Thursday, December 31, 2009

"SNG" in science...

My students know that attention to detail is something I try to convey to them in science class. A doctor off by a decimal point, for example, was responsible for giving my grandfather a blood thinner 10 times too strong. You might only think of it as a decimal, but, an error like that cost Grandpa his life. Nurses, too, need to pay attention, for example, to insulin medications (among others). Even those who don't select a science career benefit from attention to detail.

One of the measures I developed for my students for detecting attention to detail was, "SNG." SNG is,, "spelling, neatness, and grammar." You might complain that that is not science, however, spelling, neatness are good indicators of attention to detail---an essential of good science. In addition, writing is a needed skill for scientists. For example, writing prescriptions, writing reports, writing journal articles... so, in addition to attention to detail, a scientist also needs, "SNG."

Words commonly misspelled or misused:
  • allot and a lot. (Note:"alot," is not a word.) To help you remember: I have a lot or I have a little.
  • separate has, "a rat," in it.
  • believe has, "lie" in it.
One of my friends, knowing that I encourage science students to use, "SNG," sent me the following link. which I believe you will enjoy.
I hope that you enjoyed this post and the related comic link.

One of my students did learn this, "attention to detail," in my classes. She was training her institution's staff to avoid medicine errors. She was the first person in Massachusetts whose unit scored a perfect score (No medicine errors) following her training where she conveyed what SNG has to do with science. Think of the lives she and her staff saved. Think of the lives you will save.

Happy New Year. May it be health-filled, prosperous, and joyous.

Dr. J

(c) 1990-2009 J. S. Shipman

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Science in an economic downturn...

Here's a quote from the USGS concerning funding of a long term project of data collection on NYS waterways:

NOTICE (Revised 10/01/2009) --Data collection at the following streamgages may be discontinued due to funding reductions from partner agencies. Although historic data will remain accessible, no new data will be collected unless one or more new funding partners are found. Users who can contribute funding for the non-Federal share of costs to continue operation of these streamgages should contact Ward Freeman, Acting Director of the USGS New York Water Science Center (518-285-5658 or Source: Accessed 12-30-09.

Add notices of short funding in your area in the comments below.

Remember, too, that scientists need money to travel.

I would like to present my research in Australia in 2011.

It would be great if scientists from other continents could get money to come to the conferences here. For example, I would like to bring one of the researchers associated with Plants Cafe to the botany meetings this year.

Find scientists in your location, or, around the globe, and support them. Support research in areas you feel it is needed. Support science literacy and science education. Thank you.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Science Sites

Science Sites in the USA

Note: Add links from your country by e-mailing them to
or by putting the information in a comment below.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Segue from Kepler's Snowflakes to five petals on flowering plants

Comparing Living and Non-living

In "On the Six-Cornered Snowflake (1611)," Kepler draws significant attention to the characteristic difference between living and non-living processes. The question of why snowflakes always form six tiny, iced feathers, no more and no less, gave rise to the question of why most flowers of plants and trees form five petals or a derivative of fivefold symmetry in the seeds of certain fruit and other living processes. However, at first glance, the geometry of these structures, whether living or non-living, is not enough to explain the causality of why they take their form. We humans, like some other living creatures, have five digits on our hands and feet. Why not six or seven? How can we know, as Kepler would put it, the relationship between the material necessity in the symmetry of either living or non-living processes and the principle guiding the material to take the shape that it does? The one thing we can be sure of is that we are the only living creatures on this planet that have the ability to even begin to answer these questions. Source: "John Lienhard, at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work. " Accessed December 27, 2009.

Biology and Symmetry

Nature offers so much pentagonal symmetry: the armor of pineapples, cross sections of apples -- starfish, flowers, sand dollars. But we also force five-fold symmetry on many things. The Greeks spoke of five Platonic solids: cubes, octahedrons, tetrahedrons, icosahedrons, and dodecahedrons. The first four (formed from triangles or squares) stood for earth, air, fire, and water. But the fifth, the dodecahedron (made from pentagons) was the symbol for pure celestial matter. That's where the movie The Fifth Element gets its title. Hindu philosophers added celestial ether to their four earthly elements, and they also got the mystical number, five. Accessed December 27, 2009.
"Symmetry in biology is the balanced arrangement of body parts or shapes around a central point or axis," is a definition readily found on the internet (Source: Accessed December 27, 2009.)

