Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Using Today's, "In the News," on Asteroids

Ice Found on Asteroid

An asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Saturn is adding credence to the theory that asteroids and comets are the source of Earth's water and organic material. Scientists observing 24 Themis, an asteroid about 300 million miles (479 million kilometers) from the sun, found that it contains both water--in the form of ice--and organic compounds. Before this observation was made, it was believed that asteroids' proximity to the sun causes them to be devoid of water. Comets, which form farther out in space, were previously known to possess water. More ... Discuss

Wow! An article catches a student's eye...Use that interest! How?

You can use the science article in other subjects, such as English Language Arts (ELA) or English-as-a-second(or, foreign)-language (ESL or EFL). Vocabulary Words might include:
  • asteroid
  • credence
  • comets
  • devoid
  • proximity
  • organic
  • organic compounds
Again in, ESL, EFL or English language arts, you could look at grammar:

An asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Saturn is adding credence to the theory that asteroids and comets are the source of Earth's water and organic material.

An asteroid, orbiting the sun between Mars and Saturn, is adding credence to the theory that asteroids and comets are the source of Earth's water and organic material.

Do the commas change the meaning?

You can use the science article in mathematics. Topics might include converting units of measure or looking at representing large numbers:

Scientists observing 24 Themis, an asteroid about 300 million miles (479 million kilometers) from the sun, found that it contains both water--in the form of ice--and organic compounds.
A quick converter is here, but, how does one calculate it by thought?

Here's a calculator used in teaching Japanese students English:

Still, what is the thought process?

Here's a, simple," way to convert miles to kilometers using Fibonacci numbers:
. The mnemonic or memory, device presented is interesting and useful, but, our question remains...What is the thought process...the step-by-step? How can you teach this concept of conversion?
Spark notes provides some guidance:

Converting Measurements

We can convert measurements from one unit to another unit within the same system (English or Metric) or between the two systems. Let's say a piece of land is 2.3 square miles, but the contractor needs to know the area in acres. How would he convert the measurement?
To convert measurements, it is necessary to know conversion factors between measurements. A conversion factor is a clever way of writing 1 as a fraction in which the numerator is equal to the denominator but the numerator and the denominator have different units. For example, (1,000 m)/(1 km) is a conversion factor because 1,000 m = 1 km. (1 ft)/(12 in) is a conversion factor because 1 ft = 12 in.
An important fact to remember is that when fractions are multiplied, numbers in the numerator and numbers in the denominator cancel out, as shown in Fractions. Also, units in the numerator and the denominator cancel out: if a unit appears in both the numerator and the denominator, we can cross both units out. For example:

× = × = 5, 000 m

The above quoted text is from, Spark notes, accessed May 19, 2010. It should get you started in preparing lessons.

Now for...Really big numbers..."Scientific notation."

More coming: (Read more here)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Laugh...It's good for you! Science in the News...

In the News

Laughter Is the Best Medicine
Though many experts are skeptical of the results, a small new study suggests that laughter may be as beneficial as exercise. Participants who watched a humorous 20-minute video clip showed decreased levels of the appetite-repressing hormone leptin afterwards, suggesting that repetitive laughter can affect hormones in the same way that exercise does. Those who watched a violent video clip showed no statistically significant change in leptin levels. Although the physiology of laughter is not well understood, studies since the 1970s have shown that laughing can help reduce blood vessel constriction, boost immune function, and relieve stress.
More ... Discuss


I often use news articles, like this one from today's In the News, to bolster interest in science. Here are ideas that may engage students: enzymes, leptin, "statistically significant," stress, and many more. Watch where this article can lead your students!

For example: is an article on leptin, accessed today. Here's one sentence from the abstract: "A TOTAL deficiency in or resistance to the protein leptin causes severe obesity1–4. As leptin levels rise with increasing adiposity in rodents5 and man6,7, it is proposed to act as a negative feedback 'adipostatic signal' to brain centres controlling energy homeostasis, limiting obesity in times of nutritional abundance1,3. Starvation is also a threat to homeostasis that triggers adaptive responses8–12, but whether leptin plays a role in the physiology of starvation is unknown. " Hmm! Want to read more? Some of your students might want to keep reading. See how a news article like the one shown can be used to bridge to the journal articles like the one on leptin. (For more on this, contact Dr. J about a Reach Reading ^TM Workshop.)

In the News article is requoted here because when the day changes, the article is not the same:

Técnica de Aseptique: Prevención o Alivio de Problemas

El jueves, 13 de mayo de 2010
Técnica de Aseptique: Prevención o Alivio de Problemas
Hoy vi un programa en los Buenos Días del ABECÉ América sobre organismos como bacterias que viven en el maquillaje. Si alguien tiene mucho conocimiento de la biología básica, él o ella saben que los microorganismos son ubicuos. El programa hizo un trabajo bueno de educar a espectadores no guardar el maquillaje más allá de una duración razonable de modo que la abundancia de microbios en el maquillaje sea guardada a mínimo. Me gustaría ampliar adelante este concepto para incluir la técnica aséptica.

