Kaku delivers thought-provoking presentation

“Can you feel it? We are in the presence of greatness,” said Dan Hart, Chair of the Davidson Distinguished Lecture Series as he introduced Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and author of the book The Future of the Mind.

Kaku earned his Ph.D from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972. He holds the Henry Semat Chair in Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York where he has worked for the past 30 years.

Kaku has spoken on numerous TV and radio shows, and he airs his own weekly radio show.

Kaku was named one of the 100 smartest people by the New York Time, he said. He’s not sure how much of an honor that is since Madonna also made that list.

One of Kaku’s areas of expertise is Albert Einstein’s unified field theory which he is trying to complete.

Kaku’s topic for the lecture was his new book The Future of the Mind. Last month his new book was the best non-fiction on the New York Times best sellers list.

This has been the second time a book with the word physics in the title has been in the best sellers list, Kaku said.

Kaku said the two greatest mysteries for physicists are outer space, due to the big bang, and the rest of the universe and inner space, because the mind is the “most complex process known to man.”

The U.S. government is joining in a multi-national brain-mapping project that is estimated to cost $1 billion. The project will work to map and understand the human brain and work to find a cure for mental illness.

Kaku said that movies give people ideas of what could be possible. He used the examples of Iron Man and how that has sparked interest in exoskeletons, and Star Trek and other science fiction series which featured telepathy. Scientific research allows people to see what is actually possible.

Kaku said many of these futuristic technologies have already been tested in the laboratory.

By using MRI machines to track the blood in the brain, scientists can see what part of the brain is active while doing different actions. Knowing which area of the brain controls which functions allows scientists to create control systems for advanced technologies.

“It is true when people say that men get stupider when they talk to a pretty girl— the blood drains out of their brain,” Kaku said.

Kaku used cosmologist Steven Hawkins, who is completely paralyzed, as an example. Hawkins has an antenna on his glasses that is connected to a microchip which allows him to communicate through a laptop computer.

Advancements have been made in making robotic limbs for people who have lost theirs. The U.S. military has taken an interest in this for veterans who have been injured during their service, Kaku said.

Kaku said that humans could be put in control of robotic bodies for performing dangerous jobs such as fighting fires to limit the risk of injury. He said this could be used in the space program as well.

Kaku talked about the ability to upload and download memories. He said there is a concept for a “brain pacemaker” which could be used for Alzheimer’s patients to implant the memories that they cannot remember.

Kaku said there are three levels of consciousness. Humans are at the top, with animals and everything else below them.
He said that animals have no idea of the future. Only humans have a concept of the past and future, this is why people laugh at jokes, he said.

When the human brain hears a joke, it tries to fill in the punch line, but when the joke ends different than expected, that is what makes it funny.
The world’s smartest robot is only capable of level-one consciousness, which is equivalent to a cockroach, Kaku said. Companies are working on building level-two consciousness robots, but they are not ready yet, Kaku said.

The next thing Kaku talked about was why some people have extraordinary abilities.

He said that people who have received an injury to the left lobe of the brain sometimes become more analytical.

However, “Don’t go home and pick up a hammer,” Kaku said.

MC associate professor of mathematics Joseph Severino attended the lecture.

“I enjoyed the talk immensely. While I might prefer a more technical discussion of his research, I appreciate how Professor Kaku tailored hislecture in a way that allowed him to share some pretty advanced concepts with a broad audience,” Severino said.

Prior to the lecture, Kaku spoke with a select group of MC engineering and physics students about how he became interested in physics. The students were also given time to ask Kaku questions.Kaku started by telling the students that science is the engine of prosperity, and that they are all winners for choosing science.

Kaku said that he first became interested in physics when he was eight years old after seeing an article about Albert Einstein’s death and becoming interested in Einstein’s unified field theory.kaku

Help labs enrich courses

Integrating labs with courses at Midland College allows students to focus on what they do not understand rather than on the material that they do understand, according to Lynda Webb, dean of adult and developmental education at Midland College.

MC offers a Math Lab and a Language Hub which incorporates both the writing and reading labs. MC also has computers that can be moved around campus to serve as mobile labs to supplement the permanent ones.