Here's a flower photo from Italy showing five-fold symmetry.: and... More flickr photos on five-fold symmetry:

Another photo, "shows Sun Spurge's five-fold symmetric 'umbel'. The five leaves at the base of the umbel are known as bracts. The individual 'cups' containing the tiny central flowers are known as involucres." Source: Accessed December 27, 2009.

Under development

In science education and science literacy development, I encourage, "Reach Reading™." You can bridge up from simple reading levels to journal articles to study floral symmetry. Studies of symmetry of flowers are in articles on floral development like this one:

A temporal and morphological framework for flower development in Antirrhinum majus.
Coral A. Vincent and Enrico S. Coen Can. J. Bot. 82(5): 681–690 (2004) | doi:10.1139/b04-042 Canadian access to full text made available through the Depository Services Program | © 2004 NRC Canada.

Note that on J-stor, you can find Variation in Petal Number in the Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, by Warren P. Spencer © 1944 The University of Chicago Press.

Try the link here, too: (..."War of the Whorls". Literary allusion there for those looking to link science and literature...)

Here is another one: by Richard M. Bateman*, Jason Hilton and Paula J. Rudall.

Also on J-stor, you'll find,, an article on symmetry in early floral development by Shirley C. Tucker.

Try attacking one of the journal articles and "stretch" your reading. Remember, there is no ham done if you only get the gist of these articles when you are just starting out reading them. Remember, too, that science fair winners often use journal articles, and, many scientists read the journals regularly to keep up with new research. Look for, "lab report format," as you read the journal articles if they are experiments. You won't find that format, however, for a review article.

So, in looking at the refereed journal articles, that are peer-reviewed, we still haven't found the reason for 5-petals on some flowers, but, we can see how the different numbers of petals on different types of flowers do develop. We have now been exposed to morphology and development. Hopefully you have enjoyed, "Reach Reading™."

If you have enjoyed it so much, and, would like to do more, is a site that will link 5-fold symmetry in a flower to history and weaponry...and you can begin a whole new tangent.

And here is an article, by Cogălniceanu Gina Carmen, from Romania (Institute of Biology Splaiul Independenţei 296, 060031 Bucharest, Romani, Doi 10.1007/1-4020-3694-9_21) on electrical control in flower development: Enjoy!

Yet, we still haven't gotten to the comparison and contrast of living and non-living symmetries, nor, have we gotten to the reason for five-fold symmetry in some flowers, yet, I hope we have achieved a love for researching and for stretching our brains..... Aha! Here's an article that goes from symmetry in living and non-living to the history of the cosmos...Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 1, No 1 (2005)

Relational Creativity and the Symmetry of Freedom and Nature PM Rose - 2005

... And, it leads to:
[PDF] Entrepreneurship and Economic Theory [PDF]
E Khalil - MPRA Paper, 2006 - Online at ... [To appear in Michel Weber (ed.) Handbook of Whiteheadian Process Thought. Frankfurt: Verlag, 2007, forthcoming] ... 1. What is the Question? Let us define entrepreneurship as creativity and the evolution of novelty E Khalil - MPRA Paper, 2006 -

Stretch some more! Note we have come back to creative minds...

Author's aside:
"Where we're interested in the way inventive minds work...." (Lienhard)
Hmmm! To me it is interesting how my own inquisitiveness on how Kepler thought and how I think lead to flowers...which lead back to how inventive minds think.

(For your Information...)

Snowflake craft ideas:

(c) 2009 J. S. Shipman

Math Links for Fun!

Snowflakes from Kepler to Bentley...

As we have had several feet of snow recently, I thought you would enjoy the diversion from planets to snowflakes. Here is a post about the ideas Kepler had on snowflakes. I will follow it with a link to Bentley.

More on Kepler

Under development...

