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About

First and foremost this is a blog about science education.

Mark Twain sent a Connecticut Engineer from 1889 back to King Arthur’s court to demonstrate how knowledge of (then) modern technology could catapult a man a from middle class life into a awesome power.

Arthur C. Clark later paraphrased Twain’s entire novel in the phrase,

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

The goal of this blog – perhaps of my life – is to demystify science.

Why?

Not to dispel the beauty of a rainbow or to make your iPhone feel mundane. Not to de-emphasize the awesome power of genomics in personalizing medicine or trivialize DNA evidence in crime scene investigation.

7117ac43e7d0e0f653e9b2818d5f020bI merely want to open the gates to Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and help show you more than the delicious candy bar that comes out, but how understanding science actually makes these achievements more exciting, not less.

Consider this to be your Golden Ticket.

golden ticket.001

This is an ‘About’ page, so the other thing I should introduce is myself. I’m a 40ish year old father of one – husband of one too. I have a PhD in immunology from UPenn and I love to teach biology. I’m currently doing that at a community college part time, but I would still like to find a more permanent teaching gig if there’s one out there for me.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 7.22.00 PMI was born in Delaware and grew up less than an hour from Philly. I spent most of my life in about a 100 mile radius of Philly until three years ago when my family and I picked up and relocated to Kansas City. Initially, to a small town called Paola, but more recently to a closer suburb, Prairie Village.

I love movies of all sorts, but I admit that it’s really the low-brow stuff that makes me happiest – especially things that I first saw growing up in the 80s. I like to read, but probably take in more literature through audiobooks than sitting down on the couch – I have a bit too much mania in me for the couch thing.

Mostly, it’s science that excites me. I love seeing how the world works. Biology, Physics, Astronomy, even Math get me all revved up. I wish I could study everything! But let’s be honest, the problem is that I have a head like a sieve. No matter how much I pour in, it all comes trickling out, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

The other great love I have is caffeine. I simply love a good coffee. And I love it even more if it’s an Americano. And probably even more if it were just an expresso (but that’s getting too rich for making a habit of). I blanche to think how much I probably spend on the stuff.

But, What is DownHouse?

The home of Charles Darwin in Kent was called the Down House in reference to the town of Downe near which it lies. Today, Darwin’s Down House is an official English Heritage site open to tourists interested in learning more about the habits and personal life of the man who may well have changed the way we look at the world and out place in it more than any other single person in history.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 9.04.47 PM
Voyage of the Beagle
Darwin’s remarkable epiphanies occurred during and after a five year voyage aboard the HMS Beagle, where he was naturalist and companion to the Ship’s Captain, Robert FitzRoy. They embarked from England on 27 December 1831and circumnavigated the globe before returning home on 2 October 1836.
In 1839 he married his cousin Emma Wedgewood and together had 10 children, 7 surviving to adulthood. He never again left the British Isles and rarely traveled far from Down House, but spent the rest of his life examining his finds and writing up his interpretations of their meaning.

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“In June of 1858 Darwin received a correspondence from Alfred Russel Wallace who had been collecting specimens in Indonesia and arrived at very similar conclusions as Darwin. So, after years of methodical investigation and careful writing, Darwin rushed to complete his work and publicly introduced his theory of evolution in a letter read at a meeting of the Linnaean Society.
In November of the next year, he published his opus, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
Death and Legacy
After a lifetime of devout research, Charles Darwin died at home in Down House on April 19, 1882, and was buried at Westminster Abbey alongside monarchs including Edward the Confessor and Mary, Queen of Scots; poets the likes of Tennyson and Chaucer; and other scientists such as Isaac Newton and Ernest Rutherford
DownHouse Software
DownHouse Software (DHS) was named to honor this great scientist and to attempt, in my own way, to further not just the ideas of Evolution by Natural Selection, but to promote science education in any way possible.
DHS originated as a publisher of iPhone and iPad apps based on scientific principles, but has grown to include more written work including iBook publications and this blog.

 

13 responses to “About

  1. E-skills4Future

    July 3, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Have you tried to make real Italian espresso in a Moka pot? That’s my absolute favourite 🙂

     
  2. downhousesoftware

    July 3, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    I have. I’m sorry to say that either I just don’t know what I’m doing or this is not my cup of tea.

    Long ago, I worked for a biotech company called Medarex. While I was there we hired a new executive that purchased an automatic expresso maker for the company’s kitchen (free to all). It was the best coffee of my life.

    I’d work for that guy again.

