I am no fan of standardized testing, but New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof appears to be. And his 4/25 column (“Are You Smarter Than an 8th Grader?”), which uses such measuring tools to make a point, is distressingly misleading.
In order to demonstrate our country’s incompetence in mathematics, he presents three questions from a 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) test administered worldwide to eighth graders.
The first question:
What is the sum of the three consecutive whole numbers with 2n as the middle number?
Only 37% of USA kids got it right (the correct answers are at the bottom of this post). Continue reading “Innumeracy and Chicanery”
On September 15, less than a fortnight after AltaRock Energy halted its geothermal drilling in The Geysers, the Anderson Springs Community Alliance (ASCA), a small but formidable opponent of the AltaRock project, fired another salvo: this time charging the area’s main producer of geothermal energy with a public nuisance.
In a formal complaint and petition addressed to the Board of Supervisors of Lake and Sonoma Counties for “Remedy of Ongoing Public Nuisance from Geothermal Earthquakes Caused by Operations of Calpine Corp./Geysers Power Company, LLC at The Geysers,” ASCA specifically cited a September 5 magnitude 2.8 earthquake as the latest of more than a thousand magnitude 2.0 or higher temblors epicentered within five miles of Anderson Springs since 2000. These, ASCA contends, constitute an ongoing public nuisance. [A link to the complaint will be posted here when it goes online.]
According to the complaint, “Most residents of Anderson Springs were awakened by the jolt and noise of this earthquake; many were Continue reading “Is the Production of Geothermal Energy in The Geysers a “Public Nuisance”?”
Drill down just a few miles into the earth’s crust, and the temperature will rise substantially. This heat comes from three sources: emissions from radioactive minerals, the compressive force of gravity, and to a lesser extent, solar energy absorbed at the earth’s surface. Although such energy is not truly renewable (radioactive elements do eventually decay to energy-flat states), within any reasonable estimate of mankind’s tenancy on this planet, geothermal power is essentially limitless.
There are several techniques for transducing this energy from underground heat to in-the-grid electricity. One of these, a technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), is currently being tested by Sausalito-based AltaRock Energy only 12 beeline miles from my home in Northern California. Continue reading “Enhanced Geothermal Energy and Man-Made Earthquakes”
America fawns absurdly over singers and actors and expects under-educated athletes to be our role models. National and international news in my local newspaper, the Santa Rosa, CA, Press Democrat (owned by The New York Times), almost always comprises fewer column inches than the sports section.
The Stupidification of America continues unabated.
Irving R. Levine died Friday, an intelligent journalist whose thoughtful, clearly articulated reports educated and explained difficult political and economic topics for almost 50 years. But the obituary I read focused on Levine’s bow tie and middle initial rather than on the caliber of his reportage. America craves infotainment.
Written by the Washington Post‘s Patricia Sullivan, it reads like something out of Obits for Dummies. Almost half of Ms. Sullivan’s 666-word review of Levine’s worthy life dwells on the minutiae that made him a character rather than the work that made him a respected journalist. Some excerpts: Continue reading “Irving R. Levine (1922-2009)”
Scores of articles have been written to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. One of the most interesting appeared in the February 2009 issue of Smithsonian magazine. I reprint it here in its entirety. The images and links are my choices.
Link to original article.
Lincoln’s Contested Legacy
Great Emancipator or unreconstructed racist? Defender of civil liberties or subverter of the Constitution? Each generation evokes a different Lincoln. But who was he?
By Philip B. Kunhardt III
From the time of his death in 1865 to the 200th anniversary of his birth, February 12, 2009, there has never been a decade in which Abraham Lincoln‘s influence has not been felt. Yet it has not been a smooth, unfolding history, but a jagged narrative filled with contention and revisionism. Lincoln’s legacy has shifted again and again as different groups have interpreted Continue reading “Lincoln’s Contested Legacy”
This short piece, from the Opinion page of The New York Times (2/2/09), is unpretentious, evocative writing. Read it aloud…slowly.
Up here in the country, the world gets a used-up look a day or two after a February snowfall. Dust drifts over the fields from the dry roads, the corn stubble begins to poke through, and the plows have left a margin of gritty slush and knocked down a mailbox or two. All the more reason to look for those moments just after a snowfall, when the snow is not yet public, when it has only been tracked by an animal or two out on the ice and in the fields.
I never see a truly straight track. There is always a bend in it, as if curiosity was a kind of lateral gravity, always Continue reading “Verlyn Klinkenborg’s “February Traces””