Why do leaves fall?
The world goes around the sun. The world leans. Sometimes it leans toward the sun. Sometimes it leans away. When the sun lights up the world, it lands in different directions. when leaning away from the sun, less light lands, because it comes from a lower direction (not because it is further away, as most think). This is why the sun is low in the sky during cold months. In fact, the cold happens because of the lean of the world. The light from the sun is power, and also warm light. This change in direction means less warm light, and the world cools on the area that leans away from the sun.
Green leaves have green cells that turn light into sweet water. Trees, and all things live with sweet water. cold months and less light from the sun tells the trees to stop making sweet water and go to sleep. They have gotten this life from many deaths in their family. Other trees before them have had bad ideas and died early. Trees that do not die live on and show other trees how to live. Going to sleep at the right time is one good idea trees have shown their children. The green cells that turn light into sweet water go to sleep. Cells dry up and become ready to break. This means the leaves are not strong enough to hold onto the tree.
Falling happens because stuff is heavy. Stuff pulls other stuff toward it. The world is heavy and leaves are not very heavy so the world has more pull on the leaves than the leaves have on the world. The leaves fall toward the world because of the pull.
”—Harley. I once saw a WoW ad with a panda that said “Why do the leaves fall?” The answer was “Because it is in their nature”, but I had a better explanation. If I ever have kids I am gonna kick ass at ‘the why? game’.
“I study brain waves in order to understand why some children have trouble with sharing their ideas through talking. The kids I study have normal brains as far as doctors can tell, but often struggle when reading and talking. They can move their mouths and tongues in a normal way. I want to know what parts of the brain are leading to their struggle in order to find new ways to understand and help them. I use a computer to help me to study brain waves and use it to study fields of numbers to increase our understanding of these kids.”—Nick -electrophysiologist and speech pathologist
Understanding change at the top of the world so we’ll know what is going to happen later
When we drive cars and warm our homes we give out bad stuff that ends up in the air. The bad stuff in the air makes our world warmer, which is not good. Every year there is more bad stuff in the air, and our world gets a little bit warmer. Some people pretend this is not happening, they are wrong.
The green things that live outside suck up the bad stuff in the air that we give out when we drive our cars and use it to grow bigger. This is good because the green things are slowing down the warming of our world. When the green things die, tiny life forms in the ground eat them and return the bad stuff back to the air, this is normal.
Up near the top of the world it is really cold and lots of old dead green things have been stuck in ice in the ground for a very long time. When the dead green things are stuck in ice the tiny life forms can’t eat them and the bad stuff is stuck where it can’t make the world hotter. When ice gets warmed up it starts to go away and when it does the tiny life forms in the ground can eat the old dead green things and give out the bad stuff that makes our world warmer. When the world gets warmer more ice goes away, more dead green stuff gets eaten and more bad stuff ends up in the air which makes the world get warmer, and so on. This could make the world get hotter very quickly, and we need to know more about it.
To help work out what might happen at the top of the world years from now we are trying to understand as much as we can about the way the ice goes away, the green things that grow outside and the tiny life forms that eat them. When we know some more about this stuff we can put what we have learnt in a big thinking box (a bit like the one you are using to read this) and use it to tell us what will happen years from now.
When you want to move, your brain tells your body how to do so. The body has many parts, and even moving your arm from one point to another is hard. It is one of the hardest problems that your brain deals with.
We try to figure out how the brain moves the body. The brain is made up of many, many cells that talk to each other. They do this by firing more or less to tell other cells to fire more or less. Some cells in the brain have parts that leave, and these cells can move the arms and legs and the rest of the body. We listen to the firing of some (but not even close to all of!) the cells in this part of the brain, and try to make sense of how the firing changes when you move in different ways. In this way, we can start to understand how the brain controls the body, and maybe learn something about how the brain does all kinds of other things as well.
Some people have become sick or hurt in such a way that they can’t move their bodies anymore. These people have trouble living because they can’t move around or reach for anything, so they must ask their friends and family to help them with everything. We are also trying to use what we have learned about the brain to help these people. First, a doctor in a hospital can very carefully put a small thing that looks like a hair brush inside the space between the head and the brain. This listens to the firing of the cells in that small part of the brain and sends what it hears outside to a computer. Then, we have the computer learn what kinds of firing happen when the person makes each kind of reach in many directions. Then, when the person is trying to make a reach, the computer can recognize what reach the person wants to make just by listening to the cells inside the brain. Before, when the person thought about moving, nothing would happen. But now, the computer knows how the person wants to move and can move the arm for them!
It isn’t perfect yet, but it’s good enough already that we can soon help people that can’t move by themselves with their day to day problems. And it’s getting better every day. It’s very exciting to learn about the brain and help people at the same time!
”—Dan O’Shea, on motor neuroscience and neural prosthetics
Computers have lots of parts inside, all put together in one fixed way by people who make computers. A computer like that can do lots of different jobs, but can not do any one job especially well.
Maybe you have a problem that is very hard for normal computers. Your problem takes too long, or takes too many computers (which takes lots of money). You can use the parts from a normal computer, put them together in a new way, and have a different computer. If you know how, you can make a computer that does your problem a hundred times better than a normal computer does. It won’t do any other problem very well, but it does your problem.
But maybe you have two hard problems. Your new computer can only do one of them. Or maybe you change your first problem so your new computer can’t do it any more. Then you need to make a new computer for the new problem.
