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Posts Tagged ‘Chemical Heritage Foundation’

A 3D model of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, where Heraclitus lived. This image was modeled by Cameron Larson.

A 3D model of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, where Heraclitus lived. This image was modeled by Cameron Larson.

During the summer of 2009, I fulfilled a research fellowship at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. I’ve previously written about my experiences there in this blog. One of the major areas I researched was the history of Greek philosophies regarding matter, fundamental materials, and the nature of reality. I wrote a script and created various animations to use for a three-part video about the philosophers and their theories. Over the next year, in between working on other projects, I recorded narration and put together timeline sequences in my video software for the three segments. But there the project stalled out, because all I had was my own voice talking with B-roll footage over the top. It was too boring, even for me. I needed to interview an expert to provide primary footage, using my narration only to stitch it all together. But I was back in Utah by then with no available experts around that I knew of.

3D model of Aristotle created using Make Human for the head, Sculptris for the hair and beard, and Bryce for the final render.

3D model of Aristotle created using Make Human for the head, Sculptris for the hair and beard, and Bryce for the final render.

During the summer of 2014, I fulfilled a Research Experience for Teachers in astronomy at Brigham Young University, as I have described in my other blog (http://spacedoutclass.com). While talking with Dr. Eric Hintz, my research advisor, he mentioned a paper he had written with a BYU philosophy professor named Daniel Graham. It regarded a Greek philosopher named Aristarchus, who calculated the size of the Moon based on the extent of a solar eclipse. I realized that I had found my expert literally right in my back yard.

I e-mailed Dr. Graham and he consented to talk with me, and we spent a fascinating 90 minutes discussing the various Greek matter theories and philosophers. He agreed to allow my students and I to videotape him answering our questions, and even gave me a book he had edited on the philosophies of the pre-Socratics.

3D image of Empedocles. Of course, we have no idea what they really looked like.

3D image of Empedocles. Of course, we have no idea what they really looked like.

In my next post, I’ll describe this interview and provide a transcript. Before he came to our school, my students needed to prepare for his interview. I introduced the Greek matter theories as the first of the three threads that led to modern chemistry (I’ve written about these threads before at this post: https://elementsunearthed.com/2009/07/31/three-threads-to-chemistry/ ). Students were assigned individual philosophers and asked to become familiar with their lives and theories, then create a series of questions that they could ask of Dr. Graham. I looked over their questions, made suggestions, and had students revise them so that they wouldn’t be redundant. I sent the list to Dr. Graham to review before his interview.

3D image of Heraclitus. He is often shown as the Weeping Philosopher, saddened by the folly and impermanence of the world.

3D image of Heraclitus. He is often shown as the Weeping Philosopher, saddened by the folly and impermanence of the world.

Meanwhile, my 3D modeling students were learning how to use basic character design software such as Sculptris by Pixologic. I had them use illustrations and sculptures of the philosophers to create torsos in 3D. We also used a new program I found called Make Human, which allowed a basic human figure to be morphed into whatever shape we wanted. The students used Make Human to create the basic head, then imported it into Sculptris to form the hair and beard around it, then took the pieces into Daz3D Bryce for final assembly, texturing, and rendering. Our purpose was to create a series of images and animations to use as B-roll in the final videos. We also hoped to add morph targets and bones and animate the heads talking through quotes of the philosophers. This would require modeling the inside of the mouths, including tongue and teeth, and wound up being too much of a challenge for my beginning 3D students.

Aristotle with a quote attributed to him.

Aristotle with a quote attributed to him.

In addition to the animated torsos, I had students use Bryce to build recreations of temples and other buildings found in the cities where the philosophers lived, such as Miletus, Abdera, Acragas, Ephesus, Athens, and Elea. We had to find diagrams or illustrations of these temples. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Using only artists’ renditions and photos of a scale model found in Ephesus today, the students who did this temple had quite a challenge. Not all of the temples were completed, but many of them got at least the buildings done with excellent detail. It pushed our computers to the limit.

Empedocles with added Photoshop effects.

Empedocles with added Photoshop effects.

One of the many projects I’m trying to finish up this summer is to complete all these animations along with hand-drawn illustrations of the philosophers. I have a watercolor painting I did several years ago called The Elusive Atom that included many of these philosophers, and I’ve used Adobe Photoshop to isolate the philosophers from the background. I also have my pen-and-ink illustrations using homemade ink as well as homemade watercolors. I’ve gradually been building up these projects so that when I do the final editing of the video segments and include Dr. Graham’s interview footage, I will have enough materials.

