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Monday
Dec062010

2010-12-06: They did WHAT?

Test Tube Terrarium

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.

The Washington Independent Will Close Down: The Washington Independent, an online journalism startup, finished its three-year experiment saying,

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.

Reader Comments (4)

Hi Matt; just adding some more stuff I came across recently. This a free screen saver that you can customize to act as a bulletin board, that you customize with sticky notes and clocks and stuff. Havent tried this but sounds interesting:

http://www.mycorkboard.com/

This one is some sort of mind mapping software. I think they are trying to sell it, but they offer a free 30 trial. I know you mentioned mind mapping a few times in the old blog so it may be of some interest....

http://www.inspiration.com/
December 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjp in maryland
Hey JP in MD, mycorkboard is clever. In fact I had a Someday/Maybe to look at corkboard writing tools, but then I decided it was a distraction :-) I've seen inspiration before - it's nice to know they're still in business. I use http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page for local mindmapping - it's not being updated, but it's fast for me to use. http://www.xmind.net/ is pretty good too. The free online one I've used is http://www.mindmeister.com/ , with the attendant limitations of a web 2.0 tool as compared to a desktop app. Cool stuff. Right now I'm writing in Word for the Mac, using its so-so outliner, and popping over to Excel when I need tabular thinking. The latter turns out to be common given my current writing approach - Wabi-Sabi meets Extreme Programming pocket guide :-) http://edison.thinktrylearn.com/experiments/show/143 . Thanks for your thoughts, JP.
December 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterMatthew Cornell
Hi Matt: nice to see you responding to stuff I write. All this software and stuff is way over my head. How exactly do you define mind mapping? I had thought of it as sort of a free form outline of whatever i am working on, a sort of outline that works from the center outward with all sorts of outwardly extending lines like tree branches with the branches building upon initial thoughts/ideas. Have no idea if this what you had in mind when you mention mind mapping. Is this close?

I should probably get back to that Brain Day thing I was developing, but not before Christmas I havent even shopped for stuff yet and this is cutting it close to the wire.

Hey Matt you an astronaut right? Any chance we will see any meteors tomorrow? Tonight wa supposed to be a big night for the Leonids but was way too cloudy and too cold here in MD. I was around for the great Leonid shower of 1966 but just a tot. I think that may have been the greatest meteor shower of all. tomorrow should be clear so I might give it a whirl.
December 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjp in maryland
Re: mind mapping - yes, just exactly as you describe. I'm not sure what Brain Day is, but I like the name! Re: meteors, totally missed it. I've seen lovely showers, but this year too cloudy here in western ma. (And no, not an astronaut, just an engineer-type.)
December 14, 2010 | Registered CommenterMatthew Cornell
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