The labs that MC offers serve different needs. They help remedial and returning students who are having trouble with their classes, as well as testing and other applications, according to Webb.

Other colleges have had good results from incorporating labs as part of their class requirements.

“Amarillo College had a 78 percent success rate if students put in seven hours at a lab,” Webb said.

If MC did not have the labs, there would not be another place for students to get help since MC does not have a large active tutoring program, Webb said.

What is now the MC Language Hub was two separate entities before, the writing lab and the reading lab. Both labs were located in the LRC building, and the labs were merged together in the spring of 2010.

Sara Peterson, the Language Hub coordinator; she said the opening of the new Language Hub was a Marti Gras party. The Language Hub is multifaceted, Peterson said.

The Language Hub serves as the lab for remedial reading and writing as well as a place students can go to study for any subject they need help with. For developmental classes, students are required to complete a number of hours set by their instructors as part of their class grade.

The Language Hub is also used for GED and overflow TSI testing; people from outlying counties will also come to take the Nelson Denny Sheriffs entrance exam, which is the reading comprehension test.

“(People) have come from as far as Fort Stockton and Seminole to take the entrance exam,” Peterson said.

The Language Hub normally has two to fivetutorsto sit in the lab to help students with their work.

“All of the adult tutors have master’s degrees in the field of English and the student tutors are all good at English,” Peterson said.

The Language Hub is located in room 182 of the TC Annex and is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.Wednesday from and closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The MC Math lab has been around since the late 1990s. It was originally located in the Technical building room 130. The Math Lab originally was a separate lab course. Students were assigned homework using computer program called IOS.

MC math professor Michael Dixon has been at working at MC since 1999. He said that the problems of the IOS program caused difficulty for students as they were not taught the same as what they were learning in class.

The Math Lab program was restructured to be a support lab for students needing help with their homework. The lab also started hiring students as peer tutors to help other students.

“The current model is more reflective of what the students want to help them with their work,” Dixon said.

In 2010, the Math Lab moved to its current location in the MHAB. Alma Brannan has been the MC Math Lab coordinator since 2010. Brannan said the Math Lab serves everything from basic math and more advanced subject matter.

“Around 1000 students are signed up for Math Lab a semester,” Brannan said.

Only students in introductory or intermediate algebra are required to be in Math Lab for credit. Students enrolled must earn 13 credit hours to pass, but all students can come and get help.The Math Lab also acts as a testing center for some of the math courses.

The Math Lab normally has three peer tutors and one instructor on the floor to help students with their work.

Brannan said the only discipline the lab is set up to help in is mathematics, but there are students who have study groups for chemistry and physics, and there are tutors who can help with those areas, but the primary focus is math.

The Math Lab is located in room 124 in the MHAB. It is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.Monday-Thursday, and 8 a.m. to noon onFriday and Saturday and Closed Sunday.helplab

History presentations intrigue

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The problem with history is that there is too much information, but at the same time there is too little information, according MC history professor William Morris at the second annual West Texas History Symposium.

The symposium series was started last year by the Henry family. They endowed Morris as the Henry Chair of history to organize the symposium and publish a journal for the papers that are presented.

“The word history comes from the Greek word historia, which means to inquire,” Morris said.

Morris said that history is revision. He used the example of a picture from a textbook that he uses. Between two editions of the book, the caption on one of the pictures had been changed to the opposite of what it was before. The caption changed because someone had found new evidence on about the photo.

Morris delivered the first presentation on the ranking U.S. presidents.

Morris then talked about how to compare the presidents. His said he looks who the presidents’ advisers were and what significant things their administrations accomplished.

A poll that Morris took in the history department at MC ranks the top three presidents as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin, D. Roosevelt. Morris said the reason they were the top three is because they are all remembered for dealing with crises.

The second presentation was by Sara Peterson and Katanna Zachary of the MC English department. Their topic was the Warren Commission report and the Kennedy assassination.

They presented new evidence on the assassination that was not taken into account by the Warren Commission.

The new evidence included personal testimonies by people associated with the events surrounding Kennedy’s assassination. Some of the witnesses had not been able or willing to talk about what they saw until recently.

