A Newsletter of Scientific Literacy. April/May, 2004

Chemicals and IQ Neither chemicals nor IQ are popular subjects today. Both, however, are real. And both play major parts in science and society issues, as well as science education. A new United Nations survey made a connection not many people know about today.

The IQ's of entire nations have gone down, according to United Nations scientists, because too many people in poor nations are not getting enough of the right chemicals in their diet. Specifically, a shortage of iodine in their diet has diminished IQ's by as much as 10 to 15 points and caused millions of children to be born mentally impaired. Iron deficiency and a shortage of vitamin A, niacin, and folic acid have caused similar drops in intelligence as well as birth defects, susceptibility to disease and dramatic drops in economic productivity.

Richer western countries now routinely add iodine to salt, vitamin A to milk and margarine. Flour is enriched with niacin, iron and folic acid. Poorer developing world countries usually do not add these chemicals to their food.

The percentage of salt that is iodized, for instance, has dropped to 25 percent in some Asian countries and to 50 percent in India, which has the largest number of iodine deficient people in the world. In many African countries like Kenya, Uganda, Senegal and Mali over half the population is iron-deficient and/or vitamin A deficient.

Unfortunately in the richer western countries too many people have come to believe that chemicals are dangerous things, to be controlled and avoided at all costs. Even students of chemistry in our high schools and colleges, studies have shown, don't seem to realize that chemicals are at the very center of life itself. We are made of chemicals! Science teachers have a tough job, but a necessary one, to set the record straight.

chemicals on Interactive DVDs

As I write this spring newsletter, Hawkhill is updating one of our most popular video programs that does address some of these questions. The new Chemical Cycles in the Biosphere, reflects new findings and recommendations. We are also making a DVD version that will have interactive features to help teachers make sure their students understand the basic concepts of chemicals in life and chemical cycling in the biosphere.

Here's how the interactive features work. You show the video portion in your class (or you can assign to individual students for use on a computer or with a DVD player). After viewing you use the Guided Questions on the DVD disc with the class (or with individual students). These questions pinpoint particular scientific facts and concepts taught in the video. If the student(s) give an incorrect answer the program prompts them to go to particular spots in the video which explain the correct answers. After the student(s) finish the video and the Guided Questions section, they can take a Mastery Quiz to confirm their mastery of the content. These Quizzes are on the DVD disc. They are also reprinted and included with the guide that comes with the DVD.

Besides the new Chemical Cycles in the Biosphere, we have available ten more Interactive DVDs for your preview and purchase. Titles available now are: The Atom, The Gene, Toxic Wastes, Modern Biology: An Introduction, Modern Chemistry: An Introduction, Modern Physics: An Introduction, Modern Earth Science: An Introduction, Atoms & Radiation, Light & Electricity, and Ecosystems & Evolution. Write or call for a free preview or these or any other of the over 31 DVDs now available. And remember for our 30th anniversary year, for every three DVDs you purchase, we will include a DVD player at no extra charge.

change of address Please note that Hawkhill has changed its e-mail address. Our new address is: order@hawkhill.com

I am always glad to hear from you.

fun and games Speaking of IQ, have you taken this latest intelligence test. I warn you, young children often do better than adults. There are just four questions in the test. Here they are. The correct answers are at the end of this newsletter. Good luck.

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

3. The lion, king of the jungle, is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend?

4. There is a river you must cross, but it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it?

"where all the children are above average"

On his popular public radio show, Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor always signs off with the lines, "The news from Lake Woebegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average." If only it were so in the wider world. As I said in the beginning of this newsletter, IQ is not popular among many professionals today. Even though most researchers in psychology agree that there is such as thing as IQ and that it can be measured, educators are understandingly skeptical. Perhaps Arthur Jensen hit on the source of some of that skepticism when he pointed out in a 1999 speech that the link in the public's mind between eugenics and the horrific acts committed in its name during World War II has "contributed to making research on intelligence stigmatized to a degree not seen for scientific research on other natural phenomena, save perhaps for evolution as perceived by biblical fundamentalists."

This stigma is especially important today in the "no child to be left behind" movement. It is certainly and justifiably an article of faith for all educators that each child should be helped to achieve all that he or she can possibly achieve. And certainly there is no question that teachers need to raise not lower their expectations for greater achievement for all their students. But when that article of faith and guide for practice is also used to stigmatizing entire classes or schools because they are not "above average" something is seriously out of whack.

What can be done about this I don't know. At a minimum, don't blame teachers and schools for the fact that people have different natural talents, and indeed all people cannot be above average in everything -- or anything.

nuclear power & radiation

Like IQ, nuclear power is not popular in some politically correct circles, and radiation is often irrationally feared. As one promising answer to the threat of global warming, however, many people are beginning to take a second look at nuclear power. And as new research shows, radiation can be helpful to our health as well as sometimes harmful. Many people are also beginning to change their minds about the dangers of radiation.

Our Hawkhill programs, Nuclear Power, and Radiation can help you teach about these subjects in an unbiased way. Here is the view of one expert who has used these programs often. James McClosky writes: "The more that I view the videos on radiation and nuclear power the more that I appreciate them. I've trained workers in nuclear power plants and emergency responders in radiation protection for ten years. I just love the unbiased approach taken in these videos. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has guidance about instruction that is risk based and very similar to the track taken in the videos. Using the technical definition of radiation and talking about background radiation have been part of my training but the visual impact from the video brings these points home. Also, I use training as informed consent for people to participate in the program. Only a handful of people out of a couple thousand people that I've trained told me that the risk of being exposed to occupational levels of radiation exposure was not acceptable to them. The Hawkhill videos will substantiate the unbiased position that I've taken in the training room and help people with this decision. Good work! Thank you."

"didn't do it on purpose"

Andy Rooney, the 85-year old curmudgeon on CBS's "60 Minutes" got more feedback than he expected from his Feb. 22nd commentary. After he called filmmaker Mel Gibson a "wacko" for his all-time popular movie "The Passion of the Christ" he got over 30,000 mail and e-mail responses. Typical was one that called him an "asinine, bottom-dwelling, numb-skulled, low-life, slimy, sickening, gutless, spineless, ignorant, pot-licking, cowardly pathetic little weasel." Even more hurtful were the ones like Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly who said he was getting too old.

Rooney got the last word here, however. "That wasn't nice, Bill. I didn't get old on purpose. It just happened. If you're really lucky, it could happen to you."

answers to IQ test

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator? Answer: open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and close the door.

2. How do you put an elephant in a refrigerator? Did you say "Open the refrigerator, put the elephant in, and close the door." Wrong. Correct answer is: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door. (This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of previous actions.)

3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend? Correct answer: the elephant. The elephant is in the refrigerator. (This tests your memory.)

4. There is a river you must cross, but it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it? Answer: You swim across. All the crocodiles are attending the animal meeting. (This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.

According to Anderson Consulting Worldwide, around 90% of the professionals they tested got all questions wrong. Many preschoolers got several correct.

Editor: Bill Stonebarger
Hawkhill Associates, Inc.
125 East Gilman St.
Madison, WI 53703

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waste management

Editor: Bill Stonebarger
Hawkhill Associates, Inc.
125 East Gilman St.
Madison, WI 53703