Originally created 04/23/04

Odds and Ends

WHITEHORSE, Yukon Territory -- There is nothing elementary about the mysterious, sudden disappearance of northern pike from Watson Lake.

"It's weird," said Aaron Foos of the Department of the Environment.

In one year, the community on the British Columbia-Yukon border went from a destination for anglers in search of trophy pike to a lake devoid of the fish.

In the summer of 2002, anglers caught 1,680 of the fish and kept 158.

Based on 2002 catch-and-release figures, Foos said it would be reasonable to expect there to be more than 20,000 pike in the lake.

But, for the summer of 2003, there is no known record of any pike being caught. Nor did any show up in an intensive search by ministry officials.

However, said Foos, the rest of the fish in the lake - lake trout, grayling, white fish and burbot - are doing just fine.

Watson Lake conservation officer Ryan Hennings received reports of dead pike on the lake's surface last spring but didn't recover any of the reported fish.

When the reports began, Hennings started checking for the normally visible, shallow spawning beds used by pike.

There were none.

"That is when we realized, that yep, we have a serious problem," he said.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Patients who had dental work done by Jairo Herrera may want to get a second opinion.

Herrera, 60, was arrested Tuesday on charges he ran an unlicensed dental office out of his garage.

Police said Herrera told them he made more than $100,000 last year pulling teeth and making dentures, crowns and implants.

He was charged with practicing dentistry without a license, use of dental equipment by a non-dentist, operating a dental lab without a license and dispensing drugs without a license.

West Palm Beach Detective Lt. Mark Anderson said police found a dental chair, moldings, needles and vials of a local anesthetic as well a lab to make dentures, crowns, bridges and implants in the neatly kept two-door garage.

Police said they weren't sure how long Herrera had been working out his home, but that he used to do dental work in his native Colombia.

Herrera was released Wednesday from the Palm Beach Couny jail on $3,000 bail.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Can't complete a calculus problem or add fractions? Blame it on your brain.

Our brains aren't well equipped to grasp those kinds of advanced mathematics, said Stanford University mathematician and National Public Radio's "Math Guy" Keith Devlin. Most people who can do such abstract number twisting don't even understand what they're doing at first, he said.

Unlike what Devlin calls "natural mathematics," such as counting, algebra, geometry and simple arithmetic that the brain does naturally, "formal mathematics," such as adding fractions and calculus, seems counter to common sense to our brains.

Because natural and formal math require different kinds of thinking, teachers may want to look for ways to teach them differently too, said Devlin, who was speaking at the annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The four-day conference of about 17,000 math teachers started Wednesday in Philadelphia.

So how does one learn formal math? Fake it until you make it - and not everyone does because it can take years of frustrating, repetitious and rote rule-following, Devlin said.

"You have to be psychologically willing and able to just follow the formal rules, play the game and not try to make sense of it," he said. "Eventually, for some people, the meaningless game will eventually become meaningful."


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