Is the Moon a Magnet for Ignorance?

is the moon

Google’s search-suggestions for “is the moon,” shown above, clearly indicate support for the “magnet for ignorance” conjecture.

My favorite one from this list: “is the moon real”? I’ve looked into this, and there are apparently quite a few people utterly convinced that the Moon is a hologram, created by NASA, for reasons I have not been able to discern.

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A Proven Method for Getting Teenagers to Read


Although I am a teacher, I am not an English teacher — but I also believe that, as a teacher of anything, I have an ethical and professional responsibility to promote literacy.

Many such methods for doing so exist. This is the one I use. The authors I have gotten teens reading most often, with this method, are Richard Feynman, Robert Heinlein, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jung Chang, Flannery O’Connor, and Stephen Hawking. If a teenager in a science class, a subject I do teach, completes his work from me, with a high level of accuracy, and in an unusually short time, I keep books by these authors on hand as my set of “emergency back-up teachers.” Turning bored students into engaged and interested students is, I am learning, the key to avoiding teacher-burnout — at least for me.

Next on my list to add to the books I use for this ongoing project: multiple copies of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I haven’t read it since I was in high school myself, and its impact still lingers.

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Why I Do Not Write Books

not writing

It’s very simple: errors in writing, of any kind, horrify me. If I wrote a book, and it were published, some would likely slip through, such as the one in the image above. If a book with my name on the cover had been published, and I then discovered an error, I would end up trying to get corrected copies to every buyer of the first edition, eating all profits, and then some. I also just don’t need that type of stress.

Please do not misunderstand: I love books.

Therefore, I do two other things, in lieu of actually writing a book (which has been suggested, to me, more than once). First, I read other peoples’ books. I seek higher-quality books to avoid those irritating typos, for they actually cause me pain when I see them. Even so, some slip through — ouch! — but at least the mistakes aren’t mine. I am almost immune to conventional causes of embarrassment, but this isn’t a conventional cause, and I certainly have no immunity to it.

The other thing I do is to blog, which is, of course, another form of writing. It’s a perfect forum for someone with this writing-quirk — because, when I discover a mistake in my writing, even months or years later, I can edit it away in seconds. This is why, for me, blogging > writing books. However, I am grateful that there are good writers for whom the inequality symbol points in the other direction.

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On the Problem of Evangelical Atheism

evangelical atheism

The term “evangelical atheism” may seem like a contradiction, but, hopefully, the image above clarifies what it means. It’s the zealous pushing of others to abandon religious beliefs, and it isn’t helpful to anyone.

John Lennon never, to my knowledge, publicly proclaimed a personal religious belief, but he didn’t apply the word “atheist” to himself, either; others did that. The same thing has happened repeatedly to Neil deGrasse Tyson, as he explains further, below. In both cases, these are people who are fiercely independent in their thinking, and not afraid to offend others — but that doesn’t mean they want to be associated with evangelical atheists, whose hostility to religion, and religious people, makes the world a more dangerous place. The more logical goal is a peaceful world, and that means one where the faithful and the skeptical can coexist peacefully.

For this to happen, work is needed on both sides, by the people on each side. The reasonable and moderate religious millions have religious extremists to (try to) calm down, each in their own groups, and they’ve got their hands full with that. It falls to non-religious people to deal with the extremists on the other side — the type who go beyond Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens, all three of whom conceded, in books of theirs which I have read, that they would change their minds on the subject of the existence of a deity, shown adequate empirical evidence for the existence of one. This was a consequence of the fact that all three men have written things based on rational thought. (They’ve also let their emotions get in the way sometimes, and become overly angry, but I’m referring to their better works, especially that of Harris.)

Evangelical atheists don’t write books. They can’t calm down long enough for that. Instead, they are more likely to speak out through angry and insulting videos they post on YouTube, harassment of believers (or agnostics, or those who simply don’t want to be labeled by others) on Facebook, and, of course, old-fashioned, face-to-face bullying.