I knew it would take some time to transcribe and edit the interviews, and that I would have to recreate my original animations (they were designed for SD video six years ago and I now want to do this video in HD) and revise and re-record the narrations. I wanted to start using all these materials now, so when my students created the large timeline banner on atomic theory, I made the banner cover all the history of chemistry and included many 3D images, illustrations, and photos of books from the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Another view of Heraclitus. I set the models into Bryce, added a marble texture and skies, and created a simple camera orbit animation so that renders could be easily created from different sides.

Another view of Heraclitus. I set the models into Bryce, added a marble texture and skies, and created a simple camera orbit animation so that renders could be easily created from different sides.

I have not given up on creating a series of videos, posters, a book, and other materials for this Elements Unearthed project. My need to earn a living as a science and technology teacher has kept me too busy to do much more than write a few blog posts now and then. But I keep filling in pieces, such as the tour of Adonis Bronze I reported on in my last post, and research of other ancient art forms. I took a group of students on a tour of Nevada mining towns last year. I’m only halfway through blogging about my trip of Colorado mining towns in 2012. What I need is two years of free time and about $100,000 in grants to focus on this project, travel to the places I still need to visit (there are many), and put everything together. Have boxes of tapes I need to capture, but not enough money to purchase the hard drives needed. So if you know a rich patron who’s got money to spend on such a project, please let me know!

More Aristotle quotes.

More Aristotle quotes.

In the meantime, I’m still trying to keep this blog going despite having so much happening in other areas of my professional life. It’s been a crazy year. Mostly I’ve been involved in aerospace and STEM education activities, and I’m writing about some of them in my other blog.

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Once each year I like to go over the statistics for this blog in detail to see what posts have been the most popular, which search terms are finding this blog, which videos are most watched, etc. I’m not doing this just for an ego trip, but to be able to report the impact this site is having. I have had some very generous sponsors over the three years this blog has been running, especially the American Section of the Société de Chimie Industrielle (which paid for my fellowship in 2009) and the Chemical Heritage Foundation, which provided such a wealth of resources in its collections on the history of chemistry. It was during the time of my fellowship that this blog really began to find an audience, and it has been growing ever since.

Stats for the Elements Unearthed

Monthly Stats for the Elements Unearthed Blog

So here is where this blog stands: As of today, there have been a total of 67,620 visits to this site. As seen by the histogram, the number of visits has shown a definite annual pattern consistent with the school year – visits are lower in the summer when school is not in session, rise in August and September, stay high in October and November, dip a bit in December due to Winter Vacation, then rise again in January and February and peak in March, then gradually decrease as the school year winds down in April and May. This same pattern has repeated for the last three school years, but has grown each year. Last year, in the 2010-2011 school year, my best months were slightly above 3000 visits. Now they are topping out above 4000 and I hope they will hit 5000 by March.

Granted, compared to some popular blogs with thousands of hits per day, 5000 per month doesn’t sound like much. However, I am pleased – this is a rather esoteric blog dedicated to the history of chemistry and chemistry education. The yearly pattern shows that I am reaching my intended audience of high school students and teachers. This is also shown by the types of searches that reach my blog.

Although there are always some unrelated search terms that somehow reach my blog (the biggest ones are “Ocean City, New Jersey” and “Punxsatawney Phil” because I visited both places in 2009 and showed some pictures), by far the majority of search terms are related to chemistry and its history or to science education in general. I’ve gone through the search terms and compiled them into categories, mostly so that I can make plans for the future. Here are the top searches that reach this blog: (1) Greek Matter Theories (3473 searches) with Aristotle, Democritus, and Thales being the biggest ones; (2) the Periodic Table of elements (2288); (3) beryllium (1600); (4) Alexandre Beguyer de Chancourtois (1397) – this is a bit surprising, but apparently my animation of his telluric screw periodic system and description of his work is one of the few sites out there about him; (5) the Tintic Mining District (1041); (6) the history of the periodic table (868); (7) science education (862), especially using iPads in science classes; (8) early modern chemistry (822), including Lavoisier, Boyle, Priestley, Dalton, and Newton; (9) alchemy (732), with love potions, Khunrath, Basil Valentine, Zosimos, and Maier the highest; (10) water and wind turbines (618); (11) strange attractors (586) – this is another odd one, since I only mentioned it once, but it was in my most popular post; (12) mercury (554); (13) early technology (514), such as Roman glass, Pliny the Elder, Agricola, Neri, and others; (14) mining in general (455) – such terms as overburden, open pit mine, ball mill, and headframe; and (15) Cripple Creek, Colorado (315).

