Dark Matter Clues

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

You may have seen the headlines already. “What is dark matter made of? Galaxy cluster collisions offer clues,” shouts the Christian Science Monitor.1

Here you have a great moment to engage students in something exciting and to use critical thinking. Dark matter is a hypothesis to explain why stars in galaxies circle around their centers faster than the observable matter says that they should, as well as other more sophisticated reasons. It’s called “dark” because it does not emit light and because you cannot see it. You might also have called it “invisible” matter, but much matter seems invisible. Besides, “dark” implies spooky, and this stuff is definitely spooky because ordinary matter moves right through it as though it isn’t there, except for gravitational effects.

The new finding just reported tell us that dark matter behaves just the same way with itself. One patch of dark matter moves right through another as though it’s not there at all (again, except for gravitational effects). This result pushes back against the most popular idea about the identity of dark matter, that it’s WIMPs — weakly interacting massive particles — because particles don’t just pass right through each other.

Dark matter is invisible. Based on the effect of gravitational lensing, a ring of dark matter has been detected in this image of a galaxy cluster (CL0024+17) and has been represented in blue. NASA, ESA, M.J. Jee and H. Ford (Johns Hopkins University)

Dark matter is invisible. Based on the effect of gravitational lensing, a ring of dark matter has been detected in this image of a galaxy cluster (CL0024+17) and has been represented in blue. Image from NASA, ESA, M.J. Jee and H. Ford (Johns Hopkins University).

Two explanations come to mind. Some physicists doing the work still are seeking particles, but these other explanations could help get around that barrier. There are some truly exotic explanations going around as well, such as the existence of a “mirror universe.” It’s best to stick with the simplest ones, though. Occam’s Razor tells us so.

One explanation is that gravity just doesn’t work exactly as we expect it to, especially when dealing with very large masses spanning very large volumes of space. This is not a very popular explanation. The other is that dark matter is really energy. Because of the equivalence of energy and matter demonstrated by Einstein and captured in his famous equation, E=mc2, energy is affected by and causes gravity.  Continue reading

2015 Contest to Promote STEM Innovation in Public Middle Schools: Apply May 4-June 12

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Northrop Grumman Foundation today announced it is launching an online contest to encourage today’s students to become tomorrow’s innovators by creating classrooms and science labs that inspire. The Fab School Labs contest is open to public middle schools and will make five grants of up to $100,000 available to five winning schools to fund a school lab makeover.

Northrop Grumman Foundation Launches Middle School Contest to Promote STEM Innovation

Beginning May 4 and continuing through June 12, 2015, teachers, principals and school administrators can enter their eligible school by visiting www.FabSchoolLabs.com, where they can learn about the contest and submit their application, along with photos and video to help tell their story. Semi-finalist schools will be chosen and their videos will receive online votes of support to assist with the final selection process. The winning schools will team up with Fab School Labs contest partner Flinn Scientific Inc. to design a state-of-the-art lab complete with all of the tools, resources and furnishings needed.

Fab School Labs contest gives schools funding to create a first-class STEM learning environment

The contest is designed to drive students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by giving public middle school teachers and school administrators the chance to create the STEM lab of their dreams and give students access to the latest learning tools and technologies that will stimulate as well as teach.  Continue reading

Free Webinar: 2015 Survey of College & University Presidents 4/14/15 at 2pm ET

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Inside Higher Ed’s 2015 Survey of College and University Presidents was conducted in conjunction with researchers from Gallup. Highlights of the survey findings include:

  • A majority of presidents give the Obama administration’s ratings proposal a grade of D or F, and a third of presidents say they view the plan more negatively than they did before the administration released a detailed framework about the plan in December.
  • Presidents are skeptical that the proposed rating system would accurately reflect their institutions’ quality, and are least supportive of the possible use of graduate income level and federal graduation rates as ratings criteria. Campus CEOs offer more support for using as criteria the percentage of first-generation and Pell Grant eligible students enrolled, and degree completion rates.
  • Presidents of two-year colleges are likelier than their peers at four-year public and private institutions to support the president’s plan to encourage states to offer free community college tuition.
  • More than half of the presidents are confident about the sustainability of their institution’s financial model over the next 5 years, but only 39 percent feel that way over 10 years.
  • About one-third of college presidents say that sexual assault is prevalent at U.S. colleges. But only a small percentage believe it is an issue at their institution.
  • A large majority of presidents (81 percent) say that the state of race relations on their campus is excellent or good.
  • The majority of those surveyed say presidents should play a more active role in decisions about tenure and hiring faculty members.
  • Nearly half of presidents agree that university leaders should speak out on issues beyond education.

