Science and Technology
Part of my job at the library is helping individuals with computers through our free Training on Demand program. I help patrons learn how to use their computers, how to surf the Web, how to use Microsoft Office, and even help them optimize their computers. In the six years I’ve been doing this, I’ve noticed that there is a lot of misinformation regarding computers floating around. Here are just a few of the misconceptions I’ve encountered:
My computer is running slowly; it must have a virus.
That is a possibility, especially if you’re not running any Internet security software or you haven’t updated it in a long time. If this is the case, you need to fix the situation as soon as possible! However, it is just as likely that you’ve got too many background programs running at once. Computer manufacturers and retailers like to treat new computers as advertising space for software that you don’t need; all that excess is probably clogging up your system.
Senior citizens, their families, and caregivers looking for accurate healthcare information on the Internet will probably tell you it’s a mess. There are a tangle of sites for the various federal, state, and local government healthcare agencies, not to mention sites for hospitals, private care facilities, medical information sites like WebMD, and a quagmire of others floating around out there. Each site has its own navigation scheme and design that will make even the savviest of the web-savvy shake a fist skyward in frustration when trying to figure them out. SeniorNavigator.org seeks to make the information gathering experience for senior citizens easy and anxiety-free. At the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, we want to help you use this tool to find the best information and advice to make your lives easier.
This interview airs beginning November 30.
Clayton Ray has the impressive title of Curator Emeritus in the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian Institution. He also studies, collects, and writes about wagons. Debby Klein meets with this fascinating man to explore his many interests.
Find out more about CRRL Presents.
Great stars above!
From our place beneath the heavens, the stars seem to be tiny pinpoints of light. People have seen patterns in the stars for thousands of years. In the storytellers' imaginations, warriors and princesses, flying horses and laughing coyotes all found their way to the stars. Some soothsayers still tell fortunes based on the mysteries of astrology, or the alignment of the planets.
Astronomers know that the real mysteries of space are much greater than the accidental alignments of the stars. Stars, in all their blazing glory of red, blue, green, yellow, and more, are pulsing and moving, swirling around in their galaxies which, in turn, move around the Universe. The stars themselves may be ages old, but we continue to learn more about them all the time. Recently, scientists discovered ten new planets--one of which is orbiting a very young star.
Media ownership in the 21st century is a trickier concept than ever before. In light of the growing percentage of our books, music, movies, and software that is purely digital, that is to say, downloaded directly from the Internet, how is ownership defined? When music came on CDs and other physical formats, it was pretty easy to say, “This is my CD. I bought it. I do with it as I please.” Of course, the recording industry would disagree, to the extent that while you might have purchased the medium, you only licensed the media. Now that the medium is largely ephemeral, so too is ownership. Add onto that digital rights management (DRM) that locks down and controls what you do with your “licensed” goods and ownership becomes a ghost of its former self. But do we really care?
There's your basic paper airplane, the one that's folded fast out of sheet of notebook paper cribbed from your buddy. It will go well enough to fly the few feet to the front of the class --not that we at the library are promoting any such thing, mind you! But the design of your basic paper airplane lacks features that could carry it higher and farther than you might imagine.
Kids who like car books soon outgrow the ones with nice pictures and simple diagrams—and then what? What do you give a car-crazy kid who – might – be drawn into the fascinating world of science and engineering if he had the right teacher? Most car books for older kids are chock full of dull details and have no excitement whatsoever. They drone. They drag. They discourage with their very verbiage. We’ve got a cure for that. Richard Hammond, star of the BBC’s Top Gear and past host of Brainiac: Science Abuse, has teamed with picture-mad DK publishing to bring off Car Science: An Under-the-Hood, Behind-the-Dash Look at How Cars Work.
Wouldn't it be cool if even a few of the old stories were true? Legends say that giants walked the Earth, Atlantis vanished under the sea, and Greece and Troy fought a devastating war over a beautiful woman. Amazing, but true: all these stories are based on facts.
Archaeologists digging in China discovered the fossils of Gigantopithecus, a giant ape standing 9 or 10 feet tall. These huge but probably gentle apes died off 500,000 years ago. Traditionally, villagers collected their bones and made them into medicines. They called their finds dragon bones. Some have wondered whether pockets of the animals may have survived into later centuries, giving rise to the legend of Big Foot.
Modern computers are many times more powerful than they need to be for most of the things we use them for. Simply writing papers, surfing the Web, watching videos, playing games, etc. . . such tasks don't take full advantage of these machines' potential and when they're not in use, well . . . they're not in use. They could be doing so much more.