¿Cuál es la técnica aséptica? La mayor parte de personas entienden, "estéril", microbios de matanzas. Por ejemplo, una autoclave usa el calor de vapor y la presión para matar microorganismos. La técnica aséptica guarda la contaminación a mínimo más bien que matar a todos los microorganismos. Cuando usted friega sus manos con jabón y agua bien, los aclara, luego usa una toalla limpia para cerrar el agua y abrir la puerta que deja el cuarto de baño, usted usa la técnica aséptica buena, por ejemplo. ¿Técnica pobre? Usted...

You can copy parts of the post (or any post) below and translate and hear it (in many languages) by clicking this link:

(c)2010 J S Shipman. All rights reserved.

Aseptique Technique: Preventing or Alleviating Problems

Today I saw a program on ABC's Good Morning America about organisms like bacteria living in make-up. If anyone has much knowledge of basic biology, he or she knows that micro-organisms are ubiquitous. The program did a good job of educating viewers to not keep make-up beyond a reasonable shelf-life so that the abundance of microbes in the make-up is kept to a minimum. I would like to further extend this concept to include aseptic technique.

What is aseptic technique? Most people understand, "sterile," kills microbes. For example, an autoclave uses steam heat and pressure to kill micro-organisms. Aseptic technique keeps contamination to a minimum rather than killing off all micro-organisms. When you scrub your hands with soap and water well, rinse them, then use a clean towel to shut off the water and open the door leaving the bathroom, you are using good aseptic technique, for example. Poor technique? You wash your hands and then open the door picking up bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mycoplasmas left behind by the people who didn't wash their hands. A few more examples of [applied] good aseptic technique:
  • capping toothpaste
  • closing the toilet seat before you flush
  • not putting food (or medicine) back into it's container when you don't use it all (rather use a separate (labeled)container---not to contaminate the source container)
  • not flailing open petri dishes around a room
  • surface sterilizing surfaces (like computer key boards)
  • not using antibiotic soaps and detergents (Using such antibiotics unnecessarily allows microbes to adapt to them and makes them less useful in battling human diseases. The bacteria develop resistance and won't help cure you when needed... How many doctor's offices and hospitals have I seen where they have antibacterial soaps? This can create super germs like MRSA, C-diff, VRE, and how many more?)
  • Not using antibiotics unnecessarily in other areas, like milk and meat production (same reason)
Let's look at some dictionary definitions, then, I'll give you more examples.
technique, aseptic,
n task performed in a sterile environment in order to avoid contact with harmful bacteria. [Source: Accessed May 12, 2010.]

Aseptic technique is a set of specific practices and procedures performed under carefully controlled conditions with the goal of minimizing contamination by pathogens. [Emphasis is Dr. J's. Source: Aseptic technique is a set of specific practices and procedures performed under carefully controlled conditions with the goal of minimizing contamination by pathogens. [Emphasis is Dr. J's. Source: Accessed May 12, 2010]
Of these two definitions, the second one shows a better understanding of microbes, even though the first one is labeled, "medical," and is a common misuse of the term aseptic. While aseptic and sterile are similar, they are not the same. You see, aseptic technique is used on surfaces like your hands, which can't be autoclaved while you are living anyway. You can't, "sterilize," your hands. Rather, one does one's best to eliminate pathogens by washing with soap and water. One can use the alcohol squirts to enhance but not to replace soap and water. That is important to understand. Why? The soap and water kills some pathogens the alcohol doesn't! Using both is good practice by anyone who understands germs.

Two further sections from are presented and I encourage you to go to the source and read it. This reading applies to medical uses and so people may feel it doesn't apply to them. It does and I will try to show you how further on.

Aseptic technique is employed to maximize and maintain asepsis, the absence of pathogenic organisms, in the clinical setting. The goals of aseptic technique are to protect the patient from infection and to prevent the spread of pathogens. Often, practices that clean (remove dirt and other impurities), sanitize (reduce the number of microorganisms to safe levels), or disinfect (remove most microorganisms but not highly resistant ones) are not sufficient to prevent infection. [Source: Accessed May 12, 2010.]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 27 million surgical procedures are performed in the United States each year. Surgical site infections are the third most common nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infection and are responsible for longer hospital stays and increased costs to the patient and hospital. Aseptic technique is vital in reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with surgical infections. [Source: Accessed May 12, 2010.]

