WASHINGTON – Safety investigators say a plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama this week came closer to a big military cargo jet than previously reported.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Friday that the distance between the two planes closed to 2.94 miles (4.73 kilometers) before air traffic controllers at Andrews Air Force Base directed the first lady’s plane to abort a landing.
Obama’s plane, a Boeing 737, was considerably smaller than the 200-ton C17. Regulations require 5 miles (8 kilometers) between planes to avoid dangerous wake turbulence when the plane in the lead is significantly larger than the trailing plane.
NEW YORK – Mathematics. It’s a subject that can elicit groans and exclamations of “boring.”
But Glen Whitney, a former hedge-fund quantitative analyst, is betting he can change that with a formula that looks like this: math (equals) discovery (equals) beauty (equals) fun.
Whitney is planning to open the only museum in the United States dedicated to mathematics. MoMath, which will center on the wonders of mathematics and its connections with art, science and finance, is scheduled to open in New York City sometime in 2012, with the help of a $2 million grant from Google.
There are many great math teachers in the United States, but the subject’s joy of discovery is lost to the “tyranny of the curriculum and the almost treadmill of standardized testing,” Whitney said.
“That sensibility has sucked out the life of the subject,” he said. “Math is evolving. It’s an act of human endeavor. There’s beauty” in its many patterns.
The museum will provide the element of surprise and excitement that textbooks cannot, added Cindy Lawrence, the museum’s chief of operations who directs an extracurricular mathematics program for gifted students through a joint venture with Brookhaven National Laboratory.
The $30 million museum will occupy the ground floor and lower level of a 20-story building on East 26th Street in Chelsea; $22 million already has been raised.
The two executives have been testing the waters of creating a museum of mathematics for nearly two years with Math Midway, a traveling exhibit that has been shown in seven cities, and counting.
It will be at the World Science Festival street fair in New York on June 5, and at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey from Oct. 7 to Jan. 22, 2012.
It is currently at the Museum of Nature Science in Dallas, where school children recently scampered through the kind of carnival themed, brightly colored exhibits planned for MoMath.
Tents along one wall offered a variety of activities including a depiction of a ship on a moving circle that can only be “righted” by placing equal amounts of weight on each side; a rollercoaster track that kids can adjust to test out what angle gets the fastest time; and a harmonograph, which uses pendulums to draw a geometric image.
“It’s just a very hands-on, exciting exhibit” that appeals to many ages, said Jason Treadway, an educator at the Dallas museum. “I think one of the great things about it is you’re basically learning about math without knowing you’re learning about math.”
Another activity, “Pedal on the Petals,” lets visitors ride square-wheeled tricycles on a track with a series of curves shaped like a huge sunflower.
A nearby sign that proclaims “There’s a road for every wheel!” also asks “Do you dare to ride on a square?” The sign poses the question: “Why is the ride so smooth?”
The concept is based on a mathematical theorem that there’s a way to contour a road surface so that wheels of that shape will roll smoothly.
“Visitors can see — and physically experience — how math makes the seemingly impossible not only possible, but fun,” said Whitney.
“The kids actually get to explore math rather than be told about it,” said Marea Kelly, who brought her fifth graders to the exhibition. “It’s really going to help the kids who don’t see the concepts right away.”
She said it made perfect sense to her students as soon as they rode the tricycle.
These and about 50 other interactive activities at the new museum will also demonstrate math’s collaborative process.
“Mathematicians very often work together,” said Lawrence. “We’re trying to build on that” with exhibits that encourage collaboration.
Math museums exist in many other countries, including Italy, Germany, Korea and France, but none in the United States, perhaps reflecting the low regard for the subject in this country.
Studies consistently show that Asian students outpace their counterparts in other countries in math achievement.
The most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study found that 40 percent of fourth-graders in Singapore and Hong Kong, for example, reached the advanced benchmark in math, compared with only 11 percent in the United States. At the eighth-grade level, Chinese Taipei, Korea and Singapore had 40-45 percent of students reaching the benchmark and only 6 percent in the United States.
“Given that math is used in more and more fields,” from climate study to finance to astronomy, “there’s a public problem here that needs to be addressed,” said Sylvain Cappell, a professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University.
Cappell, who is on MoMath’s advisory council, said a math museum is a different way to reach kids.
“It’s not to denigrate what goes on in the classroom,” he said. “It’s to give teachers and students another tool.”
Student math proficiency has gradually been improving in the United States over the past 15 years, said Zalman Usiskin, director of the Chicago School Mathematics Project at the University of Chicago. But he said a different ethos in Asia contributed to those students scoring high.
A vast majority of students in Korea, Singapore and Japan “go to school after school” where they focus on individual subjects, he said. In Korea, they are aptly called “cram schools.”
“There’s a different attitude toward how much time students should be expected to spend on studying,” he said.
Conversely, U.S. education places more emphasis on well-roundedness.
The museum can make a difference, said Cappell.
