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Education

The SAT: Aptitude or demographics?
Find out how the philosophy behind the test's construction makes it a worthless piece of garbage. College admissions officers are better off rolling dice than using the SAT to predict student performance. Interested students can also take heart in knowing that the SAT can be broken through study. Find out why John Katzman, co-founder of the Princeton Review, said "The SAT is bullshit."

School privatization & choice: A sociopolitical analysis
School privatization efforts are largely driven by greed and narrow class interests and not by the desire to see real improvements in public education. The private sector — which already supplies textbooks and standardized tests — is easily implicated in the nation's educational deficiencies. Businesses and wealthy individuals stand to benefit the most from large-scale privatization efforts. Taxes will likely decrease in wealthy upper-class suburbs and opportunities will arise for capital-rich investors to reap millions of dollars in profits from a newly created Educational-Industrial Complex. Choices for the wealthy will multiply, while those for the poor and middle-class will no doubt decrease along with quality. Don't be fooled. "Choice" is code word for a system that perpetuates positions of privilege that are inherited and not earned.

When is a 65 not a 65? Change the curve and watch scores plummet
Grades on the New York State Regents Physics Exam have experienced significant declines that began when the first of the new format exams appeared in June 2002. It is my contention that this decline is not the result of any increase in difficulty, but instead is due primarily to a change in scoring practices that eliminated a generous bonus and replaced it with a slight penalty. Questions have not gotten significantly harder. Students have not gotten weaker. From June 1992 to January 2002, a student who answered 57% of the questions correctly was awarded a passing score of 65. To receive the same score on the June 2003 exam, a student would have to answer 67% of the questions correctly. If the new exams were graded using the old system for converting raw points into a final mark, average scores and passing rates would have stayed essentially constant.

Van de Graaff generators in the classroom: Theory, operation, and safety
Theory, operation, and safety of the 500,000 V classroom Van de Graaff generator. Written for use by teachers at Midwood High School, but the general principles and demonstrations can be adapted for use elsewhere.

Mathematics packages: Their role in education
What impact will commercially produced mathematics packages have on math education in the United States? It's just a matter of time before such materials become ubiquitous in classrooms. Will schools teach basic algebra and other tasks when computer programs exist to do just that? The answer lies in the procedure for computing square roots by hand. No one teaches this algorithm now that nearly everyone owns a calculator. I originally wrote this article while still a student at Columbia University. For some reason I received a grade of A+. See if you can tell me why. It's good, but certainly not the Great American Novel. The visiting professor went back to Santiago, Chile without returning the graded copy.

Mathematics

Ptolemy's Table of Chords: Trigonometry in the Second Century
A historical paper on the creation of a Second Century trig table, outlining the procedure and detailing it using modern notation.

Media

Four minutes, thirty-three seconds by John Cage
In honor of the late avant garde composer and philosopher of music this page "performs" the John Cage musical composition Four minutes, thirty-three seconds. Turn off all screen savers and power savers. Set your computer to its maximum volume for truest reproduction. This is my favorite page on E-World. It even won an award.

Rolywholyover: A composition for museum by John Cage
An analysis of an exhibit at the Guggenheim-SoHo based on an idea by John Cage: the avant-garde composer and philosopher of music. It was shown briefly during the summer of 1994. The origins of Cage's use of chance operations in music and how he extended his musical philosophies to the museum. Being a physicist, I read the exhibit in relativistic terms. Space & time are both dimensions. Any work of art is a manipulation of parameters in these dimensions: the visual arts choosing one set of parameters and the musical arts another. Some external links are included at the end.

Television and the presidency: How the news affects our perceptions
Media analysis — plain and simple. How the President of the United States appears on television affects our perceptions. Perception is reality, form is substance, the medium is the message, and so on.

Science & Technology

Albert Einstein's letters to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
The letter that launched the arms race. A warning to President Roosevelt on the possibility of constructing "extremely powerful bombs of a new type" with hints that the German government might be doing just that. Addressed and dated Peconic, Long Island, August 2nd 1939, it was most likely written by Leo Szilard, the scientist who invented the chain reaction. Nevertheless, Einstein took full responsibility for its consequences, calling it "the greatest mistake" of his life. Also contains the partial text of three additional letters that Einstein wrote to FDR with a small collection of external links at the end.

Sierra Leone

The English alphabet
This is a recitation that a primary student taught me. One student plays the part of a learned professor who is then challenged by another student to recite a proverb ("parable" in Krio) for each letter of the alphabet. Those familiar with public transports in West Africa will recognize many of these sayings. This work is public domain.

Rebel action on the Kamakwie Road 1996–2001
Kamakwie is a large village in north-central Sierra Leone about twenty five miles from the Guinean border where I lived from 1987–1990. This page is a compilation of news reports on rebel activity along the Kamakwie-Makeni road. Articles reproduced here are intended for educational, non-commercial use only. Copyrights are held by the authors.

Salone scrapbook: Images 1987–1990
Pre-war images of Sierra Leone taken between 1987 and 1990. See what the country looked like when I lived there. Categories include snapshots, panoramas, currency, and product labels.

Sounds of Salone: Field recordings 1987–1990
Traditional musical selections from the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Gbondokali ceremonies (Limba) and Tegbe performances (Temne). Each mp3 file is about three minutes in length. Snippets of the Tegbe recordings were used as incidental music in the radio programme Sierra Leone: Celebration, War and Healing on Afropop Worldwide.

Skepticism

The scriptural basis for a geocentric cosmology
Those who insist that biology conform to the creation myth should also insist that the earth sciences conform to a geocentric (or even flat-earth) model. The Bible describes a universe that few of us would recognize today. This position is supported with approximately 40 verses from both the Old and New Testaments. Of course, the Bible also describes a universe that was created in six terrestrial days. Why is the literal interpretation of the Bible applied so readily to the latter situation and not the former? The message here is, I think, obvious. The Bible is the literal truth only when it's convenient. In my view, this invalidates the logical core of the anti-evolutionary movement in its entirety.