Top Posts for this blog

Top Posts for the Elements Unearthed Blog

The videos that I have created for this project are posted on this blog (under the video tab) and on YouTube. The History of the Periodic Table, featuring Dr. Eric Scerri of UCLA, is my biggest hit so far. All parts of this video have been watched a total of 11,474 times as of 1/7/2012. There are even a few derivative works on YouTube that take parts of my video – a section on Henry Moseley, for example – and combine it with parts of other videos with Bill Nye, etc. I’ve had quite a few comments on how useful this video has been for chemistry teachers out there, and I am very pleased with the results so far. There is also a version with Portuguese subtitles done by a professor in Brazil; I’m not sure how many times that has been seen. My separate video that showed only some animations of the periodic table has been watched 416 times.

The second most popular videos have been the two parts on beryllium – its properties and uses, and how it is mined and refined. It has been watched a total of 3219 times, with the separate video on the geology of beryllium watched itself an additional 153 times. The Discovery of Synthetic Diamonds has been watched 745 times and the demonstration of Glass Blowing 754 times. These have been the most popular videos related to this project.

In conclusion, the most important question is: Have I succeeded in my attempt to bring the history of chemistry and chemistry education to the general public, and specifically to teachers and students? All indications, based on these statistics, are that I am succeeding and that that success is continuing to grow.

The last several posts have been about astronomy and space science education, and although some search terms have reached these posts, not many have. For various reasons, not the least of which is that I want to keep this blog focused on my original intent, I am starting a new blog which should be up and running by Wednesday night on space science education and resources for teachers to use now that we are in the golden age of astronomy. I will be doing quite a bit of education outreach on these topics over the next few years, if all goes well, and they deserve to have their own blog. I will include links here once that is ready to visit. I will post to this new blog once per week on Wednesdays.

The statistics also point out which topics have been most popular, and give me direction on what to post about in the future. In my next post, I will give you a schedule of what I intend to discuss over the next year and a half and when I will have the related videos completed. I will try to post once per week, probably on weekends. I have much more material from my fellowship at the Chemical Heritage Foundation that I haven’t shown or discussed here yet, and I look forward to digging into it all. I have also visited many sites related to mining and refining of the elements which I have only mentioned in passing. It’s time to edit all that footage and photos into videos for this site and YouTube. I expect the next few years to be busy, productive, and rewarding and to reach even more people than I already have.

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Thales of Miletus - illustration by David V. Black

Thales of Miletus - illustration by David V. Black

    I realize that the title of this post sounds a bit like the Lord of the Rings, but after three months in Philadelphia at the Chemical Heritage Foundation my research fellowship is ending. I am very thankful for the opportunity that I’ve had to be here, which was made possible by a grant from the American Section of the Société de Chimie Industrielle. My stay at CHF has been extremely productive, more so that I could possibly have hoped. In addition to acquiring over 7500 photos of books and archives here, I have taken the opportunity to visit nearby sites related to The Elements Unearthed project, such as the Lackawanna Coal Mine near Scranton, PA and the Sterling Hill Zinc Mine in New Jersey. I’ve interviewed Dr. Eric Scerri, a noted expert on the history of the periodic table (I will have samples of that interview on this post shortly) and I’ve photographed mineral and gem samples at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. I’ve also created some illustrations (here’s a new one of Thales that I drew by hand, then digitally colored) as well as animations and scripts for episodes. Not bad for only three months!

    Meanwhile time continues to fly by. These three months have been great to focus solely on this project, but now I need to head back to Utah and actually earn my keep again. I hope to gain further sponsorship of this project so that work can continue unabated; if not, I’ll continue to edit the footage on a part-time basis until funds do come in. Several episodes are nearing completion and should be done by the end of September, at which time I’ll finally officially create the iTunes podcast. A few segments will be uploaded to this blog and to YouTube over the next several weeks. I’m sorry for the delay, but decided to spend my time at CHF acquiring materials instead of editing them. I figure it will pay off in the end.

Table of Elements by Antoine Lavoisier

Table of Elements by Antoine Lavoisier

 

    This last week at CHF I have ran the curators ragged finding several obscure books that contain illustrations I’ve known about and have even drawn before for posters and other projects I’ve worked on, including Antoine Lavoisier’s Traite du Chimie, with his famous list of the then known elements (showing oxygen for the first time);

Glauber furnace

Glauber furnace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a diagram of a furnace by Johann Glauber in his De Furni Novi;

and illustrations of the Greek philosophers in the Nuremburg Chronicles (yes, CHF has a 1493 edition of this monumental work, an attempt to tell the entire history of the world). The illustrations are rather interesting because the same woodcuts are used several times and the ancient philosophers are dressed in 15th Century clothing. Not that anyone really knows what Empedocles looked like anyway . . . .