Normal computers have all the parts put together so you can’t change them. You have to use the parts inside the way they come from the store. There are things that have all the parts of a normal computer in them, but the parts aren’t put together. You can put them together any way you want and make a computer that does one problem really well. Later you can use the same parts over again to build as many kinds of computer as you want, for all of your problems. If you have a new problem tomorrow that you didn’t think of today, you can build a new computer for that by using the same parts again. If you think of a better way to do your problem, you can make a new computer that does it the better way. This is what a “put-back-together” computer lets you do.
The fun thing is that put-back-together computers keep getting bigger and faster all the time, so you can do bigger problems or do them faster. (Normal computers get bigger and faster too, but not as much as put-back-together computers.) If you are very good at making put-back-together computers, you can make them from small pieces, then use the small piece over and over until you use up all the parts in the put-back-together computer. Then, when you get a bigger put-back-together computer with more parts inside, you can make even more of your small pieces and get a faster computer very easily.
“When people are very sick and the doctor wants to give them strong light that goes through their body to make them better or so they don’t die, I make sure that the strong light they get is right.”—Tim McDaniels, Medical Physicist in a Radiation Therapy Practice
“In my job, we build things to make people happy, well, safe. We fix problems, sometimes using only what we can find laying around. Almost everything that is built has at least one of us working on it. We work on flying things, driving things, very very tiny things, and huge things. We make the places where people live and the things they use every day. We make things that can save lives, and things that can make their own things. Our job is important, and we want your help doing it!”—Randy, engineer
When people feel sick, doctors can give them things that make them feel better. Let’s call them feel-better-foods. Sometimes feel-better-foods work by putting them in your mouth and sometimes you need to put them in your blood. They can help people who feel sad, or who feel hurt, or who have bad things inside their bodies. There are many different feel-better-foods and doctors give you the ones that will help you the most.
There are groups of people who are always thinking about new feel-better-foods to make that can help more people. But it takes a lot of money, time, and people to make feel-better-foods that actually work. I help these groups of people decide what feel-better-foods to make and the best way to make them. I also help them think about how to fix the problems they might face if they try to make the feel-better-foods. These are some of the important things these groups of people have to think about. How much will doctors like the feel-better-food? How do they show that the feel-better-food works well? How much money can they make from people buying the feel-better food? These are all questions I help people answer so they can be better at making good feel-better-foods to help you and other people who need them.
“The land gives us things that all people need to make our lives better and happier (like good food and clean drinking water, parks and other beautiful places to enjoy, and controlling things that could make us sick or hurt us and our homes). I work in the kind of land that has many, many trees (we sometimes call it the woods). The woods are important because they help us to have less of a thing people put in the air that is making the world much warmer (which is bad for people, the land, and animals) by storing it in the trees and in the ground. I ask questions to learn about whether woods that have many different types of trees are better at storing this stuff from the air than woods that have fewer types of trees. I also study whether it matters whether the area of the woods is big or small, or if the woods are all alone (in the middle of fields) or very close to other woods. I hope that finding answers to these kinds of questions will help the people with power to change things to make good plans to get more of the things we need from the land, while hurting the land (and trees and animals) less.”—
“I do studies and tell students about the following things: how small bits of rock group to form a large body of rock, and how these rock bodies form one on top of another. I do this so we can know how our world looked a very long time ago when these rock bodies were forming. Our world looked a lot different because the ground has moved from one place to another over time (sometimes it has moved a long, long way!). It also was different because a long time ago some places were high land areas and other places were low land areas. Later the high lands became lower as tiny bits of rock from the top of the high land were carried away by water. These bits formed a new large body of rock somewhere else. I try to learn where the high land areas used to be, how and when they went away, and where the bits of rock from the high lands came to rest to form new rock bodies. Also, I want to know what areas were under water and what areas were not under water, how much rain usually fell, how hot and cold the air was, and how wet and dry the ground - this all has changed a lot over the very long time that our world has formed. We need to know how different our world was a long time ago because that is when some of the things we need formed in the rocks. Some of these things make our cars run and to let us turn lights on. Also, there are living things that were once found in our world a long time ago, but they all died so we don’t find them in our world today. We can find parts of these once-living things left in the very old rock bodies.”—Amy W.
Pushing things makes them go faster. People used to think that if you could keep pushing something hard enough for long enough you could make it move as fast as you want. So some people tried to make things go faster than anything else ever had, by pushing as hard as they could.
Thing is, it didn’t work.
Turns out that no matter how hard or how long you push something for, at least one thing will always be faster than it: light. Light is the fastest thing there is and you can never make anything go faster. In fact, however fast or slow you go, light always seems just as fast to you: it always moves away from you just as quickly!
So imagine this. You are holding a bright thing and pushed by a friend so hard for so long that it seems to her that you are nearly as fast as the light leaving the bright thing. To her, the light is moving just a little bit faster than you, so only getting away from you slowly. But to you, the light is still moving away from you faster than anything else can ever move. You and your friend don’t agree on how quickly you and the light are moving away from each other. What’s going on?
We need to think about what moving means. How fast something moves is how far it goes in a given time. If you and your friend don’t agree about how fast something’s moving, then in fact you don’t agree about either how FAR something goes or the TIME it took to get there.