I prefer the term “skeptic” for myself, as I have explained here before, for I like that balance struck by that term: insistence on evidence, balanced by openness to new evidence, even if it contradicts previous views (about anything). I also don’t want to associate myself with the evangelical atheists, which is the primary reason I abandoned use of the word “atheist” for myself, some time ago.

This made a few evangelical atheists angry, some to the point of losing all ability to reason (predictably), to the point of open warfare on my Facebook. To stop this, I literally deactivated that account for several days, that being the easiest option to shut that down quickly.

As for Neil deGrasse Tyson and John Lennon, I will let them speak for themselves.

Religious people aren’t going away any time soon. Neither are the non-religious. If we’re going to enjoy “living life in peace,” the hatred and hostility both need to go, from both sides of the “divide of belief” . . . and that isn’t too much to ask.

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A Tour of the Periodic Table of the Elements, Part 1

Periodic-Table-of-Elements 1st one with alkali metal and such

(click to enlarge)

In this, and the some upcoming posts, I’ll be showing you various collections of elements on the horizontally-extended version of the periodic table — one that includes the f-block elements in their proper place, rather than relegating them to two separate rows below the other elements. (I’m also suggesting the purple letters A – N for the usually-unrecognized groups in the f-block, and keeping the group numbers 1-18, with which many are familiar, for other groups).

For this first post, I’ll start with some sets of elements which are familiar to most who have studied the subject, plus some others which are much less well-known.

  • Light blue — the alkali metals.
  • Black background with red symbol and atomic number — hydrogen, which is definitely not an alkali metal, despite it sharing group 1 with them.
  • Dark blue — the alkaline-earth metals.
  • Dark yellow — the lanthanides.
  • Orange — these two elements are included with the lanthanides in some sources, and with the transition metals in others.
  • Bright pink — the actinides.
  • Light pink — these two elements are included with the actinides is some sources, and with the transition metals in others.
  • Red — the transition metals, also known as the transition elements, and d-block elements.
  • Light purple — group 13 is often called the “boron group,” but it also goes by other names, such as the “icosagens” and the “triels.”
  • Dark purple — group 14 is often called the “carbon group,” but it also goes by other names, such as “tetragens” and “crystallogens.” In semiconductor physics, these elements are referred to as group IV elements. 
  • Dark green — group 15 elements are referred to as the pnictogens, or nitrogen-group elements.
  • Bright yellow — bright yellow is used here for the chalcogens, also known as the group 16 elements, or oxygen-group elements.
  • Light green — the halogens.
  • Gray — the noble gases.
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How to Distinguish Real from Fake Silver Bullion


It seems a certain teacher, with 19 years’ experience teaching chemistry, has written a guide, for buyers on eBay, to help them avoid getting ripped off by the (tiny) minority of eBay sellers who sell fake silver. If you buy silver on eBay, or just want to verify that some silver you have is real, you might find this useful, so I’m posting a link to this guide right here:

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Elementary School Mathematics Education Mysteries


Since these two problems are really the exact same problem, in two different forms, why not just use “x” to teach it, from the beginning, in elementary school, instead of using the little box? The two symbols have the exact same meaning!

To the possible answer, “We use an ‘x’ for multiplication, instead, so doing this would be confusing,” I have a response: why? Using “x” for multiplication is a bad idea, because then students have to unlearn it later. In algebra, it’s better to write (7)(5) = 35, instead of 7×5 = 35, for obvious reasons — we use “x” as a variable, instead, almost constantly. This wouldn’t be as much trouble for students taking algebra if they had never been taught, in the first place, that “x” means “multiply.” It’s already a letter of the alphabet and a variable, plus it marks spots. It doesn’t need to also mean “multiply.”

Why are we doing things in a way that causes more confusion than is necessary? Should we, as teachers, not try to minimize confusion? We certainly shouldn’t create it, without a good reason for doing so, and these current practices do create it.

These things may not be mysteries to others, but they certainly are to me.

[Note: for those who do not already know, I am a teacher of mathematics. However, I do not have any experience teaching anything at the elementary level. For this particular post, that’s certainly relevant information.]

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