Harmonices Mundi by Ioannis Keppleri

Kepler--- On how we arrive at Insights

I am glad that Kepler said this as I have spent some days wondering how Kepler arrived at his ideas. I hope that you enjoy the quote, too.

The roads by which men arrive at their insights into celestial matters seem to me almost as worthy of wonder as those matters in themselves. Accessed 12,27,2009.


Here is a quote I found on Kepler that addresses the point of dealing with routine, dull work...
Calculating tables, the normal business for an astronomer, always involved heavy arithmetic. Kepler was accordingly delighted when in 1616 he came across Napier's work on logarithms (published in 1614). However, Mästlin promptly told him first that it was unseemly for a serious mathematician to rejoice over a mere aid to calculation and second that it was unwise to trust logarithms because no-one understood how they worked. ...Kepler's answer to the second objection was to publish a proof of how logarithms worked, based on an impeccably respectable source: Euclid's Elements Book 5. Kepler calculated tables of eight-figure logarithms, which were published with the Rudolphine Tables (Ulm, 1628). The astronomical tables used not only Tycho's observations, but also Kepler's first two laws. All astronomical tables that made use of new observations were accurate for the first few years after publication. What was remarkable about the Rudolphine Tables was that they proved to be accurate over decades. And as the years mounted up, the continued accuracy of the tables was, naturally, seen as an argument for the correctness of Kepler's laws, and thus for the correctness of the heliocentric astronomy. Kepler's fulfilment of his dull official task as Imperial Mathematician led to the fulfilment of his dearest wish, to help establish Copernicanism. Source: Accessed 12-27-2009.

What do you think about this idea?

A Botany Dictionary from M.DCC.XCIIl.

In looking for works of Kepler, I came across this old botany dictionary and decided to post a link to it here for my botany friends and anyone interested in word used by Linnaeus. It looks like an optical encoder might have copied the text, since the old "esses," look like "f's" in the linked text.



Saturday, December 26, 2009

Getting paid what you are worth in the sciences...

Here is an article on gender equity to use as a common starting point for discussion on this topic.

Remember if you are teaching women and men about science, equal pay for work would be a good topic of discussion.

How would you feel if you were a woman with a doctorate doing a job well and a man with a master's got hired at double your salary, and, he couldn't do the job (and he was not related to the boss)?

How would you feel if you were told you couldn't get a military research position because you were over-age, yet 6 men over-age got hired with less experience than you have?

How would you feel if you were Harvard-educated and had a baby and you got re-structured...out of a job?

How would you feel if you didn't get any pay bonuses for your awards because they got awarded after you had retired (while men get the awards at much younger ages and get bonuses as a result)?

How would you feel if you were a graduate student and you didn't get the job though you were the best candidate because the man in your department (who, by the way does illegal drugs) has a family and, "needs," a job (What, women with families don't need jobs? What about single women, don't they have to eat?)?

These are questions to think about, especially if you are hiring people, because these situations and many more like them are still happening.

How would you feel if you went to the same universities as a man, had better grades, more appropriate work experience and better letters of recommendations, yet, he got the job you both applied for, because he was married and had children? (but, so were you!!!)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays to All

Whatever ways you and your family celebrate this season full of holidays, may you find yourself richly blessed.

Feel free to add your holiday celebration and traditions.

Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanza, Eid, Festivus, and others...

Have a blessed holiday.

Remember to stay safe, and, have a happy, happy holiday.

Thank you for reading this blog on science education.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I am fascinated with how Kepler's mind worked. I am interested in how he thought because I wonder if I can think that way. I think about the math he knew and how he figured things out.

One part of science literacy and science education is figuring out how we, ourselves, think. Understanding math and formulas can help us with science and understanding science.

Learn about Kepler, then, reflect on how you learn. Do you think you have similarities to Kepler? Differences? What do you like that you have learned about Kepler. When you finish your Kepler study, pick another scientist and see how she or he thinks. Have fun learning about your own learning and thinking styles.

Now, here's the first movie:

On Kepler--- in Spanish:



Even though these videos are in different languages, the science speaks to us, I believe. What do you think?

I would like to encourage more international discussion and comments. Please e-mail me in your own language and if possible include an English translation.

