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The Need for Science 2018

October 4. 1957. It was a Friday evening in Washington, D.C. The Soviet embassy was holding a party in honor of the International Geophysical Year rocket and satellite conference being held in Washington. Over 50 scientists from 13 nations were enjoying the festivities. The top U.S. scientists and officials were in attendance and running high on the confidence that within the next year, they’d be launching the first man-made satellite into near-Earth orbit. New York Times reporter Walter Sullivan was called away from the party to take an urgent phone call from work. After hanging up the receiver, he hurried to U.S. physicist, Lloyd Berkner and whispered in his ear. Berkner collected himself, tapped on the table until quiet fell across the room. “I wish to make an announcement,” he said. He raised his glass to his hosts. “I am informed by the New York Times that a satellite is in orbit at an elevation of 900 kilometers. I wish to congratulate our Soviet colleagues on their accomplishment.”

Thus began the Space Race. The bombshell news of being beat to space by the USSR sent shockwaves across the nation. This was not supposed to happen. We were supposed to be first. We were, or we thought we were, the leaders in both military and scientific technology. But the 20MHz signal being emitted from Sputnik I as it orbited the earth could be heard by anyone with a receiver. In one day, the U.S. went from the perceived superior power on the planet to the perceived runner-up.

Why did we lose?

Because we became too comfortable talking about how awesome we were instead of being awesome. We didn’t do the work or invest the resources into developing the technology and, just as important, developing the scientific minds necessary to be as good as we thought we were.

On a bright side, though, the shock of Sputnik I woke us up. Under the calming leadership of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, we invested the resources to tackle the technical issues of space flight head-on. We also did something at the grassroots level that paid dividends in returning the U.S. to the position of World Leader from the mid-1960s to recent times. We invested in the education and development of our young minds. We valued the greatest resource at our country’s disposal. Our youth.

As part of research around Sputnik I and early satellite programs, I came across this great paper published in The Mathematics Teacher (Vol. 58, No.4, pp.290-294) from April of 1965, Using high school algebra and geometry in Doppler satellite tracking by Robert A. Thompson of The Standard Oil Company. The paper rose out of a Standard Oil workshop at the 1962 NASA Space Science Fair teaching high school students to participate in one of the greatest citizen-science adventures of the 20th Century, tracking satellites by the Doppler shift of their radio signal.

My favorite part of this awesome article is a sidebar at the end outlining the Scientific Manpower Commission’s policy on promoting and developing future scientists and improving the general science education commitment in the United States.

I think these points are well taken and incredibly relevant. We’ve gotten complacent once again. It’s time to invest and value science education as part of a well-rounded education. It’s time to build thinkers from the ground up. Greatness comes in action, not in nonsense spewed from ignorance.

Major scientific problems are facing us. Will we be up to the challenge? Will we have the resolve to respond as we did in the 1960s?

I sure hope so.

And the 1965 Scientific Manpower Commissions policy guide is a damn fine place to start.

Scientific Manpower Commission policy guide

The Scientific Manpower Commission, an independent agency representing eleven major scientific societies, in meeting on September 23, 1964, issued a comprehensive policy guide on national scientific and technological manpower problems. Recent uncertainties in the job market and intensive development of means for scrutinizing manpower policy in the government indicate concerns calling for a statement of position. The Commission presented its guide to action in the following statement.

THE SCIENTIFIC MANPOWER COMMISSION BELIEVES:

1 That the nation is experiencing rapid scientific and technological expansion which will continue well beyond the immediately foreseeable future;

2 That the nation’s capacity for leadership in world affairs, for national defense, and for essential economic growth are increasingly dependent on a continuously expanding scientific and technological enterprise of high quality;

3 That long-term educational and recruitment policies must be formulated without adverse influence from the pressures of short-term fluctuations of supply and demand;

4 That strong, continued emphasis on science education is justified since such education is not likely to become excessive either for the nation or for the individual, provided its structure allows flexibility, stresses specialization only on the foundation of broad education, and . . . includes the humanities;

5 That scientific inquiry and technological innovation are human intellectual activities requiring a freely competitive and self-disciplined professional environment for maximum development and expression.