 

Illustration of Empedocles from Nuremburg Chronicles

Illustration of Empedocles from Nuremburg Chronicles

I also took some final photos of exhibits here at CHF. Even though I’ve looked at everything, I hadn’t read all the notations on the exhibits, and was a bit astonished to discover that a rather nondescript piece of pottery with glass objects sitting in it was rather familiar to me – none other than Joseph Priestley’s pneumatic trough, with which he tested the properties of air. This is one he probably had made in America after a mob had destroyed his lab in England and he emigrated here.

 

Joseph Priestley's pneumatic trough

Joseph Priestley's pneumatic trough

 

 

 

 

    Now, after fond farewells at CHF, I am busily packing up the minivan and getting ready to drive home tomorrow. I’ll take 6 1/2 days to get to Utah, stopping at several places related to this project, such as the Drake oil well in northwest Pennsylvania near Titusville; an interactive periodic table installation at DePauw University in Indiana; an interview with Theo Gray in Illinois; a tour of the Bonne Terre Lead Mine in Missouri; a salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas; the Molly Kathleen Gold Mine in Cripple Creek, CO; and the mining museum in Leadville, CO. I’m also stopping at some historical sites such as Gettysburg National Military Park and Kirtland, Ohio. I’ll be camping most nights, and it will be a busy but fun trip, my own vacation before the hard work of editing all of this begins. By the time I return home, I should have enough material for at least 30 complete or partial podcast episodes. Wish me luck! My nest post should be very interesting!

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    In this blog entry I’d like to discuss some of the ideas that I have been researching so far here at Chemical Heritage Foundation, report on a conference I attended last week, and give an overview of my plans for the next week.

Empedocles of Akragas

Empedocles of Akragas

    I’ve been conducting my research at CHF for about 2 1/2 weeks. So far I am on schedule for the topics I wish to cover while I’m here in Philadelphia. My goal for these first two weeks was to survey the theories of elements and atoms proposed by the ancient Greek philosophers, then use the third week to research how these theories were carried into the Middle Ages. I used to think that Greek scientific thought on the nature of matter could be divided into a neat dichotomy, with theories of elements (stoicheia) as proposed by Empedocles and Aristotle on one side, and theories of atoms as proposed by Democritus and Epicurus on the other. As I have dug deeper, however, I find that the issue isn’t nearly so simple. Not only did the Greeks theorize about the nature and structure of matter, they also looked at the nature of change, the origin and fate of the universe, and the underlying forces that drive it all. This creates whole sets of conceptual dichotomies. Attempting to sort through all of this while getting to know the personalities and lives of these philosophers has been a fun challenge. I can’t say I’m much of an expert yet, but I have enough to begin to put together a podcast episode on this topic, to be completed and uploaded by the end of August.

    At the risk of over-simplifying, here is what I’ve found: the Greeks were already thinking about where the universe came from and what it was made out of by the time of Thales of Miletus, around 585 B.C., who was considered one of the first philosophers (independent thinkers – “lovers of wisdom”). Thales proposed that everything was made of water, although his follower Anaximenes thought it was air. By about 500 B.C., Parmenides of Elea taught that change was an illusion, that the senses weren’t to be trusted, and that there could only be Being and Non-being. He denied the possibility of empty space (a void) saying it was a logical impossibility. His student Zeno, in a series of famous paradoxes, such as the one about Achilles and the Tortoise, showed that motion (and therefore change) was impossible.

Democritus of Abdera

Democritus of Abdera

     In contrast to the Eleatic School, Heraclitus of Ephesus taught that change was the only constant in the universe, that you can’t step in the same river twice because both you and the river have changed in between. He felt that fire, as a symbol of change, was the universal element. As a compromise between the extremes of Parmenides and Heraclitus, Empedocles of Akragas proposed that there were four elements (earth, water, air, and fire) and that although these elements were eternal and changeless, they could combine and break apart to form new materials. He felt that their were two opposing forces, what he called Love and Strife, which tried to bring the elements together or break them apart.

    Also in contrast to the Eleatic School, Leucippus of Abdera proposed that all things were made of small, indivisible, unchanging atoms which traveled in a void, combined by the forces of a primordial vortex into larger clumps of matter. His pupil, Democritus, took these ideas further and said that nothing existed except atoms and the void, and that atoms combine from necessity (he was a bit vague on what this meant). Unfortunately, most of his original works (some 70 books) are lost and we know of them only from the references of others.

