Photosynthesizing anaerobic lifeforms in Earth’s oceans were likely responsible for systematically enriching Earth’s atmosphere with respect to O2. Through chemical reactions in Earth’s atmosphere, O3 and the O3 layer were systematically derived from this same source of O2. The O3 layer’s ability to minimize the impact of harmful UV radiation, in tandem with the ascent of [O2] to current values of about 21% by volume, were and remain crucial to life as we experience it today.In tracing the evolution of Earth’s second atmosphere from a composition based on volcanic outgassing to its present state, the role of life was absolutely critical.On my drive home tonight after today’s lecture, I happened upon a broadcast regarding synthetic life on CBC Radio‘s Ideas. Based upon annotated excerpts from a Craig Venter lecture, this broadcast is well worth the listen in and of itself. And although I’m no life scientist, I can’t help but predict that Venter’s work will ultimately lead to refinements, if not a complete rewrite, of life’s role in the evolution of Earth’s second atmosphere.
About 1:35 into
Jeff Han impressively demonstrates a lava-lamp application on a multi-touch user interface.
Having spent considerable time in the past pondering the fluid dynamics (e.g., convection) of the Earth’s atmosphere and deep interior (i.e., mantle and core), Han’s demonstration immediately triggered a scientific use case: Is it possible to computationally steer scientific simulations via multi-touch user interfaces?
A quick search via Google returns almost 20,000 hits … In other words, I’m likely not the first to make this connection 😦
In my copious spare time, I plan to investigate further …
Also of note is how this connection was made: A friend sent me a link to an article on Apple’s anticipated tablet product. Since so much of the anticipation of the Apple offering relates to the user interface, it’s not surprising that reference was made to Jeff Han’s TED talk (the video above). Cool.
If you have any thoughts to share on multi-touch computational steering, please feel free to chime in.
One more thought … I would imagine that the gaming industry would be quite interested in such a capability – if it isn’t already!
Recently I shared an a-ha! moment on the use of virtual environments for confronting the fear of public speaking.
The more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to claim that the real value of such technology is in targeted skills development.
Once again, I’ll use myself as an example here to make my point.
If I think back to my earliest attempts at public speaking as a graduate student, I’d claim that I did a reasonable job of delivering my presentation. And given that the content of my presentation was likely vetted with my research peers (fellow graduate students) and supervisor ahead of time, this left me with a targeted opportunity for improvement: The Q&A session.
Countless times I can recall having a brilliant answer to a question long after my presentation was finished – e.g., on my way home from the event. Not very useful … and exceedingly frustrating.
I would also assert that this lag, between question and appropriate answer, had a whole lot less to do with my expertise in a particular discipline, and a whole lot more to do with my degree nervousness – how else can I explain the ability to fashion perfect answers on the way home!
Over time, I like to think that I’ve approved my ability to deliver better-quality answers in real time. How have I improved? Experience. I would credit my experience teaching science to non-scientists at York, as well as my public-sector experience as a vendor representative at industry events, as particularly edifying in this regard.
Rather than submit to such baptisms of fire, and because hindsight is 20/20, I would’ve definitely appreciated the opportunity to develop my Q&A skills in virtual environments such as Nortel web.alive. Why? Such environments can easily facilitate the focused effort I required to target the development of my Q&A skills. And, of course, as my skills improve, so can the challenges brought to bear via the virtual environment.
All speculation at this point … Reasonable speculation that needs to be validated …
If you were to embrace such a virtual environment for the development of your public-speaking skills, which skills would you target? And how might you make use of the virtual environment to do so?
Confession: In the past, I’ve been extremely quick to dismiss the value of Second Life in the context of teaching and learning.
Even worse, my dismissal was not fact-based … and, if truth be told, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid opportunities to ‘gather the facts’ by attending presentations at conferences, conducting my own research online, speaking with my colleagues, etc.
So I, dear reader, am as surprised as any of you to have had an egg-on-my-face epiphany this morning …
Please allow me to elaborate:
- Yesterday, I witnessed a demonstration of Nortel web.alive (dubbed by some as ‘Second Life for business’)
- This morning I was brainstorming content with a colleague for an upcoming presentation on computing resources available for researchers at York
It was at some point during this morning’s brainstorming session that the egg hit me squarely in the face:
Why not use Nortel web.alive to prepare graduate students for presenting their research?
Often feared more than death and taxes, public speaking is an essential aspect of academic research – regardless of the discipline.
As a former graduate student, I could easily ‘see’ myself in this environment with increasingly realistic audiences comprised of friends, family and/or pets, fellow graduate students, my research supervisor, my supervisory committee, etc. Because Nortel web.alive only requires a Web browser, my audience isn’t geographically constrained. This geographical freedom is important as it allows for participation – e.g., between graduate students at York in Toronto and their supervisor who just happens to be on sabbatical in the UK. (Trust me, this happens!)
As the manager of Network Operations at York, I’m always keen to encourage novel use of our campus network. The public-speaking use case I’ve described here has the potential to make innovative use of our campus network, regional network (GTAnet), provincial network (ORION), and even national network (CANARIE) that would ultimately allow for global connectivity.
While I busy myself scraping the egg off my face, please chime in with your feedback. Does this sound useful? Are you aware of other efforts to use virtual environments to confront the fear of public speaking? Are there related applications that come to mind for you? (As someone who’s taught classes of about 300 students in large lecture halls, a little bit of a priori experimentation in a virtual environment would’ve been greatly appreciated!)
Update (November 13, 2009): I just Google’d the title of this article and came up with a few, relevant hits; further research is required.