Are Students Prepared for a Career in Computers?

AlexanderLakhanpalLeave it to Google to discover that American schools are not preparing young students for their future – a future in which many of them will be looking for jobs in a computer-related field.

Wired magazine ran a disheartening piece that looked at the seeming lack of awareness schools have regarding the modern job landscape. Schools in the US have apparently decided that there just isn’t the demand for computer science. This despite Gallup polls showing the opposite, that parents want their kids to learn to code, to program, starting at a young age. In a poll organized by Google, less than 50% of school leaders reported that their school boards want computer science education. How could this be true??

Start Them Early

Early exposure is critical in beginning to develop skills that will translate into careers. Students who took computer classes were more inclined to be interested in computer science in college. This is something we should be aiming for – jobs in computing are growing at double the rate of other jobs. In five years, there will be one million NEW computer science jobs created. Will American graduates have the skills to fill them all?

What’s Stopping Us?

It seems that in-fighting and bickering is getting in the way from what the data is telling us – that putting young students on a path of computer education is critical for their careers. That Americans want coding in the classroom.

If school administrators are right, and there isn’t enough money to support these programs – give them more! If teachers and students alike don’t have time because of all the standardized testing that has to be prepped – change the way that works! And if there aren’t enough qualified teachers to administer the curriculum, then jumpstarting a computer education initiative is more imperative than the article even lets on.

Google’s RISE Grants Seek to Change These Stats

Say what you will about Google, but the work they’re doing here is hugely beneficial to the country. Their RISE program gives awards in the forms of grants to groups that promote computer science literacy around the world, with a strong focus on women the poor, and minorities. With only half of principals reporting that their schools offer computer science classes at all, this is obviously a needed program.

According to program manager Hai Hong of Google’s K-12 education outreach,“If we’re trying to address existing disparities and access, we need the rigorous research to understand what the landscape of computer science even looks like.”

Pluto’s Closeup


 

Earlier this month, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made headlines. July 14th marked the first time that a spacecraft successfully explored the dwarf planet Pluto up close.

After hurtling through our solar system for over a decade at a speed of over 30,000 miles per hour, New Horizons finally reached its closest approach to Pluto, approximately 7,750 miles from the surface on July 14th. This was the first-ever space mission that successfully explored a world so distant from Earth.

New Horizons gathered data as it approached the planet, but by Wednesday, the information made its way back to Earthbound scientists and the rest of the world.

According to Jeff Moore of New Horizons’ Geology, GGI Team,

“The mountains likely formed no more than 100 million years ago — mere youngsters relative to the 4.56-billion-year age of the solar system — and may still be in the process of building”.

This information means that a small percentage of Pluto’s surface is in fact active to this day! This coupled with the seemingly unblemished nature of the surface of the planet imply that Pluto is fairly young compared to the other systems that we’ve been able to observe within our solar system.

Pluto is not heated through gravitational interactions with a larger planetary body so scientists believe that another process is responsible  for creating Pluto’s mountainous terrain. Presumably the mountains are composed of a water-ice “bedrock.”

Both methane and nitrogen ice cover a large portion of Pluto’s surface, but these materials aren’t durable enough to be responsible for the mountains. It’s more likely that the stronger material of water ice created these mountains.  Because Pluto is so cold, water maintains properties that are more similar to rock than to ice.

Scientists have already gleaned a lot of information from these first images of Pluto, and in 16 months a cache of computer data from New Horizons will make it’s way back to our planet.  It will be exciting to see what we glean from that.

 

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New Defense Against Extraterrestrial Threat

Hollywood films have been preoccupied with the idea of comets and asteroids threatening our very existence for a long time. From blockbusters like Armageddon and Deep Impact to art films like Melancholia, the threat of space debris destroying the earth is a surprisingly common theme.

These kinds of films tend to display very creative interpretations of fact and dramatize this potential threat from space in order to keep viewers interested.

However, it is interesting to note that the US government is beginning to catch up to the plots of these films by announcing an agreement to begin working on planetary defense.

The nation’s agencies that build civilian rockets and nuclear arms revealed on Wednesday  that they will collaborate in order to deflect asteroids and comets that pose a threat to cities or possibly the planet.

For years both NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration — have researched threats of rocky debris from space independently. Both have assessed the space debris, proposed new designs for rocket interceptors and run computer simulations to test if a nuclear blast could force a massive asteroid onto a different trajectory.

Even so, this new interagency pact will formalize the cooperation between the two. The hope is that the two agencies will now be able to better coordinate governmental planning that would lead to better solutions for deflecting this kind of threat.

Alex LakhanpalIn 2013,  a 7,000-ton meteoroid exploded over a city in Russia which injured approximately 1500 people. This tragedy in Chelyabinsk illustrates the potential risk of cosmic debris.

Scientists who prefer nuclear-free  methods of asteroid interception admit that the atomic method would only be necessary if a huge threat appeared too fast for weaker countermeasures

In public interviews officials refuse to comment on whether or not any arms in the nation’s nuclear arsenal have been set aside for countering extraterrestrial strikes. However, it is acknowledged that there is a discussion surrounding possible nuclear options.

Regardless of the true threat of rock debris crashing into our planet and causing large-scale damage, it is encouraging to see government agencies working together in an effort to combat this kind of potential threat in the future. To learn more, see this article from the New York Times.