Based on these concepts, the policy of the Scientific Manpower Commission shall be:

1 To remind the nation regularly of the importance of conserving scientific manpower by realistic national planning, careful accounting, adequate recruitment and education, and proper utilization;

2 To stimulate the development and dissemination of realistic career information, and to encourage steadily the entrance of qualified students into the scientific and engineering professions;

3 To promote the development of educational programs in the sciences which emphasize a judicious combination of depth with intra and inter-disciplinary breadth, and, above all, quality ;

4 To recognize the importance of communication between scientists and the rest of society, and to urge the recruitment and training of science writers, library scientists and others who can aid in effective communication of scientific knowledge;

5 To remind the scientific and engineering community that an undergraduate major in science offers students a broad, liberal education relevant to the needs of society and that future manpower needs include science administrators and others who will apply their knowledge of science to responsibilities in an increasingly wide range of human activities ;

6 To encourage the proper utilization and professional growth of practicing scientific and engineering manpower, including constant reminders to individuals, employers, and professional organizations of their obligation to initiate and maintain programs of continuing education;

7 To encourage participation in the development in less advanced nations of scientific and technical establishments commensurate with their needs, and to recognize participation in this effort as a legitimate responsibility of more advanced nations;

8 To advocate strongly the study and identification of worthy targets of potential scientific endeavor, and the manpower implications of each; so that as scientists become available through shifts in projects, retraining of current existing personnel and new recruitment, new projects can be initiated on some established priority schedule without serious disruption in the employment of scientists and engineers.

 

  1. The Mathematics Teacher | April 1965

 

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CCCHS Writing Prompt: The Judgement of Osiris

I had the honor of speaking to the Clay Center Community High School during their ELA Writing Week. It was a blast! Great kids, awesome teachers, and exceptional administrative/building support for this project. I was truly impressed. My presentation was on the power of story. I hope the students learned something and at the very least enjoyed viewing the first significant snowfall of the year through the CCCHS Library windows.

As is my custom, I prepared more than I had time for. (It’s an old habit from my coaching days where I vowed never to run out of things to do when dealing with teenagers. Keep them busy, keep them engaged, and don’t ever get caught with nothing.) So, as promised, I’m posting the second writing exercise we didn’t have time to do in any of the eight presentations hours.

The Judgement of Osiris


In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, it says that after a person died their soul was led to the Hall of Truth, where their soul was judged. There, their heart would be weighed by Anubis, the jackal-headed god of judgment, on the great golden scale against the white feather of Ma’at. The judgment would be witnessed and recorded by Thoth, the god of wisdom and writing. If the deceased’s heart weighed more than the feather, it was fed to Ammit (The Gobbler, The Eater of Souls, The Bone Eater), a horrific beast with the head of a crocodile, the body of a lion, and the hind end of a hippopotamus.) If the heart was lighter than the feather of Ma’at, the deceased would be led by Horus, the falcon-headed god of the sun and sky, to stand final judgment in front of Osiris, the god of the afterlife, the Egyptian King of Eternity. Osiris would approve the final judgment and send the soul to the Field of Reeds, an afterlife with eternal bliss.

The Egyptians believed in the philosophy of Ma’at, that is represented by the goddess Ma’at and her white feather. The Egyptians believed the soul resided in one’s heart. The philosophy of Ma’at meant to live with balance, justice, and harmony, If one lived by these philosophies, the heart would be light and spent out at the end of life. If not, the heart (soul) would be burdened and heavy at the end of life. Having one’s heart devoured by Ammit meant the soul would cease to exist, the worst fate an Egyptian could imagine.

Your writer’s mission is to:

  • Write your own story about your turn in The Hall of Truth. Write your piece in whatever format you choose. Prose, poetry, memoir, and/or graphic novel formats all work.
  • Show your reader what it’s like to walk down the Hall of Truth for your heart/soul to stand judgment before Osiris.
  • Your reader wants to feel your fears, pains, regrets, and, most importantly, your belief in your own soul.