This means something BIG. How someone sees time and space changes with how fast they are moving! A watch moving very fast will say the time is earlier than a watch standing still - this is because time goes more slowly for a moving thing.
I know what you’re thinking, though. You move about lots, and still everyone agrees what time it is. Thing is, because you are moving so much more slowly than light does, the change in time made by you moving is far too small for anyone to notice. It’s only when things move really, really, REALLY fast that the changes can be noticed.
I help make sure computer things stay safe. It is more fun than that sounds.
There are bad people who want to make the things you see on the computer go away. Sometimes it is for money and sometimes it is a game. The simple way of making computer stuff go away is like shouting very loud so no one can hear. This makes it so you can not see the things on the computer you want until they stop shouting. I try to make them be quiet.
Other bad people want to break into computers to take your money, to look at hidden things about you, or to follow you around. These people most often come from far away. I make sure these people stay out so you can feel safe on the computer and not have to worry.
I make sure that when people are building new computer things they build them carefully in ways that are safe from bad people and other big problems. I learn about building computer things and how to work with other people who build them.
”—Christian Ternus (@ternus), information security researcher
I listen to very deep sounds, they are so low we can’t hear them. These sounds go very far, sometimes around world, and mark change around us. I can sometimes tell when, where, and how these sound were made, and sometimes even make music with them. But because we can’t hear or see them, they can be hard to catch and play back, which of course is part of the fun.
So these deep sounds are good to pick up changes in the world, some of them big and important, others not so much but cool. And they are always there, hiding under the usual sounds of our world.
“Red shift" is what happens when light moves toward us from very far away. Light that comes at us from close by is bluer, light that comes from farther away is redder. We can tell how far the light came by looking at just how red it is. This is what helped us to understand that all the stars that burn in the night sky are pushing away from each other very, very quickly. Eventually, they will be so far away from us that their light will not even be red shifted. It will not be able to reach us, and all the sky, any place you look, will be dark.”—Paul Aulridge.
“I study old human stuff— We look at the old stuff to see when and where humans came from and why we look and act so funny instead of acting like other animals.”—Meagan Sobel, Biological Anthropology student.
Suppose you are reading a book about computers, and you want to find every place in the book where it talks about a man called Mr Turing. (Mr Turing knew a whole lot about numbers. He lived before we had computers, but some of the things that he said about numbers are very important if you want to understand how computers work. So if you were reading a computer book and you would want to read about him.) So how do you find all the places in the book where Mr Turing is?
Well, you can go through the whole book looking at each word and seeing if it is ‘Turing’. But that would take a very long time. You would have to read the whole book. So the people who make books have already done this for you, and if you go to the back of the book you will find a whole set of the important words that are in the book, all in the right order, so you can find them easily And next to each word it tells you exactly where in the book to look. So you would go to the back of the book, and find the place where Mr Turing’s name was. And next to that it would tell you all of the places in the rest of the book that talked about Mr Turing, so you could go straight to those places without having to look at the part of the book that you didn’t want to read.
Now you may think that to build this set of words at the back of the book would take a long time, and you would be right. Someone had to read through the whole book, and mark all the places with Mr Turing’s name. And they would have to mark all of the places for all of the other computer words that people might want to find out about , like “number” or “bus” or “punch card”. This would take a lot of time do do. But once that person has finished making the set of words then everyone else who had read the book would be able to use it.
This is a very important point. Suppose that it takes 10 days for one person to read through the book and find all the important words and note down where they all are. Ten days is a long time. But if you, or I, want to find where Mr Turning is, we can use the set of words to find the right place, and we can do it in less than a minute. If we didn’t have the set of words, it might take us a day to read through the book. And a book might have ten to the power of four people reading it, so if each person had to read through it to find where Mr Turing was that would be ten to the power of four days in total. So you can see that is is much better to have one person spend ten days making this set instead of ten to the power of four people looking through the book.
I work for a team that does the same thing with computers. There are lots of computers on line and these computers have lots of words on them. If you took all the words in all these computers it would be more words than in ten to the power of seven books. There are also pictures as well, and many of these are pictures of cats, or of people without their clothes on, because for some reason other people like to look at these. But there are also lots of important words and pictures out there, such as words and pictures about Mr Turing. Suppose you wanted to find all of the computers out there that had something to say about Mr Turing?
Well, you could go to each computer, and ask it for all of its words and pictures, and look in those words for Mr Turing. But that would take years (yes, really), and you would have to look at a lot of cat pictures. So what you really need is something like the set of words at the back of the book, which would tell you which computer knew something about Mr Turing. Then you could go and ask just these computers, rather than having to ask every computer in the world.
That is what I do. I work for a big team that has a lot of computers. These computers talk to every computer on the world, and find out all the words they know. Then, when you want to find out about Mr Turing, you ask our computers first, and they will tell you what computer you actually need to talk to.
Talking to all of the computers in the world is still a lot of work. But it is much faster if we do it once and then let lots and lots of other people come and ask us where everything is.
”—Alasdair Mackintosh - I work on Google web search.
I help children learn about space and the computers that we send into space and to the other balls that go around the sun. The computers take pictures and learn about other things that we can’t see in space. Where I work uses big voices to talk to the computers and listens for the pictures and other things, using big ears, that they send back so that people can look at the pictures and other things and learn about space and the other balls that go around the sun.
