Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 16 Edition

Solar Eclipse, Science

Editor’s note: A total solar eclipse will be visible across the U.S. on Monday, August 21. Shannon Schmoll, director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University, explains why and how it happens, and what we can learn from an eclipse.

"How do we know when an eclipse is going to happen? How do we know in advance where it will be visible?

Solar eclipses happen when our view of the sun is blocked by the moon. When the moon lines up between the sun and Earth, the moon will cast a shadow onto Earth. This is what we on the ground observe as a solar eclipse.

We know when they’ll happen because over centuries astronomers have measured very precisely the motions of the Earth, moon and sun, including their orbital shapes, how the orbits precess and other parameters. With those data about the moon – and similar information about the Earth’s orbit around the sun – we can make mathematical models of their movements in relation to each other. Using those equations, we can calculate tables of data that can predict what we will see on Earth, depending on location, during an eclipse as well as when they will happen and how long they last. (The next major solar eclipses over the U.S. will be in 2023 and 2024.)"

Tech, Women, Afghanistan

Small Towns, Infrastructure

"Successful implementation of Complete Streets requires much more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Rural and small towns often face distinct challenges from urban areas when it comes to improving the conditions for people walking and bicycling. The National Complete Streets Coalition recently spoke with Andrea Clinkscales, Senior Planner at Alta, to learn about some of the obstacles smaller communities may face, along with potential solutions to implementing Complete Streets."

Alta Planning + Design is a partner of the National Complete Streets Coalition and promotes active transportation by making streets more comfortable and attractive for all ages and abilities.

Education, Nature

HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: A movement to get kids out of classrooms with walls and into the great outdoors is picking up steam. Across the U.S., nature preschools are seeing a surge.
Jeffrey Brown traveled to Midland, Michigan, to find out why for our weekly education segment, Making the Grade.

STUDENT: There’s a spider in my net.

JEFFREY BROWN: Hunting for bugs, jumping off logs, dipping for frogs, it’s what kids do, right? In fact, no, many don’t, certainly not as part of their education.
But in the age of testing, screens, and, some would say, excessively coddled children, a new movement of nature preschools is growing and pushing kids outdoors.

Jenn Kirts, a biologist by training, oversees educational programs at the nonprofit Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Michigan, 1,200 acres of woodlands, wetlands, ponds and meadows.

JENN KIRTS, Director of Programs, Chippewa Nature Center: In a classroom, a lot of the things that you have are static and were designed to be played with in one particular way. The natural environment changes every single day. The weather changes, the humidity. There’s scat left behind. There’s new footprints. There’s leaves that are chewed today that weren’t chewed yesterday.

And so there’s just a natural curiosity that happens there. And it’s something that people have spent time in for generations and generations. All of our existence, kids have grown up outdoors. That has changed in these current generations.

Careers, Advancement

"Want to boost your performance at work?

Pick out a colleague who is really good in an area where you want to improve—and move your desk next to him or her.

Proximity to high achievers can lift people’s performance in various jobs, via inspiration, peer pressure or new learning, a growing body of research shows. The findings offer a silver lining to anyone annoyed at the current fad of flexible office-seating arrangements; employees can use them to their advantage.

Simply sitting next to a high achiever can improve someone’s performance by 3% to 16%, according to a two-year Northwestern University study of 2,452 help-desk and other client-service workers at a technology company."

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