Some things to consider:

  • What does it feel like walking down the hall?
  • How do the gods treat you?
  • Convey a sense of how life and life choices either lighten the heart or weigh it down.
  • How do you imagine your life will “balance” as your heart is placed on the great golden scale against the white feather of truth on the other side?
  • What are the stakes in the judgment?

CCCHHS students and staff – Thanks again for a wonderful day of talking words and story. Keep up the good work!

Read. Write. Repeat.

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Oh, the possibilities! Microbes, genomes, and editing life.

When we think of science fiction, we think of sleek ships with hyperdrives, aliens, high-tech devices and weapons, grand battles, and if we’re lucky, space pirates. The last things that ever pops into our reader/writer sci-fi brains are microbes or on a smaller scale, genes. And that’s too bad because microbes and genetics can be a goldmine for science fiction and fantasy. At the very least, the science-savvy author can use specific science topics to add color and depth to their story world. It’s a win for writers and a win for readers as well. And with NaNoWriMo 2018 just around the corner, I thought it timely to point out the story potential of microbes and genetics for writers of all genres.

SciFi-Facebook

Just imagine the possibilities!

We carry one-hundred-trillion bacteria around with us everywhere we go. They’re beneficial bacteria called our normal flora. Only about 1% of the known bacterial species are actually pathogens. Things like genetic transfer, mutation, and even microgravity can alter microbes to increase virulence, either naturally, by accident, or on purpose. That’s a lot of prospective plagues, right?

And genetics? The human genome itself has about 20,000 protein-coding genes. The control and expression of these genes are an intricate network of up-regulation and down-regulation, called homeostasis, that miraculously keeps us walking and talking and functioning. Nature is amazing!

See what I mean by possibilities? In the mind of a writer, microbes and genetics give us plausible tools to increase the tension and stakes of our stories to put our characters through the ringer. (Insert evil-author-laugh.)

Man vs. Nature.

This is one of my favorite types of science fiction. One of my favorite authors, Michael Crichton, used this man vs nature trope to near perfection in two of his books that touch all the buttons for my molecular microbiologist’s soul, The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park. In one, a microbe plays front and center and despite all the safeguards man develops to contain nature—well, you know how that all turns out. In the other, man laughs in the face of nature by apparently mastering genetic manipulation in order to bring back the extinct. All the arrogance of man unravels into one mistake after another until—well, you know how that one turns out also.

See? Microbes and genetics…tailor-made for science fiction!

Story Prompt 1

A microbiome is the collection of microorganisms which exist in a particular environment. It is an intricate system where the microbes modulate the cells of the intestine to benefit both the host and the microorganisms of the gut biome. We are just beginning to scratch the surface on understanding microbiomes, specific populations of bacteria inhabiting a specific part of the body, and their effect on the function of the whole organism.

For example, the intestinal microbiota and the interactions these microbes have with the host gut in the prevention of infection with enteric pathogens. Microbiomes have been associated with immune response, disease, obesity, and even cognitive abilities. One of the coolest examples of a microbiome is the thanatomicrobiome, or the death microbiome. The research group who first described the thanatomicrobiome report a characteristic, time-dependent, post-mortem shift of the bacteria in human tissues from a predominantly aerobic (oxygen loving) bacterial population to an anaerobic population (oxygen hating).

In my Science in SciFi post, Writing Microbes in Outer Space, I highlight research showing bacteria can be affected by microgravity conditions. Bacterial pathogens exhibit structural changes, antibiotic resistance shifts, and shifts in molecular expression when grown in microgravity versus on Earth.

Your Story Prompt Mission #1 is to write a story in which an exposure to microgravity causes a shift in a character’s gut microbiome, like thanatomicrobiome, and results in a positive or negative behavior change that affects the entire well-being of Mars Colony X17984.

