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From Outer Space to Cyberspace

From Outer Space to CyberspaceEric Chaisson, the director of Tufts' Wright Center for Science Education, uses Internet technology to enhance high school science curriculums. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.29.03] Thanks to Tufts' Eric Chaisson, many of the mysteries of the universe can be unlocked with just a few clicks of a mouse. Through his website "Cosmic Evolution", the Tufts physics and astronomy professor extends his expertise in interactive education beyond the walls of the classroom and into cyberspace.

"The Cosmic Evolution website is the centerpiece of our efforts to teach science to high-schoolers in an integrated manner, and it's the central intellectual theme of our public-outreach efforts to share science with the general public," Chaisson, the director of Tufts' H. Dudley Wright Center for Innovative Science Education, told the Washington Times. The newspaper featured the site as a "must-see" for science and technology fans.

Chaisson - who has trained countless pre-college science teachers to incorporate innovation and creativity in their lesson plans through the Wright Center - created the site out of a desire to have more direct impact on young science students, rather than working only with their teachers. Geared for students at the high school level, the three-year old site has also been used to teach integrated science to middle school students.

"I'm of the opinion that kids live in a visual society, if not a video society," the Tufts professor told the Times. "Rather than complain about multimedia technology, we at the Wright Center have adopted it as a vehicle to deliver good, solid, accurate science to students of many levels."

The Times described "Cosmic Evolution" as "a perfect teaching tool at almost any Internet connection speed," noting that that it incorporates video clips, interactive diagrams, and detailed articles that the newspaper calls "3,500 word gold mines."

The Wright Center approximates that the website, which is also available in CD-ROM format, contains 500 megabytes of information, nearly a half-million words, several hundred figures, numerous animations, and a digitally compressed movie -- all produced in the center's visualization lab at Tufts.

"[Chaisson] has combined his passion for the subject with a desire to spread knowledge in the form of a website mirroring his lectures and expanding upon the science of the universe," reported the Times.

The site also includes a section on celestial collisions, star clusters, and spiral galaxies.

"The section also featured a fantastic ‘Educational Activities' area for teachers and students and video clips on cosmic clusters and cluster mergers, complete with color animations and narration," reported the Times.

Chaisson, who has been at Tufts since 1992, is the first director of the Wright Center, and has essentially built up its renowned programs from scratch. He has worked closely with both teachers and computer animators to fulfil the center's mission as a leading force in science education.

As a researcher, Chaisson has more than 100 publications to his credit on a range of topics, including the thermodynamics of physical and biological phenomena and the origins and evolution of material systems throughout the Universe.

And as Chaisson's own studies -- as well as the general base of scientific knowledge -- progress, so too will his "Cosmic Evolution" website. "The science will be completely updated as new discoveries are made throughout the natural sciences," reported the Times.


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