I’ve been home from the NSTA conference for close to a week now. I’ve spent much of that time recovering and getting myself back on track. My shoulders have been sore all week from packing my laptop around the convention center and also packing around all the materials I got loaded down with at the booths. I also picked up a head cold (seems like every time I travel by air, this happens). I’ve since been following up on leads that I got at the conference, such as applying for grants I heard of, checking out opportunities, trying out new forms of Web 2.0 technologies, etc. Today I’m finally getting back to editing videos with the episodes on beryllium refining next up.
The trip back was uneventful. I ran into quite a few teachers in the airport taking my same flight from Philly to Salt Lake City. Some were from Utah, others from Reno or Phoenix or other connecting flights. I spent much of the flight napping or watching remastered Star Trek episodes (you really should check out the remastered “Doomsday Machine” episode – the planet killer finally looks like the “devil incarnate” that Com. Decker describes it to be). As we approached Salt Lake City, I saw the Wasatch Mountains ahead and I had a good view of the southern Wasatch down to Mt. Nebo as we flew over Hobble Creek Canyon, then turned over Utah Lake and headed north along the Oquirrh Mts. I could see that we would be in perfect position for photos of the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine (the biggest hole on Earth) so I snapped quite a few photos just as the sun set over the Deep Creek Mts. on the Utah-Nevada border. At some point, I hope to have some team(s) from Copper Hills High School or Bingham High School do episodes on the history and current operations of the Kennecott mine (now owned by Rio Tinto). I’ve been to the mine and through the concentration plant before, and it’s quite a process. Once the ore is crushed in ball mills, the copper is floated to the top of settling tanks using a floculent agent, then pumped to the smelter at Magna (where the large smokestack is just north of the Oquirrhs along I-80). There it is melted and poured into ingots for electrolytic purification. In addition to huge amounts of copper produced each year, they also produce zinc, molybdenum, and even 30,000 oz. of gold. Since the ore is less than 1% usable metals, it takes a gigantic operation for the economics of scale to be profitable.
My goal over the next several months is to produce as many new video episodes as possible. Already the Periodic Table episodes have been viewed about 500 times between this blog and YouTube. I am also planning to post them onto Teacher Tube, but the file sizes have to be <100 MB, which will mean high compression. I even had a request from a professor in Brazil to allow him to translate the videos into Portuguese. Once I have about five topics done, I’ll set up a dedicated website so that I can create an iTunes podcast series as well. Here is a list of topics for the next few months, in the approximate order in which I will complete them, hopefully at the rate of about two topics per month (with two episodes per topic, or about one episode per week):
Beryllium mining and refining
Glass Blowing (History and Process, Art and Science)
Greek Matter Theories (Three parts: The Pre-Socratics, the Atomists, and Aristotle and Beyond)
Synthetic Diamonds (History and Discovery, Process and Uses)
Stained Glass (History and Process, Art and Science)
Properties of the Elements (featuring an interview with Theo Gray)
The Tintic Mining District of Utah (Three episodes: History, Life in a Mining Town, and Current Issues and Challenges)
Anthracite coal mining (The Lackawanna Coal Mine and Anthracite Coal Museum near Scranton, PA)
The Story of Centralia (visit to Centralia, PA)
Zinc Mining (Tour of the Sterling Hill Zinc Mine, Ogdensburg, NJ)
Lead Mining in Missouri (Tours of the Bonne Terre lead mine and the Missouri Lead Mining Museum)
The First Oil Well (tour of the Drake Oil Well in Titusville, PA)
Oil Wells and Refining in Kansas (the Kansas State Oil Museum in El Dorado)
Salt Mining in Kansas (the Kansas Underground Salt Mine in Hutchinson)
Early Alchemy (based on research conducted at the Chemical Heritage Museum last summer – focusing on Zosimos of Panoplis and Arabic alchemists)
Alchemy in the Middle Ages (all the supposed masters, including Ramon Lull, Roger Bacon, Paracelsus, Flamel, and many others)
Metallurgy and Mining in the Middle Ages (based on books by Birringuccio, Neri, Agricola, etc.)
The Rise of Chymistry (the origins of chemistry as a science in the works of Sennert, Boyle, Lavoisier, Dalton, and others)
Sources of the Elements (tours of the mineral exhibits at the Natural History Museum in Wash., D.C. and elsewhere)
At the rate of two topics per month (which is pretty ambitious) it will take at least ten months to complete all these topics, or maybe by the end of 2010. I have much of the media (videotaped tours, photos, etc.) that I need for these topics already, it’s just a matter of creating the scripts, narration, and doing the editing. Once summer comes, I’ll be out gathering more information on other mining sites and adding to what I already have on these topics. By fall (pending funding) there will be additional teams of students out collecting more material. My overall goal (if you look at the post from November where I submitted the grant to NSF) is to produce over 100 episodes by the end of 2012, and by then to be covering Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. Sometimes I look at the mountain of work I have before me, then I think of how much the Periodic Table videos are already being used and realize the potential this project has. I also remember that the Bingham Canyon copper mine began as a mountain, too, and now it’s a gigantic hole. It’s only taken 100 years of constant digging . . . .