Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Thomas Moran, for EII

"Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone"
Smithsonian Institution

ESS first take-home exam

Environmental Scenarios and Solutions
First Midterm (Take Home) Exam
Professor Womersley
(Worth 20% of final grade)
Due Friday March 3rd by email or hard copy. Do not submit via Canvas. I will not grade examinations submitted via Canvas.

Answer both questions. If you don’t know an answer, put down what you do know.
You may research answers. Give diagrams if needed. Cite important research other than material given in class or in the texts for the class. You must work alone.

Microeconomic applications
You are a policy staffer working for New Vermaineshire state government in the Fish and Wildlife Division. You are asked to prepare an analysis of a proposal in the legislature to regulate moose permits using an online bidding system (similar to eBay) instead of the existing lottery. The same number of permits will be issued, only via open bidding. The only requirement to bid is that the bidder be a US resident and have taken a certified hunter safety course. The proposal is conceptually comparable to others advocating the privatization of natural resources and use of competitive bidding.

Specify in plain English, using diagrams if necessary, the effects on state revenue, on the price of permits, and which sections of the public will be either winners or losers as a result. State whether or not, in your own opinion as an experienced staffer, this policy is likely to be successful, reasoning from the available evidence and what you know of the local culture.

Macroeconomic applications
If the legislature of the state of New Vermaineshire chooses to implement the above policy, what would be the general macroeconomic effects to the state’s economy? List and detail these. Use diagrams if necessary.

Which is more sustainable, the lottery or the open bidding system? Explain why.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Physics first lab report

  1. Prepare a lab report detailing any of our experiments so far, including any of today's.
  2. Use the descriptions and data in your lab notebook.
  3. Use a typical lab report outline (introduction, methods, results, conclusions discussion)
  4. The grading rubric below applies
  5. Ask the laboratory instructor if you have any questions or concerns
  6. Due by hard copy in lab or by email before lab March 1st 2017
  7. No Canvas reminder will be made

Item/Level of Achievement
Does not meet
Is there a research question?
No question or wrong question
Logical question, not narrow enough
Logical, well-stated and narrow question
Identifies materials and quantities?
No/inadequate materials list, incorrectly I.D. of materials
Adequate but minimal details
Expanded, complete, relevant details
Drawing or sketch?
No/poor sketch
Labeled, clear, concise
Labeled, clear, concise, neat and organized
Procedures (narrative)
Missing steps or no procedure
All steps present, could be better explained, more specific
Complete, relevant, well-worded explanation

EII first assignment

Write a short essay (of four to five pages, double-spaced) tracking the food chain for two comparable items of food, and comparing these food chains. Be sure to pick items whose provenance that you can easily track, for instance, a loaf of bread from a local bakery whose proprietors give such information, versus one from a major national company whose website also provides such information. If you come up with blanks, make reasonable assumptions based on what you know of our food system.

Compare the two food chains. How do they rate, in terms of social and environmental impact? Can you find any ecosystems or communities that are affected? How are the ecosystems and communities affected?

This class is about logic and rhetoric. In particular, we need to work to make sure students improve their rhetoric. I want to see a lot of work done on sentences in these papers. Be sure to either 1) provide a final copy free of sentence errors, or 2) go through a drafting process to fix or remove sentence errors.

I am available during office hours or by appointment to coach you through an approach to sentence-level proof-reading techniques.

This paper is due in class in hard copy, or by email before class time Tuesday, February 28th.

Do NOT submit via Canvas.

Global change first exam

Global Change
First Midterm Exam

Due Wednesday March 1st

Answer all questions. If you don’t know an answer, put down what you do know. This is a take-home exam. You may research answers. You may discuss them with the instructor. You may not confer with other students. Email your exam to the instructor at when complete, or hand in a hard copy. Do not submit through Canvas.

Part 1: Questions 1-5 (10% each)
  • Explain the role of the polar jet stream in Maine's winter climate.
  • What drives the Gulf Stream? Explain.
  • What is earth's energy budget? What would happen if some climate phenomena added a watt/meter square of additional energy on the output side while leaving the input side the same?
  • Explain how a greenhouse works. Relate this to the climate "greenhouse effect."
  • Explain how a climate anomaly is calculated.

