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Norman Sperling
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Auction a Few Undergrad Admissions

© Norman Sperling, March 27, 2019.
[Norman Sperling has taught in about a dozen colleges and universities, from open-admission to highly selective.]

The only thing new about the college admissions scandal is that now it’s considered scandalous. People have always used their resources to better their children’s futures.

Formalizing what colleges already do can improve its ethics. Auction a small number of undergraduate admissions, with much of the proceeds benefiting financial aid. Bids are in addition to all other college expenses; the auction costs extra, it’s not just a different route to paying what they would anyway.

For sports, celebrity speakers, and theater performances, colleges already sell seats at different prices. Admission is simply more important and lasts longer.

For winners to fit in, only accept bids sponsoring wait-listed or rejected candidates who
• already applied normally
• the admissions office deems likely to graduate, and
• did NOT apply for financial aid. (If families need aid, they can’t afford this auction. Wait-list applicants who get in anyway save the college that much aid.)
Never identify winning students publicly, just as aid awardees, on the opposite end of the financial scale, are not identified. Some peoples’ attitudes might be colored by money.

Auctions should not compromise the quality of the student body, because all applicants are expected to graduate. It should NOT invite grabbing money from students who will likely flunk out. If auction-admitted students are slightly weaker, their family’s eagerness may make up for that.

This auction trades on the perceived value of each institution’s diploma. Administration would trace that perception over the years. Higher quality generates higher bids. Each college should run mathematical models to optimize auction income. This is partly mathematical but strongly psychological. Every college already has experts in both factors.

Don’t reveal the winning bids or their total. Keep all bidders fearful of failure, so they’ll bid their highest. If only auctioning 10 seats (my guess), bidding should go high, but the college only receives the 10 highest bids. If auctioning 100 seats, people wouldn’t bid as high (they only want to come in 99th), but the college gets a lot more winners. Factor in the cost to run the auction. The fewer the seats, the higher the bids, whose total should greatly overmatch the “long tail” who try to come in 99th.

Cash is not the only form of payment to consider. Barter services (like a celebrity fundraiser), goods (computers, wine ...), present or future buildings, whatever would benefit the college. Independent, realistic appraisers should determine barter values.

Alumni and parents receive fundraising appeals forever. Most seat-auction-winning students will probably pitch in additional money over the years. These donations, coming from prosperous families, are likely to be above average, and higher value than those of the next 10 from the wait-list.

Colleges that auction a few admissions to formalize what they already do, with standards and ethics specified up front, can convert the present scandal into ongoing benefits.

The Croation of the Universe

© Norman Sperling, December 31, 2018

This title results from some of the worst handwriting in the Universe. My son says it sounds like a weirdly nationalistic action novel. I call that a novel interpretation.

It’s just one of this semester’s bloopers by my astronomy students. An unusually large number of my students earned “A”s on their finals. Most of these bloopers come from *other* students’ exams, quizzes, and term papers.

entirely in part

The celestial earth is imaginary.

Earth turns on axis, celestrial sphere keeps it steady.

Just like the celestial equator, the celestial earth is imaginary and doesn’t really exist.

Aristotle said that the Earth was the center of the University.

The planets orbited the universe in ellipticals not circles.

Everything revolves around the universe.

Earth isn’t geocentric.

Copernicus saw renegrade as an illusion.

ellipitical ellipses

The planets have an elliptical orbit that spins on their axis. Because Pluto does not do this, it is considered a dwarf planet.

Gravity is the way that earth contains everything.

The gravitational pull is only found within earth since in space an individual has no control of how they move or how other thing have no control as well.

Objects are directly proportional to attraction to mass.

opposite forces attract.

an Einstein non-static Einstein Equation

Telescopes are used to see fainted astronomical objects.

There is no need to grind the mirror because the light is bouncing from one to another.

Reflecting telescopes consist of a lens that helps absorb all the radiation from the light waves.

Reflecting telescopes use mirrors inside the tube of the telescope to bounce off the mirrors.

To view telescopes with brighter surfaces, astronomers developed telescopes with higher focal ratios to view planets and double stars.

The Newtonian ... does not have chromatic abrasion.

Liquid fuel is way more efficient than solid fuel because you can stop the aircraft to refuel.

[To pluck returning astronauts out of the ocean,] helicopter pilots were Navy rescue pilots, which meant that they were used to relatively low flying around the ocean, but they were also used to having a wench system.

Howie’s Comet

Earth is just a huge comet that has lots of parts inside that makes life for living/non living organisms.

[Hotter than 1100º Celsius] hydrogen, helium, other gases all melt and form layers.

Craters can be different continents when they are high up, however, is often filled with water when low.

very unique, but similar

After 30 minutes in the event most of the planets were too burly.

When you look at Jupiter from afar, it appears to be purple.

Around Titan I was able to see some orange rings.

Earth ... has a similar magnetic field as a magnetic.

The magnetic field makes up the magnemotism ... which correlates in iodinization.

One of the most important stars in our solar system is the Sun.

Total solar eclipses are unlike any form of eclipse.

During a total solar eclipse, it appears from Earthlings’ perspective that the moon and sun are covering one another.

The illusion of it is one of the best because it makes the moon appear bigger than it is because it covers the moon.

Red dwarts

High mass stars have a shorter life spam.

galaxies which are near to the Universe and in the Milky Way

millions of years of light

The Croation of the Universe.

