Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us

Whether you are trying to choose a school for your child (or deciding which district to move into), evaluate a student or a teacher, comply with the requirements of No Child Left Behind, admit students or apply for admittance, or compare the educational systems of different countries, there is likely to be some kind of a test involved.

Home Photovoltaic Systems for Physicists

The July 2008 isue of Physics Today has a special focus: "Energy Today and Tomorrow". It features three articles of interest to chemists and physicists, "Grand Challenges in Basic Energy Sciences" by Graham R. Fleming and Mark A. Ratner, "Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment" by Leon Glicksman, and this one by Thomas Murphy Jr.

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

George Gamow introduced me to Monte Carlo methods in a chapter of "One Two Three Infinity" (Hal's Pick of April, 2001) that I first read when I was about twelve. His vivid description and witty illustration of the path of a staggering drunk comes clearly to mind even these many decades later, and it surely inspired my research on a number of projects.

The Sky is Falling

How likely is it that an asteroid or a comet of significant size will impact the earth, and what would be the consequences? It is now widely accepted that the dinosaurs were wiped out by such an event, and recent research suggests that previous estimates of the number of asteroid impacts may have been much too low.

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments

Lists of "the best" movies, books, sports stars, American Idols, etc. etc. are often intriguing and controversial. Science has its own lists, be they Nobelists or most-cited publications. Just a little while ago (could it really have been November, 2005?) Philip Ball's list of "elegant" chemistry experiments was my choice of the month.

101 Funny Things About Global Warming

Global warming is no joke, but that does not mean that humor should not be encouraged. Sidney Harris is joined by twenty of his cartoonist colleagues to provide somewhat more than the promised 101 cartoons about global warming (there are no page numbers - I had to count!). They are not all funny, however.

Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of 'Energy Independence'

Robert Bryce is a respected commentator on the energy industry. He writes for Atlantic Monthly, the Guardian and The Nation, and he has written books about Enron and about the oil industry in Texas. In "Gusher of Lies", he confronts politicians and entrepeneurs who claim that the United States should/could become "energy independent" at any time in the forseeable future.

Numbers Guy: Are our brains wired for math?

I have noticed a significant decline over the years in the ability of my students to estimate quantities, and have attributed it to an increased reliance on calculators and computers, but it may be a consequence of more subtle differences in brain development.

Spectacular Chemical Experiments

This is the second book of chemical demonstrations by Herbert Roesky that I have purchased. The first, "Chemical Curiosities: Spectacular Experiments and Inspired Quotes" should have been a Hal's Pick when it was published in 1996.