Science education

One time I was watching a football game on TV and they had a short quiz, called "You make the call" or something like that, and you had to watch a play and pretend to be a referee. A short video clip showed football players falling over each other. Then you were three possible calls that a refereee might make and asked to chose which was correct. After the commercial, the announcer would tell you which choice was right and explain why it was correct. I suppose this was a trick to make us watch the commercials, but I thought the game was kind of fun. My SciBling "Mike the Mad" had a great ... Read more
Amateur astronomers unite! The pros want your help!
i-48b602af7e444826eefa39cb469dcc0a-ngc4449.gif

image from Astronomy Picture of the Day, Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Aloisi (STScI / ESA), Hubble Heritage (STScI / AURA) - ESA/Hubble Collaboration

I learned about this from the ... Read more
I've had some requests for some more molecular puzzles since the last one that I posted (see A DNA puzzle ). One person liked it so much he even blogged about it. So, here's one for you to chew on over the weekend. This puzzle is a variation of an activity in Exploring DNA Structure, a CD/lab book that I made (with funding from the NSF) ... Read more
Not content with his recent exploits in human experimentation and cavorting with Plosites in San Francisco, Professor Steve Steve jetted across the country once again, last week, hitting both both Blacksburg, VA and Seattle, WA, and creating pandemonium wherever he went. And raising the question - how does he get back and forth across the coast so quickly? Will you find out ... Read more
Last week I found a bug in the new NCBI BLAST interface. Of course, I reported it to the NCBI help desk so it will probably get fixed sometime soon. But it occurred to me, especially after seeing people joke about whether computer science is really a science or not, that it might surprise people to learn how much of the scientific method goes into testing software and doing digital biology.

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What happens when the scientific method ... Read more
I had an enlightening experience recently, after I wrote some bioinformatics activities, under contract, for a community college. At the end of the project, the person at the college asked me if the activities were anything like the things that a "bioinformatics technician" would do on the job.

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Well no, I said, and added that I'd never heard of a bioinformatics technician before and I really didn't know what they would do. I thought that the people most likely to use our activities on-the-job would be research ... Read more
BLAST is a collection of programs that are used to compare sequences (DNA, RNA, or protein) to larger collections of sequences that are stored in databases. I've used BLAST as a teaching tool for many years, partly because it's become a standard tool for biological work and partly because it's very good at illustrating evolutionary relationships on a molecular level. A few months ago, the NCBI changed the web interface for doing BLAST searches at their site. I ... Read more
Professor Steve Steve, recently accused of consorting with a certain Washington madam came clean today with an alibi that he claims, proves the allegations are nothing more than malicious lies. Dr. Steve insists that he was at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center doing experiments with teachers! And he has the photos to prove it! Professor Steve Steve, the only panda with a Myspace page does seem to hit more locations in a night ... Read more
i-dc4398c754d67d54c86378e8729b36bc-parallel_DNA.gifAlthough, I didn't believe it when I first saw it. With all the years that I've heard (or taught) that all DNA is antiparallel, it was hard to believe my eyes.

Yet here is parallel DNA, with both strands oriented in the same direction, right here on your monitor. And the commenters were correct.

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The ... Read more
By now, many of you have probably seen the the new BLAST web interface at the NCBI. There are many good things that I can say about it, but there are a few others that caught me by surprise during my last couple of classes.

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Because of these changes, and because I'm giving a workshop for teachers on BLAST at the Fralin Biotechnology Conference in Blacksburg, VA, next week, it seemed like a good time to update our animated ... Read more

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