Story Prompt 2

The meteoric rise (in science terms) of CRISPR-based gene editing provides great promise for medicine and health. The CRISPR-based gene editing technology is a primitive bacterial immune system that recognizes foreign DNA inside the bacterium and destroys it. For all it’s promise, though, the technology also comes with potential pitfalls, like off-target editing, as well as the ethical and moral questions associated with tinkering with our DNA and genomes.

And then there’s the issue of gene editing in your own home. Yes, the CRISPR technology, with its simplicity, has become popular among citizen scientists. There are take-home kits and plans for setting up home labs available for anyone interested in upping their home hobbyist game. Got a free weekend? Let’s modify that Ficus elastica plant we got mom for Mother’s Day so it won’t be so easy for her to kill it over winter.

Your Story Prompt Mission #2 is to create a future-world assassin who uses CRISPR created, genetically modified bacteria as her weapon of choice.

Just for the fun of it, share your ideas or first few lines in the comments below. As a molecular microbiologist with an author mindset, I can’t wait to read your stories! Here’s the idea for Story Prompt #2 that popped into my head while thinking about this post. Feel free to use it as a jumping off point if you want to.

After the fallout from World Bio-War I and amidst international bans on genetically modified microbes, a former molecular biologist turned assassin creates unique and genetically untraceable bacteria from her underground home laboratory to eliminate the enemies of science currently in control of world politics. Write a story about the preparations for or the execution of her most difficult assignment yet—eliminate a dangerous rising star in the anti-science movement before he gains ultimate power.

I can hear NaNoWriMo calling my name to put this story on paper.

I’m excited for NaNoWriMo 2018. How about you?

Putting the Science in Fiction

Science and technology have starring roles in a wide range of genres–science fiction, fantasy, thriller, mystery, and more. Unfortunately, many depictions of technical subjects in literature, film, and television are pure fiction. A basic understanding of biology, physics, engineering, and medicine will help you create more realistic stories that satisfy discerning readers.

This book brings together scientists, physicians, engineers, and other experts to help you:

good news putting the science in fiction

  • Understand the basic principles of science, technology, and medicine that are frequently featured in fiction.
  • Avoid common pitfalls and misconceptions to ensure technical accuracy.
  • Write realistic and compelling scientific elements that will captivate readers.
  • Brainstorm and develop new science- and technology-based story ideas.
  • Whether writing about mutant monsters, rogue viruses, giant spaceships, or even murders and espionage, Putting the Science in Fiction will have something to help every writer craft better fiction.

Putting the Science in Fiction collects articles from “Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy” Dan Koboldt’s popular blog series for authors and fans of speculative fiction. Each article discusses an element of sci-fi or fantasy with an expert in that field. Scientists, engineers, medical professionals, and others share their insights in order to debunk the myths, correct the misconceptions, and offer advice on getting the details right.

Enter to Win!!!

Enter a chance to win 1 of 10 copies of Putting the Science in Fiction, a collection of essays from engineers and scientists. Enter below and share on social media for up to three entries.

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Football Kickoff 2018 Retro Post

The summer has flown by. They have a habit of doing that when one gets old. It’s football season already! I haven’t written any football posts in a long while. I’ve been a little busy AND I am a newly-minted grandpa. (Side note: This grandpa gig is pretty awesome!)

In lieu of a fresh new look on a fresh new high school football season, here’s a retro post about one of those awesome snapshots of memories from my football coaching days at Clay Center Community High School.

I wish a rewarding season for all the players and the coaches. Get better every day and HAVE FUN!

Go Tigers!

The Snap

The sound. The sharp snap of a chin strap being fastened. It is a beautiful sound; a quick click of metal fastening to metal, followed by the crisp echo as the sound waves move through the plastic shell of the football helmet. A beautiful sound.

We have a unique situation for football in our town. Our stadium, the historic Otto Unruh Stadium, built in the depression by local workers using local limestone, is across town from the high school. So, for the games, we had to ride buses from the school to the stadium. Some may look at this as an inconvenience, but I always thought it was pretty darn cool.

