The Most Interesting Thing in the World

I came across a good guiding question recently in Career Advice for Undergrads. It’s a succinct way to put something I think about a lot:

“First, what is the most interesting thing going on in the world right now? Second, how can I put myself at the center of that?”

Isn’t that good? I so want to know what fascinates you right now. I’ll go first.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our workforce is being changed by robots. I wonder how can we best evolve as a world community when robots can do most of our heavy lifting.

This is already happening, obviously. Robots have taken over lots of the old assembly jobs, even lots of the new customer service work that used to be done by phone banks.

So how can we be sure everyone has meaningful work so all of us are fed, have clean water, have access to education, and feel included in society? We need to re-train our workforce so we use the things about us that are uniquely human. It seems like we can create engaging work for people, work that could bring us up a step or two on Maslow’s Hierarchy and raise our global well being, but it’s such a huge undertaking.

I also think about the dark side of this, specifically whether we’ve been too radical about using drones and other tech to sanitize war, thereby making peace a less palatable option. Blurft.

OK, your turn. What’s the most interesting thing in the world right now? It doesn’t have to be a big deal to anyone else, maybe just an artist who’s blowing your mind, or a field you want to know more about. I’m more curious about the quirky individuality of it. I am also game to talk more about robots. Your call.

The Stars Do Sing

The poem Silence of the Stars by David Wagoner mentions that natives in the Kalahari desert can hear the stars sing. I wondered whether there was any science behind it, and came across this:

Scientists are using stellar seismology (or asteroseismology) to study the structure of pulsating stars. Star “earthquakes” do make sounds, but we can’t hear them because there’s no air to carry them. So scientists recreated the sound, which this article compares to wind blowing over a microphone.

Tonal variations help scientists understand the surface gravity and age of a given star. Some sound like radio static, others like they’re purring. Lovely.

Teaching My Kid to Light Stuff on Fire

I just got back from Australia, so last night Hank and I were reading about how Koalas don’t drink much water.

Hank: “That’s because the leaves they eat have water. Most animals in dry places get their water from their food.”
Me: “… I did not know that.”
Hank: “Do you know that the human head weighs eight pounds?”

Ah, I kid about that last bit. Speaking of which, the Jerry Maguire little boy went all Anthony Michael Hall, amirite? Also, if you know what I’m talking about, that link will make you feel decrepit. I’ll just go find my movie glasses while you see if Viva Las Vegas is playing on AMC.

Anyway, Hank has been poring over science books and begging to film an experiment “show” since he was about four. Two years later, I finally figured teaching other kids about science would be a good way to remember vocabulary and concepts himself, durr, so we filmed a couple. We read about how everything works beforehand, and I had him explain it back to me, so he could narrate the video.

I know so much about convection now. Gentlemen.

I posted a couple videos on Go Mighty:

Keep it Clean: Hank’s Expanding Soap Experiment

This Earl is on Fire: Hank’s Tea Bag Rocket Experiment

Holy crap. Did you have any idea Ivory soap and tea bags did this stuff? GAH! Particularly the tea bags. If you let me enter your home, I will now demand that you let me light a teabag on fire. I need you to see.

We’re doing three more experiment videos, so if you have any cool ones to recommend using household items, let me know.

And if you already knew about the soap? Why didn’t any of you tell me? I can hardly look at you.

This post is part of the Too Small to Fail initiative sponsored by Next Generation and the Clinton Foundation, whom I like very much. They’re trying to close the Word Gap by encouraging all of us to take small steps to improve kids’ chances in school — like talking to and making lots of eye contact with pre-verbal babies, and increasing one on one time with kiddos. More info here.

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