Skepchick Quickies 5.13

  • Families make case for vaccine link to autism– Two families are acting as test cases in the court, even though the CDC and the Institute for Medicine have found no link between thimerosal and autism.
  • PZ on the platypus genome– I like what he has to say about the general press coverage. The articles I read were very poorly worded and did not get the point of the findings across at all.
  • Freshmen get ball rolling on physics– In Chicago, several schools are flipping their science courses to put physics first in the line up. The hope is that this will encourage more students to take science classes beyond the required two years.
  • History is important too– Especially when you make a sign like that.
  • The Pentecostal church and pig panties– Childhood stories of being in the Pentecostal church. Speaking in tongues from a 10 year old’s view is pretty damn amusing. Thanks, w_nightshade.


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. Why do they think having physics first is going to help?

    What makes them think physics is going to be a big science turn on?

    They apparently dumb it down to deal with the fact that most students do not have the appropriate math skills yet.

  2. i don’t know… i actually think that by taking physics first, it might catch the attention of a bunch who might miss out. i know i avoided physics in high school because it “sounded scary,” but LOVED it at my university.

    also, i can foresee physics being a “gateway subject” to more interest in math. sometimes, not seeing an application for math makes it too convoluted for students. pairing it with physics may inspire some heightened interest. but i’m a bit of an optimist when it comes to the possibilities of education. ^_^

    lol @ history sign.

  3. @ Spurge

    I suspect it’s because they are aiming for the ‘Ooooo’ factor in an attempt to get the “me no need know intellektual stuff” students interested in some science, and then try and explain the concepts to them.

    Biology is no good – because someone may mention the ‘E’ word in which case the IDiots will crawl out of the woodwork and they can’t afford the court costs, someone says ‘S-E-X’ and the puritians freak, and dissecting frogs will get PETA crazies howling at them or sued for ’emotional upset’.

    Chemistry isn’t either – though once it was the best. High schoolers love explosions, stinkbombs and the like. But these days teachers are not permitted to go beyond ‘add blue liquid to yellow liquid and get green liquid (boring)’ because “it’s tooooo dangerous and Johnny may eat the sodium”.

    So you are left with Physics – which can have things like lasers (optical physics), guns (kinetic energy), Xbox (electricity) and such. Simple things which amuse them and possibly interest them further.

    Yes it is dumbing it down and they have to learn some basic math eventually, but I think at this point the instructors have little choice.

  4. One of the things I’m very thankful for in my life is the opportunities I got in high school. We had a fairly unique class that was taught by one of the science teachers. It was a combined chemistry/physics class. It was a two year course, for juniors and seniors, and you had to get special approval from the teacher to take it. But it was *so* worth it. Having both subjects covered over a longer period gave me a much better understanding than most of my peers when I entered college. Mr. Booth was passionate about the subject matter, and had a knack for getting kids to think critically. And he even managed to make it fun from time to time. He’s retired now, and I’m not sure if they still offer the course.

  5. I’m getting nostalgic. Here’s an example of the sort of lessons we got in my chem/phys class: One day, at the beginning of class, during our section on Avogadro’s number, Mr. B went to the back of the classroom where he had set up a little experiment. He had a coffee can that he told us was full of hydrogen gas. He had a very small hole in the lid that was covered with tape, and another hole near the bottom of the can that was similarly covered. He removed the tape, allowing gas to escape through the lid, and asked us what we thought would happen if he ignited it. Most of the class expected it to blow up (it wouldn’t be the first explosion in that class). Instead, it made a nice steady flame, like a little hydrogen candle. Mr. Booth left the can at the back of the classroom and started his lecture for the day.

    About ten minutes later, just about the time our minds were starting to wander a bit… BANG!!! If anyone in the class didn’t jump two feet out of their seat, I would be surprised. Personally, I was sitting right next to where the can was, and I’m pretty sure I hit the deck.

    The lesson? The hydrogen can only combust when it is mixed with enough oxygen (two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen). When the air coming in through the hole in the bottom reached that critical point, the gas inside the can ignited all at once. And we could figure out exactly what that critical point was using molar masses and STP gas volumes.

    See, science is FUN!!! :o)

  6. All this talk of physics classes reminded me that when I was a HS freshmen, most freshmen were taking Algebra as their math class, if not something lower. It seems like physics would be hard if you didn’t even have an algebra background.

    I’m fairly awful at both calculus and physics, but it would be great if more people were exposed to them and at a younger age. I can see how math-gentle physics could be a gateway drug.

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