Part 2: 50%
Access climate data using one of the web sites shown in class or use this data set here. Explore the data using a data analysis package such as Excel, .jmp or Smith’s Statistical Package (Links to an external site.). Develop a hypothesis relating to the data that can be tested using the package. Perform an inferential statistical analysis to test the hypothesis. Report the results, including the exploratory statistics. Discuss

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Jimmy Carter's new solar panels

After a week in which we used the original Jimmy Carter solar panels to experiment with solar energy in my physics lab, news arrived that President Carter has gotten himself some new ones.

This made me very happy, and I'm very pleased for Mr. Carter.

Here's the news article to go along with the movie.

I don't have any pictures of us using the original panels for Wednesday's lab. Several students took pictures, though, so perhaps one of you could send some in. In the meantime, here's an older picture of the same experiment.

And here's a link to the one we sent to the Smithsonian.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Academy strikes back


And this, for debate this week in faculty meeting:

MOTION:  The faculty endorses the following resolution and requests that the administration make it known to the public.

A resolution from Unity College faculty reaffirming our shared values

Whereas the President of the United States has appointed individuals to positions of power who have denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change, promoted untruthfulness in public discourse, and endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry; and,

Whereas these appointments violate principles at the core of Unity College’s mission, regardless of our individual political values; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the Unity College faculty

1. commit ourselves to the scientific method and the principles of objective inquiry based on fact and reason. Science is essential to the ways we analyze, understand, and solve the most difficult challenges that we all face. The denial of science and reason does harm to our society, our species, and the world we depend on;

2. reject every form of bigotry, discrimination, hateful rhetoric, and hateful action. For anyone in our region who may feel fear or oppression, our doors are open and we are ready to help. We pledge to work with everyone – students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community members – to defend these principles today and in the times ahead; and

3. commit ourselves to listen respectfully, empathize with others, and take actions to promote this value in our community and the wider world. As an academic institution, we have a responsibility to provide a safe and welcoming space for expressions of intellectual, political, identity, and philosophical difference. We consider our differences to be our strength. As public citizens, we believe this nation has the same responsibility.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Monday, February 6, 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

ESS assignment on authoritative news sources

The purpose of this assignment is to give you practice in evaluating and choosing authoritative and factual sources of news. This assignment is a make up for a class meeting I must miss (on February 7th) and worth five points extra credit for the class as a whole.
  1. Pick a recent national news story.
  2. Identify three comparable sources that cover the story around the same time period (within a day or two, more if it's a slow-moving story). 
  3. One should be from a news outlet generally considered "serious," "mainstream," and independent, the other two should be from outlets that have a partisan slant. One of the two should have a right-wing slant, the other a left-wing slant.
  4. Compare the three articles in a short essay of between two hundred and three hundred words. Explain how the different sources slant the news. What techniques do they use to spin their story to their biased audience?
  5. Talk to me if you do not know how to choose the sources. (But part of the assignment is to research whether or not the sources are indeed generally considered biased.)
  6. Submit the essay and the three sources. Submissions should be via email. Microsoft Word is probably the easiest software to write the essay in. You don't have to paste in your sources. You can use Word to "hot-link" sources and any other bibliography at the end of your essay (to hot-link, highlight, then use control-K or command-K in MS Word).
Due Friday 10th February via email

Ancient windmills built of mud and straw and wood, still operational

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Darweesh vs. Trump updates

A collection of materials for further study:

Attorney General Herring of Virginia:

"Today I am bringing legal action on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia against President Donald Trump and his administration for the unconstitutional and unlawful executive order of January 27, 2017. The Commonwealth has substantial interests justifying its intervention, and make no mistake, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and our people, are already being harmed by this Executive Order.

