Want to Buy A Banned T-Shirt?

August 31st, 2009

After reading this article about the Sedalia County (thank you Brandon for the correction!) school district’s treatment of the Smith-Cotton High School Marching Band’s new t-shirt, of course I tweeted the article. One comment came back from Tim Beauchamp (@tbeauchamp for those interested) wondering if there was a way to get one of the tees for himself.

This got me thinking… the Sedalia district’s Assistant Superintendent, Brad Pollitt, said himself that the district would have to cover the cost of the revoked shirts (some $700). So, why not try to get the school district to put the shirts up for sale as a fundraiser for the band and school district?

Here’s a letter that I wrote to Mr. Pollitt along those lines:

Dear Mr. Pollitt,

I’m writing you after reading a recent news article about the trouble that you and the Smith-Cotton High School marching band had with the “Brass Evolutions 2009” t-shirt design.

You are quoted as saying that the district will have to absorb the cost of the troublesome tees. I know several people who would be interested in purchasing the t-shirts. Perhaps there is an opportunity for the district to make the cost of the shirts back by selling them to individuals who are not upset by the creative design, and in fact who would wear the shirts proudly.

I am sorry to hear that the design was so distasteful to so many, and that you felt it necessary to respond by revoking the shirts at a cost to the district. Our nation’s schools never have it financially easy, especially so in this time of economic recession. This could be an economic win if approached in the spirit of fundraising.

All the best,

Kirsten H. Sanford, Ph.D

I think this could be an interesting way to approach the problem. Rather than bash anyone, or call anyone names, let’s try to publicize the evolution banning event by purchasing the t-shirts. It might actually help the school out, which is something very needed these days. We’ll see if and how Mr. Pollitt responds.

If you are interested in writing a similar letter to see if we can get these shirts back into the population, you can find the contact information of the Sedalia School District administrators here, and this is Mr. Brad Pollitt’s work email.

If you do write, please, keep in mind that this is a teachable moment, and civility and compassion will do more good than temper and bile.

What is TWIS

August 24th, 2009

We could tell you what TWIS is, but you are better off discovering the truth for yourself.




Please share this video and website with people who need TWIS.

Finding Answers to Life’s Big Questions… In Comets

August 19th, 2009

I am fascinated by the recent news regarding comets in our solar system.

Most recently a team from NASA reported finding the simple amino acid glycine in materials returned from the Stardust mission.

The Stardust mission sent a craft from Earth on a trajectory that, like a boomerang, flew it through the tail of comet Wild 2 and then back to Earth. Comet Wild 2 originates from the outer reaches of our solar system, and as such is thought to be about as old as our solar system itself. Scientists have been analyzing the collected comet bits since Stardust’s return hoping to discover what the early solar system was made of.

And, now, it seems the early solar system contained the building blocks for life.

Sure, we’ve found glycine in bits of asteroids before, but those are from the warmer, inner parts of the solar system. Finding that an amino acid can come from the cold reaches of space indicates that these molecules don’t need a more temperate climate to form. The necessary chemical reactions can occur far from the sun.

Take that conclusion a bit further, and it means these molecules could be forming all over the universe, which makes the likelihood for carbon-based life in other stellar neighborhoods a bit more plausible. This realization makes our observations of glycine in distant nebulae substantially more interesting.

Now, consider that even though glycine doesn’t need a comfortable place to live, we do. How on Earth (pun intended) did the building blocks get here and evolve into what we know as life?

Glycine could have naturally come about as a result of chemical interactions on the early planetary surface. Or, it could have come from asteroids and comets.

Well, an insightful piece of computational research our of the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark tried to answer this question by looking at iridium in 3.8 billion year old rocks from Greenland and in rocks returned from the moon during the Apollo missions.

Iridium is a metal that while naturally present on the Earth is found in much higher concentrations in asteroids and comets. Additionally, asteroids are estimated to have more iridium than comets, and leave more behind when they impact with the planet; some 18,000 parts per trillion versus 130 parts per trillion were expected in the impact sites.

The analysis found that the amount of iridium contained in the ancient rocks was more in line with comet impacts than with asteroids. They also found that their cometary calculations jived with concentrations of iridium found in the moon rocks.

The researchers, concluding that comets were the most likely culprits during the Late Heavy Bombardment (taking place after the Earth’s young molten-hot phase), estimated that the amount of water that would remain on the Earth as a result was right on par with the amount of water in all the Earth’s oceans.

So, did comets create our oceans? Maybe. The calculations are based on lots of assumptions as to the amount of iridium that should be found in rocks formed during asteroid or comet impacts. Regardless, it is still a fascinating train of thought.

I love this quote from the research paper:

“We may sip a piece of the impactors every time we drink a glass of water.”

And, the final question, is whether comets, in addition to bringing water, brought life’s building blocks as well.

It’s not too far of a reach to consider it a possibility, especially with the recent impact on Jupiter, and work that suggests comet showers make their way through the solar system every 500 million years or so.

Just like April showers bring May flowers, what do comet showers bring?

Be a Part of TWIS

August 13th, 2009

So, among the changes taking place at This Week in Science is the realization that I can’t do everything myself. I would love to see TWIS grow, but I require help.

Looking at the responses from my post regarding the website and TWIS community from a couple of weeks back, I have realized that this is project overall is bigger than I am and bigger than I can conceivably achieve given the number of hours in a day.

First, TWIS requires funds to make things happen. So, I’m looking for an experienced new media advertising representative to help us find sponsors and advertisers.

I’m looking for someone with experience in advertising sales, specifically within the new media sector, with an interest if not a background in science. The position is contract based, and would be perfect for someone looking for a small side project.

Second, I’m looking for someone to help with project management and business development. There are so many things that I would love to do, but don’t have the time. I’d love to find someone passionate about TWIS and interested in helping it grow, who understands what TWIS is all about, and who wants to help whip things into shape. The person should have fantastic organizational skills, a love of science, creativity, great communication skills, and the ability to make things happen. I really need someone to be my right-hand in all things TWIS (kind of how Dane works with Leo at TWiT), which would make being a local San Francisco person highly beneficial.

The issue with this second position is that I have nothing to currently offer by way of pay. One possibility is that an applicant would be interested in working with me to find and apply for grants, which could then fund the position. An additional option is to get involved with the promise of future equity or future pay. Or, you could be independently wealthy, and not be concerned with this issue.

But, all this could be putting the cart before the horse. I’m just thinking out-loud, so that the idea can stop cycling in my head.

Please, send me a bio and/or resume and a statement of your interest if you are interested in talking about the details of either position (kirstenatthisweekinsciencedotcom). If you have any suggestions on how I can move forward with finding help, on people you think would be great for me to consider, or on how crazy I am, please, let me know.