Among the testimonies was one by James C. Jenkins, who was present when the autopsy on Kennedy was performed. He was in charge of recording the information from the autopsy. He said that some of the documents were altered after he had filled them out and the information had been changed.

The presenters said that they referenced 150 books on the topic of the Kennedy assassination.

They also invited interested people to sign an online petition to un-seal the documents from the Warren Commission investigation before the release date of 2039.

The third presentation was by MC government professor Terry Gilmore and MC director of alumni relations and development director J. Don Wallace. Their topic was a pictorial history of architecture in Midland with a focus on works of Frank Welch.

“There is a lot of remodeling and building going on in Midland, and that is not a good thing,” Gilmore said.

They had taken pictures and made a sideshow of the houses Welch built while he was in Midland. Along with their research of the houses, they were able to interview Welch and talk with him about his time in Midland.

They used photos to illustrate the designs that Welch houses are known for, such as hidden front doors and carports, which Wallace said Welch used because they were cheap.

The fourth presentation was by MC history professor Damon Kennedy over the story of Samuel Burk Burnett and the 6666 Ranch.

The presentation followed the Burnett family and their move west during the 1800s. The Burnett family bought land and settled in Texas and started ranching cattle.

To fatten the cattle before selling them, Burnett worked out a deal to lease land from the Indian reservation next to his land for grazing.

Kennedy said around 1900, Burnett knew that the deal with the Indians was going to end, so he obtained more land in the Texas Panhandle.
After that, oil was discovered on the property, which has since become the business of the ranch instead of cattle.

Over 120 people attended this year, up from the 30 people who attended last year. Morris said, that a bigger room will be needed next year.

Midland College professor releases book

To improve education at the K through 12th grade level, the process must start at the bottom in the classroom and work its way up through the system, according to Joe A. Willis, MC adjunct speech professor and author of Teaching Lessons: Creating a Cultural Infrastructure for Great Schools.

Willis’s inspiration for writing his book Teaching Lessons comes from 35 years of experience in the field of education.

Willis taught at the high school level for 15 years and then at the college level for 20 years before retiring in 2012. Willis still teaches part time at MC in addition to writing and his other interests.

The book addresses the need to improve the K through 12th grade education by changing the culture and the perception of how the education system should work.

The wrong questions are being asked, so the wrong answers are being given, Willis said.

Too much emphasis is put on who should run the school and how, not on how schools can be improved to help the students learn more effectively.

“The solutions that are being offered by others revolve around changing the macros systems,” Willis said.

Willis believes that the culture that surrounds education today only focuses on the application of information to work in a career rather than a well-rounded knowledge base.

“I think that anybody who cares about education should read the book,” Willis said.

Willis spent about 20 hours a week over the last two or three years writing and editing the book. He had about 10 or 12 people who he knows read chapters to make sure the message Willis was trying to convey was coming through.

As a first-time author, Willis had to self-publish his book. It is very difficult for first time authors to get a publisher to pick up their book, since the publisher does not know how the author’s books will sell, he said.

He found this discouraging since he wanted to make people aware of the issue.

“You need to publish this because people need to hear it, but that did not go far,” Willis said.

One of the publishers who Willis spoke with said he really liked the idea but could not do it for business reasons, but the publisher said if Willis could show that the book would sell, Willis should give him a call.

Willis’s goal is to sell 1,000 books by the end of the year.

What Willis said he is really looking forward to the response that he will receive from people who have read the book, to get their input and for them start asking the right questions to those who are in charge of how education is organized.

“My goal with the book is to turn the corner and get a new conversation started that is more fruitful,” Willis said.

Without the 35 years of experience in education, Willis said he probably would not have felt the same way, and would not have written the book. He said if the education system is not changed, it will not create the kind of culture that is needed.

“Our future economic growth is based on our ability to educate people,” Willis said.

Teaching Lessons was released at the beginning of March.

It is available for purchase online at joewillis.net. There will be several book signings in the Midland area: noon to 2 p.m., March, 29 at Hastings Book Store; and 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. April, 22 at the Spring Hill Suites.