Aristotle's Hylomorphism Theory

Aristotle's Hylomorphism Theory

    One of those others was Aristotle, the pupil of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. Aristotle tried to create a system of knowledge that tied everything together, including the material world and the heavens, and that explained the nature of change. Like his teacher Plato, he felt that there were ideal forms that created the patterns for all things, and that all things had purpose.  He taught that the primordial subtance (hyle) took on the forms (morphe) of the four pure elements, and that these elements had properties including hot and cold and wet and dry. All other materials were mixtures of these elements. By changing the properties of one material, it could be transmuted into another, such as base lead maturing into precious gold. He also felt that the elements were arranged in spherical shells with earth at the center, surrounded by water, then air, then fire. The heavy elements sank because of a force he called gravity and the lighter elements rose through a force called levity. Finally, he proposed that a fifth element (literally the “quintessence”) called ether surrounded fire and was the material from which the incorruptible heavens were made.

Aristotle and the Elemental Spheres

Aristotle and the Elemental Spheres

    Aristotle’s views were brought into harmony with the Catholic Church by the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Democritus’ views on atoms were supported by Epicurus and therefore seen as too materialist and hedonistic by the church, and they fell out of favor (but never entirely died, as I’m finding out this week). It wasn’t until the Enlightenment that atomic theory began to revive.

    Now, of course, this is a very simplistic overview. I’m in the process of writing this all up in more detail, including some interesting though apocryphal stories of the philosophers, for a podcast episode of The Elements Unearthed. I’ll be presenting this information, and giving an overview of the project, at a Brown Bag Lunch next Tuesday, June 23, from 12:00 to 1:00 here at Chemical Heritage Foundation (315 Chestnut St., Philadelphia). The public is invited, so if you’re in the area, please stop by. It will be in the 6th floor conference room. I will have some samples of animations and images with narration for this new episode, as well as previous episodes created by my students at MATC and a presentation on the project as a whole.

Epicurus

Epicurus

    One final note from this last week. I had the opportunity to attend a conference entitled “Composition to Commerce: Chemistry, History, and the Wider World” held June 12-13 at CHF. It was set up as an opportunity to hear experts in the field of chemistry history present some of their current work and to discuss the historiography of chemistry; that is, how one goes about telling the history of chemistry. Although I felt myself to be a bit of an interloper, I was excited to find that some of the best experts in the field were there – people like Lawrence Principe, William Newman, Alan Rocke, Ursula Klein, and others. In my researches here I keep coming across their names. I didn’t get the chance to talk to all of them, but at least being there and seeing them lets me know who they are. I hope to enlist their aid in this project, perhaps as Subject Experts on alchemy and the history of atomic theory that I can interview later this summer. I also found the conference interesting in how various historic alchemists/early chemists were treated and how some names I’d never heard of are now surfacing as having had an important impact on the history of chemistry, such as Gassendi, Sennert, Starkey, and others. I’ll enjoy getting to know their stories as well as the those of the better known figures such as Boyle and Lavoisier.

    Anyway, wish me luck on my presentation next Tuesday. Stop in if you can. After that, I must dig into revising my application for the National Science Foundation which is due on Thursday. But more on that next week . . . .

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   As mentioned in my last post, I am leaving Mountainland Applied Technology College and will be taking up a Fellowship at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. I have been selected to be the Societe de Chimie Industrielle (American Section) Fellow for 2008-09 at CHF, where I will be studying the history of atomic theory, chemistry’s development as a science out of alchemy, and the types of labware and equipment used during the Middle Ages and later. I’ll discuss more about how this fellowship fits into the larger project in future posts, but in this one I’d like to give a final report on Phase I of the Elements Unearthed project as well as describe my four-day drive across the country from Orem, Utah to Philadelphia, PA.

   My students at MATC have completed as much of their projects as was possible before the end of the school year. They are all in a rough cut format, with only the audio tracks laid in in some spots (narration only or audio from our wireless microphone system). In other places, we have video as well but it needs to be color balanced. Other spots have some images but so far the cuts are rough and the story is also. We showed these rough edits in an Alpha test before other students at MATC and had them fill out evaluation forms. Most of the comments were that they liked the information and presentation so far, but that they were too long, a bit dry, and needed more images and animations. This is to be expected when the rough cut for the blown glass project, for example, is 43 mintues long not counting credits. It is my goal to cut it down to two podcast episodes under 15 minutes each, so roughtly 1/3 of the material must go while keeping the storyline intact and improving the video, audio, and imagery. That will be part of my work this summer, to prepare these segments for Beta testing and final deployment on this blog and to iTunes, YouTube, etc.

