Today was kind of a slow day. I let myself sleep in–till 8:00 🙂
I saw one plenary speaker who discussed his role in international physics education. I found it interesting at the time, but can’t remember many of the details now. The second plenary speaker was Janet Guthrie, the first woman to qualify for the Indy 500, speaking on Racing as Metaphor. She has a BS in Physics, and while she doesn’t use it much these days, she knows how to discuss the physics of racing. Her talk was interesting and humorous.
One thing the AAPT is aware of and trying to correct is the lack of women and “underrepresented minorities.” There is much focus on attracting a more diverse community to physics education, and several of the papers I heard presented today were on the subject of women and physics. One group addressed how the misperception of scientists as being solo geeks locked away in their labs has a tendency to discourage many young women who may, on average, be looking for more social interactions than their male counterparts. Good science is actually quite communal.
One thing about academics, they have WTMA (way too many acronyms). Every group studying something has to name their system something, then continually refer to is by its new acronym throughout their talk. Not only does this bug me (I think that they subconsciously think that by giving it a name it makes it more important), but when I reflect on English language learners hearing all these new “words” that have no meaning other than as an acronym, I cringe.
Tonight I attended the Science Education for the Public committee meeting because in the Physics and Society “Crackerbarrel” discussion (yeah, it’s like we’re standing around at the corner store talking over the cracker barrel) a few of us were drafted to develop a nuclear energy workshop for 2008. Luckily, the committee had other plans (that include nuclear energy but more as invited talks than a hand-on workshop), and we don’t have to do it until 2009.
It’s quite interesting to have a group of physics educators developing a program on nuclear energy. Some are working/researching in the field, and are very supportive of it. Others are adamantly against it. But as educators, we all seem to come together in trying to keep the discussion balanced: we’re here to help people understand the science behind nuclear energy, then let them make up their own minds. It’s kind of fun to not know from the first word out of someone’s mouth were they stand on the subject. You have to wait around, listen to them, and then maybe even talk to them over lunch before you find out where they stand.
Tomorrow I have to decide whether to go to the Mathematics in Physics presentations or the “Physics and Society Education” ones. I’ll probably jump between the two. After that it’s a talk Those Who Can Teach by a high school teacher from Montana who won the Excellence in Pre-College Physics Teaching award.
Then in the afternoon I get to see the speaker I have been waiting around for, George Coyne, give his talk “Dance of the Fertile Universe: Cosmic and Human Evolution.” Sounds like a great talk.
After that, it’s back to Fayetteville for dinner with Karen G (Virginia is just too far to make it, so I’m spending another night in the fine state of North Carolina), then off to see my cousin Karen and her husband Steve in Virginia. I’ll get in a visit with my aunt Ginny as well.
Saturday is the start of the westbound leg of my trip. A speedy drive to Michigan to see the Miller clan (with a possible stop for dinner with cousin Dave in Toledo). Tuesday night I’ll be in the Northern Hotel in Winnett, Montana (my family lived in Winnett the summer between my 2nd and 3rd grade year while my dad experimented with being a Methodist minister in two small town churches).
Thursday night I should make it to Seattle to see cousin Bob and his fiancee, and a breakfast with my friend Quinn (neighbor when we lived on California Street, he will just be arriving in his new home on an island north of Seattle).
Sunday I’ll start back down the old familiar I-5, with stops in Eugene (Lou), Ashland (Moira), and Red Bluff (Smiths). Then, I should arrive back in my pad in Pleasant Hill on Monday night, August 13th. Two days later teacher duties start, with classes starting the following Wednesday. I’m sure glad I have a week without the kids after I get back. I can do meetings with little effort and planning, but teaching requires so much more.
Off to bed now, it’s late my time 🙂