A full listing of book signings is available online at joewillis.netJoe Willis Pic

Remembering Texas Independence Day

Earlier this month, 40 proud Texans of Midland gathered at the Haley Memorial Library to remember and celebrate Texas Independence Day.
The ceremony consisted of reading the proclamation of Texas independence followed by the pledge of allegiance to the United States and Texas flags. The ceremony was concluded with a three-musket salute and cannon volley, followed by three cheers for Texas.

Sheri Merket, an eighth-generation Texan, has attended the ceremony for many years. She said events like this are an excellent way to commemorate Texas history, and that it is critical that Texas history is continued to be taught in schools.

Ralph White was one of the re-enactors who participated in the musket salute. White was dressed as an Alabama Red Rover, who volunteered to help fight for Texas independence.

“We are here to celebrate our Texas history,” White said.

Prior to 1836 Texas was part of the Republic of Mexico, after Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. Already under Spanish rule, the Spaniards planned to encourage colonization of Texas by allowing Americans to settle in Texas.

During the 1820s, the Mexican government instituted programs to allow American settlers to immigrate to Texas. The immigrants would provide a buffer zone between Mexico and the Indians living in Texas who would raid settlements in Mexico.

As more and more Americans immigrated into Texas, the Mexican government officials feared that they would lose control of the population.
The government tried to limit the immigration by putting heavier restrictions on immigration and on imported goods.

This polarized the Texans who eventually pushed them to the point of revolution.

On March 2, 1836, the 58-member body that met to discuss the option of independence.

They signed Texas’s declaration of independence, which formally broke Texas’s ties with Mexico and established the Republic of Texas.

MC prepares for West Texas History Symposium

Midland College is preparing for the second annual West Texas History Symposium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 22.

The West Texas History Symposium and Journal was established by Jim and Paula Henry in 2011 as way to help preserve the history of the West Texas area.

The inaugural symposium was held in April 2013.There were four presenters at the symposium.

The topics of the papers varied, including MC librarian Cecelia Miranda’s “An Old, Grainy Photo: Alfredo Rueda Quijano and the Mexican Revolution of 1911,” which followed her uncle activities during the revolution, and MC adjunct professor Christopher Buck’s “Before and Beyond Spindletop: The ‘Other’ Texas Economy,” which explored the history of Texas’s economy.

MC history professor Todd Houck attended the first symposium and was impressed with the presentations and the topics they were over.

“All the papers were really well done,” Houck said.

The Henrys donated $500,000 to the MC Chaparral Circle Endowment Fund to endowhistory professor William Morris as the Henry Chair of History. Morris’s duty as chair is to collect research papers written by community college professors from the greater West Texas area and publish a selection of them in the West Texas History Journal and organize the symposium for the authors to present their work.

Paula Marshall-Gray, MC professor of history and anthropology and director of the honors program, is in charge of the publicity for the symposium and will be the editor of the journal. Marshall-Gray would like to see more students come to the symposium.

“We want the students to understand what talented professors we have at Midland College and in the area,” Marshall-Gray said.
Some of the topics for the upcoming symposium include: “Samuel Burk Burnett and the 6666 Ranch” by Damon Kennedy, MC history professor; and “Frank Welch, Architect: His Legacy in Midland, Texas” by Terry Gilmore, MC government professor, and J. Don Wallace MC director of alumni relations and development.

The Henry Chair of History was founded to help preserve and promote the history of West Texas. It also provides a venue for professors at community colleges to have their research published, according to Marshall-Gray.

“We are on the tip of the iceberg of our history out here,” Marshal-Gray said.

The symposium will be held in room 101 of the Marie Hall Academic Building. Cost is $2.50 for students and faculty with a valid ID card and $5 for the public. All participants will get a box lunch at noon and will receive a copy of the 2014 journal.

New director steps in at WRTTC

As the new ambassador for Midland College at the Williams Regional Technical Training Center in Fort Stockton, director George Tarpley wants ensure opportunities for credit and continuing education classes for rural West Texas students.

The WRTTC is a satellite campus of MC located in Fort Stockton.

It offers classes for associate degree, occupational and technical certificate programs, and GED preparation courses for rural West TX students.

