Science Friday: teen sex, transformers, roofing materials, floating houses and a bear
Five things I found interesting this week:
1) We liberals enjoy crowing about how Abstinence-Only sex education doesn’t work and sure enough, it doesn’t. Kids who get the “keep it zipped” curriculum – even the ones who take virginity pledges, have sex at about the same rate as anyone else. But does any sex education work? In his post, ‘Sex Education, why it doesn’t work’, Jonah Lehrer of Frontal Cortex quotes an essay that questions whether we have anything to be smug about either, followed by analysis of an R-rated study on teen male sexuality. Valuable stuff to be sure, but one phrase in particular caught my eye;
You can put an adult in front of a classroom or an assembly, and that adult can emit words, but don’t expect much impact.
You think this problem is confined to sex education? Seems to me it applies to algebra, history, the whole education model. While we’re up in front of kids talking, learning is incidental to boredom. Kids (at least when they’re young) are watching to see what interests us and they can tell we’re not interested in the multiplication tables. They’ve pretty much tuned us out entirely by the time we get to sex education, unless we’ve managed to keep a real relationship alive. They only pay attention when we say something unexpected.
Kids expect us to say “don’t have sex” and they may appear to pay attention. They may even tacitly agree, but when Mother Nature plants her 500-foot billboards in their bloodstreams, they won’t ignore her, and that’s the worst possible time for self-deception. Want your kids to pay attention to you? As the old saying goes, “If the bishop says there’s a God, that’s all in the way of business, but if he says there isn’t, you’d better listen.” Tell them the truth they don’t expect to hear from you. I told my kids, teen sex is like juggling live hand grenades – exciting, but better avoided. But if you do it, don’t deceive yourself. Go to Planned Parenthood with your girlfriend beforehand, and pay attention as if your life depends on it.
How to apply the principle of the unexpected to teaching algebra? Hmmm…
2) I linked a post from Cajun last week, but here’s a couple more that I just found so darn entertaining, about transformers. Not the idiotic new movie about shape-shifting machines, but devices for changing the voltage of a circuit. Briefly, you use a soft iron core to rout a magnetic field from one coil of wire to another. The ratio between the number of windings in the two coils (and a few other things) determines the change in voltage between input and output. The device only works with oscillating current at a frequency faster than the magnetic field collapse in the core.
Transformers are everywhere – you probably have a few hundred in your home and garage. Your cell phone charger is a transformer. There’s a couple in your microwave oven, your TIVO, your TV, your computer, your alarm clock. There are miniature transformers in circuits that serve impedance-matching functions. The ignition coil in your automobile engine is a transformer. And so is that large can-shaped object up on the phone pole behind your house. Larger transformers can be seen at electrical substations.
When your cell phone charger breaks, you just pitch it in the trash and buy another one. But some of the transformers in industry are “mission critical” and… well read for yourself. The demise of an extremely important transformer the size of a half a loaf of bread in Old Crap and another, much bigger transformer in Brotherhood of shared misery. The latter, sadly humorous in the “glad it happened to somebody else” vein, is Cajun’s 2400th post. And if you liked those two stories, here’s another.
3) And this one got me thinking because I’ll be needing a new roof in the next couple years: white roof saves the planet? It makes intuitive sense to me that a lighter-colored roof – not necessarily white – could save a butt-load of electricity during the roasting-hot Illinois summer. And, I’m interested in alternative roofing materials, like composite panels and such. We’re accustomed to shingles, but is that the best way to do residential roofs? I notice businesses don’t use them. I should start researching this – materials, building codes, etc. Might be time for some new thinking on what’s overhead.
4) And speaking of unconventional ideas in housing – New Orleans please take note – check out Saving Holland. Houses that float? Might be a challenge securing them against high winds while letting them rise up to four meters with the flood waters, but it’s a neat idea. “Oh, ho-hum, it’s another flood. What’s on TV?” (You’d only be that blase’ if you also had a floating garage, I suppose)
5) Finally, a story about a bear. When I was a kid, our pets travelled with us. Once in the Canadian Rockies, a bear came into our campsite. Our cat simply teleported onto the top bunk of our camper, but our dog rushed the invader, snarling and barking. “Time to get a new dog,” I thought. But the bear ambled off into the woods.
A funny story, but here’s one that could have turned out a lot differently. A bear wanders into the campsite, the 6-year-old kid (as dumb as my old dog) throws a shovel at it, and the bear charges the kid. And what does dear ol’ dad do? Let’s just say, he’s getting one hell of a father’s day present next year…