March 2012: In this Issue:                   pdf copy

Cavorting with Chemistry

Stories from the field

Quick Tips

Homegrown Learning

Tech Corner

Midterm Exam Schedules

Sens Game Contest

This month, join CUOL in welcoming the official start of spring! Also, don’t forget to set your clocks forward one hour on the 11th for Daylight Savings, and keep an eye out for leprechauns around the 17th…

Cavorting with Chemistry

 Jeff Manthorpe, Jeff Smith and Bob Burk

Last month the Carleton Chemistry Department partnered with CUOL to broadcast their annual Chemistry Magic Show. Because of CUOL, the number of people Oo’ing and Ahh’ing may have tripled.

In a darkened auditorium, 300 kids and adults peer wide-eyed at a lone man with a barbecue lighter in his right hand. In his left he holds a party streamer soaked in ultra-flammable nitrocellulose. The flame meets the streamer and fire and light fills the space – but before the children can finish their collective gasp, it’s gone, leaving no trace of smoke or ash. Clapping and whoops echo off the walls. But the packed auditorium was in fact just a portion of the people enjoying this year’s Chemistry Magic Show; thanks to CUOL, approximately a thousand people were wowed and awed by Carleton’s scientists.

“We’ve honestly reached a point now where we couldn’t do [this event] without CU online,” said organizer Jeff “Magic” Manthorpe. They held their first Chemistry Day five years ago, but soon they started attracting more people than they had room for, and it wasn’t long before they sought help from CUOL, Manthorpe said. It started as an idea to just film the event so audience overflow could watch it on screens outside the theatre, but the idea soon expanded to streaming it online and broadcasting it on the CUOL channel, Rogers 243. Last year was their first time broadcasting the show and they topped 1,300 online viewers, Manthorpe said.

“Now we can literally reach anyone in the world with a computer. I owe them a huge debt.”

Chemistry Day is mostly aimed at kids but welcomes anyone, and features the most spectacular and sensational aspects of chemistry, from colour changes to tiny explosions.

Dressed in psychedelic tie-die labcoats, Manthorpe was joined onstage by two other chemists (Bob “Bombs” Burk and Jeff “Sub-Zero” Smith) and together they took turns conducting experiments with some of the hottest, coldest, loudest and most explosive elements in the periodic table.

Obviously this isn’t the kind of stuff chemists get to play with every day, Manthorpe said, but the point of the event is to have fun and inspire the next generation of chemists. Chemistry usually only makes the news if there’s a mistake, he said. People rarely talk about the positive side, such as how advances in mechanical chemistry led to new materials that made smartphones and tablet computers possible. But chemistry is in fact present in our daily lives and – much like CUOL – often quietly helping just beneath the surface.

“Hey Bob! Jeff was right – this is WAY more fun than rubbing two sticks together!”Think you can come up with a better caption? Send CUOL your best and get a chance for your entry to get published next month.By the way, the true, accurate caption to this photo would explain that during the Chemistry Magic Show, Manthorpe and Burk were simultaneously igniting highly flammable dust (left) and nitrocellulose-soaked party streamers (right).

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Stories from the field: CUOL at the ground level

In Ottawa and around the world, CUOL is becoming a part of students’ lives. Do you have a story to share? Let us know and you could win Sens tickets and be featured in our next newsletter! It could be funny, inspirational, or just kinda neat – so long as CUOL was somehow involved. See last page for more information.

My “Introduction to Statistics in Psychology” class is held on Mondays and Wednesdays in the mornings, but I opted to sign up for the VOD service to get a bit more flexibility. In one specific class, the professor was attempting to explain how proportions work. As an example, he asked the class how he would go about, hypothetically, calculating the proportion of students enrolled in the class that were asleep.

A student raised their hand and volunteered the answer, “Check to see how many are enrolled in the VOD service!,” clearly intending it as a joke. It got a few laughs in class. When I watched the video, I joined in with the laughter too because, at the time of the recording, that’s exactly what I was doing! CUOL is so great for working around unusual schedules, and it’s so useful to not have to be on campus at 8:30 in the morning when you can watch the classes at your own pace and rewind bits and pieces you don’t understand.

-Lewis Smith

Spending Time with CUOL

As a first year university student, registering for my courses was the first step towards a great freshman year! My schedule seemed almost too good to be true – until I realized it was. Being in the Bachelor of International Business program, I was required to register for two French courses and I only registered for one. I realized only a few weeks before school started that I was signed up for only 4 credits.

As soon as I realized this I tried to register for the correct French class but there was no room! Luckily, I was able to schedule an immediate appointment with my guidance counselor who had the perfect solution; Carleton University Online (CUOL). She signed me up for a French course that would fill in the extra credit I needed, and count towards my degree. I was a bit hesitant at first of taking an ‘online’ course, but soon realized just how fortunate I was.

Watching my lectures online, I never feel like I am unattached from the class. I love being able to watch the lectures at times that are convenient for me, being able to pause for a washroom break or a bite to eat. On top of watching my French course online, I am able to come into D299 Loeb to watch my Economics lectures, if I happen to miss a class. It really helps me stay on top of my studies and I love being able to re-watch lectures just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. Being a competitive dancer, there are some classes that I have to miss.

