Monday, April 12, 2010

And there's that metric thing.

Other than in the picture ... Can you spot the error?

Event encourages interest in science
By Rachel Warren

Published: Sunday, March 28, 2010

About 125 people enjoyed an afternoon of kid-friendly activities Saturday at the Highland Road Park Observatory as part of NanoDays, a nationwide festival of educational programs.

The events are organized by participants in the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network and will take place in more than 200 museums, research centers and universities this year, according to the NanoDays Web site. The event in Baton Rouge was hosted by the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Center for Computation and Technology.

Juana Moreno, physics assistant professor, said the event was organized to inform the general public, not just children, about nanotechnology — the science of manipulating materials on an atomic or molecular scale.

She said she organized the event at the University of North Dakota when she taught there, and this is the first time she has put the event together at LSU.

The event hosted two speakers, Jayne Garno — a University chemistry assistant professor — and Kristen Buchanan from Colorado State University. Garno showed the audience images of nano-objects captured in her lab, and Buchanan discussed “nanomagnetism” and its application to hard drives.

University students also volunteered in demonstrations of nanoscience at tables set up throughout the observatory.

The interactive displays allowed children to play with liquid crystals, dissolve effervescent tablets to learn about surface area and pour liquid onto fabric to show how nanotechnology can be used to protect clothes from stains.

Rebecca Ringuette, physics graduate student, said she and the other students volunteered for the Society of Physics Students. She said the group is dedicated to public outreach and getting people excited about science, and it puts on as many events like NanoDays as it can.

“The next generation of scientists will not be there if we don’t get them interested in science,” she said.

A child’s interest in science is strongly influenced by the enthusiasm of the teacher, Ringuette said.

Will Heitman, a 9-year-old student at Bernard Terrace Elementary, discovered at the event he was 490 billion nanometers tall. His favorite demonstration was of the liquid crystals, which respond to temperature change by changing color.

Heitman said he attended the event because he loves science. He is especially interested in robotics and wants to be a roboticist when he is older.

Christopher Kersey, manager of the observatory, said it’s important children be introduced to physical science as soon as possible. He said the events of the day were geared toward children, but adults learned as well.

“Adults are interested because these kinds of things weren’t around when they were in school,” he said.

original here.


  1. I would not have checked the alien units had you not pointed the problem out, but that's off by a factor of 4-500.

    Challenge question: can you backcalculate and find the source of their error? (the actual conceptual error, "stupid" doesn't count)


  2. Damn. Hadn't even thought of trying that. Okay. Brain = 15%. Teacher's "correctness sense" = 25%. Random number generator = 100%. Outside the box thinking cap = 100%. Ready.

    Average 9 year old kid is 49 inches tall. There's "10 mini-inches to an inch, making 490 minches." (I KNOW it's wrong, but I'm trying my best here.) Add in a nano prefix and the word billion because nano is a billionth.

    Using random operations, I note that 490 / 4feet / 2.54 cm/inch gets you to 48.2 inches.

    I give up.

  3. Did I do that right ... I got a 490 meter kid ... big boy! What are they feeding him? :D

    490 billion = 490,000,000,000 = 4.9 X 10^11

    1 nm = 1 X 10^-9 m

    490 billion nm = (4.9X10^11)(1X10^-9 m) = 4.9 X 10^2 m = 490 meters

    "Adults are interested because these kinds of things weren't around when they were in school" would certainly be true. I had no classmates who were 490 meters tall.

  4. Yeah, that's right ... he's a 490 meter kid. I'm stuck on what Jonathan had in mind as the actual conceptual error.