     
  3. Rob Viens

    March 17, 2013 at 1:31 am

    Thanks for following the Beagle Project! I too am at a community college in the sciences. It is a fun place to be! Look forward to exploring your site some more.

     
    • downhousesoftware

      March 17, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you for coming by. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog, the wealth of supplementary info you provide about each location along Darwin’s voyage.

       
  4. Steve Howell

    March 25, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Hi. Thanks for following me recently on Twitter. What kinds of educational apps are you interested in developing? What technologies are you finding useful?

    My current obsession is educational science simulations. Actually, it’s been an interest for a long time but has recently been rekindled by the possibilities opened up by what seems to be an explosion in the use of iPads in schools. I’m using a cross-platform deveopment environment called “Marmalade” so that I can easily target Android as well as iOS when the App is finished.

    The word “revolution” is perhaps a little overused, but I think this time it might just be appropriate as a description of the way the delivery of education could be changed by this kind of technology in the next few years.

     
    • downhousesoftware

      March 25, 2013 at 10:23 am

      Hi Steve,
      Thanks for writing. My interest began with a desire to generate some educational games to teach aspects of science. More recently I have moved to generating eBooks – actually iBooks – to accomplish the same thing, but I see it more as a complement to games rather than a replacement. I have a decent amount of development mapped out for a breeding game that is based on real Mendelian genetics that I want to get made someday (I’m a biology teacher), but I have another dozen or so mapped out as well (though possibly not as detailed).

      Have you done any work developing iBook widgets? I have a couple ideas for that space as well that would really help get my most recent book into a shape that makes a lot more sense.

      I looked through your webpage (briefly). You have a ton of amazing content there. Despite my background in biology, I find physics to be fascinating, so I especially like your optics material.

      Jack

       
      • Steve Howell

        March 27, 2013 at 7:03 pm

        Hi Jack,

        The iBooks sounds interesting. No, I can’t say I have any experience developing iBook widgets. My background is mostly in PC/Windows based software. For a while I worked for a company based in Oxford, UK called Immersive Education developing PC based educational software (a physics simulation called “Krucible”).

        The move to iOS development is a relatively recent one for me. I’m interested in the idea of fusing eBooks/iBooks with game-like content and the app I’m working on for my initial release contains a first attempt at educational book-style content, but I’ve designed it in a completely proprietary way, built into the software (you can see it on the “development diary” section of my website where I go into unnecessary detail about the coding of the page turning mechanism of the book!).

        This may well turn out not to be a very good idea as, of course, it won’t easily scale or integrate with the more standardized ways of creating eBooks/iBooks. But I’ve so far been concentrating on 3D graphics and the physics of optics etc and haven’t had time to look into the books side of things. I suspect that, after this initial software release is out of the way and I can look to the long term, I might abandon the whole idea of having a book built into the app and investigate further the ways in which the app can concentrate on the physics and be linked to an externally developed book.

        Anyway, I’ll be interested to see how your ideas develop – particularly that Mendelian genetics one. Reminds me of the “Biomorphs” in Richard Dawkins’ “The Blind Watchmaker”. I’ve often thought it would be fascinating to try to write software to model genuine evolution using some sort of pseudo-chemistry – start with chemical building blocks floating around the screen and maybe end up with virtual bacteria having independently invented some sort of analogue of DNA.

        Best of luck with it

        Steve

         
  5. Subodh Kolhe

    June 20, 2013 at 2:58 am

    Hey,

    I would love to contact with you over mail. Can you share your email address ?

     
  6. Fooksie (@Fooksie)

    October 26, 2013 at 4:59 am

    Hi,
    I am also curios about developing educational games. I am a cartoonist/animator, and am sure that I could create graphics for you. Have a look at my site, and let me know if you are interested.
    http://www.fooksie.com

     
    • downhousesoftware

      March 26, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      Holy smoke, I didn’t notice your comment until just now! I’m terribly sorry about that. If you’re still interested, perhaps we can come up with a project we’re both interested in.

       
  7. Regina Martins

    March 21, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Glad I found this blog. My team uses Agile methodologies to develop banking software and I love the iterative approach to this. Love coffee. Love apps. I’m not a scientist but I’m a tech geek. Looking forward to reading more posts on this blog.

     
    • downhousesoftware

      March 21, 2014 at 8:57 am

      Thank you very much. I hope you enjoy what you find here. Your comments, criticisms and suggestions are always welcome.

       
  8. Gerri

    May 11, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Good for you on your endeavors! Had a quick look around and I will be back for more. Thanks so much for the like and the follow!

     

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