COMET • Vol. 4, No. 29 – 3 November 2003


(1) “Chess: Game Has New Governor’s Vote” by Jack Peters, International Master

Source: Los Angeles Times – 19 October 2003


…Gov.-Elect Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of many celebrities with ties to chess. He says he has relied on chess to keep him awake on movie sets. During his campaign, he played against bodybuilder Franco Columbu, an old friend. Schwarzenegger’s wife and four children also play and take chess lessons.

Schwarzenegger has long urged that chess be a part of children’s after-school programs. In this respect, he agrees with former world champion Garry Kasparov, who believes that chess trains youngsters to think logically and independently. Indeed, several studies have suggested a link between learning chess and higher test scores.

Even those skeptical of the game’s educational value must admit that chess has become a very popular form of entertainment for thousands of schoolchildren. Will the governor’s affection for the game lead to increased support of chess programs in public schools?

You can link to photos of Schwarzenegger with Kasparov at  [specific URL for the photos plus data about California’s population and economy:].

(2) California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC)–5-6 November 2003 Commission Agenda


The agenda for the 5-6 November 2003 meeting of the CCTC is posted at the Web site above. One item of potential interest to COMET readers is included below:

Thursday, November 6, 2003 –Commission Office

1.  General Session (Chair Fortune)   8:00 a.m.

 GS-10-C    Proposed Amendments and Additions to Title 5 Regulations Pertaining to Supplementary and Degree Authorizations

Excerpt from proposed Title 5 changes (

Title 5 80089.3. Introductory Degree Authorizations

(a) The holder of a valid teaching credential …may have one or more of the subjects listed in subsection (b) added as an introductory degree authorization…The candidate shall verify completion of either (1) or (2) below:

(1) a collegiate major from a regionally accredited college or university in a subject or in a subject directly related to each subject from subsection (b) to be listed, or

(2) 32 semester hours of non-remedial collegiate course work with a minimum of 16 upper division semester hours in a subject listed in subsection (b). Included within the 32 semester hours is a minimum of three semester hours in each of the specific content areas listed for the subject in subsection (b). A grade of “C” or above in any course used to meet the provisions of this subsection shall be required. Non-remedial  coursework for the purposes of this section shall be defined as coursework that is applicable toward a bachelor’s degree or a higher degree at a regionally accredited college or university.

(b) The following subjects may be added as introductory degree authorizations to a valid teaching credential …:

…(4) Mathematics with the content areas of algebra, advanced algebra, geometry, probability or statistics, and development of the real number system or introduction to mathematics;

…(6) Science with the content areas of biological sciences, chemistry, geosciences, and physics…

(c) A subject specified in subsection (b) as an introductory degree authorization authorizes the holder to teach only the subject matter content typically included for that subject in curriculum guidelines and textbooks for study in grades 9 and below to students in preschool, kindergarten, grades 1-12, or in classes organized primarily for adults…

Next meeting:

December 3-4, 2003

California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

1900 Capitol Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95814


(1) “The Elegant Universe: Welcome to the 11th Dimension” (NOVA)

URL (homepage):

URL (overview):

“The Elegant Universe” is a three-hour miniseries hosted by Brian Greene. The final hour will be broadcast on Tuesday, November 4, at 8:00 p.m. on PBS. The first two hours can now be viewed online at

Overview:  One of the most ambitious and exciting theories ever proposed–one that may be the long-sought “theory of everything,” which eluded even Einstein–gets a masterful, lavishly computer-animated explanation from bestselling author-physicist Brian Greene, when NOVA presents the nuts, bolts, and sometimes outright nuttiness of string theory.

Also known as superstring theory, the startling idea proposes that the fundamental ingredients of nature are inconceivably tiny strings of energy, whose different modes of vibration underlie everything that happens in the universe. The theory successfully unites the laws of the large–general relativity–and the laws of the small–quantum mechanics–breaking a conceptual logjam that has frustrated the world’s smartest scientists for nearly a century.

Greene is professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, where he is one of the world’s foremost string theorists. He is also an unusually adept science explainer, whose book The Elegant Universe became a runaway bestseller and whose popular lectures pulse with string-like energy, not to mention infectious humor.

“If anyone can make string theory accessible, Greene can,” marvels New York Magazine. Small wonder, since the Harvard- and Oxford-graduated physicist has studied acting and has performed in college musicals and community theater. Working with the Emerson String Quartet, he has also created a live presentation merging physics and music, which has drawn sell-out crowds and is now being developed for Lincoln Center’s 2005 season.

On NOVA, Greene brings these wide-ranging talents to bear on a theory that is notoriously difficult to grasp, yet one that is incredibly exciting to both scientists and laypeople alike. If string theory proves correct, the universe we see obscures a reality that is far more rich and subtle than anyone ever imagined–a universe with numerous hidden dimensions, a universe in which the fabric of space can tear, a universe that may be but one of many parallel universes ceaselessly popping in and out of existence throughout eternity. And these are just some of the astounding implications of strings…

Albert Einstein, the inventor of general relativity, dreamed of finding a single theory that would embrace all of nature’s laws. But in this quest for the so-called unified theory, Einstein came up empty-handed, and the conflict between general relativity and quantum mechanics has stymied all who’ve followed. That is, until the discovery of string theory…

(2) NSF Awards $6.9M in Grants to 15 Universities, Colleges in 1st full Year of Robert Noyce Scholarships

Source: National Science Foundation


On October 22, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a total of $6.9 million to 15 universities and colleges to stem the loss of mathematics and science teachers in the nation’s neediest schools.

