Where not to breath in the world

Global map of air pollution
[Via Boing Boing]

Image: NASA’s satellite-derived map of air pollution, throughout planet earth, between 2001-2006. Specifically, the “warmer” areas of the color map (yellow, orange, red) indicate higher densities of problematic particles known as fine particulate matter, or PM2.5. These are 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, roughly 1/10 the width of a strand of human hair. They’re small enough to sneak past your body’s defenses, and lodge inside your lungs.

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Sure makes China look like a place to stay away from. Now, you have to be careful with rainbow maps like this because we react very strongly to red but not much at all to blues. Also, did you notice that the scale is non-linear.

There are 20 different shades of color for 0-20 but only 12 for 20-80. So the map is really designed to help differentiate the lower levels from each other while screaming out the higher levels. This is actually a much better way to display a rainbow color scheme. Provide less differentiation between each shade of red since we really see all of the as hot, while providing a ot of different shades of blue for the lower scale, since most of the world is lower and it allows greater differentiation.

So, the scale, while non-linear is effective in allowing us to rapidly see what parts of the world are doing poorly while getting a good idea of how to differentiate the large part of the world that is doing much better. So the ‘brightest’ region in the US has 1/5th the level of particulates as China.

Great ads for Star Trek repeats

Sie sind unter uns!
[Via Bad Astronomy]

Translated from German, this means “They are among us!” and it’s a slogan the German SciFi channel has been using. And just to prove that every country is cooler than we are, they ran this commercial:

Now don’t get me wrong– I love me some Sharktopus — but I wish we had more TV ads like this one. Awesome.

And, of course, highly logical.

There are others, too, like this one, and this one, and this one, and this one which made me seriously LOL.

I love being a geek.

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Why Spock would not make a good date. Some of the other ones are pretty cute. Of course, every one requires a prior knowledge of the show for it to work. Here we need to know that Spock could knock people out with his nerve pinch. Or that Data was a robot without a tan. Or that Quark would need a lot of Q-tips.

But then, anyone who has not seen Star Trek before is not likely to watch them anyway.

I wish the American SyFy channel would get the same ad agency.

Money well spent by the government

college by Dimitry B

Undergrad Education: New Challenges, New Strategies
[Via AAAS News]

AAAS Report Highlights Promising Innovation for Undergraduate STEM Education

A AAAS report, sent to Congress this month, details how learning is improved in undergrad classes ranging from biology to computer security under an ambitious NSF program.

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Academia must do a better job educating young scientists. And, from this report, it appears that some really exciting experimental approaches are being examined. In particular, there are real attempts to show students what the real world implications of a life in science or engineering are, not only for them personally but for the rest of us.

Truthfully, many of us went into science and engineering because of that type of excitement but generally the undergraduate experience has done a poor job revealing that sort of excitement.

I particularly like the program started at Western Washington University where students can use online technology to work with cutting edge equipment from around the country when the equipment would normally be idle. This not only enhances the value of the equipment, most of which was likely bought using Federal grants, but it also provides the students with up-to-date training on the latest devices.

People complain all the time about how the modern Research University is not serving the undergraduates well. But here is an example of schools that are working hard to make the undergraduate research experience a very rich one.

Maybe things will change.

An art contest I might have had a chance in

Stick Science cartoons
[Via A Blog Around The Clock]

Stick Science cartoon winners announced – see all the finalists and winners here. My favourite, #6 did not win, unfortunately:

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I can draw stick figures. I’ll have to watch out for this next year.

I have to agree that the best ones in my opinion did not win. The one above is excellent and demonstrates not only a wonderful point but also has a witty style – style not being something normally associated with stick figures.

I like that Great Granddad has a hat and cane, Granddad has a hat, Dad is bare-headed and you have a gimme-hat. Also, I love the hairstyles of the mothers and that the correct number of each generation is shown.

And the figure does an excellent job demonstrating a key point about evolution – it is not linear with each point leading to the next without any branches. It demonstrates nicely how there can be two species alive today that are related by a last common ancestor. It demonstrates the fallacy of the “If were are descended from apes why are there still apes around?”

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