Tarpley was hired by the WRTTC last December. Tarpley grew up in Abilene TX and graduated from Abilene High School in 1979.
He then attended Tarlton State University in Stevensville, TX. Tarpley graduated with a bachelor’s in agricultural education and a master’s of science in teaching.

Tarpley spent one year teaching vocational agriculture.

“I just knew that wasn’t my passion,” Tarpley said.

Tarpley was then hired by the Williams AgriLife County Extension office north of the Austin area.

Tarpley worked in a training position for four years. He was then hired as the agriculture program leader in Palo Pinto County in the Fort Worth area.

He worked there for five years before moving to Fort Stockton as the County Extension Specialist.

While at the Fort Stockton Extension, Tarpley worked on developing child education programs, managing and coordinating adult volunteer efforts to help extension agents with the educational programs.

Tarpley spent 21 years working in the Agrilife district six which encompasses 23 West Texas counties before retiring.

“I spent 21 years in that capacity, retired from theextension in July (2013) and then had the opportunity to go to work for Midland College in December,” Tarpley said.

Tarpley has worked with all levels of education in his various positions but this was his first time working for a college.

“I have been in education all of my life as a profession, but this is the first time I have actually been formally involved in the higher education side of things,” Tarpley said.

Before getting the director’s position at the WRTTC, Tarpley had accepted a job with Fort Stockton ISD as the agriculture teacher. The FSISD knew that Tarpley was looking at the position with WRTTC but its officials wanted him to work on their agriculture program for as long as he could. Tarpley spent seven weeks working for the FSISD.

Before leaving for the WRTTC, Tarpley was able to coordinate a replacement teacher for the FTISD agriculture program.

“It was a pretty seamless move from me leaving the high school and coming over here (WRTTC),”Tarpley said. “I was there one day and gone the next,” Tarpley said.

Tarpley plans to work closely with local businesses to find out what jobs are going to be in demand in the future. Then the WRTTC can work with the schools in the surrounding area to help students know what degrees would be good choicesto earn, in order to fill the positions in demand.

“I want to make sure we have the conversation far enough in advance that we understand what is coming and what we need to be preparing the work force,” Tarpley said.

Tarpley wants to present the WRTTC as a resource that is closer than the main MC campus for people who live in rural areas and who areinterested in pursuing higher education.

“Education is first and foremost a way for a society can build and address problems,” Tarpley said.

The emphasis of higher education for students at the WRTTC is multi-faceted.

“The ability to for them to take information and process it is as important as being technically trained,” Tarpley said.mt_headshot

 

Affiniti wows Midland College

The audience enthusiastically clapped along when Affiniti started playing Deep in the Heart of Texas at the recent Irish-American music concert in the AFA building auditorium.

Midland College hosted the event as part of the Irish American Art and Music Foundations Irish Spirit Concert Tour.
Affiniti is the name of the group which performed. The group is comprised of three members: Emer Barry, who sings soprano; Mary McCague, who plays the violin; and Aisling Ennis, who plays the harp.

Performing along with Affiniti was a second violinist Aveen McEntee, pianist Terry Browne and singer Howard Crosby.
Affiniti is a classical-crossover group, doing covers of modern songs and putting them to more classical music.

The concert was a mix of both more traditional Irish and American music and some modern music. They were accompanied by Howard Crosby as the group performed All I Ask of You from the Phantom of the Opera.

Affiniti played Deep in the Heart of Texas as a way to thank those who made this tour possible.

They also performed two covers of modern piece: Titanium by David Guetta and Rolling in the Deep by Adele.

Affiniti and the supporting performers are very talented in their craft. It was enjoyable to listen to. It is nice to see a different take on the style of music.

MC piano instructor Ruth Ann Griffin was very impressed with the quality of the performance.

“It was an amazing and unique experience to hear professional trained musicians perform the music of their country,” Griffin said.

 

Review – Silver Spur Gun & Blade Show

Gun enthusiasts had an opportunity earlier this month to attend the Silver Spur Gun & Blade Show at the Midland County Horseshoe Arena.

The Silver Spur Show has many different vendors to cover the many different types of firearms and accessories and equipment that go with them.