   Overall the students did very well, learning not only how to plan and execute a video shoot, but also how to research and structure a documentary-style video, how to capture and transcribe the footage, and how to edit the footage using Final Cut Pro. If we had more time, they would have continued the process through beta test, whereupon I would have taken over for final editing. But the year is done, the Media Design Technology program at MATC is now cancelled, and I am in Philadelphia.

Sunset on Lake Erie

Sunset on Lake Erie

   It has  been quite a trip. I had four days to make it to Philly, leaving at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 28 and averaging about 550 miles per day. That’s about nine hours of driving each day, and I am certainly feeling the effects of it now. I took I-80 most of the way, only moving over to I-76 at Youngstown, Ohio. Fortunately the trip went by without major incident. The only bad thing was that one of my contact lenses decided to pop out at about mile marker 80 in Illinois. I pulled over onto the next exit and searched around for 20 mintues before finally finding it. I stayed the first night at Little Thunder Campground on Lake McConaughy, NE; the second night in a motel in northern Davenport, Iowa; and the third night at East Harbor State Park at the tip of Sandusky Pennisula on Lake Erie in Ohio. I had planned out these stops carefully in advance (Google is wonderful!) and everthing worked out – I arrived at the Drexelbrook Apartments in Drexel Hill, PA at 4:30 eastern time on Sunday, May 31, just in time to sign the rental contract.  My wife and children will be flying in today.

Marblehead Lighthouse, Sandusky Penninsula

Marblehead Lighthouse, Sandusky Penninsula

   Even though I was driving, I wasn’t taking a vacation from this project. I took a few detours and took a lot of photos both of scenery and of things related to the Elements Unearthed. One thing I noticed was how energy production technology is such a large part of our landscape. Near Rawlins, Wyoming, for example, is the large Sinclair oil refinery shown here. Lake McConaughy in Nebraska is not only an irrigation lake but generates hydroelectric power. It is becoming all too apparent that neither of these technologies can sustain our energy needs – the sites for hydroelectric power have pretty much been maximized already and crude oil has already passed the point of peak production in the last several years. We are running out of crude oil, and the prices will only escalate until we are well past the high price point of last summer. The average price I found crossing the country was about $2.50 per gallon, and it won’t get better.

 

 

 

Sinclair oil refinery near Rawlins, Wyoming

Sinclair oil refinery near Rawlins, Wyoming

   On an encouraging note, I noticed a huge increase in wind powered generators. New wind turbines are sprouting up all along I-80 and more are being constructed; I saw new turbine blades on the backs of several 18-wheelers as I traveled. There was a new wind farm just west of Evanston, Wyoming and groups of turbines here and there across Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Certainly wind is a largely untapped resource, and with new composite materials the turbines can last much longer and generate more power than the first generation of turbines that were installed in the late 1970s.

Wind turbines near Evanston, Wyoming

Wind turbines near Evanston, Wyoming

    Another stop I made was at Elmore, Ohio where Brush Wellman’s Engineered Materials Division operates a plant that refines beryllium hydroxide pellets into final beryllium metal and alloys. The pellets themselves come from the concentration plant near Delta, Utah which my students have already documented (you’ll see the final result by the end of August). Coincidentally, U. S. Highway 6 runs through both towns, and coincides with I-80 for some of its length. It was good to finally get some decent photos of the Elmore plant to add to the beryllium project.

   Now that I am at CHF, I will begin pulling together all the images and other media that I can to tell the background history of the elements – something that my students couldn’t do very easily because there aren’t comtemporary sources or sites that we could go to and film. So this part of the project has to be done by me. Questions I hope to answer are how the Greeks first proposed the ideas of elements and atoms and how these ideas developed through history. I also hope to digitize illustrations and portraits of laboratories and equipment, with the goal of re-creating this equipment in 3D, perhaps even re-building historical laboratories such as those of Lavoisier or Priestley. I hade my orientation yesterday (June 1) and today I will start my researches in earnest.

Brush Wellman beryllium refinery, Elmore, Ohio

Brush Wellman beryllium refinery, Elmore, Ohio

   In my next entry, I wll describe CHF and its parts and functions and the resources that are available here. I am already finding it to be an incredible place for anyone that has a passion about the history of science.

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If you have read the previous post you might be wondering what an Applied Technology College is doing creating a science history project. This post is to describe who we are and why we’re doing this.