I went to school for a long time and did a big story on things that I learned about space. I used big ears to listen for light that you can’t see coming from other suns dying. When they die they get bigger and the big bit moves away all around the sun leaving behind something small. The big bit that moves away all around sometimes hits the stuff that the sun was made out of at the start and makes light that you can’t see and need to listen for. It might make different forms of light and I listened for one that no other person had heard before. We didn’t find it which was sad.
In my work I ask if people will fight to get water one day? If there is less water will people fight more? Or maybe they work together and share the water that is there?
I look at who gets what water, when and how. Then I ask, will this change (and if yes, how) now that the world becomes warmer and there might be a change in rain. How will the people who have the power to say who gets what water, when and how change what they think and do? What will this mean for the little people? Will there be more or less fights over water?
Also the world not only gets warmer but some people with lots of money plan to give their money to other people with less money, who have to fear the changes in rain and water more than the first do. Again I ask how will the people in power change what they think if the can get more money one way than another? Will there be more fights or less fights? Maybe fights for money then for water now? What do the little people do, who now have less water and don’t get any of that money?
Cool the water down and it becomes ice. Now, it looks very different… water is soft and it can move around, but ice is hard like rock and just sits in its place. Even though it is made of the same “stuff”. One might think that most stuff acts in the same way: you cool it down and it becomes hard like ice. But this world is a strange place. There is weird stuff out there which, even when it is very cold, in fact, the coldest possible, still acts like water and it can even move around like crazy. Though (and perhaps because) we don’t understand it in full yet, this weird stuff might help us throw light on the amazing inner working of this world. Let us consider an every day situation, just to get started on what might be going on…
Consider a room with some number of places to sit and the same number of people. These people are easy going, don’t talk much and don’t care so much about who is sitting right next to them. So everyone just takes up one place, opens a book to read and then don’t move around much. In some sense, this is how the stuff such as ice looks like up-close. Things just sit in their place.
Now consider a different set of people who are not happy at all sitting next to the same set of people. In fact, they want to make friends with everyone in the room: share jokes, stories, food and so on. But it is hard to party when there are just as many places as the people. The only way to do it is to change your position all the time.
The strange stuff I mentioned before that acts like water, even when it is really cold, is a bit like these “party people” (or perhaps, “confused people”, since they don’t ever seem happy with their immediate position). Except, one REALLY WEIRD thing. The amazing way this world seems to work when things get really cold, is that it allows the little bits inside this strange stuff to be able to “talk” with all the other bits, AT ALL TIMES! Even though any single picture will show that they are always talking only with the persons right next to them! If you take the picture again, then positions change and if you keep doing it over and over again, you will see that everyone has been next to everyone else at some point. If they were REALLY like the people I mentioned above, at least some pictures will show two bits at the same place, trying to step over to talk with someone else. But this is never the case. So apparently, it is a bit like being at two places at the same time! And this is what helps the bits inside this strange stuff to move around like water, even when it is very cold!
So just cooling the stuff down and looking at it up-close can give us a glance at the strange, yet beautiful ways this world works…”cool”, isn’t it?
Deep inside our world is a huge ball of hot stuff. This is the stuff that turns the black rock we use to find our way when we go far away. I used to study tiny bits of the same black rock, inside real rocks, to know the pull of the deep hot under world ball long, long ago - before people, or animals, or trees, or almost any living things were here. I studied bits of the black rock, like the pieces we use to find our way, inside other rocks that formed in fire under the ground. The hot under ground ball gave these black rock pieces a direction long ago, and they did not forget.
No, the black rock pieces did not forget, but some of them were confused in the beginning: pressing and pushing while the rock is forming in fire makes the black rock pieces all line up. So sometimes they can not know the directions from the great big ball under the world. We made the rocks hot, made them cold, and gave them directions to see if they would remember. Sometimes they did, if the black bits were lined up right, and sometimes they did not, if the black bits were lined up wrong. So do the black bits tell us about the great hot ball in the middle of the the world, or do they tell us how the rocks got pressed and pushed while they were still hot? It is a little of both, really. But I do like hot rocks, so these days, I study the same black bits in rocks to tell how the rocks were pushed or pressed while they were hot.
I also live in a place where you get bad stuff on your shoes when you go outside. Less than a hundred years ago in my city, there was a place where people made bright red stuff, like what we use in money - you know, the one-little-money pieces you never really use. This made lots of smoke that got all over and made people sick. The smoke still makes people sick where it is on the ground. It turns out that the smoke had the same black rock bits in it as in the fire-formed rocks I used to study. I also use the same black bits as in the fire-formed rocks to help tell if the stuff you walk on (and breathe) when you go to the park is bad for you.
I look at very tiny living things, called cells, that are found all over the world, on everything. You can’t see them with only your eyes because they are too small. An important point is that these cells can make two of themselves from only one. Some cells help humans, some cells hurt us, and some cells do not care about us at all.
There are some cells that live alone and some that live in groups. When cells are in groups, they can talk to each other by sending out stuff that tells them who else is around - what kind of cell it is and if it is a friend or not. The stuff the cells send to each other is like a letter that tells the cells what to do next. The cell may send one letter to its friend that says “grow” and a different letter to another that says “die”. Sometimes the other cells listen and sometimes they don’t.
The reason we study these cells (and their letters) is so we can stop them from hurting people. When some types of cells in a group talk to each other using these letters, they can act together to attack humans and cause problems that make us sick. If we can keep the cells from sending letters to each other, we can stop their plan before it is too late. We can also use these letters to make good cells do things that help humans, like kill the bad cells. The hope is that we can control the cells and talk to them in a way they understand.
