The most important thing I learned from a teacher. via@boingboing @maggiekb1 @stevesilberman

This paragraph about the unmeasured successes of what good teachers do is just about pitch perfect. The essays that the post refers are also well worth a look.

“The role that teachers play in influencing the lives of their students is something that’s been lost in current debates about education mandates and standardized testing. Teaching isn’t just about making sure kids can pass exams. It’s also about helping future adults find their gifts, discover their interests, and learn who they want to be. That’s a hard thing to quantify. You can’t really put together a concise list of “Children I’ve Inspired” for a CV. But this is the part of a teacher’s job that is the most lasting. What we remember about good teachers isn’t necessarily the dry facts they taught us, it’s the doors they opened, the curiosity they kindled, and the moments where they made us rethink everything.”

Via Boing Boing.

Evolution of a (certain corporate) mouse.

By William Stout and Jim Steinmeyer, via Fresh Photons, via Jimmy Tyler.

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. #greatquote

Via “What Do you Care What Other People Think?” by Richard Feynman.

An Open Letter to the Human Resources Department of the Superfriends

(Another old humour piece of mine – this one you can find at McSweeney’s)


Dear Mr. Superman, Mr. Batman, Ms. Wonder Woman, and other esteemed do-gooders,

Although I have been waiting patiently for a few years in the hope that an advertisement would appear, I feel for the sake of my career that now is a good time to approach you. In essence, I am wondering whether you are, or will be, accepting any new members into your fine organization. More specifically, I am inquiring as to whether you need the services of a geneticist, since that is my particular field of expertise.

Part of the reason I am contacting you now is that I suspect you are possibly hurt by the unwarranted waning in public interest associated with your group, a symptom that likely correlates to the soaring popularity of some of your competitors—the X-Men and Spider-Man, to name two.

Anyway, this is why I think I can help—as a geneticist, I can bring a lot to the table. To me, it’s no coincidence that the X-Men, Spider-Man, and the like are mostly a consequence of fortuitous genetic modification.

More specifically, my knowledge in genetics can directly tackle your weaknesses. For instance, current genetic technologies could be utilized to offset Mr. Superman’s annoying kryptonite problem. Whether it’s the result of something specific in his genetic makeup or the result of the rest of society having some sort of innate immunity, the issue at stake is a difference in biological makeup. This, of course, makes it a perfect candidate for targeted gene therapy.

Mr. Batman could also benefit greatly from a genetic analysis. I would not be surprised if his manic-depressive tendencies are hard to manage and counterproductive to the group as a whole. Here we can perform a few diagnostic genetic tests, which can then go to great lengths to effectively pinpoint and manage these potentially bothersome tendencies.

Even Ms. Wonder Woman could stand to gain from my genetic expertise. Clearly, engaging in intensive hand-to-hand combat with her sizable chest is problematic. But how exactly would you perform breast-reduction surgery—or any surgery, for that matter—when an individual’s magic bracelets are constantly maneuvering to defend against an incoming scalpel? My point is that you don’t have to—I may be able to do something about this by using current genetic-manipulation methodologies.

And just imagine what could be done with cloning. The mind reels, does it not?

Now, with respect to fighting crime, I think that, overall, it wouldn’t take much effort to transform me into a fully functional Superfriend. I already have a well-equipped laboratory facility, which, with your help, could easily be relocated to the appropriate underground cave, glacier, secret island, or space station.

As for a costume, I own several lab coats, which, when worn with a good pair of spandex pants, will, I’m sure, sufficiently instill some semblance of fear into those who choose to do battle with me. I would offer to wear some retro-looking goggles as well, but, unfortunately, I need my prescription glasses, and, well, contacts tend to make my eyes itch.

Although I can’t fly, and I don’t own anything close to resembling a Batmobile or an invisible jet, I do drive around in one of those stylish yet practical Mazda MPVs. If you recall, this is Mazda’s very popular minivan model (you know—zoom zoom!), which would probably look quite superheroish were I to paint some lightning bolts or DNA strands on its sides.

Also, if it helps, I know quite a few physicists who may be able to lend a hand with Ms. Wonder Woman’s embarrassing “the jet is invisible but I’m clearly not” situation.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. David Ng
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The only responsible way to use physics: is making turtles hug.

Perhaps a commentary on how sometimes science (and esp. some aspects of physics) is not obviously applicable?

Via Rock Paper Cynic.

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