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Blog post of the week - Out of the mouths of babes

Blog post of the week - Out of the mouths of babes

A recent high school field trip to Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory was recorded the 21st century way - with tweets.

In a recent Symmetry Breaking blog post, Symmetry intern Andrea Mustain wrote:

"I was looking for a way for them to journal, but in a more realistic way. I think that's what texting is and definitely what Twitter is-a way to journal," says Dale Basler, instigator of all that cell-phone gazing and a physics teacher at Appleton East High School.

Basler gave the students several assignments for the field trip; he'd set up a Twitter feed, and one option was to post tweets throughout the day.

But he laid out some ground rules. The students had to do at least 16 tweets, on a variety of topics-physics topics-and, Basler says, he enforced strict cell phone etiquette: ringers off, and utmost discretion while tweeting.

He did allow for some lighthearted posting. "I figured it's the same as talking around the lab table while you're setting up an experiment," Basler says. "But I told them they'd only get credit for ones with appropriate subjects."

At Argonne, several students tweeted with awe - and not a few with covetous undertones - as they were introduced to Intrepid, a Blue Gene configuration with a peak performance of 557 teraflops. Intrepid is not, however, the fastest computer in the world, as they seemed to surmise. That honor goes to Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Jaguar, which boasts a peak performance of 2331 teraflops. Intrepid is currently the eighth fastest computer in the world.

The trip certainly taught the students a bit about how rapidly computer performance is improving. xJamarcusx wrote, "A xray of a certain protein that our guide did took him two years, now the computer can do it in seven minutes! Talk about efficiency."

A few more choice tweets about computing:

antigravity826 The EPIC computer system controls the very sophisticated operation of concentrating x-rays to collect data

xJamarcusx Fermilab produces a million collisions a second and they have to save 370 of them they do that by the TRIGGER computer system

crazo708 Due to the expansion of space, the game asteroids should get easier as time goes on.

SLAppletonEast World wide web possible because of physics

To learn more about the class trip, check out our blog post of the week. Or, to read their tweets, visit the trip Twitter stream.

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