First, it gave the kids a game-mentality to associate with the stadium. We knew when we went to Otto Unruh Stadium, it was game time. We knew it was time to go to work and take care of business.

Second, the bus ride was kind of fun. After a home win, there was nothing better than to drive back across town with cars honking, people waving, and a bus full of singing, happy, sweaty, stinky, beat-up-but-not-feeling-a-lick-of-pain teenage boys. If we lost? Let’s just say the mood was a little more somber.

The most awesome thing, though, was the bus ride out to the Unruh Stadium. We made that ride in total silence. Yes, you read that correctly. 40 teenage boys fully dressed out to play a high school football game, riding in a school bus on a 10-minute drive across town in complete, utter silence. It was one of the many brilliant ideas of Coach Paul Lane.

The kids all knew the Coach Lane Silence Drill, especially on the second bus which carried most of the lineman and younger JV kids. Coach Lane and I were coach riders on that bus. Every once in a while, most often early in the year or riding out for a freshman or JV game, one of the younger kids, pumped up on nervous adrenaline, would say something. A simple hand up by me or a stern look from an upperclassman would silence the bus again.

photo (13)

The best part of the ride would happen after we crossed the bridge over Huntress Creek and prepare to turn left on “C” Street. As we came off the bridge, the sun would be falling over the limestone grandstands of the stadium a few blocks west of the bridge. You could feel the intake of breath throughout the bus. There was our house in all its glory, decked out with the orange and black flags, and the other various decorations associated with Friday Night in America. The scoreboard would be on and the lights may already be on, Otto Unruh Stadium was ready. Our stadium.

The Coach Hays part of the Coach Lane Bus Silence Rule was when we turned the corner on “C” street, everyone was to be strapped up and ready to step off the bus with fire in our eyes. The part which I hope stays fresh in my memory for the rest of my life would happen right there. The moment when the bus driver would turn the corner and behind me I would hear, no I would feel, the snap of 40 chin straps being fastened in almost perfect unison. It gives me chills just to think about it. That beautiful sound of the snap, 40 times within a second, and spread out just enough to where I could almost hear each individual snap.

The bus would continue, the silence would continue, and when Coach Lane stepped off the bus inside the stadium, Rocky, our radio announcer in the booth, would start “Welcome to the Jungle” at the second Coach Lane’s foot hit the ground. Friday Night in America, boys and girls.

I miss that ride. I miss that sound probably more than just about anything from the coaching days at CCCHS. In my head, the echo of those snaps lingers. I can only hope when I am on my deathbed after I see the faces of my family and after my life flashes before my eye, the very last sound I hear as I turn the corner toward my glorious stadium, will be the “SNAP!” of a chorus of football helmets.

 

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Building a Clay Center Public Recreation Plan

I believe in the power of community recreation. Recreation is one of the foundations of community wellness and an important piece of the economic development pie. The goal is singular—to provide the largest number of kids/adults/seniors with the most opportunities to learn and grow—for the least amount of money.

Last week, I attended the Public Recreation budget hearing with the Clay Center City Council. I thought the city made an excellent decision to increase accountability in the Public Recreation budget by combining all the accounts into one budget. My hope is this allows for money to be spent on expanding recreation opportunities in the future.

In the public comment session of the budget hearing, I asked the city council what the six-month plan was for recreation in Clay Center. In 1 year? In 5 years?

The reorganization of the department has been in place and active for over a year and has been in a planning stage for the past three years. Yet, there has been little change in operations. Hence, my question about a Clay Center Recreation Plan.

As things sometimes happen when one attends a meeting, one asks a question and when nobody has an answer, the question gets turned around. I asked the question about a vision and a plan and then the mayor asks if I had any suggestions for a short-term and long-term recreation plan. As a matter of fact, my cohorts and I have ten years of ideas!

