Change the Equation is taking a break from blogging over the holidays, but we'll be back next year to bring you all the STEM news that's fit to print . . . or blog. We hope that you and yours enjoy the end of the year and holiday season, and we'll see you in 2013!
If doomsday legend is to be believed, tomorrow the world is ending. So says the Mayan calendar, right? Not so, say our friends at NASA (and, to be honest, they're not alone). Here's more on that:
The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012 and linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 -- hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.
Oddsmakers agree with NASA. From this article in the Examiner, "The New York-based oddsmaker MyTopSportsbooks.com put the odds of the world ending Friday at 300 million to 1. That means someone is more likely to win the Powerball lottery jackpot (175 million to 1), witness Michael Jordan's return from retirement (50 million to 1) and see the Chicago Cubs win the World Series next year (1,500 to 1) than die in the apocalypse."
So did the Mayans know something we don't know? Probably not. In fact, NASA goes on to say that, "the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then -- just as your calendar begins again on January 1 -- another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar." What a relief.
That, of course, leaves us wondering, does the next cycle of the Mayan calendar have cute kittens or Elvis on it? Guess we'll find out tomorrow . . . or not.
Learn more about why the world isn't ending tomorrow from NASA, here.
It's been a solemn week, given the tragedy in Connecticut, and our thoughts are with Newtown.
Here is our roundup of the interesting and the intriguing in STEM news.
Cleverly dubbed MoMath, this museum focuses on introducing kids to the joys of math in the everyday world. Funded in part by a $2 million Google donation, the museum uses fun and interactive exhibits (think building downhill tracks for racing) and is targeted at the 4th- to 8th-grade set -- just before Math Phobia sets in.
We've blogged about the awesomeness that is Nate Silver before, but high-schooler/education activist Nikhil Goyal writes about the potentially transformative effect that focusing on the more "practical" applications of math -- think statistics in medical trials and calculating baseball players' potential, which is how Silver made a name for himself -- within the curriculum could fix the "engagement deficit" the field currently faces.
"Start behind, stay behind," has been a doomsday warning in education for years, but a new report breaks it down clearly, showing how even students from the most affluent schools rarely regroup and get back on track once they've fallen out. It's strong evidence that we need to build in greater support systems for students before they fall behind.
Forbes' annual list of young Turks who are making indelible impressions on their fields will simultaneously awe and intimidate you. Check out the list for Engergy, Tech, Science & Healthcare, and Education.
Many of the most significant scientific discoveries started out as accidents -- think penicillin. 2012 had some pretty remarkable, accidental discoveries, as chronicled by Smithsonian.
It's Computer Science Education Week and CTEq marked the occasion yesterday with our December STEM Salon: Sourcing the C in STEM: Making the Critical Connection Between Computer Science Education and Jobs. With dynamic speakers, the passion for computer science in education was apparent, even while noting some very real challenges. Speakers included:
Weren't able to attend? Check out the video below and it'll be just like you were there!
Almost everyone knows that Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon, but what about the last?
On this day exactly 40 years ago, astronaut Eugene Cernan became the "last man" (so far) to walk on the moon. Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17, the last in the Apollo series of spacecraft. He was the last of 12 people who walked on the moon, one of three to have voyaged to the moon twice, and the only one to have descended to the moon twice, though he did not leave the Lunar Lander on Apollo 10, his first trip to the moon.
The Apollo project, conceived under President Eisenhower but made famous by President Kennedy, was the first three-man project in NASA's history -- Mercury spacecraft were designed for one astronaut and the Gemini project was a two-man series that gave NASA valuable information about how human bodies reacted to space and helped develop technology that made a moon landing possible. Arguably the most famous Apollo missions were Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 -- the first moon landing and a mission that went disastrously wrong, respectively.
Currently NASA has no plans to return to the moon, but is pushing the envelope by traveling farther into the solar system. Mars, recently the site of the Curiosity Landing. is the current focus of exploration. Perhaps in 20 years, we'll be writing on the anniversary of the first man to walk on Mars.