“Groups of stars make new stars from their stuff. When groups of stars go into bigger groups of stars, they stop making new stars. This happens because they get hot and lose their stuff. I study when they lose their stuff, how they lose their stuff and why they lose their stuff. I use a computer to guess where groups of stars go and how they make stars. Then I look at the sky to see where groups of stars go and when they make stars. If the computer guesses the same thing I see in the sky, then I can learn about why star making stops. If the computer guesses something else, I change how the computer guess-making works and try again.”—Kyle
I find out about how people speak. I find out people who use the same words but say them in different ways. I want to find out where people use the same sounds and where they use different sounds.
Sometimes people change the sounds they use in words. I find out why they change the way they speak.
Most people say the word “right” like this “right” and some people say it a bit like this “white”. Now a few more people are saying “right” a bit like “white” Why is the way they talk changing?
1) The way people speak changes all the time! It never stays them same. Most of the time people don’t notice the changes.
2) People move about a lot now and talk to lots of different people. They hear lots of people talk in different ways. People hear talking on computers, phones, TVs and other things. The people who talk on computers, phones, TVs and other things come from lots of different places.
When you hear people talk who come from lots of different places sometimes you start to talk a bit like them. Your friends hear you talking in a different way and sometimes they start to talk in a different way too. People do not often notice when this happens.
Some people live in a little place, but they work in a big place and have friends in lots of different places. The people in the little place often talk the same way. The people in the big place talk in lots of different ways. People who live in a small place and work in a big place start to talk a little bit like the people in the big places. When they talk to the people in the little place the people there hear them and start to talk like the person who works in a big place. They see the person who works in a big place a lot and they do not notice that they have changed the way they talk. Also the person who works in a big place is a friend or family, they know them well.
3) In the past people who spoke in different ways got laughed at or their friends would not talk to them or they could not get a job. This was not good and it made people sad and try to hide they way they talked. Sometimes people thought they sounded like they had lots of money or did not have any money, or like a child or stupid or from a place that was bad.
Now not many people think this is true and if they do other people think they are bad or stupid. This makes the people who talk in different ways feel better and not they do not often try to change the way they speak.
These are only a few reasons why the way people speak changes all the time. There are different reasons for every word and every sound which changes. I can only look at one work or sound at a time and only one or two places at a time. When I find out why I think they changes happen I write it down. I tell other people who know about the same things as me and they tell me if they think I am right or wrong or if my writing is bad. Then I change it and try again. Sometimes they say it is good. If they say it is good I can write it down again and send it to a a news book about the thing I know about, then they say if it is bad or good or if someone else has already said it or if I have said enough about other people who wrote things first that helped me to write my paper. When it is very good it might be put in the news book for lots of people to read.
“I study how trees and other living things responded during the many changes that took place as the world came out of the last ice age. Many large animals died out, the world became warmer, humans moved to new parts of the world for the first time, and living things began growing in places that had been under a thick layer of ice for a very long time. In my work, I look at the little bits of living things that died, only to be covered up and left behind for us to find and study today. Like a book that is missing many parts, these bits allow us to piece together the story of what the world looked like long ago. By learning about how the world has responded to the changes of the past, we can better understand how living things may act as they face human-caused changes in the years to come.”—@JacquelynGill, paleoecologist and blogger at The Contemplative Mammoth
“When something is really, really small -too small to even see- it acts in very strange ways. This is my work. I study really, really small things and get them to light up. This is a totally new way to make light. My lights are smaller, last longer, and don’t get hot when you use them, so we can do many interesting things that we couldn’t do with the old way of making light. For my job, not only must I understand how these very small things work and get them to light up, I also need to understand how our eyes see, and then I try lots of different things to make the light better and brighter. I hope that, one day, the lights I work on will be used all over the world and am excited to see that start to happen.”—http://laserboyfriend.blogspot.com/
“I study how rocks from our world other worlds form and change when they get wet. I learn about how fast different types of ices change in water and different types of air to learn more about rocks on cold ice-worlds. I also take pieces of rock from our world and see how long they last in water to learn about how hot, cold, or wet our world and other worlds were in the past. Then I write about what I learn and help other people learn about rocks and other worlds.”—Megan Elwood Madden- planetary geochemist
“In the brain, cells tell each other about how they are firing by sending different kinds of stuff across the tiny spaces between them. This stuff is kept in the end of one cell, and when that cell fires, it lets the stuff out into the space between it and the next cell. The second cell can tell when there is stuff in the space between the cells, and if there is enough of the right kind of stuff, the second cell might decide to fire too. But there is other kinds of stuff that can tell the second cell that it actually shouldn’t fire, even though the first cell did. Right now, in your brain, there are lots and lots of cells firing all the time, sending lots and lots of stuff to each other. To you, this feels just like reading about the brain using only the ten hundred most used words.”—Nicholas Weiler.
Things are made of small bits. Some of the bits are made of even smaller bits. There are many different kinds of bits. Even light is made of very small bits flying very fast. If we look carefully at the smallest kinds of bits they look like little points. But we don’t really know if this is true, because the bits are very small and it is hard to look at things that are so small.
