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Video of the Week #014

This week’s video of the week focuses on photovoltaics. For those that aren’t aware, that is the more technical term for the science of producing energy using solar power. Many of us already see the benefit of the technology as most of us live in regions where the sun is out for long periods of time. In spite of the benefits of solar, we also see people that still think that energy produced by fossil fuels are the better option overall. The video does a great job of debunking naysayers whilst focusing on the current state of the technology and historical trends. I only had issues with one of the solar cell examples given due to the output of the cell compared to what is needed to recharge mobile devices.

You can find the ColdFusion channel here.


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Keiko’s Video of the Week #012

I was having some difficulty deciding what to post this week. Then it hit me – SCIENCE!!! Who doesn’t like science? This time around, I’ve picked a compilation video of bizarre experiments from the always awesome British Pathé archive. It really is a mixed bag but in a good way as it shows the rather important role that science plays in our daily lives.

You can find their Youtube channel here.


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Course Review: PSYCH101 Introduction to Psychology

Provider: Saylor Academy [course page]
Course Design: Dr. Helena Martin and Dr. Michael Poulakis
Subject: Science / Psychology
Delivery: self-paced asynchronous study
Recommended Load: 97 hours over 7 units
Completion Date: 09/31/2014

The social self.

The social self. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Description: This course lays the foundation for future study of Psychology.

Strengths: Will all of the offerings of Saylor Academy, this course makes use of free and open source online materials. The seven units culminate in a final 50-question multiple-choice exam of which 70% is a passing grade. Students are able to retry the exam, but are locked out for a two-week period. Students that pass the exam can download a PDF certificate of achievement. This exam is preparation for the Excelsior College exam that allows up to 3 hours of course credit towards their degree programs. Students looking to transfer credit hours to other institutions should enquire at the specific university or college.
This course goes over the history of Psychology over the past two centuries. It discusses the various figures whose research has transformed this once-solitary science into one that informs many sectors of society. Psychology also consists of numerous sub-fields that vary based on what and how they study human behaviour. The course discusses the basic ideas and knowledge that informs all of these fields as well as the biological underpinnings of human behaviour and mental disorder. As for the question of nature versus nurture, the materials support the idea that both play equally important roles in how we negotiate the world around us.

Weaknesses: This course requires some grounding in high school level Biology. There is also lots of reading. Oh, the humanity!

Conclusion: In lieu of recent discussions of mental health in the media, this course offers students a solid introduction to Psychology. I recommend this course to anyone curious about human behaviour, have a family history of mental illness, and/or are looking for a grounding in Psychology for their employment.


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Course Review: Exploring Metaphysics

Provider: The Great Courses by The Teaching Company [course page]
Lecturers: Professor David K. Johnson Ph.D. (University of Oklahoma)
Subject: Philosophy + [Science / Physics + Neuroscience] + Religion
Delivery: 24 Audio lectures
Recommended Load: N/A
Completion Date: 08/06/2014

English: The first lecture in Experimental Phi...

English: The first lecture in Experimental Philosophy, which took place in London in 1748. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Description: Professor Johnson demonstrates the importance of Philosophical thought using examples in science and religion.

Strengths: This lecture series covers a lot of material in a short time. The speaker delivers it all in a conversational tone, with a hint of humour and pop culture references strewn throughout. He builds upon material over time and often references what he’s discussed in previous lectures. As such, the material is best listened to in order.
Although I’ve spent a bit of time studying the “big three” (a.k.a. Science, Religion and Philosophy), it seems that a lot of students tend to not think beyond the terminology used in textbooks. This series goes beyond the simple stuff in order to discuss how philosophy can help us come to terms with the fact that we know very little about what makes the universe and human beings behave in the manner that they do.
As mentioned above, the material builds upon itself. This is done by explaining the terminology and arguments (both deductive and inductive) used by philosophers in the various fields. The lecturer goes into the pros and cons of each, citing where he falls and why. This all concludes with the “Matrix Argument”, a lecture that has resulted in some rather interesting online discussion on sites such as Goodreads. However, variations of this argument have been introduced as part of philosophical courses for years due to their ability to question our perceptions of the world around us.

Weaknesses: Having some minor knowledge of some of the material will help reduce backtracking and looking for definitions of the terms.

Conclusion: This lecture series is an entertaining, educating and enlightening explanation of the importance of Philosophy across the various fields. Although I have done some study (courses and online free-study) of the big three, this course ties them all together nicely. It doesn’t answer all questions, instead encouraging students to consider that they do not and may never understand the answer to many of their questions. Philosophy in this context is the awareness of our lack of knowledge and understanding of the universe. It is this spark of wisdom that also encourages students to dig deeper and start asking further questions, as questions may lead to answers.
I recommend this lecture series to anyone with an open mind and an innate curiosity. Folks with an appreciation for the weird nature of the universe should also check it out.


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Course Review: Space, Time and Einstein

Provider: World Science U
Lecturers: Brian Greene
Subject: Science / Physics
Delivery: self-paced asynchronous study
Recommended Load: 3 hrs/week over 3 weeks
Completion Date: 08/02/2014

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in ...

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921 (age 42). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Description: This short course gives an introduction to physics. The website is rolling out other physics courses, ranging from short introductory courses to term-length “University Courses”. One university course entitled “Special Relativity” is available. 2 short courses and 2 university courses on physics are currently in development.

Strengths: Brian Greene presents a rather neat introduction to time and space through the lens of physics. No mathematics or physics knowledge is required, just an interest in learning some concepts. The material is delivered via engaging videos, activities and forum discussions.

Weaknesses: After doing this short course, I will not look at science fiction series and films as before.

Conclusion: I never studied physics in high school due to the intimidating nature of the subject. However, this course does much to make the material accessible, thus spurring an interest, at least in yours truly, in doing further study in physics. As such, I have enrolled in the World Science U term-length course “Special Relativity”.
I recommend this course to anyone with an interest in science and/or physics, as well as anyone looking to avoid pesky technical issues with their science fiction or science-focused writing.