I have seen too many people pick up nosocomial infections at the hospital. I don't want anyone to blame another elderly person for getting a super germ because that elderly person is old and has bad immunity. I want people to immediately look for flaws in aseptic technique. Be vigilant. Don't let yourself or your loved ones be blamed. Of course strengthening immunity is a good thing, too. But, many diseases could be avoided, even with lowered immunity, if good aseptic technique is used.

Sample nosocomial infections people I have known have acquired at hospitals:
  • mycoplasma leading to 5 miscarriages
  • VRE
  • MRSA
  • c-diff leading to internal bleeding
  • pneumonia leading to death

Keep reading, I will tell you later how one of my community college students stopped an epidemic in Boston after learning of aseptic technique in my biology class. I really am a stickler for that. If you don't get aseptic technique, you fail. Why? Because if you don't get it, I won't let you get out. Your lack of aseptic technique can kill whole cities...

For now, let's look at some additional definitions. Here's one from microbiology:

Microbiologists and students of microbiology may use an aseptic technique to attempt to keep specimens of microorganisms free of microbial contamination. People may commonly use the aseptic technique when transferring bacteria from one test tube or flask to another. Such a procedure, using a flame sterilization method, might occur as follows.

  1. A person would assemble the closed tube or flask from which, and the closed tube or flask to which the specimen is to be transferred, an innoculating loop , and a fire source, all on a clean, preferably microbe-free surface with some overhead protection from airborne microbes.
  2. The person would start the fire, and move the end of the innoculating loop, in a slow back-and-forth motion, through the top of the blue part of the flame. The person would not allow the loop to touch anything except the specimen itself, until the entire procedure is finished.
  3. Preparing to execute the specimen transfer, the person would hold both of the tubes or flasks in one hand, probably the opposite of the writing hand. The person would then open the tube or flask containing the specimen source and briefly hold the top of it in the flame, to kill unwanted microbes.
  4. Quickly, so as to minimize the possible time for contamination of the specimen in the source tube or flask, the person would use the innoculating loop with their writing hand to retrieve the specimen, and then sterilize the top of the tube or flask again before immediately closing it.
  5. Keeping in mind that the specimen on the innoculating loop could be contaminated during every unit of time it is exposed, the person would repeat the previous step identically with the tube or flask in which the specimen is to be deposited; however, the person would be depositing the sample into the tube or flask. [Source:; Accessed MAy 12, 2010.]
You can see how the prior definitions were in medical settings and this one is in a laboratory setting. How could you use this at home? People canning their own food use similar techniques. But, even with a tube of toothpaste, you can keep the cap between your pinky and ring finger while you squeeze out the toothpaste and then re-cap the tube. While not perfect, it does keep out many more germs than laying an open tube on the sink and dropping the cap anywhere. Can you see that? Not to make you a fanatic, this explanation is to help explain that aseptic isn't sterile but is less contaminated than ignoring microbe populations.

Here is another quote on aseptic technique:

Clinical areas outside of the operating room generally do not allow for the same strict level of asepsis. However, avoiding potential infection remains the goal in every clinical setting. Observation of medical aseptic practices will help to avoid nosocomial infections, or those acquired in the hospital. General habits that help to preserve a clean medical environment include:
  • Safe removal of hazardous waste (i.e., prompt disposal of contaminated needles or blood-soaked bandages to containers reserved for such purposes).
  • Prompt removal of wet or soiled dressings.
  • Prevention of accumulation of bodily fluid drainage (i.e., regular checks and emptying of receptacles such as surgical drains or nasogastric suction containers).
  • Avoidance of backward drainage flow toward patient (i.e., keeping drainage tubing below patient level at all times).
  • Immediate clean-up of soiled or moist areas.
  • Labeling of all fluid containers with date, time, and timely disposal per institutional policy.
  • Maintaining seals on all fluids when not in use.

These general practices are important for keeping the environment as free of microorganisms as possible. In addition, specific situations outside of the operating room require a strict application of aseptic technique. Some of these situations include:

  • wound care
  • drain removal and drain care
  • intravascular procedures
  • vaginal exams during labor
  • insertion of urinary catheters
  • respiratory suction [Source: Accessed May 12, 2010]
The above quote is again related to clinical settings. Can you think how to expand it to your every day life? Do you wash the empty sugar canister or ketchup bottle before re-filling it?