The Robert Noyce Scholarship program, in its first full year of open competition, will fund the educations of more than 650 new K-12 teachers and help them transition to the teaching profession. The scholarship is named for Dr. Robert Noyce, co-founder of Intel Corp and the scientist awarded the 1961patent for the

integrated semiconductor.

Funds are provided to institutions of higher education to support scholarships, stipends and programs for students who commit to teaching in high-need K-12 schools.  High-need school districts include rural, urban and tribal schools, and school systems with high teacher turnover.  Scholarship recipients must agree to

teach in a high-need school district two years for each year of scholarship or stipend support.  Scholarship funds are made available to current undergraduate students of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and baccalaureate of science holders who wish to become teachers.

“We’re hoping this will create a cultural change so teaching becomes more  attractive,” said Joan T. Prival, the program’s director at NSF’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources. “It’s also an incentive for those potential teachers already working in STEM careers.

Prival said the grants go a step further than just getting a new teacher their diploma.  “We know that a large number of people drop out of teaching early on because of the difficulties associated with the first years of teaching,” Prival said.

“There’s a lot of support for the recipients so they become successful teachers.  This includes mentoring, continued support in the schools, and partnerships between the universities and colleges and the school districts.  The grants provide for teachers to become fully credentialed where they serve.”

The following are the Robert Noyce Scholarship program grants awarded this year: University of Missouri-Columbia, Wayne State University, Kean University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Michigan State University, Louisiana State University & Agricultural LA, , Baylor College of Medicine, Dowling College, University of Texas at Austin, Cornell University, San Jose State University Foundation, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Trinity University, University of California-Los Angeles, California State University-Long Beach

(3) “Latino Achievement in America”

Source: The Education Trust


The Education Trust Web site contains several new resources on “Latino Achievement in America.” The resources are available in English and in Spanish.

(a)  An online PowerPoint presentation uses the most up-to-date data to document the achievement patterns of Latinos in the United States.  This presentation identifies ways the achievement gap can be closed in Latino communities by identifying high performing schools with large Latino populations, listing steps school districts and local schools must take to close the achievement gap and listing ways that NCLB can help Latino parents advocate for their children.

(b) A brief two-pager documents the current status of Latino Achievement in America, High-Performing Schools, and ways communities can help close the achievement gap.

(c) How NCLB Can Help Latino Parents and Advocates” — This easy to understand one page document explains what information parents have the right to know under NCLB and how they can use that information to advocate for a better education for their child and for their community.

(4) “Welcome to History 2.0” by Steven Levy       

Source: Newsweek – 10 November 2003 issue


…On October 23, founder Jeff Bezos told customers that his “search inside the book” service would allow them to type a name or phrase–and be immediately rewarded with a report of instances of those words appearing in the pages of one of 120,000 tomes. Then, with a single click, Amazon would deliver an image of the very page in question.

“The program is 100 percent focused on selling more books,” says Amazon VP Steve Kessel. But for anyone who’s ever done even casual research work, Amazon’s scheme is much more than a sales device: it’s a lightning bolt from the future. Some people literally broke out in tears as they punched in queries and unearthed obscure but relevant citations. Others discovered previously unknown nuggets that led them actually to buy the book…

Yes, there were limitations. Amazon has scanned “only” 120,000 books (it promises many more) and only registered Amazon customers can use it. Users can view just two pages on either side of the citation and can’t print the results (this to protect copyright). But clearly we are now on the threshold of a system by which all books are scanned–eventually including even hard-to-find, out-of-print volumes–with their contents instantly accessible…

“Search inside the book” is part of a revolution made possible by the digitalization of, well, everything. By basing information on a binary lingua franca, it’s now possible to sift through masses of data to find just what you need. Because the World Wide Web can be treated as a vast digital archive, the upstart company Google (now reportedly considering an IPO that could value its worth at as much as $25 billion) could develop advanced algorithms to extract even the most obscure needles out of the cyber-haystack. “We want to bring all information online, not just what’s in commercial transactions,” says Google cofounder Sergey Brin, who praises the Amazon program as “an important part of the evolution of the Internet.”

The next step in this revolution is to rope in the kinds of information that were previously thought of as unarchivable–and make that stuff searchable, too. Just last week a paper by Berkeley scientists estimated that information created on print, film, tape and disk in 2002 was roughly equivalent to all the text in the Library of Congress–multiplied by 500,000. The amount has doubled in the past three years and will grow even faster as people begin to take advantage of low-cost storage technology to routinely keep all their mail and documents, record all their conversations and visually capture whatever’s in their field of vision. Google and now Amazon (which has started a separate search-technology company) are teaching us that with cheap storage, powerful computers and smart software, we can store everything online and then search the heck out of it to find what’s important to us, as well as make connections that never would have been previously possible.

What we call history began when humans started to record their experiences on cave walls, in cuneiform and on papyrus. The ability to record events was a transforming development for our entire species. But until very recently–until the Web–the vast collective documentary created by human beings has always been limited because the works we created were so difficult to access. Very little was stored, much was lost and much of what existed was hard to find. All but the tiniest portion of the vast human experience has been scattered to the winds.

That’s why the advances of Google and Amazon are so profoundly important. They are harbingers of a new kind of history, where the world’s information is not only more plentiful and diverse, but astonishingly accessible…