Dedicated to the Health and Safety of the Personal Space Traveler

Friday, February 11, 2011

The hazards of space exploration... what is our tolerance threshold for handling a death in space?

A recent article on NPR's blog discussed the realities of space travel and its inherent-- and not insignificant--- dangers. The article went on to also make the case that if and when we commit to interplanetary settlement, we must accept that even death will occur during travel... and that this should not pose a "showstopper" for continued exploration.

The issue of handling a death in space has been about as taboo at NASA as discussing drinking alcohol on the ISS... or *gasp*... sex in space. These issues must be intelligently considered and anticipated for in long duration missions and especially for interplantery exploration.

What are your thoughts regarding the issues and implications of a death in space? Consider this impacts a mission, its crew, families and the broader spacefaring community...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Science Fairs Rule

Do you ever wonder where the future of this planet is?  Where are the people who will lead the way to tackle the problems facing us?  Do you just want to get your geek on?  Look no further than your local Science Fair.

For the past three years I have been involved with Science Fairs, at the school, county and regional level.  I have to say it is one of the most rewarding experiences I've had.  Yes there are some projects at the school level that aren't very good.  But then there are a few projects that make you take a step back and go "WOW! This kid gets it!"

Judging at three different levels (school, county, region) there is an opportunity to teach as well as critique.  Here in Jefferson County, WV, the Judges are encouraged to provide comments to the students on the back of the scoring sheets.  Even if the project goes no further than the school level, the student can learn something and improve their scientific thinking and methods.

This year, I have seen this in action.  At the school level this year I was a Judge for the Earth and Planetary Science category.  The winner of the category was a project on measuring Sunspots.  It was a good project, but not in my view, an outstanding project.  I gave the student a half a page of comments on how to correct mistakes, improve the project, and the presentation.  When the County Science Fair came around, this student had taken my suggestions.  His project had improved, and so did his understanding of the subject.  He won Reserve Grand Champion for the Junior High Division.  I can't wait to see what the project does at Regionals.

At the County Level this year, I had the honor of being a judge for Senior High Champion.  It was tough.  My fellow judge and I had to look at 14 category winners and pick the top two to move on to State.  The students with the two best projects were head and shoulders above the rest.  One had done a study of how a certain protein affects growth of blood vessel cells.  The other had measured the efficiency of a radio telescope's reception of signals from High and Low energy sources.  Either of these projects, in my opinion, will do well at State.

Sound like fun to you?  If you want to Judge or Advise students with their Science Fair Projects, contact your local Board of Education or a Science Teacher at your local junior or senior high school.  They are always looking for Judges... and you can get your geek on!