It turns out that we know how to make most things out of point-bits, but one thing is hard. We know everything falls down — or actually everything always falls towards everything else. The force that does this is hard to make out of little point-bits — if we try to do this we get too many little point-bits flying around. There is one way to fix it: we realize that the little bits are actually not points but long things! The long things are wrapped tight and it is hard to see them because they are so small and a very small wrapped long thing looks just like a point.
But then the long things make fun things happen. The force that makes things fall comes out! Wow! And all kinds of other things too! In fact all the different kinds of bits that we see come from just one kind of wrapped long thing moving in different ways. This is great! One idea explains many different things and so we are happy. There are some little problems still but we are working hard and it is possible that everything around us — in space, near by, all of it — can be understood from one simple idea of wrapped long things.
I study tiny bits of matter that are all around us but that we can not see, which we call dark matter. We know dark matter is out there because it changes the way other big far away things move, such as stars, and star groups. We want to understand what dark matter is made of because it could tell us about where everything around us came from and what will happen next.
To study dark matter, people like me use big things that have taken lots of money, thought and people to build. Some of those things fly way above us. Some are deep inside the ground. Some are large rings that make tiny pieces of normal matter kiss each other as they fly around very, very fast - almost as fast as light. We hope that we can hear the whisper of dark matter if we listen very carefully.
We take all the whispers from all the listening things and we put them together in our computers. We use big computers to do this, as there are lots and lots of tiny whispers we need to look at.
I go to places all over the world to talk to other people like me, as together we can think better and work faster. Together, perhaps we can even find new, better ways to listen to dark matter. Most of them are good people, and after we talked we go out and have a drink and talk some more.
Sometimes there is bad stuff in the ground. This bad stuff comes from places where they make things, or clean things, or put things together, or take stuff out of the ground. This bad stuff can hurt people. Sometimes, this bad stuff has bad air that comes off of it. The bad air goes up through the ground and into peoples houses. When the people breathe the bad air they get sick.
Our job is to go into the house and check for bad air.
We put a round empty ball made of very hard stuff inside the house. The ball is VERY empty. When we open the ball inside the house, the ball sucks in the house air to fill up the empty space inside the ball. Then we send the ball away to a ball checking place, and they tell us if the air in the ball is good or bad. If they tell us that they found the bad air, we need to get it out of the house.
We do this by making a space under the house, and sucking air out from the space with a big air sucking thing. The air sucking thing is stuck onto the side of the house and it keeps sucking all the time even when the people are asleep. When we do this, the bad air that would usually go into the house, goes instead into the air sucking thing. When the bad air gets to the end of the air sucking thing, it goes out into the open and goes away.
Now the people in the house can breath good air instead of bad air.
Our one amazing world is full: of people, the stuff we’ve made and of the things we’ve done! Some of all this is good but much of it is bad: for us and our children. So now in the well-off places people are not happier than they were 5, 10 or 30 years ago. People may have more money but they are not happier.
Business is a very big part of both the good and the bad. So what can business change so that they only do good for people, our towns, and all other life in our world while still doing well? This is the question my work starts to answer.
But most businesses go out of business very quickly! This is bad for the people in the business and the people with the money which started the business. So nearly 10 years ago a student and his teacher figured out the 9 big questions that needed to be answered to make it more possible for a business to stay in business and make money. Then 4 years ago they worked with 470 very bright people to make a book that a lot of people like a lot.
Now I am taking these questions and adding, using what we know about people, our world and how it all works, 5 more questions. If a business figures out good answers all the questions, new and old, it makes it more possible for them to make money, do good for everyone and everything on our world, and to keep doing this for a long time.
In my studies, which are almost finished, I have built and checked an easy to use way for all kinds of people to make plans for businesses that can do good and do well for a long time.
The next step is to get another group of very bright people to make a book so everyone can use these ideas to make more of these businesses so the world can be a better happier place for everyone.
When we throw away stuff we do not want, this is not good. I work to help people who want to do different things with stuff some of us do not want instead of throwing it away. That way, stuff lasts longer and by not throwing it away we make sure that there is enough for everyone in the world, and also for their children.
What I do to help them is to tell them what to do, and also help them find money to do it with. Working for the man can be fun sometimes, because not all business is bad business.
(This making stuff last longer business has a more usual name, but I am surprised to not find it in the top ten hundred words. I think that we need to use this name more than we have so everyone knows what I mean.)
“This writing is about men and women having the same rights at work. Most women are given less money for doing the same thing that a man does. This is focused on different places that are working to be better off. The normal family ways do not let women work as much as men. Even when women break away from this, they still make less because of the way that men have positions of power and are set in their ways. People are working for the chance to let women work next to men for the same pay.”—DeAnna Alvarez.
(Editor’s note: Science stuggles with inequality as much as the rest of the world does).
Humans all over the world use power to make life easier or more fun. Power is what turns lights on, and runs computers, and other cool things like that.
There are lots of ways to make this power, like burning very old things found deep in the ground. But one day we might run out of these old things from the ground, and burning them is not good for the air. So now lots of people are finding ways to make power from the sun, wind or waves, and other forces which won’t run out.
To make power from the waves, we made a long, round thing which moves up and down as the waves move up and down. It’s so big, it’s as long as a building, and it’s red, so people can see it if they get too close. When it moves up and down, this makes smaller things inside it start working, which makes power. Then all the power is brought to land, so people can use it to turn on their lights or run their computers.
