these trends, both US-centric and global, signal the ‘end of men’? Probably not — but they point toward an important societal shift worth deep discussion.” Is it just me or does it seem that whoever wrote that description sounds a little disappointed with the answer to the rhetorical question about the “end of men”?
  • Just for Fun: I came across this quirky blog a while back. It’s basically a dad (who is a professional artist) drawing little scenes on his children’s brown paper lunch bags. I think it’s great that he takes the time every day to personalize his kids’ bags, and it’s a little thing that will stay with his kids forever.


Thank you for reading, and I hope you found something worthwhile.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2011. All rights reserved.