Join Inside Higher Ed editors Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman for a lively discussion of these and other findings of the 2015 Survey of College and University Presidents in a free webinar on April 14 at 2 p.m. Eastern. Can’t attend the live event? You should still register – all registrants will receive the slide deck and recording shortly after the event.

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The Inside Higher Ed 2015 Survey of College and University Presidents was made possible in part by the generous financial support of Pearson, Jenzabar and Academic Partnerships. Your registration information will be shared with these companies.

Captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing is provided by CaptionAccess for all Inside Higher Ed webinars. Transcripts available upon request.

MOOC Sightings 007: The Battushig Factor in College Admissions

MOOC Sightings2

The difference between SAT scores of students from the lowest (<$20K) and highest (>$200K) income brackets is approximately 400 points. This point difference is mirrored in comparisons between the lowest (<high school) and highest (graduate degree) parental education levels.1

Battushig Myanganbayar

Battushig Myanganbayar

This correlation seems immutable. Parental education and income levels impact SAT scores and determine who gets into the most selective colleges. Then along came Battushig — Battushig Myanganbayar of Mongolia, that is, “The Boy Genius of Ulan Bator” — who, in June 2012, at 15, “became one of 340 students out of 150,000 to earn a perfect score in Circuits and Electronics, a sophomore-level class at M.I.T. and the first Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC.”2 His accomplishment didn’t go unnoticed, and he is now a research student at the MIT Media Lab.

Battushig is, of course, a rare exception, but his success adds to the already enormous potential of MOOCs and raises the possibility that they could become a factor in college admissions. In an editorial yesterday, Pitt News broaches this very idea: “Universities sometimes directly accept a student that excels in one of their MOOCs…. If not, the student may still choose to list the MOOC on his or her resumé under skills or relevant education. A completed MOOC is a valuable asset, comparable to a week-long leadership conference.”3

The message for parents and students is clear: MOOCs are poised to clear their current wildcard status and earn credibility as a key factor in college admissions.
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1 Zachary A. Goldfarb, “These Four Charts Show How the SAT Favors Rich, Educated Families,” Washington Post, 5 Mar. 2014. Also see Josh Zumbrun, “SAT Scores and Income Inequality: How Wealthier Kids Rank Higher,” WSJ, 7 Oct. 2014.

2 Laura Pappano, “The Boy Genius of Ulan Bator,” NY Times, 13 Sep. 2013. Also see her “How Colleges Are Finding Tomorrow’s Prodigies,” Christian Science Monitor, 23 Feb. 2014.

3Massive Open Online Courses Better Depict Student Potential,” op-ed, Pitt News, 23 Mar. 2015.

MOOC Sightings 006: Universities Are ‘Middle-men Selling a Product That Is Past Its Sell-by Date’

MOOC Sightings2

MOOC numbers from Seb Murray1 that are hard to ignore:

“About 50% [of] Coursera’s 12 million users are utilizing its courses to advance their careers, says Julia [Stiglitz, head of business development at Coursera]. ‘Helping people accelerate their career[s] by learning new skills is a major way that we hope to impact the lives of our learners.’”

“A recent survey of 400 US employers by Duke University and research group RTI International found that 57% said they could see their organization using Moocs for recruitment. And three-quarters said job applicants taking relevant Moocs would be perceived positively in hiring decisions.”

“In a poll of 1,000 UK employers last year by distance learning specialist the Open University[,] nearly half said additional education is the number-one reason they would offer salary increase or promotion – and gaining education with free online courses was the third most common thing the employers looked for.”

