Water could have been abundant in first billion years after the Big Bang

How soon after the Big Bang could water have existed? Not right away, because water molecules contain oxygen and oxygen had to be formed in the first stars. Then that oxygen had to disperse and unite with hydrogen in significant amounts. New theoretical work finds that despite these complications, water vapor could have been just as abundant in pockets of space a billion years after the Big Bang as it is today. —> Read More

Does Your Child’s School Have a Quality STEM Program?

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Responding to growing calls to improve science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) education, increasing numbers of public and private schools are touting their specialized STEM programs, largely centered on special technology or a particular set of course offerings. While some of these programs may be of high quality, parents and community leaders should kick the tires of local STEM education initiatives to determine the extent to which these efforts are based on what research shows will increase STEM knowledge and problem-solving skills and, as a result, spark student engagement and interest in STEM careers.

In order to do this you need to look for a number of key factors, including the extent to which STEM efforts serve all students equally- and well. Do they encourage learning across disciplines; promote student inquiry and real-world problem solving; and connect students with people working in real STEM-related careers on campuses, in industry and in the community?

My organization, AdvancED, is in the business of measuring the quality of education institutions and their programs. Based on our work, we have developed standards and criteria for parents and community leaders to quickly gauge the quality of the STEM education programs in their community. You can use these questions — and the examples of schools that we have certified as being strong in STEM — to discuss with school leaders how they might strengthen their STEM offerings.

Here are some initial questions you can ask:

  • Is the STEM learning program interdisciplinary and problem-based, encouraging deeper learning through real-world projects? In excellent STEM programs, students learn not just science, technology, engineering, and mathematical processes and practices but also across and beyond STEM disciplines. They develop competencies such as collaboration and communication skills necessary for success in college and career. Middleton Magnet High School in Tampa, Florida, for example, —> Read More

Lava Lake On Kilauea Volcano Is Seriously Close To Overflowing

A lava lake on Hawaii’s Big Island is mere feet from overflowing.

As of Monday morning, the lava’s surface was within seven feet of the lake’s rim, the highest it’s been since the current eruption began in 2008.

“Magma is rising up into the lava lake from a magma chamber a mile or so beneath the summit of Kilauea volcano,” research geologist Matthew Patrick told The Huffington Post. According to Patrick, an overflow is a definite possibility because Kilauea has been consistently inflating for the past week, meaning that magma keeps flowing into the lake from an underground chamber below.

In the event of an overflow, the lava would stay within Halemaumau Crater, the larger crater in the floor of which the lava lake sits, so it would pose no safety threat. But visitors to Volcanoes National Park would get quite a display.

Typically, the lava surface is 100 to 200 feet below the rim of the crater lake and therefore can’t be seen from the public viewing area around the volcano. Since the lava has risen, Patrick said, “its incandescent cracks and often vigorous spattering” can easily be seen from the overlook. An overflow would “likely provide an impressive scene for park visitors.”

While this is a notable development in the current eruption, it’s not particularly unusual in the history of Kilauea, Patrick said. “In the 1800s and early 1900s, there was nearly continuous lava lake activity for about 100 years, and oftentimes that lava was spilling out of Halemaumau Crater,” he explained.

As exciting as an overflow sounds, it is also possible Kilauea will abruptly deflate, Patrick said, bringing the lava’s surface back down to typical levels.

In the meantime, we can all enjoy a better view into the lava lake:

<div data-allowfullscreen="true" —> Read More

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