We Need to Teach Kids Creative Thinking, and We’re Teaching Them the Opposite

"Education is far less about a set of facts than a way of thinking," says professor and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss. "And therefore what I always think should be the basis of education is not answers, but questions."

Lawrence Krauss: Education is far less about a set of facts than a way of thinking, than learning how to critically think. And therefore, what I always think should be the basis of education is not answers, but questions. We should teach kids how to question. Now having said that, of course, to be a productive adult there are certain skills that are required — reading, writing, and in the old-fashioned days we used to say arithmetic. Now we say mathematics. And it’s important that we provide students those basic skills. And in that sense, I’m in favor of a common core because I think there are certain things that most reasonable educators and most reasonable mathematicians and scientists and historians would agree are a part of what every modern literate person should have as a tool to go out and look at the outside world.

I am in favor of saying okay, let’s get teams of educators and experts in certain disciplines to say, "What are the basic things that we think are an essential part of an early education for people?" Put them together and create as well as possible a set of goals and tools to learn those things. One thing I cannot understand and people are probably going to be upset about this is why local school boards have control over educational content. Because local school boards are inevitably made up of individuals without any training. One of the reasons we send kids to school is to help protect them from their parents — in a good sense. I mean most parents want their kids to learn; they're good, but the point is the reason kids are outside the house is so they can get exposure to things that might take them beyond the biases that they learn at home. And if we send them to school we should take them beyond the biases that are present in local school board members. There should be standards that are based — that are determined by educators, not by people who for one reason or another run for election to a local school board. So a common core is something I’m in favor of. What I’m not in favor of, by the way, is standardized tests, however. Testing always inevitably means you teach students to be able to do tests. And I’ve seen it at all levels, including, by the way, at graduate school. We have many grad students, say, from China who are excellent at taking physics tests, but when they want to become researchers — just being able to regurgitate information is not what makes you a creative researcher. And I think the same is true for a young person. Being able to know specifics to pass a test is not the same as being able to understand how to go about answering those questions.

 

"Education is far less about a set of facts than a way of thinking," says professor and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss. "And therefore what I always think should be the basis of education is not answers, but questions." In this video interview, Krauss explains why it's vital for young students to be taught more than just basic skills. They need to be taught to solve the sorts of problems not conveyed on a test. An adequate curriculum could only be derived from the wisdom of experts. This is why Krauss supports the idea of a common core, although not one hinged on stringent testing. "Being able to know specifics to pass a test is not the same as being able to understand how to go about answering those questions."

China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession

The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

Videos
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U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
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A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.

Sex & Relationships
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