The Math Forum

Search All of the Math Forum:

Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by NCTM or The Math Forum.

Math Forum » Discussions » Education » math-teach

Topic: Science Fiction 2010
Replies: 0  

Advanced Search

Back to Topic List Back to Topic List  
kirby urner

Posts: 2,578
Registered: 11/29/05
Science Fiction 2010
Posted: Nov 26, 2010 9:40 PM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply
att1.html (10.0 K)

I've been frequenting connected lists with more
of my usual, sharing some dreamy memes.

We might call this a genre of science fiction, but
then so is any planning, until those dreams come
true. The future is fictional. Science helps make
stuff real (religion too sometimes -- not saying it's

Operation Starry Night goes back to my buying
into the vision that every school child deserves
some time with a crystal clear night sky, Milky
Way visible.

Yes, some kids have disabilities. Making such
experience a requirement for graduation would
necessitate exceptions.

Realistically, installing planetariums in more
high schools might be more affordable, but
then the goals aren't precisely the same, and
it's not either/or.

Joe Clinton has the planetarium program in his
purview. He's an accomplished designer and
knows a lot about optics.

Operation Starry Night is important for another
reason: no one imagines it's really the fault of
the teachers that we don't get more kids out
beyond light pollution, with curriculum to suit.

It's more about what taxpayers would be willing
to support, the belief being that taxes are the
only source of income for government programs.
That and borrowing from banks and/or private
concerns, by selling bonds that pay interest.

Vast fields of windmills feeding a grid, hydro
dams, even nuke plants -- are these energy
sources or energy sinks? Clearly the sun is
a source behind most "running downhill" i.e.
human economies are well symbolized by
water wheels, which turn to crush grain, lift
water into ditches, or otherwise power a
process (called "doing work" in physics).

The water keeps coming downhill, turning
those wheels, doing that work, because of the
evaporation and precipitation cycle. Most grade
schools already teach this, so as far as
curriculum writing goes, I'm saying nothing
new here.

As GST reminds us: the economy includes
the ecosystem and the ecosystem includes
the sun (a naturally occurring nuke fusion
plant). If you want to do big picture book-
keeping then, look at Earth as a non-profit
charity, and the sun as a steady source of
grant income. Fund accounting applies
(the bookkeeping system of non-profit and
government agencies).

Another "downhill cycle" takes place in the
stars. Implosion cooks up the heavy elements,
which disperse through explosive novae.
Fusion builds the elements up, while fission
breaks them down. This is the kind of
chemistry we cover in connection with
those planetaria (more affordable than ever
these days).

We might call this "geography" if accepting
that "earth measure" requires zooming back,
sharing more of the context. Earth orbits a
star and the star orbits the center of a galaxy.
Andromeda appears to be getting closer.

Looking at physics from this perspective, we see
that (a) "taxes" are not ultimately the power source
for government programs (energy is) and (b) the
logistical challenge of circulating hundreds of
thousands of students through outdoor schools,
as we do in Portland, is enormous but not
impossible to address. When it comes to
investing in the future, it makes sense to have
the next generation develop its awareness.
This has been the anthropological pattern.
Industrial civilizations do things on an industrial

No one imagines it's the teachers' fault, nor do we
think it's the students' fault, that so many fail to
escape light pollution by high school graduation.
It's a deficiency of the lifestyle, a side effect of
mass urbanization. Operation Starry Night, even
if considered impractical by the majority, has a
way of focusing our attention that doesn't vilify
the usual suspects. It short circuits some of the

So lets look at the bigger picture. Why don't we have
huge numbers of campus facilities with high turnover,
lots of groups coming through? Answer: actually, we
do. Just not as many as we could have. Nor are they

The idea of a camp is lots of wood, moss, muddy paths,
stone fire places. It's a retro lifestyle, not looking ahead.
Camps tend to inspire nostalgia, and we're not building
many new ones, at least not as a government. Not since

Unless you count military encampments (bases), in
which case there's been explosive growth. More kids
are seeing the night sky by flying to Afghanistan, at
about $1 million per. These bases may have a more
futuristic flare, thanks to the geodesic dome radar

Science fiction has occasionally rekindled the idea
of using aerospace technology and architecture for
civilian purposes, including for education. Back in
the 1950s, such visions of the year 2000 would not
have seemed so alien and out of place. People were
more utopian back then, imagining a brighter tomorrow.