“Recent research by the Career Advisory Board found that 87% of 500 US hiring managers are likely to consider non-traditional ‘micro-credentials’, or specialized certificates awarded by reputable educational institutions, as proof of skill mastery.”

“Close to 95% of edX courses offer a verified certificate, [Nancy Moss, director of communications at edX] says, with many of its users looking for new jobs. ”

“While universities have faced the ignominy of budget cuts, tech groups have harvested massive war chests to expand. EdX last year had been funded with $90 million; Coursera has raised a total of $85 million; Udacity has raised $58 million.”

“Alison’s [Mike Feerick, CEO and founder of the Ireland-based Mooc provider,] offered a view that is widely shared in the education community: ‘…[Universities] are the necessary middle-men selling a product that is past its sell-by date.’”

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1Mooc Makers Disrupt Business Education With Careers Focus,” BusinessBecause, 22 Mar. 2015.

A Network for Under-served Populations

By Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Associate Editor

The article below is from a dear friend, Joyce Malyn-Smith. Please send her names and interests. We are trying to get funding for programs and grants for more minorities.

A Network for Under-served Populations

By J. Malyn-Smith

Joyce Malyn-Smith

Joyce Malyn-Smith

I want to expand my own professional network in order to share information and opportunities I come across in my work to build the next generation of technology enabled citizens and workers. As someone who has spent many years working with under-served populations I am particularly concerned that persons of color, Hispanics and Native Americans may not be aware of many of these opportunities, or may learn of them too late to participate. For example, I am working with NSF’s Cyberlearning and ITEST resource centers, both hosting workshops in June aimed at helping people, who have not received Cyberlearning or ITEST funding, to develop strong NSF proposals.

The first goal for the expansion of my own professional network is to do what I can to ensure that these workshops are accessible to persons of color, Hispanics and Native Americans. To that end, I am asking you to help me expand my network so that I can forward relevant information, answer questions they might have about the events, and make sure a diverse group of potential participants are aware of when applications open so that these types of events are more accessible to them.  Continue reading

Mars One CEO Answers Questions About Mission Feasibility

Amersfoort, 19th March 2015 – Mars One recently published a video in which Bas Lansdorp, CEO and Co-founder of Mars One, replies to recent criticism concerning the feasibility of Mars One’s human mission to Mars.



Question: What do you think of the recent news articles that doubt the feasibility of Mars One?

BL: At Mars One we really value good criticism because it helps us to improve our mission. We get a lot of criticism from our advisors, and that is also exactly what we want from them. The recent bad press about Mars One was largely caused by an article on medium.com, which contains a lot of things that are not true. For example, the suggestion was made that our candidates were selected on the basis of how much money they donate to Mars One. That is simply not true, and it is very easy to find that on our website. There are a lot of current Round Three candidates that did not make any donations to Mars One, and there are also lots of people that did not make it to the third round that contributed a lot to Mars One. The two things are not related at all, and to say that they are is simply a lie. The article also states that there were only 2,700 applications for Mars One, which is not true. We offered the reporter, the first journalist ever, access to our list of 200,000 applications, but she was not interested in that. It seems that she is more interested in writing a sensational article about Mars One than in the truth.

We will have to delay the first unmanned mission to 2020. Delaying our first unmanned mission by two years also means that all the other missions will move by the same period of time, with our first human landing now planned for 2027. -B.L.

Question: Concerns have been voiced about the thoroughness of the astronaut selection process. What is your response to that?

BL: We started our astronaut selection with over 200,000 applications that were submitted online. The application included a video and a lot of psychological questions for our candidates. We used that to narrow down the candidates to about 1000 that had to do a medical check, which was very similar to the check for NASA astronauts. All the remaining candidates then underwent an interview. The interview and all other parts of the selection process were led by Norbert Kraft, our Chief Medical Officer. He has worked on astronaut selection for 5 years at the Japanese Space Agency, and at NASA he researched crew composition for long duration space missions.  Continue reading

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