Quick links from the past week of experiments in the World Wide Lab
Weatherathome: how you can predict the effects of climate change on extreme weather events: a new international project called weatherathome, allowing anyone with a computer and internet access to take part and help understand how climate change may be producing damaging - or beneficial - weather events around the world.
But TWI was not just a journalistic experiment; it was also a financial one, and ultimately, the successes of the former couldn't sustain the strains of the latter.
This is interesting from the Think, Try, Learn perspective because it goes to the balance between the generic (but profound) science idea of "We learned something" to the nitty-gritty "We failed to make enough money." In other words, what is the definition of success in an experiment? I'm still working on teasing out multiple dimensions, including learning vs. meeting goals.
Sidewalk experiments drive new ideas about urban public space: Small-scale urban experiments where people play with sidewalks using low-tech chalk, for example a tongue-in-cheek line dividing "tourists" and "New Yorkers." Urban planner Dan Burden says this is launching "a new science of creating walkways."
Tweeting students do better in school: This small study of 125 college students found that Twitter use inside and outside of the classroom "were found to score better grades than their non-tweeting peers." They found those students were also more engaged in the classroom. I wonder how they should factor in the risk of falling twitter black hole.
A truly priceless wedding: A young married couple used social tools to see if they could get people to give them stuff. I appreciate the frugal spirit behind small weddings. Mine (in 1986!) was tiny. TTL spin: I like that they came up with four ground rules for the experiment:
they have veto rights; they would encourage multiple offers; they can purchase elements they need, as long as they cost less than $10; and they want to keep it simple.
What are your ground rules?
Frankly, the future is all too predictable: Yet another study that might show that people have psychic ability. Check out Randi's $1M challenge - yet to be collected after many years. Not that this kind of thing isn't possible, it's just highly unlikely given how much time there's been to test it.
Hackers experiment with Xbox's Kinect: An example of a creative use of a new techology for new kinds of experiments. I love the idea of using things in unexpected ways - just watch kids, who can, for example, turn a stick into almost anything - sword, magic wand, baton, or horse.
Experiment Tests if Cargo Shippers Handle With Care: A clever experiment to test how carefully Fed-Ex, UPS, and the US Postal Service treated their packages. I've never had a single damaged shipment, but I don't send that much stuff.
Experiment Sparks Interest In Voter Fraud: A government teacher tested whether she could vote in person after having voted absentee. Result: They would have let her go right ahead. Not only was this a good reality check of the process, but she used it as a stimulating way to get kids interested in her topic.
On the Menu: Pastry expert Michel Richard says -- experiment! Another encouragement to play in the kitchen, but I'm still looking for the guidebook to experimental cookery. It would have to cover the role of accident and contamination, of course.