Here is a related blog in Italian: from Amedeo Balbi, Dipartimento di Fisica, Università Tor Vergata, Via della Ricerca Scientifica, 1, 00133 Roma (I). Tel: (+39) 06 7259 4717, Fax: (+39) 06 2023 507

Here is a biography of Kepler:
with a Spanish translation:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Urgent Call for Action in the USA on HR 875 and S 425, posted by a reader

Sent: Sun, Dec 20, 2009 12:07 pm
RE: Save Organic Farming

(Save My Backyard Garden!)

Here's a post submitted by Betsy Bragg at Optimum Health Solution and her colleague, Elizabeth. (highlights added)
Subject: Fwd: Save Organic Farming (Save My Backyard Garden!)

-----Original Message-----
From: Elizabeth
To: You the reader
Sent: Sat, Dec 19, 2009 8:46 pm ...

I am sending this to folks I know who love to garden and care about our food supply. Please check this out it is just unbelievable. I sent emails to both my senators asking them to vote against this bill. Check it out and perhaps do the same. Send it on to everyone you know!


Protect your food supply: ACT NOW.

Subject: Save Organic Farming (Save My Backyard Garden!)

Against the Organic Farming Ban
Please tell everyone who wants organic foods.....
US House and Senate are about (in a week and a half) to
vote on bill that will OUTLAW ORGANIC FARMING (bill HR 875).
There is an enormous rush to get this into law within the
next 2 weeks before people realize what is happening.

Main backer and lobbyist is Monsanto – chemical and genetic engineering giant corporation (and Cargill, ADM, and about 35 other related agri-giants).
This bill will require
organic farms to use specific fertilizers
and poisonous insect sprays dictated by the
newly formed agency to "make sure there is no danger [read between the lines...think critically] to
the public food supply".
This will include backyard
> gardens that grow food only for a family and not for sales.
If this passes then NO more heirloom clean seeds but only Monsanto genetically altered seeds that are now showing up with unexpected diseases in humans.
> There is a video on the subject.
> And another one:

> The name on this outrageous food plan is:
  • Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 (bill HR 875).
  • Get on that phone and burn up the wires.
  • Get anyone else you can to do the same thing.

  • The House and Senate WILL pass this if they are not massively threatened with loss of their position.... They only fear your voice and your vote.
> all you have to do is put in your zip and it will give you
> your congressperson and how to get in touch with them. When
> you call their office someone will answer the phone, just
> tell them (politely) that you are calling to express your
> views on HR 875.
> Tell them your views, they'll take your name and
> address and pass your comments along to the congressperson.
> The following link is a list of the U.S. senators and their
> contact info:
(read less)
Privacy type:
Open: All content is public.

Edit...One concerned individual has included these links for you:
Follow up on HR875 and S425. Thanks to Amy31415 and Vortexvibration - passed on info that the sponsor of the bill is Rosa Delauro who is married to Stan Greenburg a political strategist who works for Monsanto. Please see links to vids on Monsanto
for more in depth info please see
From StarrJaded
I fyou are having trouble with the links please search youtube under their names
track the bill: lll-875
want to work on an organic farm?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Facts and Critical Thinking in Science/Scientific Literacy

Maienschein, Ingrid Burger, Reza Enshaie, Marie Glitz, Kate Kevern, Brent Maddin , Mark Rivera, Diana Rutkowsky, have written on two ideas on science literacy and scientific literacy.

Physics Lecture

Paul Dirac:

Strange Genius: The Life and Times of Paul Dirac

Page under development...meanwhile, you can listen to the lecture.

Compare and contrast the following sources on Paul Dirac. How can you organize your thoughts on these different information sources? Would a table help? How about an idea map for each one? What is the best way for you to organize the information so you can compare and contrast iy?

