Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Site to Expand Your Mind


Guest Column by Bob Ranney

I read an article in Newsweek today “Can You Build a Better Brain?” (Newsweek January 10, 2010) that spoke to how we can improve our mental abilities.  It made two points that really stuck out for me.  The first was that we can achieve up to a 20% improvement in memory and thinking ability simply by walking 45 minutes three days a week.  The second was that as we use brain cells to learn new skills or consider new ideas, the area of the brain that is involved in that activity actually expands.

In discussing how the process works, the author recommended a YouTube page called Kahn Academy.  Watch the Gates introduction.  I haven’t researched who the speaker is on this site, but he is an amazingly knowledgeable individual who is capable of expressing complex ideas in easily understandable terms.  Also, it seems to me that at least one of his lines of subject matter would be of great interest to most Master Naturalists, and that is biology.

This being YouTube, all the discussions are on videos.  The speaker illustrates his talk on the virtual blackboard with line drawings that are entertaining, sometimes humorous and always enlightening.  The first screen on the page provides a list of subjects to choose from.  I watched and listened to his first four videos under Biology.  They included: “Introduction to Evolution”, “Intelligent Design and Evolution”, “Evolution Clarification”, and “Natural Selection and the Owl Butterfly”. The next in the series is “DNA”.

You might start with the Biology presentations at the Khan Academy.  Then choose the series you want to watch from the long list on the right side of the screen.   Biology is right on top, and I‘m sure any Master Naturalist will enjoy that, but if you’re an intellectual giant you might want to peruse the list and choose something else, too – maybe calculus or statistics or physics or - you name it and it’s probably there.

Try this site. It’s a real treat.

Editors Note:  A good way to sample this is the Evolution and the Owl Butterfly Video.  Not perfect - he mentions an injured butterfly wing might grow back - but his teaching of concepts is very lucid.

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