CUOL has helped me so much this year and I know they will continue to do so. I highly recommend using the CUOL services so that they can help you just as they have helped me. University can be complicated and things can get extremely busy. It’s nice to know that there are services like CUOL around to help make things a little easier.
-Leah Spero

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Quick Tips

Do you get headaches, blurred vision, or just plain ol’ eyestrain after staring at a computer screen for too long? Studies report that at least half of the people reading this are nodding their heads. To ease your peepers and increase productivity, try some of these helpful eye-saving tips. 

– minimize direct sunlight and glare. Overhead fluorescent lighting and complete darkness can also cause strain. Ideal situation is a table lamp off to the side, which will cast even, ambient light. If you start to feel like a cave-dweller, that’s when you bring the next tip into play.

-take a break, either by scheduling quick walkabouts (try outside for some fresh air), or even just leaning back in your chair and closing your eyes. Doing a few stretches couldn’t hurt – plus if you’re out in public it’ll make you look really cool.

– position your monitor about 20 to 30 inches from your eyes – about the length of your arm. Your head-on gaze should meet the screens top edge, so that you’re looking at the screen at a slightly downward angle. Text and pictures should be clear and crisp.

– exercise your eyes. At least every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and focus on a distant object about 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds. Some eye doctors call this the 20-20-20 rule, and it can help relax the eye’s focusing muscle. Another focusing exercise is to switch between looking at something far away and close up. Do about 10 repetitions, spending 10 to 15 seconds at each focusing distance.

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Homegrown Learning

Professor John Buschek is planting seeds, both in the ground and in the minds of his students with a new project that aims to get students out of the classroom and making a difference.

In elementary school, field trips were often the most memorable and celebrated events of the academic year. Well Carleton professor John Buschek is trying to bring them back, and CUOL students can join in the fun.

Over the course of the next three terms (including the current, winter one), Buschek is planning to engage his classes in a local permaculture project, which will – he hopes – encourage students to think about where their food comes from and different ways of doing things.

“I’m just always looking for new things to do with the students,” Buschek said.

Permaculture is a theory of ecological design which seeks to develop sustainable agricultural systems by modeling them off the natural environment. The three different classes will follow a cycle of the “one-straw” agricultural system, which was developed by Japanese farmer/philosopher Masanoku Fukuoka and involves laying down a layer of straw and tossing “seed balls” (tiny marble-like conglomerations of clay, compost and a mixture of 40 to 50 different flower, vegetable and herb seeds) over it. The theory holds that rain will wash away the clay and help the compost fertilize some of the seeds.

On March 10, Buschek will host a series of sessions all day for the in-class students of his energy and sustainability class, during which time they will make and dry the seed balls. The summer class (called environmentally harmonious lifestyles) will then go out to an Ottawa farm (but conveniently accessible by OC transpo) and “plant” the seedballs, so to speak; in September the fall introduction to the environment class will visit the farm to see which plants took root. “Nature will decide what works,” Buschek said.

The project is being done in cooperation with the Carleton OPIRG (Ontario Public Interest Research Group) and Just Food, a local NGO.

While only the in-class students are required to attend the active parts of the process, Buschek has extended an invitation to the video students to come and observe.

If that is either not preferable or possible for the online students they also have the option of watching in the format that they normally would, since CUOL videographers are planning to film segments of the whole process. There will be a graded component for all students.

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This month’s feature:
               Google Goggles App

What if, as an art history student, you could visit a gallery and fetch instant information about the painting you’re looking at just by snapping a picture. Well in fact, you can. Ever since Google Goggles, a free downloadable app for Android smartphones and iPhones was released a few years ago, it has been under constant development and reinvention.

As of now, the app can recognize text, famous landmarks, books, artwork, wine, and logos. Architecture students could use this to identify famous structures; language students could employ its translation capabilities; at mixers, business students could heighten their spiffy-quotient by using it to quickly log and save business cards.

And the software engineers at google are working to stretch the image recognition software to more changeable objects, such as plants and leaves (take note, biology enthusiasts). While some people complain of mixed or faulty search results, others maintain that it’s a huge and useful leap forward in info-searching.

The idea of “Point-and-Know” was flagged by popular trend-spotting website as one of the 12 crucial consumer trends for 2012. For “infolusty” people (sic), visual search for quick info return is the next frontier, the website proclaims. So far google goggles has had over a hundred thousand downloads, with the average user review hitting just above the 4-star mark.

But as is often the case, Google’s main competitor seems to be itself. Multiple publications (including the New York Times) have recently reported that a project is in the works to develop eyeglasses that would be able to search and display information about objects you see, aka actual google goggles. However this is yet to be confirmed by an official Google spokesperson.

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Midterm Exam Schedules

Want to catch a Senators game* for FREE?

Just email CUOL a short story, detailing your experiences as a CUOL student or professor, we have Sens tickets (including dinner at the Senate Club and parking) to give away, so every submission will get entered in a draw! We’ll set you up with a pair of tickets! Stories should be 150-300 words, and can focus on a funny tale, an enlightening moment, or some other way CUOL has affected your life.

*Each winner receives two tickets each at 100-level seats, and includes free parking and dinner.

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