The Google Map of Campus

It looks like Google mapped the UofA campus (North, South, St. Jean, and Augustana) with Street View in July, 2012. Not just roads, but walking paths, too. (The University of Calgary did not get mapped. Heh.) Here’s a pic of the Google Mapper reflected in the windows of Earth Sciences. Hmm, I was teaching last summer, but never noticed anyone riding a bike with 9 eyes.

Why aren't you studying?

The Star Wars Identities

The Telus World of Science Edmonton is currently hosting an exhibition called Star Wars Identities. I'm all about science, but you had me at "Star Wars." Walk around a big room filled with actual props and costumes from the movies? Woot!

I went to SWI on the opening weekend with my good friend--and fellow nerd--George. (You should do the same. Er, but get your own friend. They don't have to be named "George," either.) He does an awesome Chewbacca, and his impression of a TIE fighter is...eerie. Go ahead and geek out, that's what it's about. Well, actually, it's about more than that, and that's what really impressed me about the exhibit.

The developers of the exhibit have added depth, meaning, and personal relevance to what otherwise might be a big room full of dusty old things. As you go through the exhibit, you create a Star Wars-universe character of your own, making choices about many aspects of its (your?) life. There are 10 different components: species, genes, parents, culture, mentors, friends, events, occupation, personality, and values. These are ordered ontogenetically--er, that is, reflective of human development, from childhood to adulthood (or "Origins, Influences, and Choices").

It became clear to me pretty quickly that there was some actual science behind this, and some careful thought. The developers consulted with scientific committee, including two neuropsychologists, three psychologists, and a some other experts in related scientific fields. For example, mention is made of the influence of different parenting styles (authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, or uninvolved) from the point of view of Anakin versus Luke. And the personality component brought up the Big 5 personality traits of agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness. (Try this Big 5 personality test yourself.)

At the end of it all, you get to choose to be either good, or, you know, choose the Dark Side. And then you see the character who you created. Here's mine:

The character in the background on the right is the one created by my friend George: a Jedi named Juh. (Yeah, so we're not great at coming up with names. What, is "Jar Jar" any better?)

Actual science and Star Wars together. Cool. Star Wars Identities runs until April 1, 2013. Highly recommended.

Why aren't you studying?

Update 1/20/2013: has an article on Star Wars Identities.

The Cost of Education

There's an interesting article in the December CAUT Bulletin. According to a Harris/Decima teleVox poll commissioned by CAUT (the Canadian Association of University Teachers):
"More than half of Canadians say they would be willing to pay more taxes to allow governments to increase post-secondary education funding."
Other questions in this survey asked people how institutions should respond to government cuts, and 52% said that administration costs should be reduced. Other options included increasing class sizes, cutting salaries, and raising fees (i.e., upping tuition or creating new and interesting ways of making students pay more).

In a finding that warmed my heart, 47% of respondents thought that professors had the best interests of students in mind (higher than private donors, administrators, or governments--all three together getting only 41% of people's votes). That's nice, even though I'm not a professor.

If you could send this information to the provincial Minister of "Enterprise" and Advanced Education and the Premier, that would be nice.

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