[Autofill blunders for “extraterrestrial”] extracurricular, extraterritorial

I didn’t teach my students any of this!

. © Norman Sperling, December 20, 2017

Instead, this is what they wrote on assorted quizzes, tests, and term papers:

Stars, little twinkling thing that rised up and down constantly.

A three-dimensional plane

An area opposite to another area in the ellipse contained the same amount of area.

Any point on a planet’s orbit was equally distant to the sun, traveling at a constant rate.

According to Newton, gravity is equal to the area squared divided by the mass cubed.

Newton’s law is only mathematically right for objects that have a velocity smaller than the light of speed.

Newtonian telescopes have the mirror bounce off the side ... whereas another kind bounces back through a hole in the original mirror.

One of the Newtonian telescopes was called Cassograin, and how it worked was that the light gathered would not come out.

There are two lens in a refractor. Light enters the tube and is gathered by the first len, and the second len magnifies the focus produced by the first len.

A celestial body can be reflected through three mirrors positioned opposite of eachother.



We observe Venus using ultraviolet lights.

3 types of carbonaceous chondrites are relatively common, which can bring carbon to the planet when there is a collision or catering. ... Io ... is the only object in our solar system that does not have catering.

A solar eclipse happens when the darkest side of the moon hits the Earth.

It was in the grounds of Cambridge University that a student and a professor discovered pulsars.

The Big Bang theory has been proved to be true from detecting cosmetic background radiation.

The Issues of the Issue: JIR v52 #6

© Norman Sperling, Editor, June 11, 2017

I apologize for the extreme delay. JIR has just broken out of an unwanted hiatus occasioned by my committing too much time to too many projects. The logjam is loosening. Every subscriber will receive every issue they’ve paid for, but it will take a while. I'm not taking on any new projects until I satisfy JIR and other projects already underway.

Over the years, JIR has used many different printers, large and small. The most recent, Yokto Subroto, has retired. I appreciated his attention to detail (which prevented many mistakes), his high quality (which kept the magazine looking substantial), and his realistic communication (which brought my flights of fancy down to Earth). With Yokto printing JIR, there were no Big Surprises or Catastrophic Emergencies. This issue was printed on the same press, by the company that bought it.

A previous owner of JIR, George H. Scherr, passed away in 2016.

Yet again, Wikipedia and Wikimedia have been most helpful. JIR submissions cover more different sciences than any one editor understands, so having an instant-lookup to learn what terms mean, and where puzzle-pieces fit, helps a whole lot. Derided in its beginning years, Wikipedia has made great efforts to get its act together. Nowadays, scientific articles are quite clean, though hardly perfect. If you have the expertise to correct and perfect their articles, supply technical references, and fill holes in their coverage, please do so. They post standards for contributing and editing, and priority requests. This is a major community service that anyone can perform in any amount at any time.

The associated Wikimedia Commons is a free repository for illustrations and other media. You probably took pictures that illustrate points particularly well. Clinging to their copyright may earn you less in money than freeing them will earn you in reputation and satisfaction. Wikimedia standards are posted too. You can select how you want to handle the “some rights reserved” alternatives.

When you get used to doing this, recommend it to experts you know in other fields, too.

For this issue’s articles about time, Robbert van der Steeg’s masterful “Eternal Clock” gives pause. He is a Dutchman living in Kenya, posting photos and manipulations to Flickr under Creative Commons. His creativity is, however, uncommon. It takes wing using the software “MathMap” and “Gimp”.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders offers JIR many opportunities for lampoons over many decades. In this issue we offer DSM-style descriptions of 2 exaggerated personality types, separated by the vast chasm of the gender divide.

I recall hearing that an apparently-serious scholar recommended that
• meticulous attention to detail, and
• determination to get technicalities “right”,
flag disorders common to nerds. What a disordered mind that numbskull must have! How much could Silicon Valley accomplish without those qualities? Or any science or engineering? Heeding details and getting things right is not a disorder. Thinking they are, is.

The article on selenium demonstrates the ongoing need to keep a sense of proportion in science. Legalisms have strayed vastly out of whack, reminiscent of the bad old days of the Delaney Clause. More such abuses lurk in classifying substances as “generally recognized as safe” though textbook science and plain English do not generally recognize them that way at all. JIR welcomes shout-outs and spoofs about exemplars.

While nosing around for pictures to illustrate our “big nose” article, I didn’t remember Jimmy Durante in time. The Wikimedia search engine brought up a lot of portraits from areas surrounding the Caspian Sea. Is this characteristic supported by research? How else has it been applied?

Most commercial companies are too sober-sided and too sales-focused to be any fun. Congratulations to O’Reilly Auto Parts for advertising their flux-capacitor. We’d love to learn about other science-fun items.

We have a new minimalist leader in adhering to our length-standard of “write it for what it’s worth. Include everything you ought to, then stop.” Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Dr. Paul K. Dayton, a rare wit, has whittled his main contents to 2 letters: “No.” He doesn’t leave much opportunity to reduce contents further.

A passing mention in Daniel Galef’s “Academic Bestiary” invites elucidation. Those “brightly coloured Salad Trees” are planted outside of his article’s animal kingdom. Are they related to “fruit salad trees”? Could an imaginative botanist please elaborate?

Chipmunk butter, lauded in Robert Haas’s article, is surely not the only imaginable rare gem of a food. Please recommend what else ought to be.

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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