Archive for the Kids Category
The nice logo of MCqMC 2016 was a collection of eight series of QMC dots on the unit (?) cube. The organisers set a competition to identify the principles behind those quasi-random sets and as I had no idea for most of them I entered very random sets unconnected with algorithmia, for which I got an honourable mention and a CD prize (if not the conference staff tee-shirt I was coveting!) Art Owen sent me back my entry, posted below and hopefully (or not!) readable.
To sort of make up for the failed attempt at Monte Rosa, we stayed an extra day and took a hike in Vale d’Aosta, starting from Cogne where we had a summer school a few years ago. And from where we started for another failed attempt at La Grivola. It was a brilliant day and we climbed to the Rifugio Vittorio Stella (2588m) [along with many many other hikers], then lost the crowds to the Colle della Rossa (3195m), which meant a 1700m easy climb. By the end of the valley, we came across steinbocks (aka bouquetins, stambecchi) resting in the sun by a creek and unfazed by our cameras. (Abele Blanc told us later that they are usually staying there, licking whatever salt they can find on the stones.)
The final climb to the pass was a bit steeper but enormously rewarding, with views of the Western Swiss Alps in full glory (Matterhorn, Combin, Breithorn) and all to ourselves. From there it was a downhill hike all the way back to our car in Cogne, 1700m, with no technical difficulty once we had crossed the few hundred meters of residual snow. And with the added reward of seeing several herds of the shy chamois mountain goat.
Except that my daughter’s rental mountaineering shoes started to make themselves heard and that she could barely walk downwards. (She eventually lost her big toe nails!) It thus took us forever to get down (despite me running to the car and back to get lighter shoes) and we came to the car at 8:30, too late to contemplate a drive back to Paris.
I got contacted by an author, Thomai Dion, toward writing a review of her children books, The Animal Cell, The Neuron, and a Science Lab’ Notebook. And I thus asked for the books to get a look. Which I get prior to my long flight from San Francisco to Sydney, most conveniently. [This is the second time this happens: I have been contacted once by an author of a most absurd book, a while ago.]
I started with the cell, which is a 17 pages book with a few dozen sentences, and one or more pictures per page. Pictures drawn in a sort of naïve fashion that should appeal to young children. Being decades away from being a kid and more than a decade away from raising a kid (happy 20th birthday, Rachel!), I have trouble assessing the ideal age of the readership or the relevance of introducing to them [all] 13 components of an animal cell, from the membrane to the cytoplasm. Mentioning RNA and DNA without explaining what it is. Each of these components gets added to the cell picture as it comes, with a one line description of its purpose. I wonder how much a kid can remember of this list, while (s)he may wonder where those invisible cells stand. And why they are for. (When checking on Google, I found this sequence of pages more convincing, if much more advanced. Again, I am not the best suited for assessing how kids would take it!)
The 21 pages book about the neurons is more explanatory than descriptive and I thus found it more convincing (again with not much of an idea of how a kid would perceive it!). It starts from the brain sending signals, to parts of the body and requiring a medium to do so, which happens to be made of neurons. Once again, though, I feel the book spends too much time on the description rather than on the function of the neurons, e.g., with no explanation of how the signal moves from the brain to the neuron sequence or from the last neuron to the muscle involved.
The (young) scientist notebook is the best book in the series in my opinion: it reproduces a lab book and helps a young kid to formalise what (s)he thinks is a scientific experiment. As a kid, I did play at conducting “scientific” “experiments” with whatever object I happened to find, or later playing with ready-made chemistry and biology sets, but having such a lab book would have been terrific! Setting the question of interest and the hypothesis or hypotheses behind it prior to running the experiment is a major lesson in scientific thinking that should be offered to every kid! However, since it contains no pictures but mostly blank spaces to be filled by the young reader, one could suggest to parents to print such lab report sheets themselves.