Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bill Nye Explains Why Kids Need to Know About Evolution

One common theme in the never-ending discussion of Creationism versus evolution is "Why not teach both and let kids make up their own minds?"

The problem with that line of thinking -- leaving aside the fact that Creationism is usually understood to mean the creation story of one particular culture, rather than a comparison of the many, many traditions of how the world began -- is that when it comes to evolution, both sides are just not equal. In order to believe in Creationism in a literal sense, you have to unbelieve practically every big idea to be embraced by science in the last century. This is the argument Bill Nye makes in the video above:
Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don't believe in evolution. I mean, here are these ancient dinosaur bones or fossils, here is radioactivity, here are distant stars that are just like our star but they're at a different point in their lifecycle. The idea of deep time, of this billions of years, explains so much of the world around us. If you try to ignore that, your world view just becomes crazy, just untenable, itself inconsistent.
The Science Guy goes on to plead with parents not to make their children deny evolution "because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can ... build stuff, solve problems."

The video comes from a website called Big Think. Thanks to its sensationalist title -- Bill Nye himself talks only about "denying evolution" and makes no comment on people's personal beliefs -- the video has gotten over 3.5 million hits since it was posted on August 23, a little over a week ago. It has been mentioned on news sites around the internet, and Nye went on CBS and CNN to clarify his views.

As he says, "Learning the story is great, but it's not science."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Geneticist Barbara McClintock

If you're wondering why this blog looks a little neglected, the reason is that GeekMom has been keeping me busy. I hope to post some more about recent chemistry projects we've done, but in the meantime I'd like to highlight a wonderful post by GeekMom writer Melissa Wiley about Barbara McClintock. As Melissa writes:

Attention science buffs: Edith Hope Fine’s biography of groundbreaking geneticist Barbara McClintock (1902-1992) is available free on Kindle this weekend, June 16-17, 2012! As we mentioned back in April, Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist is a lively biography for readers nine and up, illuminating the life and work of this remarkable scientist. Dr. McClintock won the Nobel Prize in 1983 for her discovery of “jumping genes,” small pieces of DNA can move from one place to another in a genome. She conducted most of her research on maize, working with crops she raised herself.
You can read Melissa's interview with the author, Edith Hope Fine, on GeekMom. Her post includes links to other posts about science and some science activities, including one that originally appeared on my other blog Home Chemistry!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Home Biology Sightings in the News

If you didn't get to see the nice picture of the kids and me playing with our computer microscope for the New York Times (the photos are not on the NYT website), here's a reprint of the article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Welcome New York Times Readers!

It was a thrill to be featured in the article about our computer microscope in the New York Times Business section. Home Biology is where my two teens and I kept records of all the activities we did and resources we found in the course of a year of homeschooling biology. In the sidebar on the right you'll find lots, conveniently arranged by topic.

Despite the description in the Times, we don't really have a lab in our dining room. And the computer microscope described in the article is about the most sophisticated piece of science equipment we use. But we can tell you a lot about studying living things with kids at home using low-tech and inexpensive equipment. If you look at the Topic Labels in the sidebar, you can find posts about our forays into microphotography using a standard student microscope (which has a higher magnification than the computer model) and my digital point-and-shoot camera. There are also lots of posts about our "labs" (perhaps not what a traditional high school biology lab would look like, but a hands-on activity that got my kids thinking and doing science). I also labeled some activities kitchen biology because they involve food. Those were my favorites!

I'd love to hear what you think about our activities and our blog. And if you're interested to see what we've done in other science areas, be sure to visit our other blogs: Home Chemistry, Home Physics, and this year's project, Integrated Science at Home. And anyone who's interested in ways to bring science and technology (as well as scifi, games, and all kinds of fun stuff) to kids should check out the other blogs I'm a member of, GeekMom and GeekDad.

You can also find information about activity books for kids and my school and library programs at my website Crafts for Learning. You'll find contact info there as well. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saratoga Woods and Waterways

 Image: Jackie Donnelly

Back when we started this blog our first project was a nature survey. Although we managed to identify many species that were new to us, we were only scratching the surface.

I just discovered a blog by a local amateur naturalist Jackie Donnelly of Saratoga Springs, NY called Saratoga Woods and Waterways. It has wonderful photos and descriptions. Since the trails she mentions are all within a short drive, we'll have to check some out and see if we can find any of the plants and animals she identifies.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

More Triops -- and a Fairy Shrimp

We hatched some more triops recently and got a bonus -- a fairy shrimp. We brought our shrimp to the Schuylerville Library for a presentation on the activities from my new book Discover the Desert, which was just won an Honor Award from Skipping Stones Magazine. Unfortunately, the two triops passed on after only a few weeks, but the fairy shrimp (the kind that are sold as Sea Monkeys) is still going strong.You can see the fairy shrimp on the left in this photo.

I have had a very hard time getting nice photos of our shrimp. But if you want to see some crisp, clear excellent images of triops, the book Triops: A Very Unusual Creature is now available on Amazon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Food, Inc.

I just discovered that the documentary Food, Inc. can now be watched online at the PBS website. From the PBS companion website:
In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli — the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.
Among the experts interviewed is Michael Pollan. Last year we listened to the audio version of his excellent, accessible book, In Defense of  Food.

I've had the DVD on reserve at the library forever (my request has already expired once), so I'm very glad to see that we can now watch it on demand. Now if we can only figure out how to stream video from the computer to our ancient TV...
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