Letters | August 31, 2012 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

Opinion - August 31, 2012


The indispensable importance of Google

How often do those of us who remember life before PCs, laptops, and cellphones pose the now rhetorical "How did we get along without all this totally cool technology?" Well, we managed to get along in ignorant bliss of what did not yet exist except in sci-fi literature and films (remember the HAL-9000 in "2001: A Space Odyssey" back in 1969?). However, to return to those primal days now would be traumatic to say the least, especially for those of us who are creative inventors and use these technologies every day.

Mountain View's very own Google is to me the technology the world can least afford lose because of its eclectic value to every other technology — simple or complex — in today's world. A recent story on the BBC website highlights this better than just about anything.

A 15-year-old American school boy back on the East Coast has invented and developed a new cancer screening test that employs carbon nano-tubes that allow for such insidious cancers as pancreatic, ovarian, and lung to be detected 168 times faster and 1,000 times cheaper than any other tests used. This intellectually precocious boy got the idea while daydreaming in his freshman biology class one day, and he did exhaustive Google searches into carbon nano-tubes, cancers, and cancer screening tests.

That spark of unpredictable creative genius flashed in his head and he realized he had discovered something very important. He sent out 200 letters to labs and universities asking for access to lab facilities, and he got 199 rejections because he is "only a kid with no college degree." But a cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins realized the kid had something special so Johns Hopkins gave the kid lab access. Now the boy has a patent filed and he will save countless lives. He credits his research to Google.

As a prolific inventor myself I use Google every day. In 2006 I invented the "broad-spectrum fractional sequestration combustion gas liquefier" that also employs carbon nano-tubes in the multi-phase system. Like that 15-year-old boy, I did all my physics, chemistry, and engineering research via Google. Now the Chinese government is interested in my technology as it holds promise for clean coal energy generation.

Long live Google!

Grading policy would fail real world test

As a graduate of Mountain View High School who read the article about the new grading policy, I was extremely concerned about the way this system is formulated.

As a current college student who has experienced both the classroom and work environment through various internships, this supposedly "progressive" system seems more rigid and unrealistic than ever. With a down economy and college students who already have difficulty translating their classroom skills to a real world setting, this system only perpetuates a world where unrealistic letter grades lead to a disconnect with practical knowledge. In the working world, people are not hired because of their perfect 4.00 college GPA, but rather because of their valuable work ethic or interesting skill listed on their resume.

Letter grades that reflect the so-called "mastery" of material will only take a student so far in his or her career and life. While this student may understand how to solve the algebra equations, if he never arrives at class except on test days, how will he fare when he is required to work at his daily job? He certainly will not last very long with these poor habits.

Not only is this arrangement unrealistic in terms of transitioning to one's career, but it also places more stress on students and less control in their hands regarding their grades. Many students rely on the fact that participation and work ethic are reflected in grading policies. Sometimes, there is only so much a student can do to illustrate "mastery of material." Outstanding students may spend almost their entire lives studying, yet still have difficulty with certain material. Thus, this system is actually less effective in illustrating a student's success in school because those who are determined and hard-working aren't necessarily the ones who always receive the highest test scores or assignment grades.

While it is useful to assess and provide feedback about these non-academic factors, if this information is not reflected in a student's grade, then this leads to further pressure on these students when looking toward college applications. This process will significantly change who is accepted to certain colleges. Students accepted will not necessarily be the ones who will truly succeed in the real world, but rather solely those who test well. This new policy is one that moves grades farther away from any translation to real world success. It is a system that rewards IQ points rather than valuable skill. El Camino Hospital CEO's salary is unreasonable

I read that San Francisco has the nation's highest paid police chief ($321,577). He is compensated better than the police chiefs of Los Angeles ($307,291) and New York City's Police Commissioner ($205,180).

Interesting that no top cop makes as much as a third the salary of the CEO of taxpayer-supported El Camino Hospital.

Blockbuster summer for readers

Did you know that Mountain View residents read over 32,000 books this summer? That's how many books were logged in the Mountain View Library's summer reading database. 513 children, 311 teens, and 116 adults participated in our summer reading program this year. 487 families made the commitment to read together. Our local schools also had a competition to see who could read the most books. Castro School was the winner with over 60 percent of their students reading 7,862 books.

This program could not have been possible without the generous support of the Friends of the Mountain View Library. They funded all the wonderful programs for children and teens, as well as prize books for those who met their reading goals. We are also grateful to the following businesses who donated prizes to our adult participants: 191 Restaurant, Amici's Pizzeria, Amarin Thai, Casa Lupe, Cascal, Clarke's Charcoal Broiler, Dana Street Roasting Co., Don Giovanni, Fiesta Del Mar Too, Gelato Classico, Hangen, Hobee's, Posh Bagel, Safeway, St. Stephen's Green, Steak Out, Tied House, and Milk Pail.

This was a true community partnership with the library, schools, businesses, and volunteers working together to support lifelong learning, and encouraging our children and residents of all ages to read.

Rosanne Macek Director, Library Services City of Mountain View