For people interested in modern firearms, many of the vendors had varies models of hunting rifles, pistols and semi-auto rifles. The vendors had a good selection of vintage firearms that are 50 years old or older, both military and civilian. Some vendors also had antique firearms, which have a manufacturing date during or before 1898. There was a good selection of shooting supplies such as ammunition, reloading components and all sorts of accessories related the shooting.

The Silver Spur Gun & Blade Show offer option for people who are not interested in firearms. There were vendors offering knife sharpening. Some vendors were selling non-lethal self-defense equipment such as Tasers and pepper spray. Other vendor had western wear,home décor and other collectibles for sale.

Whether or not firearms are interesting, there should be something of interest for just about everyone at the Silver Spur Gun & Blade Shows.

Fitness Center keeps MC in shape

MC basketball player, Bryce Ervin, uses the bench press with spotter, Marquis Chandler.

MC basketball player, Bryce Ervin, uses the bench press with spotter, Marquis Chandler.

Use of Midland College’s Fitness Center can save cash and time for students and faculty members who enjoy working out, according to Ann Leach, Kinesiology Program chairman. Some people have equipment at home and others have memberships at fitness clubs, like Gold’s Gym. Buying memberships can get expensive, which is why MC has built a fitness center for both students and faculty to use for free with an MC ID. Also, time can be saved with a quick workout between classes.

During the fall of 2010, Midland College opened the newly remodeled Physical Education building which included a Fitness Center. Leach has been at MC since 2000, at which point MC already wanted to build a new Fitness Center.

“When I interviewed 14 years ago with Dr. Jolly, he said I know it (Fitness Center) has been on the back burner,” Leach said.

The Fitness Center replaced the old weight room. It was remodeled in to a multi-purpose room for classes to meet in and more offices for the MC coaches.

The new Fitness Center was added as part of the Physical Education building renovation that was funded by a tax bond approved in 2005. The bond proposal included funding for 18 individual projects. Projects like the addition to the Fox Science Building were first on the line to get funding; so the Fitness Center got what was left over.

“We were the tail end of the receptions of the bond issue,” Leach said.

The MC Fitness Center is located in the Physical Education Building at the south east corner of campus across the road from the Chaparral Center. The Fitness Center is in room 153 by the front door facing the campus loop.

Attendant Kimberly Graham is in charge of keeping the Fitness Center in working order. The college has all the equipment professionally checked three or four times a year to ensure it is working right. The Fitness Center staff also checks daily for any equipment that might be unsafe or need repair.

“On an average day, about 100 people come to workout,”Graham said.

Various MC sports teams reserve the Fitness Center for practice, and during these times the gym is closed to everyone else. The schedule of team reservations is posted at the Fitness Center.

The Fitness Center is also used by MC faculty and employees. History instructor Frank Delao and Psychology instructor David Edens have been going to the Fitness Center off and on since it opened during the fall of 2010.
They try to go twice a week in between classes.

“We do cardio first, treadmill or elliptical, and then we’ll do this circuit of 30 minutes on the different weight machines,” Delao said.

During the times Delao and Edens go work out, they have not had any problems with the Fitness Center being too crowded. Edens said that the Fitness Center is kept very clean and all of the equipment is in good working order.

“Usually you expect something like this to get run down just because of the, ‘it’s not mine I’m not going to take care of it’ kind of attitude,” Edens said.

Delao and Edens are also involved with a group of MC faculty and employees who play basketball at noon on Fridays in the gym at the Physical Education building. The games are open to all employees and students.

“It lets us interact with people from other departments as well as some of the students that go there and play,” Edens said.

Having a gym on campus is helpful for people on a tight schedule who may not have time to go workout somewhere else. Students and employees of the college can use the Fitness Center when they have time without need to leaving the campus.

“It is nice having a facility that we can walk to sometime during the day instead of having to drive to the YMCA. Having it on campus and available is nice,” Edens said.

The Fitness Center is a good place for students and faculty go to exercise.The hours that the Fitness Center is open allows people with practically any schedule to use it. The MC Fitness Center’s long hours make it accessible to students and employees with a variety of schedules.
The hours of operations for the Fitness Center are 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday. The only requirement for using the Fitness Center is a current MC ID card.