“No one element is going to change around the whole national culture but I think this could make a difference in both enlarging kids’ understanding of the world and in their life prospects,” he said.
Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.
Consolidation in the airline industry, coupled with rising fuel prices, makes finding cheap flights quite the challenge these days. I’m planning a trip to Las Vegas this August, and I’m already using all the smart travel-booking websites – but although FareCompare tells me now is the optimum time to book my plane ticket, a search on Kayak shows me that the least expensive direct flight from New York will cost me a whopping $600 round trip. Ouch.
But travelers will find there’s far more room to save on lodging, food and other related travel expenses. Here are four ways to lower your expenses, as well as some new Web sites that can help.
Dine with Locals
Rather than pay hundreds of dollars on restaurant fare, you may be able to find free local, home-cooked meals on your next trip via InnerDinner.com. The Web site connects local hosts all over the country with travelers looking for a more unique experience. You may be asked to bring the wine or dessert – but even if not, you should offer to anyway. It’s just good manners.
Skip the Hotel
Locals are not only opening up their kitchens to travelers – they’re also offering their homes as an alternative, more affordable place to stay. Find guest rooms in local homes and apartments through Web sites likes AirBnB.com (currently listing an apartment in central Paris for $89 a night) and OneFineStay.com (exclusively for London travelers). You can search on Craigslist, too.
Vote for a Good Deal
TripAlertz.com is a new Web site getting a lot of buzz as a Groupon-like site for travel deals. The site announces new hotel deals and getaways each day. If you like the trip, vote for it. If enough votes are given, TripAlertz puts the trip on sale. At most you pay the Web site’s already discounted price for the deal, but the more people book the deal, the lower the price becomes for everyone. Deals go live every Tuesday and last for 14 days.
If you’re a timeshare owner (or have access to a family membership) and want to minimize your costs, know that you don’t have to pay a third-party agency to help you find a swap. Rather than pay hundreds of dollars year in exchange fees, timeshare owners can now communicate and arrange swaps directly at BarterQuest.com and TimeShareJuice.com.
More on MoneyWatch:
- Save Money on Gas, Food Travel: 13 Smart Tricks
- How to Save on Holiday Travel
- 6 Money Saving Tricks For Your Home
- 9 Ways to Save on Spas, Gym, Beauty and More
- 4 Splurges That Make Sense
Each spring countless college students take advantage of cheap airfares and package deals to travel the globe, do some good work, and inevitably, party.
This year, more of them have been going to Europe and fewer to Mexico, according to an online survey that STA Travel, the largest student travel agency in the U.S., conducted last fall as students were planning their getaways. STA also found more options to do community service than ever before.
So with spring break 2011 finished for most college and university students, here’s a look at what your choices may have said about you:
You’re into culture, so you went to Europe.
This year Europe was a hot destination for spring breakers, with 42% of respondents to STA Travel’s survey saying they planned to go there. That’s up from 34% last year. Paris and London were the top two destinations.
“The current generation of young travelers wants more than just a traditional spring break,” said James Bell, commercial vice president for STA Travel. “They still want to have fun, but many realize that for about the same price of living it up on the beaches of Cancun, they can live it up on the beaches of Barcelona.”
You’re a party animal, so you went to Cancun, Mexico.
Despite increasing violence in Mexico, the U.S. State Department said more than 100,000 teens and young adults planned to travel there on spring break. However, there is evidence that Mexico’s popularity is falling. An STA spokesperson said that while travel to Cancun remains popular, other resort destinations in Mexico, such as Acapulco, have fallen off the map.
You’re all about getting on TV, so you went to Las Vegas.
For it’s “25th annual Spring Break” special, MTV moved the party to Las Vegas for the first time March 6-9, sponsoring a host of concerts at the Palms. Ne-Yo, Wiz Khalifa, Pitbull and other artists performed. Snoop Dogg was there, so was Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, and so was Vanessa Hudgens. But the motivation to head to Sin City wasn’t just about the chance to show up on TV dancing poolside in a bikini. There were also great package deals for students, with some of the big hotels offering rooms for less than $150 a night.
You’re a do-gooder, so you went to volunteer.
With more students looking for opportunities to volunteer over spring break, community service groups have been rising to the challenge by creating one- or two- week-long programs. Habitat for Humanity said more than 10,000 college and high school students registered to spend spring break building houses. Among more than 80 volunteer options from STA Travel are working with orangutans in Borneo (from $1,777 for two weeks), spending time with kids in South Africa who have been orphaned by AIDS (from $1,559 for two weeks) and working on reforestation projects in Brazil (from $1,079 for two weeks).
You’re ahead of the curve, so you went to South America.
South America, especially Chile, Peru and Argentina, is going to be an increasingly popular destination for spring breakers, according to STA Travel. During March, students could get air tickets as cheap as $400 to Lima, Peru. With tickets to London running $600, that looks like a pretty good deal, especially considering that South American lodgings can be affordable.