Hubble IMAX 3D

March 21, 2010

Go See It.

The movie is only 45 minutes long but contains more science than most American school children receive in a year.  (And if they’re in Mississippi or California or Hawaii,  more than they will probably get from K-12).

Avatar and Alice in Wonderland have given the world a new appetite for big screen effects.  Done right, 3D adds immersion unapproached by flat projection.  Hubble 3D combines those effects with reality in a way that the imaginary worlds of Pandora and Wonderland cannot.  Yet so many Americans will ho-hum this because it’s about science.

Go See It Anyway.

Spot the Space Station

July 11, 2008

On Saturday, July 19th, the International Space Station will pass almost directly overhead starting in the southwestern sky at 10:12 PM.

The station will be observable as an extremely bright, fast-moving object, moving southwest to east-northeast.  It will take about 5 minutes to cross the sky.

If you’ve never seen the ISS fly by, it’s worth standing outside on a summer’s night (hopefully cloudless – a lot more fun) and away from city lights to observe the satellite’s motion.  It is quite unlike anything else in the sky, day or night.  It will be brighter than Jupiter, currently the brightest object in the night sky (excepting the moon, of course).

Even if you aren’t the least curious about the technology of the multi-billion dollar space station, it puts on such a unique performance that it’s well worth hanging outside for a few minutes to watch it.  Not to be missed.  But if you do, here’s a place where you can find out just when it will pass overhead again.

The Quiet Crisis

June 7, 2008

The National Science Foundation recently awarded $3 million over five years to a group of Upstate colleges, aimed at increasing the number of minority students in STEM degree programs.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  The NSF grants are in response to the so-called Quiet Crisis – the threat to the ability of the United States to innovate, due to looming shortage in the nation’s STEM workforce.  Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, puts it in pretty plain English:

The crisis stems from the gap between the nation’s growing need for scientists, engineers, and other technically skilled workers, and its production of them. As the generation educated in the 1950s and 1960s prepares to retire, our colleges and universities are not graduating enough scientific and technical talent to step into research laboratories, software and other design centers, refineries, defense installations, science policy offices, manufacturing shop floors and high-tech startups.

We ignore this gap at our peril.

I know of no engineer that needs to retire at age 65 if he or she doesn’t want to.  Even in the Buffalo area, which does not have a significantly large high-tech workforce, the demand for good engineers and scientists outstrips the supply.  Companies like Moog struggle to fill job openings.  My own company has been challenged of late to find qualified candidates for the engineering job openings that we’ve posted.

Minorities in particular are underrepresented in STEM disciplines.  The NSF-funded program hopes to increase minority enrollment in the Upstate college consortium and provide additional support through scholarships, mentoring and research opportunities.

The U.S. cannot afford to become a technological backwater.