We started trying to make wave power more than ten years ago, and we’ve done lots of amazing things with some nice businesses in that time. We’ve learned a lot about what the best way to make power from waves is, because it’s quite a hard thing to do. Now we are working to find ways to make our things even better, and we have lots of plans which will help us make them in less time and for less money too. We think that one day lots of power will come from the waves, all over the world.
“We are a group of people who work all over the place to build fields of big sky things (can’t think of the right word) that turns wind into power and then we use that power to make money. We often call these areas ‘parks’. There’s more to the story though, a couple of steps in between. But it all gets a bit confusing so I’ll make it short.
Most of the time our business works well because everyone in the money-making game does as they’re told. Sometimes other businesses play the game the wrong way, and the people with the real power (the ones who tell everyone how to play the game) catch them out. I don’t know what they do to these bad guys because we always play the game right. We’re pretty good. You might say we’re kind of a big deal.
Anyway, besides that we also watch the parks to keep them running perfect. Practically perfect in every way. Well, that’s what we try for! The park that I like the most is called Walk Away. It causes us a lot of pain though, as it’s always tripping, being paused or even turned off! And we can’t do anything to stop it. What we *can* do is tell our friends, family and town just how exciting wind parks are and how they will make everyone’s lives better (and not to believe the lies about noise).”—http://pretengineer.tumblr.com/
“I study not so usual human problems using cells and animals. In cells there are tiny hair-like things which DO THE WAVE very fast. These tiny waving things line the air-way cells from our noses to the breathing bags in front of our hearts. These tiny things are also found in cells that line the spaces in our brains and in cells from a man that make a woman have babies. These tiny things beat very fast and move water-like stuff out of the breathing bags and around the brain. They help the baby-making man cells to get to the baby-making woman cell. Sometimes when these tiny things stop moving the breathing bags get filled with bad water with bad cells, the head gets filled with water and men and women are not able to make babies. I study why the tiny things stop moving. I use boxes with different types of glasses in them to carefully look at cells that I have painted with different colors to see what is happening in these cells that makes the tiny waving things stop moving. Once I figure this out, it would help other people to help those who have problems with their breathing bags, those who have water in their brains and those who are not able to make babies”—Girish Mali.
I learn about telling people how not to get sick. We show that it is important to stay well. There are many ways you can stay well, like eating good food, not getting drunk or smoking, and walking or running around.
Things around people can also make them get sick. Making things can put bad stuff in the world around us. Work can be bad for people. Cars can hit and hurt the people. People might be mean to each other, or feel sad and hurt themselves.
We try to work out what causes the bad things to happen to people. Then we try to take away the causes of the bad things, so that no more bad things can happen. We show people what changes are needed so that everyone can be well and happy.
“I write words that tell a computer what to do and what to show. Sometimes it doesn’t do what I think I am telling it to, and I have to find out why (this is the harder part). I also have to think really hard about how it could break (this is even harder, and practically not possible to do perfect, which is why computers have tiny black animals).”—I admit I’m a mere software developer, but I do have a Bachelor’s in Computer Science, so that counts, right?
“There are many different ways of making a computer learn and give answers to problems. I try to help make some of these learning ideas better. One way in which computers can learn is by seeing things that have to do with the answer they are looking for. They see what those things are like and what the answer is, and learn from that. Later, that helps them decide what the answer could be when they have things like the things they saw before but they don’t know the answer.
There is a huge number of problems in which computers can help us by learning. One of the most well-known things they can do is read words in letters sent in computers and decide if they are the kind of letters that people don’t want by looking at the words, and seeing if those words usually come with the good letters or the bad letters. Computers can also look at what problems a person has and decide if they are sick.
Sometimes, when you know some things, you don’t need to look at other things, and this helps computers work faster and better. And sometimes you don’t need to look at other things when you know something, but only if that something is ‘A’ and not when it is ‘B’ or ‘C’. If it is ‘B’ or ‘C’ you have to look at other things all the same, but if you know it is ‘A’ you don’t have to and you can find the answer faster. I’m trying to help computers learn these things on their own and see if it helps them give better answers.”—
I’m working with Bayesian classifiers using context-specific independencies.
“I studied the bad things in the air, where they come from (like cars and places that make power), how they change through time and space, and how they hurt people when they are breathed (like hurting their hearts or making it too hard to breathe). I was especially interested in the fact that air in some places is different than air in other places and how that might change how people are hurt by bad air. Some kinds of bad air are worse than others because these kinds move faster and farther and get deeper into people’s bodies. It is harder to tell if bad air is hurting people if it is the kind of bad air that changes quickly over space. This is because we can not tell how many people are breathing this kind of bad air since they move all around the city where the air changes. We can better tell if bad air is hurting people when we know a lot about what is in the air that people are breathing all day long.”—Gretchen Goldman.
I work at a large (and very cold) school, where I study groups of stars. Most stars live together in groups of hundred-hundred-hundred-hundred-hundred stars (imagine that). We look at these star-groups using very big boxes made with lots of glass. Using the biggest boxes, we can see star-groups that are some of the very oldest things that we know about. All of us live near a star that is part of one of these big star-groups, called the White-Drink Way.
I study the forms of these star-groups - whether they’re big or small, or if they look like round things instead of things with arms. The forms of the star-groups help tell their story - where they came from, whether they ran into other star-groups, and how they change. Studying many star groups at once also tells us about our own star-group (the White-Drink Way), since it’s hard to see our own form from where we live on the inside. By looking at the stories of these many hundred-hundred star groups, we can guess what will happen to these star-groups many years from now.
