Media Guide- December 9, 2016

Media Guide- December 9, 2016

Grade Level



15 min - 1 hr


Media Guide

Each week we provide a rundown of the latest Science Friday stories, ready for classroom use. Last week Science Friday discussed what we can learn from big data, looked at the small oil leaks that collectively cause big problems, and dove into the engineering behind your favorite clicky pen to close out our Science Club.

Also, we are looking for inspiring educators to become Science Friday Educator Collaborators! Check out the resources created by our 2016 Educator Collaborators here. You can read more information about the program and access the application here. Applications are due January 8, 2017.

We are still beta-testing this resource and would love your feedback.


An Exit Interview With U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil

In 2013, taking a page out of the Silicon Valley playbook, President Obama signed an executive order that made open and machine-readable data the new default for government information. In 2015 he appointed DJ Patil to the newly created role of Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Data Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Patil, who had worked in the private sector for Ebay, LinkedIn, and others, once honed his skills in data science by improving mathematical models for weather prediction using open data sets available through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Now he was going to use data to tackle problems in areas that required the most spending (costing $1 trillion or more), and which served the greatest number of Americans.

One of those big issues involved the criminal justice system. In 2015 Patil helped launch the White House’s Police Data Initiative, through which police jurisdictions release data collected on their policing, including information about the use of force and traffic stops. By looking at the data, Patil noticed that a number of negative police encounters occurred just after an officer had responded to a suicide or domestic violence call, which suggested that quickly re-dispatching these officers to their normal beat without giving them time to decompress may have led to the incidents of violence.

Vocabulary: big data, bias, algorithms
NGSS: SEP4 Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Audio Excerpt “An Exit Interview With U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil” 12/9/2016. (Original Segment)

Segment Transcript


  • DJ Patil talks about using technology and data to benefit every person. Do you agree with his assertion that “…a technology is neither radical nor revolutionary, unless it benefits every since person”? Why?
  • Predictive policing uses algorithms and certain data sets to inform crime prevention strategies. What are ways that bias or discrimination could be introduced into these types of calculations? How should we combat that problem?
  • Do you think that the government should make big data sets available to the public? Why?
  • Should there be limits on which data are made available to the public? Why or why not? Develop criteria for deciding which data should be publicly accessible.

Activity Suggestions

We are still developing this resource and would love your feedback.

Related Article

10 Questions for the Nation’s First Chief Data Scientist

Grand Isle Block 48 Oil Drilling Platform, 1957. Credit: E.F. Patterson/USGS/ Wikimedia Commons
Grand Isle Block 48 Oil Drilling Platform, 1957. Credit: E.F. Patterson/USGS/ Wikimedia Commons

Hidden Oil Spills

Wired science reporter Nick Stockton talks about the thousands of “hidden” oil spills across the United States each year.

Vocabulary: oil spill, crude oil, environmental impact
NGSS: ESS3.C-Human Impacts on Earth Systems, LS4.D-Biodiversity and Humans

Audio Excerpt “Hidden Oil Spills” 12/9/2016. (Original Segment)

Segment Transcript


  • Using the estimates provided by Nick Stockton, calculate how many gallons of crude oil are leaking into the ocean as a result of “small” oil spills.
  • Based on your calculations, do you think that the government should alter the regulation of small leaks? How do you balance the potential environmental benefits of regulation with the impact on the companies that own oil rigs?
  • Right now the government depends on oil companies to report when and how much crude oil is leaked. Do you think that companies accurately report these numbers? How do you suggest the government get a more accurate estimate of how much oil is leaked each year?
Activity Suggestions
  • After listening to the segment, read this article about the extent of small oil spills and the problem of relying upon oil companies to self-report leaks. Taking into account budgetary constraints of the Coast Guard, have students devise a way to keep companies honest about their oil spill reporting.

We are still developing this resource and would love your feedback.

Related Educational Resource

Teachers Bring Fracking to School

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How You—and the Science Club—Broke It Down

Over the past month, Science Friday listeners have taken apart various things as part of the Science Club’s “Break It Down” project. Many people chose to answer this challenge by breaking down their clicky pens. Ira Flatow mets with Science Club co-founders Ariel Zych and Charles Bergquist and Bic Pen engineer and product manager Will Link to discuss the engineering of retractable pens.

Vocabulary: disassembly, retractable, product design, product testing
NGSS: SEP3-Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Audio Excerpt “ How You—and the Science Club—Broke It Down” 12/9/2016. (Original Segment)

Segment Transcript


  • Why do you think there is such rigorous testing for these pens? Do you think all products go through this much testing? Why or why not?
  • What could you break down that you want to know more about? What would you hope to learn about it?
  • Think about the phrase “break it down.” People took apart objects. What are some other ways to break something down into parts?
  • Will Link said that Bic uses 25 to 30 torture tests for their pens. Design and conduct a product test for a pen. In your design, state clearly what you are trying to determine about pen quality. Be sure to outline your method of data collection and indicate how you will measure success. 

Activity Suggestions

  • You know your students take apart their pens anyway, so have them take apart different types of retractable ball pens and devise tests for the different components. Check out this interactive from Bic, where you can look at the inner workings of pens.
  • Check out our past Science Club challenges and try another one out.

We are still developing this resource and would love your feedback.

Educator's Toolbox

Meet the Writer

About Xochitl Garcia

Xochitl Garcia is Science Friday’s education program assistant. She is a former teacher who loves hanging out with her fat-tailed gecko, which, despite the efforts of students, family, friends, and a fantasy football league to name it, is still only referred to as “the gecko.”

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