Here's a quote geared to nurses and showing a problem. Can you spot it? I'll help you:

A surgical scrub requires use of a long-acting, powerful, antimicrobial soap[Eek! Why create super germs when you don't have to!!!! Eek!!!!!! Use soap and water, scrub well...leave the antibacterial soaps with added antibiotics alone...We should stop making them.], careful scrubbing of the fingernails, and a longer period of time for scrubbing. Institutional policy usually designates an acceptable minimum length of time required. Thorough drying is essential, as moist surfaces invite the presence of pathogens. Contact after handwashing with the faucet or other potential contaminants should be avoided. The faucet can be turned off with a dry paper towel, or, in many cases, through use of foot pedals. Despite this careful scrub, bare hands are always considered potential sources of infection. An important principle of aseptic technique is that fluid (a potential mode of pathogen transmission) flows in the direction of gravity. With this in mind, hands are held below elbows during the surgical scrub and above elbows following the surgical scrub. [Source:; Accessed MAy 12, 2010.]

I am sure that many nurses were taught that way, and many doctors, too, but, think for yourself. Super germs develop resistance to antibiotics by frequent and improper use of antibiotics. These soaps sell well and make money but are, to the best of my thinking, an improper use. What do you think? If regular good hand-washing with ordinary soap works so well, adding the antibiotic to, "antibacterial," soaps is overkill, misuse and dangerous in the long run (yielding superbugs with nothing to kill them), isn't it?

You don't want, or at least shouldn't want, a sterile home. Why? You need good micro-organisms. Here's an example which may help you see why. I know a woman who cleans her home and herself trying to kill every microbe. The result, she and her daughter have vaginal infection after vaginal infection. You need good microbes to keep out bad ones. No matter how much I try to explain why some germs are needed, the good ones, she insists that all are bad. She kills off the bacteria and gets fungal infections. It is important to understand the balance of nature in any discussion of aseptic technique. Simply, an area populated with healthy, good-for-you germs, resists infection by bad germs and, as a result, helps you stay healthy.

I encourage you to use good aseptic technique in your home. Please remember that I am not a medical doctor. I do however have my doctorate and I have studied chemistry, biology, physics, microbiology, mycology and many subjects that medical doctors study. I have taught future doctors and nurses and allied medical professionals for years. Use your doctor for medical advise. My post should help you understand how the basic biology fits into the reality of life and point you to sources that can help you in discussions with your doctor. I want to encourage you to use your own brain in making decisions to wash your hands and in drawing conclusions from discussions with your doctor. In using this information, you accept that I am not giving you medical advice and the information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Your use of the information is at your own risk. The post, simply a discussion of good hygiene and aseptic technique, for your information and to assist you in reading and developing your scientific literacy. Be well.
I may add more later, but, I'll stop for now. I will go wash my hands... and eat yogurt. I hope you are laughing. I am teasing a bit. I do like yogurt and I do wash my hands before eating, after riding the trains, after going to the bathroom (oh, and before going to the bathroom, sense adding anything unwanted to my flora.). So, teasing to serious again in a way that I hope helps you to remember aseptic technique.

The reading method here: checking many sources of definitions and thinking about all of them...a science literacy tool.

Coming soon: How the student stopped the epidemic in Boston...

(c)1975-2010. J S Shipman.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stretch your Thinking starting with Side-by-side Comparison of Bioremediation Ideas

Here's a link:

Start with an encyclopedia's description of bioremediation and let your imagination wander. What ideas pop into your mind? Play with them.

Have fun thinking up solutions to today's global problems.

Did you come up with information and ideas that should be protected before they are shared? Remember to protect your ideas.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Something you can do about the oil spill and preventing some of the environmental damage that can result from oil spills:

So many times I've seen students who have been discouraged about environmental issues. They haven't realized that each of them can do many things to improve the environment. People are very resourceful in solving problems. I believe that is the message to convey to students. Using the HOT Skills Wheel TM brings students through several levels of critical thinking (Contact me to arrange training for faculty and students on the HOT Skills Wheel TM.) Problem solving results from using higher order thinking skills and then taking action. Here are some links to get you started in solving one global crisis: the current oil spill. Having such deep-thinking skills, the HOT Skills, and knowing that each of us can take action in solving global problems gives hope for achieving both sustainability and a peaceful World.

Here's a video about using human hair to prevent damage from oil spills:

Here's a link to the organization that you can contact for more information:

Use Reach Reading TM (Workshop Inquiries) and come up with research to back up other decisions about what you can do to help the environment. You might also want to look at the book Mycelium Running for ideas on not only cleaning up oil, but, also cleaning water before it is returned to the environment.

The current oil spill gives students the opportunity to understand the relevancy of their science education. It helps them understand why Reach Reading TM, science literacy, and science education are so important to their abilities to solve and prevent global problems. I challenge you to empower your students. Show them they can use their skills to take positive action to solve problems, even those of a global nature. We can show them the resiliency of the human spirit and give them pathways to solve and prevent future global problems. We can help them achieve sustainability and peace if we give them the science literacy and higher order thinking skills (HOT Skills)