To study my star-groups, I get help from many people. Since I have pictures of hundred-hundred-hundred-hundred star-groups, there are too many of them for me to sort on my own. We have a computer place where you can look at pictures of these star-groups and then tell me their forms. I use the forms from all the people who are helping to make the biggest number of star-group forms in the world. We let everyone see the numbers once we’re done, so that lots of people can study star-groups too.
“I do not study things, but instead I work to make people work together. I live in a place that is not my home, and help the people in my home know the people where I live. I also work with the people who run things, to help them make lives better for their people. Sometimes, I help groups of people agree with each other. Soon, the people here will pick new people to run things, and I will help them do it in a way that is good to them.”—David Frost, diplomat
Lots of people who have written here look at things work, or make things. I look at how people work, and how people work together. Lots of people like me don’t look at the real world, they think about how things should be. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not what I do; I spend all of my time looking at the real world. We try to use the ways of finding things out that the other people here use, even if we can’t always do it exactly the same. In fact, the way I work is a very like the way that a lot of the other people here work.
I look at the way we decide how to run things. In places like ours, we all get together and have a big talk about what things should be like. The idea of everyone talking together is that we can decide on really good ideas for how things should run. After that, we pick some people to decide how to run things. The people we pick usually do the things that they were told to in the big talk. Everyone does this every four or five years. Lots of people are happy with only doing that. However, other people say that this is not enough. They think we should talk to the people we picked and give them even more ideas. But, if we want to give the people we picked good ideas, instead of bad ideas, we need a few things before that. One, we need to know what they are doing. Two, we need to know how they work. Three, we need lots of people who like giving ideas to the people we picked. Four, we need ways of giving them our ideas; if we all just sent them letters, they wouldn’t have the time to deal with them all! There are lots of ways of talking to the people we picked. I look at one them. But it’s not just about us talking to them. I said before that we need some things to make sure that we send them good ideas. To help us, they say things to us too! I write down what they say to us, and the look at whether it will help us send them good ideas. Some people in other places don’t do this at all! They just pick some people to run things, and then leave them alone until the next time they pick some people. I’m trying to find out why that is.
I also look to see if people in other places do this better (or worse!) than we do it here. I want to know why people in other places don’t do this the same way we do?
What I do, and what lots of people like me do, will help us send better ideas to the people who to run things. Then, things can run better. That’s good for everyone, isn’t it?
Our job is to help make children learn. And to picture what they learn. We make children learn about the world around us. Explain what happens in the world around us. Find out the reasons for each happening around us.
Children know something. When they learn new things, the old things they know find a friend with the new things. Old ideas join with new ideas. But, the new thing does change the old thing as well. We want to picture this change when children learn. In other words, the form of what children know changes when new things get into their heads. Making the picture of these changes is our job. We want to show this changing picture to the children, so that they get to know what they have learnt. This will help them know what they know. This will help us to know what they know. This will help parents to know what they know.
We use computers for this work. We make the computers make the pictures for everyone to see the learning. We tell computers how to make pictures, so that computers will tell us when there is a change in what we know.
We help children work with other children. We work with them as one of us.
When this becomes possible we will call a party and tell everyone. We are looking for friends who could work with us. Tell everyone of what we are doing. Join us.
My job is to do things to stuff to make sure that the stuff does what is is meant to when it is put on walls. This stuff is meant to make the wall look pretty and can be put on in many different ways to look different in different places.
I do my job by putting the stuff on walls myself and putting water with it to see how thick it goes. There are other ways to check that I should keep to myself!
My job is important because if I get it wrong, the stuff could fall off the wall and hurt people. Or it might have to be put on the wall over and over, which would lose the people I work for money and make other people angry with them.
“I try to see if bad people with power let bad people in business do bad things for easy money. Also I try to see if this hurts good people and their money”—Warrendurrett.com
Warren Durrett, political economy
“My studies to become a doctor were focused on the back part of the eye, where the light becomes a sign that the brain can understand. That area has many small tree-like things that bring blood into the area, and that can be seen from outside the body with a nearly normal picture-taking thing. And by looking at them, the doctors can tell if a person is sick in many other parts of the body. The doctors use that to look at the problems of every person who has a live-long problem that makes him not able to take sweet things. But there is many many people with that problem, so many many doctors have to spend a lot of time looking at these pictures of the eye. So what I did was to tell computers how to look at these pictures and then see if the tree-like things are normal or not, so the sick person has to go to the hospital or can stay at home a few more months without thinking about his body problems. That saves money and time for the doctors, so they can focus on making other people with bigger problems to become better.”—Adria Perez-Rovira , Medical image researcher
“My work is about studying really small things. It turns out that if you take a big thing and make it small, it does something different than what you’d expect. We understand some parts of why this happens, but there is a lot left to learn. So what I do is build something made of lots of tiny things, and look at what they do together. I can make things that respond to light, or put out light, or respond to air! And I figure out what’s happening by putting power in and looking at how it comes out. So I could build something that turns light into power, or power into light, or that moves power around like a computer does, but works more like the brain than computers do. And all this comes from the fact that small things are very different from large things.”—Jessamyn Fairfield, nanoscience postdoc at Trinity College Dublin.