L ead science literacy and science education group in your area

Interested in leading science literacy and science education for your school, your community, local area, region, country, or continent? Please contact Dr. J at shipmanjs(at)

What's involved?
  1. Let others know about
  2. Submit posts and/or encourage others to submit posts at this site (E-mail to Dr.J to post). Also, create and post a sub-group here:
  3. If you would like to, you can arrange for a workshop on higher order thinking skills in science education, or other workshops for your own local group (for a fee). Contact Dr. J for details. Specify workshop/ subject area of interest. Example: click here.
  4. Benefactors are needed so that these workshops can reach schools that otherwise could not afford them...air fare forpeople leading the workshop, scholarships for attendees, training materials for teachers, workbooks and supplies. If you are interested in being a sponsor, contact Dr. J or your local or community school.
  5. This local or regional or national or continental science literacy and science education leader is a volunteer position unless we can come up with sponsors.

A View of Copenhagen from the Center for Biological Diversity...

Voice from Malawi:

Voice from Kenya:

Voice from Cameroon:

Voice from Canada:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Science Literacy News

What did we see?

Kecksburg UFO incident

Science literacy involves finding facts in what you read. It involves inference...reading between the lines.

Today's left sidebar talked about the Kecksburg UFO incident.

Around that same time, in New York State, there were many, "UFO," citings that people saw and reported. At that time, the reports brushed them off. My mother saw some and called us out (so there were 5 of us watching). Big orange and green balls of light and a silver disc. She went in and called the local radio station, WALL. The radio man was acting like my mom was crazy, so, my dad got on the phone,"Look out the window." The radio announcer's mouth must have dropped open. All you could hear was a gasp and silence for several minutes. When he came around, he apologized to my mother.

Shortly thereafter, the government reports came out saying, essentially, no one saw anything. "Yeah, right!"

How should we evaluate what we read? Having these experiences surely would make one skeptical of the reports. Still, what would you believe?

Science literacy involves fact gathering and a knowledge base so you can form opinions based on what you read and have a place to latch onto the new ideas in your brain.

Here is a video to start one thinking, but, you need to search more.

And another...

More ideas:
  1. Project-1947 - 1909 UFO Report
    "People of Middletown ..."

  2. Pine Bush, NY 12566 UFO's in Pine Bush? - 349 Sarah Wells Trail: Goshen, NY 10924 ... 547 Rte 17M: Middletown, NY 10940: 845-344-1480

Monday, December 7, 2009

Today(12-07-09)'s quote of the day is by Jules Verne

Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.

"Jules Verne (1828-1905)
Source:,+Jules. Accessed December 7, 2009.

Science literacy is enhanced when we understand Verne's quote, and, when we enjoy reading science and science fiction.

Among more than 50 books written by Jules Verne, originally in French, there are popular English translations:
  • Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863),
  • A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864),
  • From the Earth to the Moon (1865),
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1870),
  • Around the World in Eighty Days (1873),
  • The Mysterious Island (1875), and
  • Michael Strogoff (1876).

Students might like to read some of Jules Verne's books and then look at the developments in science that he appeared to envision long before they arrived.

Perhaps students would like to try to write a science fiction story. Ask students if they think a good science fiction writer needs to know science. Find a science fiction tutorial by Jeffrey A. Carver, a science fiction writer (who offers the course as a public service to aspiring writers) on-line at:

ProQuest: Portal to dissertations

"For information sources that propel research," according to the ProQuest site...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sectioning the Brain: A Memorial to Patient, "H.M."

As best he could remember, Henry Gustav Molaison never visited San Diego, spending his entire life on the East Coast. When he died late last year at the age of 82, Molaison was a man almost entirely unknown except by his initials H.M. and the fact that experimental brain surgery had erased his ability to form new memories.

Read more and see a photo of young Henry: click here. Source: H.M. recollected: Famous amnesic launches a bold, new brain project at UCSD, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER.Monday, November 30, 2009 at 12:04 a.m. Accessed December 4, 2009.

Click a link to see the microtome sectioning the brain:


Because many viewers are watching the sectioning as it progresses, anyone taking a break or not watching is asked to close the link until they come back to watch again.

"To become a sponsor of patient H.M.’s giant histological glass slides, send your check to: The Brain Observatory, 3510 Dunhill Street, San Diego, CA 92121 Or make your generous donation by following this link: *Donate*"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December viewers' Birthdays...

Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns:

  • Joan
  • Stan
  • Rose
Thank you for helping increase science literacy and improve science education.