About Chris Riley

I'm a middle school science teacher in New Jersey.

Spreadsheet Workshop

Today was an InService professional development day. Other teachers know what I’m talking about. I gave a workshop on spreadsheets, specifically google sheets, but it all also applies to Excel.

I love spreadsheets. They are so powerful and make things much easier—if you know how to use them. I’ve seen many teachers doing things that would be easier and faster if they used a spreadsheet.

So I made a spreadsheet to explain things like cells, cell addresses, simple formulas like SUM, AVERAGE, COUNT, etc. The teachers taking the workshop really liked it and immediately saw how this would be useful for them. The last part was on conditional formatting and they really liked that.

Most of the teachers went from knowing almost nothing about spreadsheets to knowing how to have a spreadsheet do math and other useful things.

… it wasn’t willing

So my son and I go to St. Joseph, MO to see the eclipse. And the clouds roll in. And it rains a bit. We get to see some of the partial before totality, but only get to see 4 seconds of totality. This is the pic I took with my phone:

The best photo I’ve seen from St. Joseph was this one.

Hope you saw a better eclipse than we did. Even so, experiment_1 said that it was worth it.

Play Wikipedia!

Back in the mists of time, like the 1980s, there was a genre of computer games called Interactive Fiction. This is where there is a story, and you’re part of it. You might remember those “choose your adventure” books where that say something like “if you want to go to France, go to page 17”. Well, Interactive Fiction is the computer version of those books. And the king of Interactive Fiction was Infocom. They made games like Zork, Deadline, Suspended, Moonmist, Trinity, and many more. There weren’t graphics, just text, and you filled in the graphics with your imagination.

West of House
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here.

You can choose to go to the house, look around, read the letter in the mailbox, pick up objects, etc. Oh, you can play Zork here.

So what does this have to do with Wikipedia? Well, now you can play that in the same way. Choose a starting place, and see what’s there. Say “go north” (or just “n”) for short. Wander around the Colosseum, and more.

Go exploring!

Let’s talk numbers!

Two neat things from an AskReddit post.

One:

cubosh said: Take every planet in our solar system, line them up so they are all touching, and they will fit inside the space between earth and our moon, with room to spare.
>to which jbhall36 said: Take every planet in our solar system, line them up so they are all touching, fit them in the space between Earth and our moon, and the gravitational force would be catastrophic and likely kill everything on Earth.
>>to which Rogukast1177 said: You don’t need the “likely”
>>>to which pinkbutterfly1 said: You do need the “likely”. Because Tardigrades. http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150313-the-toughest-animals-on-earth

Two:

A while ago I write about Graham’s Number, which is really migraine inducing. Another (much smaller) number is how many ways you can shuffle a standard deck of 52 cards. Here’s what VerbableNouns said (which really was written by techniforus):

One of my favorite is about the number of unique orders for cards in a standard 52 card deck.

I’ve seen a a really good explanation of how big 52! actually is.

  • Set a timer to count down 52! seconds (that’s 8.0658×1067 seconds)
  • Stand on the equator, and take a step forward every billion years
  • When you’ve circled the earth once, take a drop of water from the Pacific Ocean, and keep going
  • When the Pacific Ocean is empty, lay a sheet of paper down, refill the ocean and carry on.
  • When your stack of paper reaches the sun, take a look at the timer.

The 3 left-most digits won’t have changed. 8.063×1067 seconds left to go. You have to repeat the whole process 1000 times to get 1/3 of the way through that time. 5.385×1067 seconds left to go.

So to kill that time you try something else.

  • Shuffle a deck of cards, deal yourself 5 cards every billion years
  • Each time you get a royal flush, buy a lottery ticket
  • Each time that ticket wins the jackpot, throw a grain of sand in the grand canyon
  • When the grand canyon’s full, take 1oz of rock off Mount Everest, empty the canyon and carry on.
  • When Everest has been levelled, check the timer.

There’s barely any change. 5.364×1067 seconds left. You’d have to repeat this process 256 times to have run out the timer.


Now, that gives you some inkling of how big 52! is, but that’s nothing compared to Graham’s Number which I mentioned earlier.

This is why we can’t have nice things

My 6th grade is studying waves. Part of this involves making waves using slinkies. I know that slinkies are fun toys, so there’s a whole harangue about treating them carefully and not playing with them. Nonetheless, it didn’t take 2 days until someone turned one into abstract art.

Now, I know that slinkies aren’t expensive, but it’s the principle of the thing. Now I don’t have enough for all the groups.

😢