But before I submit my thoughts on recreation, I want to see what ideas people in and around Clay Center have. I want to pick the brains of parents with kids of all ages. I want to hear ideas from adults of all ages of what they’d like to see offered as community recreation. I want to hear from current high school students and young adults who’ve recently left town for work, college, or just to escape…what do you wish you had while growing up in Clay Center?

Here are a few things to think about while you’re pondering ideas to pass along:

Opportunities

We have a great network of youth sports and youth activities offered through clubs and individuals. My ideal Public Recreation system is a hub to provide support, advice, promotion, and access to facilities for these existing organizations while providing new activities and services to fill the gaps. These new activities should not all be about sports. Hobbies, games, community reads, arts, etc. should all be included. An ideal Public Recreation is not just for young children and offers recreation opportunities to all citizens of all ages all year round.

Limits

As you think of things you wish to see in a Public Recreation Department, keep in mind there are fixed limitations.

  • Mill levy is controlled by law and generates around $27,000 per year. Any increase in funds will need to come from participation fees, sponsorships, etc.
  • The new departmental organization actually reduced manpower.
    • Old Parks Department
      • Director
      • 2 Employees
      • Part-time recreation director
    • New Parks & Recreation
      • Director
      • 2 Employees

If you have any ideas, I want to know what you’re thinking! Please leave a comment here or on the Facebook post or email me at: coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com.

And, as always, feel free to share this post with people you think might be interested in contributing a few good ideas.

Thank you, CC!

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MLB Unofficial Commissioner 2018

I’ve been lax in my role as MLB Unofficial Commissioner so far in the 2018 season. My Royals are a dumpster fire so I’ve spent too much brain power figuring out their problems. Royals 2018 = Historically bad. The Royals and the Baltimore Orioles did something that’s never been done in the entire history of Major League Baseball. It’s the first time two teams have been below .300 at the Fourth of July point of the season. 

But I still listen to almost every game. They’re my team…for better or worse. 

There are a couple of issues which have been causing a lot of fuss over the past two seasons. The time it takes to play an MLB game and the defensive shift.  There’s been so much fuss, I’ve decided it’s time to step into my Unofficial Comish role and suggest a few changes. 

First, I have to rant against the anti-shifting crowd. Hitters have to adjust. Pitchers have to adjust. Managers, GMs, owners, scouts, and umpires have to adjust. It’s part of the game. Always has been, always will be. Hitters and coaches quit whining and start adjusting.  Common sports sense states if the defense is giving you an open third of the field, take advantage of it. Burn their strategy. Do what it takes to succeed. Be a competitor instead of a whiner. 

Okay, I feel better. Now on to my solution to those two current problems. 

  1. Put in a pitch clock similar to the shot clock in basketball. 30 seconds might be a good place to start and adjustments made until a comfortable length of time is determined.
  2. Each defender must start with both feet in their traditional defensive zone. The defenders can then shift when the windup starts. 

There you go. Simple solutions to complex problems. 

On a side note, with the limits on mound visits this year, why do managers still burn a mound visit to make run-of-the-mill pitching changes? Just stand up at the top of the dugout steps, call time, and point to the bullpen. Save the mound visits for strategy and technical visits. 

Enjoy the rest of the 2018 season! It’s shaping up to be a wild run to a World Series title.

Feel free to discuss or propose your own solution(s). My unofficial office door is always open to ideas.

Take care and “PLAY BALL!”

Unofficial MLB Commissioner is signing off.

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A Beautiful Day of Baseball

May 15, 2018.

Clay Center Community High School hosted a 4A baseball regional in Clay Center for the first time since 2002. That was a long time to wait.

But when I was sitting out there watching the four teams, it was like a slice of baseball heaven.  The crowds were great and supportive. The teams played their hearts out. Watching the three games on the renovated Campbell Field put a smile on this old coach’s face.

Thank you, Clay County for the donations of time, skill, funds, materials, prayers, and the new scoreboard to help make this renovation project possible. It truly is a field of dreams to us old baseball people and something we hope the young baseball people will be able to enjoy for years.

The power of a “for the community by the community” project.

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