The Future Could Be Sort of Okay

29 06 2010

Post-course linkdump and things that make me smile and breathe:


Thinking mathematically: Man vs. Machine

11 10 2009

My first mathematics assignment was an essay on the role of calculators as teaching tools (not just a computing device) in middle years classrooms. From this, I have been able to adapt a few of the techniques I researched into lessons and activities for my year 8s.

Man vs. Machine is a lesson I adapted from an activity from Creative Mathematics Teaching with Calculators (Amazon). Essentially a flashcard quiz, students have to solve the problems as quickly as possible. Some problems require a calculator, some can probably done faster in their heads.

I created a fancy-pants activity sheet for this lesson*. I think activity sheets appear to work very well to scaffold students in this age group. There are still several students who take a long time to write stuff down and draw up charts – this is from either lack of ability and tools, or a need to make it look pretty and perfect. That said, there are some problems with activity sheets that I might mention in another post.

For the lesson summary click through.

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More trends in the search for health

27 01 2009

Now lets play around a little:

Cures Cancer, Causes cancer


Quack Quack Quack

Head, shoulders, knees and toes (I suspect porn interference on this one)

Are asthma and allergies growing concerns? (Media: Yes; Google: No)

Who cares most about radiation poisoning? (Australia)

Who cares most about anthrax? (Chile) anthrax attacks? (USA and its allies)

Another cause for the recession we are not having

20 01 2009

Everyone has quit their jobs in the vain hope they will become Tourism Queensland’s “island caretaker”/media ambassador on Hamilton island.

Free accomodation and a $110,000 pay packet in return to some media appearances and maintaining a blog seems a bit of a lark, but if you are thinking of applying (yes, you are) you will be up againsts some serious competition.

Since announcing the job last week on Monday, in a viral campaign masquerading as a media realease – the job’s website [] has been inundated with hits worldwide. Unsurprisingly, the website crashed in less than 24 hours. Sensing waning interest, the Queensland government revived media interest with a “fake video application” on the site.

The job will start in winter (oh no, maybe under 20 degrees), so the caretaker will have time to adjust to new routine and build up their local knowledge before the busy tourist season comes in.

It’s certainly a rather novel way of advertising a “normal”-ish job. This isn’t quite normal, but it’s not a reality show either (there doens’t appear to be any major network involvement). Would it work for other sorts of jobs?

Next Gaming in Evolution – part 2

6 09 2008

First two parter on It’s Alive!!

For some background on our topic: Science in the new Spore Computer game visit: Spore Official Site, Carl Zimmer: Gaming Evolves, Joan Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge and/or the first part of this post.

I’m going to be rather brash and provide some constructive criticism on a game that I haven’t played yet, and isn’t even released in Australia yet…

The user-driven nature of Spore is going to be very hard to remove in a gaming market. A game isn’t a game if a user isn’t able to meddle with it. Even Sim-Earth, which allowed you to tweak planetary climate conditions, still allows some lee-way towards IDiots. Hell, IDiots even use computer evolution simulations by proper evolutionary biologists as *proof* of ID. So I’m not going to suggest too many improvements on that aspect, aside from perhaps a version that allows attributes to be generated in a more random fashion than spending points in a shop. I don’t think this would float in the market though, modern gamers are very much used to be able to get what they want.

To combat the games “one dimensional march”, perhaps mods or sequels that introduce “end-game” style content for the pre-intelligence mini-games in the greater Spore game.

For the beast-stage game, the user could try and make their creature survive in wake of another creature holotype achieving sentience. I think this could have a capacity to have some environmental messages in there. The user would be charged in ensuring their species does not go extinct. This could be achieved in several ways:

  • the high road – adaptation – adjusting to threats such as hunting (build up defense like – venoms, quills, mimicry of predators), habitat destruction (adapt to extreme habitats or adjust to city life), and pollution (avoid eating plastic bags, drinking polluted streams) – standard time-based victory
  • the middle road – domestication – either by becoming tasty, cute or just generally useful enough that the sentients will actively try not to wipe you out. Be careful though, the balance between being domesticated and being hunted to extinction may be very tricky to reach. Case study: The Aurochs.
  • the low road – nature fighting back – why let yourself be hunted to death, having sentience doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be top of the food chain – I think this would prove a popular victory path – standard winning by ensuring the other guys (in this case the human equivalents) are wiped out

For the tadpole-stage game. I was intrigued by the NYTimes comment amount the small sea-critter being eaten by leviathans out in the depths, forcing it to go onto land. Why not allow your creature to become the leviathan. Again conservation could be brought in by drawing from the fate of whales, sharks and other ocean dwellers.

The ocean depths being analogous to space in terms of a Final Frontier would really open up opportunities for some very exotic environment and alternative creature animations.

Further discussion below the fold… Read the rest of this entry »

Ride ’em

11 07 2008

This shirt looks appropriate for that Hong Kong synthetic biology conference:

More: Read the rest of this entry »