MATC logo

MATC logo

 MATC Programs:

   Mountainland Applied Technology College (MATC) is one of nine regional campuses of the Utah College of Applied Technology (UCAT) and is part of the state’s post-secondary education system. Our mandate is to provide vocational, non-credit certificate programs such as Medical Assisting, Business, IT, Dental Assisting, and Cosmetology. The Media Design Technology program is set up to provide hands-on, project-based training to both high school and adult students in graphic design with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Flash, Premiere, and Director; 3D modeling and animation with Daz 3D Bryce and Carrara and Autodesk Maya; video production with Apple Final Cut Studio; and more. Students join the class in an open-entry, open-exit format and finish the program with the software, design, and project management skills they need to secure a job in media design.

Mountainland Applied Technology College

Mountainland Applied Technology College

 www.mlatc.edu

MATC Students:

   In order to train them in project management and leadership, we have the students do at least one large-scale group project where they must follow the entire multimedia development process of idea formation, planning, design, content creation, editing, testing, and deploying their project. In the past groups have worked on many types of projects. In 2003-2004, MATC students were chosen by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to be part of the Mars Exploration Student Data Team project (MESDT) 

origin.mars5.jpl.nasa.gov/classroom/students/mesdt.html

Students learned how to use the NASA Unix server to download up-to-date data on Mars’ weather conditions from the Mars Global Surveyor probe, then analyze that data to predict upcoming dust storms and cold fronts. Our students were the only group that was not a science class; instead of merely reporting on the weather, their task was to take the data and turn it into media that could be displayed and presented visually, such as how a December 2003 dust storm bloomed and spread over the surface. They downloaded accurate 3D altitude data of Mars and turned it into 3D animations of the rover landing sites.

Gusev Crater on Mars

Gusev Crater on Mars

Several students attended a final project symposium at Arizona State University to present their graphics and animations. This experience taught us the essential role of media designers in presenting scientific data and their place in the citizen science movement. As their instructor, I had the privilege of attending the 35th Annual Lunar and Planetary Sciences conference in Houston, Texas in 2004 to present how to get actual NASA data into the hands of students and what to have them do with it. 

 
AM to FM project:

   In the 2004-2005 school year we began work on a new project: to document and preserve the history of AM radio stations and disc jockeys in Utah during the 1960s and 1970s. We were approached by a local television producer to help film and edit a two-hour documentary to be aired on Utah’s main PBS station, KUED in Salt Lake City. We planned and researched the history of radio, then put together a radio reunion dinner in November, 2004 and invited all the former and current DJs we could find. 16 DJs attended as well as many local community members. We divided the DJs into groups by which stations they worked at and took them into side rooms with lights and cameras and interviewed them in the form of panel discussions. Then over the next two years we transcribed, captured, wrote scripts, edited, and tested the video until it was of sufficient quality to be broadcast by PBS. The final video, titled “AM to FM: Three Decades of Radio in Utah” aired on KUED twice in January, 2007 and again in July, complete with closed captioning. We also mastered the video into DVD format and sold enough copies to pay for much of the project costs.

AM to FM video segments

AM to FM video segments

   The program had excellent reviews, and we were able to collaborate with audio and video students at Utah Valley University and with professionals. MATC students worked on all stages of the project, from pre-production to filming to editing to marketing and gained invaluable professional experience along the way.

   Best of all, we preserved a slice of Utah’s history by digitizing old station air checks and jingles and scanning hundreds of music surveys and other documents. Our interviews of the DJs were marvelous, and one of them has already passed away since his interview. We have preserved a unique story that would have been lost forever. This experience has also given us the necessary expertise to lead an even more ambitious project: The Elements Unearthed.

AM to FM advertisement

AM to FM advertisement

 Qualifications of David V. Black: Early Teaching Career

   As the lead instructor for the Media Design program at MATC, I have 20 years of teaching experience at the high school and college levels. I began my teaching career with a teaching degree at San Jose State University in California in 1990 and began teaching that fall at a small start-up high school in the Sierra Nevada foothills called Tioga High School in Groveland, only 30 miles west of Yosemite National Park. We had only 40 students that first year, and I taught six different subjects including computer applications, world history, biology, and art. While there I developed courses in chemistry, Earth science, photography, and other subjects. I first learned how students can be motivated to learn a subject if they create their own content through a project my chemistry students completed on organic molecules using Hypercard, one of the first multimedia authoring programs. They were to put together a hypercard stack that would teach the other students about their assigned organic groups (such as esters or alkanes) using images, text, interactivity, and to even include a quiz or game at the end to test the audience’s knowledge. Students started asking to come in at lunch to the computer lab so they could work on the project – a level of motivation I had never seen before. Since then I have involved my students in activities that allow them to use inquiry in the classroom and share what they have learned with others.