"As we speak, there are students at our colleges and universities who are unable to return to Virginia. We have professors, researchers, and employees at our colleges and universities and Virginia businesses who either cannot enter the country, or who will be barred from returning should they leave.
"We have been working around the clock since Friday to examine this Executive Order before reaching this conclusion. This is not an action I take lightly, but it is one I take with confidence in our legal analysis, and in the necessity of intervening to both protect the Commonwealth's own sovereign interests and vindicate its residents' civil rights.
"This order is unlawful, unconstitutional, and un-American, and action is required." 

More on this lawsuit:

The original court order:

It is still not clear that the Executive Branch has followed the court order. This next is from The Daily Show, Tuesday night. The feed was cut (via Direct TV) as Romero, head of the ACLU and the chief litigant, was speaking, very suspiciously.

Physics lab notes grading rubric

Item/Level of Achievement
Does not meet
Is there a research question?
No question or wrong question
Logical question, not narrow enough
Logical, well-stated and narrow question
Identifies materials and quantities?
No/inadequate materials list, incorrectly I.D. of materials
Adequate but minimal details
Expanded, complete, relevant details
Photo, drawing or sketch?
None or poor quality
Labeled, clear, concise
Labeled, clear, concise, neat and organized
Procedures (narrative)
Missing steps or no procedure
All steps present, could be better explained, more specific
Complete, relevant, well-worded explanation

Bosses that don't listen (and climate change)

In my whole life I've had only two bosses that wouldn't listen to reasoned advice from subordinates. Both were hell on earth. But both were eventually fired.

One, in the military, was not only wrong, but irresponsible and unlikable. He decided that the way he'd get his technicians to respect him was to put us on parade before every shift.

Understand that these were intelligent airmen and women, highly qualified engineers, including senior non-commissioned officers with decades of experience. Our job was to repair and maintain million-dollar airplanes. Usually, we were left alone in our own supervisory system so we could concentrate on the airplanes, so as to not make dangerous mistakes. Some of us hadn't been on parade for decades. No matter -- we needed to "respect my authorité", as Cartman says in South Park. We were servicemen and women and could not go on strike, but we could do the maintenance by the book. Operations slowed to a crawl, as every "techy" pulled out the manual to study the proper way to do things at every occasion

This particular guy was eventually "promoted sideways" by the powers that be, removed to a position where he could do no further harm. He eventually resigned from the air force, a failure.

The second was an academic boss who was probably bi-polar and switched between being charming and affable, to yelling at people for no discernible reason, on no discernible schedule. A bad mood could last for a few minutes or weeks. On a bad day he could make five bad, irrevocable decisions, and even terminate one or more people, before he even finished his first breakfast can of "Red Bull". The caffeine in this, his favorite tipple, didn't help. (The back seat of his car was littered with empties.) The chaos he caused was intense. People feared for their jobs. Sensible people within his arc of power quit as soon as they figured out what was happening and could find another position. In the end, his bosses let him know they were considering not renewing his contract, and he was quickly gone, resigning before he could be fired.

I learned from these two morons, though: How to pick my battles, how to speak up when I had to, how to resist when need be, how to speak truth to power, how to cultivate a back-up plan for my life so I had workable alternatives, especially so I work and could continue to care for the people I was responsible for if I were ever fired. Most importantly I learned how to deal with the feelings of helplessness, anger and rage, keep my cool, and remain content in my own life as far as conditions would allow.

I have a mind to write to both of them and thank them for giving me the training I needed to weather the current presidential administration.

The thing that makes me most upset is the lost ground on climate change. I particularly don't understand how anyone with children is willing to risk dangerously destabilizing climate change, with all the social and political horror that will bring. It's possible that we climate scientists and policy wonks have done a poor job of communicating the difficulties to be expected from predicted change or the possibility of runaway climate change, but I doubt it. I think our leaders are either just too stupid or corrupt to understand. My own particular  idea, that these people comprise a new and dangerous class of fossil elites, is one hypothetical explanation. They're so rich, they won't suffer, and neither will their kids.

At least, that's what they tell themselves.

In all this, I'm very glad that there are many other people that have learned how to stand up for what they believe too. Sally Yates is a fine example.

Thank you too, to the hundreds of career US State Department employees that have signed this memo: