Understanding significant figures

I'll start with a question - to how many significant figures is the number 500? What does "significant" mean? Consider the number 315 - which digit can you change which would have the least effect on the size of the number? Clearly the 5: increase or decrease it by 1, and 315 changes by 1. But move the 3 up or down 1, and the number will change by 100. So, the 3 is more "significant" than the 5 - and the further ...

Is anyone else alarmed?

The 'tag line' in my sent emails reads "There is nothing more economically damaging that a set of beliefs lacking any underpinning in data, empiricism or common sense - any opinion asserted without evidence can be summarily dismissed without evidence. Matt McGee, Christopher Hitchens " My wife saw this on a recent trip to Ukraine. Gotta love a country that really hasn't arrived at the Political Correctness cliff! I have long since gaped in astonishment and dismay at the recent inclusion of ...

Carrying out a good IA project

Have you stated your Internal Assessment(IA) yet? If you are a 'May session' school, this anytime from May of IB1 until December of IB2 seems a likely time that your school will carry this out with you and ask you to write it up. Which means that you need to get some ideas on what types of things you can investigate. However, the aim of this blog post is to give you some ideas for writing and carrying out a good ...

Plato and the art of political weaving

Plato’s political views are usually associated with ‘The Republic’ and its detailed analysis of the perfect political and social community. The possibly apocryphal dialogue on ‘The Laws’ sheds further light on the necessity to establish just laws in order to channel the virtuous inclinations of human nature and curb its dangerous excesses. A third, late dialogue is ‘Politikos’ dedicated to the expert on political matters as distinguished from the sophist who resorts to specious arguments to win his case or ...

A Human Binary Counter

At the heart of every computer, however complex, are binary numbers - that is, numbers formed only of 0's and 1's. This is because it is easy to represent just two digits electronically: a switch can be on or off; a current can flow one way or the other; a pulse can change a stored digit from one state to the other. How does the binary system work?  When we count up to 9 in the decimal system, we've run out ...

Good Practice – Carrying out a lab

Here is an idea I got from a colleague of mine recently for a novel way of getting your students to plan a lab investigation. It is a model that could be rolled back and used in a variety of labs and it is very straightforward to do. Essentially, you give the students a task (for example, testing for halides) and then give the students a framework in which they can plan their own personal investigation. For example, you give them ...

Knowing me…

The next two blogs will focus on the nature of two aspects of personal knowledge, namely, knowledge of oneself and knowledge of others. What the psychologist Howard Gardner described as Intrapersonal and Interpersonal knowledge. Of course, the entreaty to ‘know thyself’ is an ancient one, it can be found first in Egypt and then at the heart of Socratic philosophy as well as, among others, in the writings of the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tze. The latter wrote, “mastering others is ...

Expanding the Context – The Often Forgotten Criterion of the Listening Exam Rubric

It's the time of year to carefully plan your listening for the exam!   The often forgotten criterion from the listening paper rubric is Criteria D: Context.  Let's discuss expanding the context of each of your answers.   What is “context”? IB defines context as historical, cultural and stylistic characteristics. Here are types of contextual information: Questions that are cultural in nature are: Function of music – What was this played for? Why was it written? Nationality, location, geography – This is especially important for ...

Kantian Evil or the misuse of human freedom

For Kant, there is no absolute evil, but a ‘radical’ evil which is literally at the root of human freedom as there is a natural, human inclination to act according to our desires and passions and to choose the easier path instead of the path of duty. To posit the omnipresence of Evil in the world would, for Kant, imply a malignant deity, thwarting any human effort to achieve any level of moral rectitude or virtue. Evil, therefore, is not ...

Changing mortality in England and Wales

Better health care and improved living conditions has led to a continuing fall in mortality in England and Wales since the end of the Second World War. Between 2003 and 2013, life expectancy in England rose by 3 years for men and 2.3 years for women. Deaths among the elderly are expected to push up the mortality rate eventually, but probably not until after 2025, when many of the population reach their late 70s and 80s. However, in 2012 and ...