The senior-boomers today seem less clear on what
they're up to. Something about peak oil? Global
warming? The mindset is more entropic, the science
fiction more bleak. Does anyone disagree with this

Is religion to blame?

What is the Vatican offering these days, by way of God's
plan? Does anyone know?

The apocalyptic types seem to be having a field day with
their latest Y2K (aka 2012). Why let this go unchallenged?
Doesn't curriculum writing have a responsibility to paint a
future? Are we stuck in a time warp?

In particular, what is the math curriculum doing to share a
vision of tomorrow? Or has math deliberately divorced
itself from any time lines so it won't be much of a trouble

If the story problems were really about the real world, about
the whole planet, about geography, that might be inconvenient.

The goal of many so-called grownups it seems is to drain
away all significance, all relevance, all thinking globally,
and to keep math as irrelevant and innocuous as possible,
or so one might judge based on the textbooks. Nothing
much about ecosystems, not even those proverbial rain
forests. GST is verboten.

Actually, the situation isn't that dire.

The mathematics is starting to look towards the future
and paint a vista wherein work / study is fun. Learning
to grow your own food, doing the rustic tasks of working
with machinery, operating small fab plants, all requires
some math.

Ecosystem management is all about feedback cycles,
cybernetics, boxes and arrows. Jay Forrester, MIT.
Stella. SimCity. Sims. John Todd. New Alchemy
Institute. Garden of Eden domes. Cornwall. Plantagon.
EPCOT. Orlando. MEMEX (the Web).

Start connecting those dots and you have some
interesting history, pointing to a more positive tomorrow.
Parabolas are still important, if you remember they're
cross sections of dishes. Talking about "the focus"
of a parabola without reminding that its a dish is just
dumbed down XY thinking (flat to the point of worthless).

We're more spatial now, what with hi-def TV, VRML,
POV-Ray ( Mathematics is moving beyond
flatland and reconnecting with time-lines. That's worth

I'm at a horse farm right now, with two work / study
students under 18, along with some other adults.
There's a casino nearby, a source of funding. We
have wifi.

Without snow tires, this can be a hard place to get to.

One of the teachers here is an accomplished sailor
Camano Island is not far away.

No stars visible tonight, given it's overcast.

Back in Portland, it's more about bicycles. Work / study
students haul surplus organic vegetables around by
bike trailer and cook for cafeteria-style meal sharing.
There's lots of inventory management skills to develop,
other logistics. Some of these same students are also
teachers, attend skill share meets.

Robotics. Rebuilding computers (
Saturday Academy. I'm teaching Pythonic Math.

We could use more assistance though.

Storyboards are somewhat affordable (inexpensive).
Like comic books. Animations cost more.

Will the USG provide more of the conceptual art?
Public schools could have first dibs on sharing a
lot of it. You'll see stuff at school before it comes
out through Hollywood. NASA has been a good
source. You'll find a lot of USG stuff on Youtube.

The Silicon Forest is good at supporting Operation
Starry Night, at least around Portland. We could use
more planetaria though. So could schools in China.
Joint project with our sister city? OMSI on the list of
consulting entities? I should send a link to OPB. The
community television people need to add this to the
inbox of stuff to discuss.

Kirby U.
(near Camano Island)

Abbreviations used:

DEW = Defense Early Warning
EPCOT = Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow
GST = General Systems Theory
MEMEX = Web / search engines as envisioned in 1940s.
MIT = Massachusetts Institute of Technology
OMSI = Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
OPB = Oregon Public Broadcasting
POV-Ray = Persistence of Vision ray tracer
TV = Television
USG = United States Government
VRML = virtual reality markup language (see also: x3d)
Y2K = year 2000 AD

Point your RSS reader here for a feed of the latest messages in this topic.

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

© The Math Forum at NCTM 1994-2017. All Rights Reserved.