Saturday, October 22, 2005

Quantum Dots

I just finished reading an article on Quantum Dots. It sparked a number of thoughts, including the idea that this is just one example of the kind of a world for which we are preparing our students. Of particular interest to me was the way that the following concepts were represented:

1) The exchange of capital – What if Bowers hadn't been willing to make THREE separate batches of dots for McBride? What if Associate Professor Sandra Rosenthal got irritated that he was using her lab, her equipment, her resources to make dots for some other student? Notice the fact that all the students were from the same lab . . . so the physical structure of the lab potentially intensified the interactions among the various students because they are all in closer, more bounded proximity. Wonder if, like atoms, as people collide repeatedly and with more frequency, it increases the energy between them, intensifies the momentum of their thinking? I think that could be part of the magic of the NFLRC . . . bounded space, intensified collisions of people and ideas . . . yields increased energy and momentum . . . plus there is always the issue of increased access to resources as a result of the pooling of people.

2) The concept of transference – The student who brings stuff from a completely unrelated context (parents' summer cabin) into the lab, which fertilizes another students' thinking and he begins to consider using the Minwax in a new way. Also, note that each student had different interests, but the lab provided a point of common connection . . . a physical nexus for the convergence of disparate ideas.

3) The concept of extrapolation – "Such a fundamental change could open up a wide range of new possibilities, such as making almost any object into a light source" . . . now consider the importance of light throughout history in a wide range of contexts, then extrapolate from the prediction above . . . if any object could become a light source . . . think about new applications, marketing, ART! Think if you could mix that stuff with your paint! Now, think about problems such applications would create (because every new technology comes with its problems—that law of opposition again) . . . and if you could anticipate them and begin working on solutions now . . . and think what a great exercise it would be for students to think about these concepts . . .

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