Juab High School students

Juab High School students

   My second teaching position was at Juab High School in Nephi, Utah where I taught chemistry, physics, photography, earth science, and math classes. Chemistry and physics students researched the chemical elements, developed hypercard stacks to teach others of them, then developed demonstrations and short lesson plans to present to their classmates, who critiqued their teaching. They then had to revise their lessons and present them to their parents and the public at an annual back-to-school science night. The advanced Chemistry II and physics students took their lessons on the road once per month and presented them to classes at Nephi and Mona Elementary Schools. They would take the Van de Graaf generator and teach about static electricity, or electromagnets and teach concepts of magnetism. All their lessons were coordinated with the teachers at the schools to fit into their curricula at the appropriate time and level during the year. These programs were very well received by the elementary students, by the public, and by my students. Their general level of knowledge and enthusiasm were much higher than if they had merely learned by rote or even by lock-step labs.

NASA Educational Programs:

   I have also had the privilege of working with NASA as part of the NASA Educators Workshop (NEW) program in 1998. I was selected to attend a two-week all-expenses-paid workshop at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where I met project sciences, education and public outreach coordinators, and practiced NASA lesson materials which I brought back to my classroom. Wanting to stay involved in NASA educational programs, I applied to be a NASA/JPL Solar System Educator in 2000 and received additional training each year at JPL from project scientists and education specialists, then took back what I had learned and trained over 100 other teachers each year, for a total of about 500 teachers over four years of participation.

David Black in clean suit

David Black in clean suit

solarsystem.nasa.gov/ssep

   In 2001 I was invited to a launch conference for educators at Cape Canaveral in Florida for the launch of the Mars 2001 Odyssey space probe. In 2002 I was selected to be the Educator Facilitator for the summer workshop (now called the NASA Explorer Schools program).

explorerschools.nasa.gov/portal/site/nes

I helped with participant transportation, housing, meals, event planning, tours, and presenting lesson plans. I organized tours to Dryden Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, to the Deep Space Network complex at Goldstone in Fort Irwin, to the Mt. Wilson Observatory, and to Caltech for the 25 participants who were from around the country. The following two years I continued as Educator Facilitator, planning and leading three more workshops for JPL. Through these experiences I have gained expertise in inquiry-based learning and student-created content.

Mars topographic activity

Mars topographic activity

   Recently, I have published an article in the November, 2008 edition of SchoolArts Magazine entitled “Virtual Self-Expression” about how students at MATC are using 3D modeling to create artistic scenes. I try to blend many subject areas (art, architecture, history, physics, chemistry, geography, math, etc.) in with my multimedia courses, as I am a firm believer that courses and subjects should be integrated if we are ever to engage our students and prepare them for life.

Fellowship at the Chemical Heritage Foundation; Philadelphia, PA.

   This expertise will be used to good advantage for The Elements Unearthed. My passion for the physical sciences, for history, and my skills in media design will come together to build a worthy program that will involve students and the public from around the country, starting here in Utah. As part of the planning and background research for this project, I have been named as the Societe de Chimie Industrielle (American Section) Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia for 2008-09.

www.chemheritage.org/research/research-nav6.html

   As part of my fellowship, I will be in residence at CHF conducting research on the history of chemistry and the elements through the Greek and Medieval periods as well as creating accurate 3D models of laboratory equipment and re-creating the labs of alchemists and chemists to produce animations for the video podcasts. Ultimately this research will form the basis for the first segment of a six part mini-series that will compile the footage and interviews we create for the podcast episodes to tell the complete story of how the elements were unearthed and how we use them today.

Why do a project about the elements?

   The Elements Unearthed is the culmination of over 15 years of planning. As a teacher of chemistry, I have often wanted a comprehensive, in-depth source of information about where the elements come from, how they are mined, refined, etc. Next week we will go into more detail about the need and the audience for this project, but suffice it to say that the need is deep and critical; my students and I are in a unique position of knowledge and expertise to fulfill that need. Simply put, we will do this project because no one else can and because it is desperately needed. All of our past projects have prepared us to be in the right place and time with the right technology, knowledge, and skills to build an excellent program and to provide leadership and direction to the collaborating teams. All that remains now is to gain your support as participants or as funding agencies and a lot of hard work to make this plan a reality. This is not a pipe dream. We know how much work this will take, but it will be a worthwhile journey getting there and the benefits will be incalculable. 

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