what is a wormhole?

Wormholes are solutions to the Einstein field equations for gravity that act as "tunnels," connecting points in space-time in such a way that the trip between the points through the wormhole could take much less time than the trip through normal space.

The first wormhole-like solutions were found by studying the mathematical solution for black holes. There it was found that the solution lent itself to an extension whose geometric interpretation was that of two copies of the black hole geometry connected by a "throat" (known as an Einstein-Rosen bridge). The throat is a dynamical object attached to the two holes that pinches off extremely quickly into a narrow link between them.

This analysis forces one to consider situations...where there is a net flux of lines of force through what topologists would call a handle of the multiply-connected space and what physicists might perhaps be excused for more vividly terming a ‘wormhole’.

John Wheeler in Annals of Physics

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

World Teachers' Day 2011 joint message

World Teachers Day 2011 – 5th October

Joint message

Theme: Teachers for Gender equality

Every year, on 5 October, the global community celebrates and honours the millions of men and women who devote their lives to organizing and facilitating learning for children and adults.

On this day, we renew our gratitude and appreciation for the efforts and dedication of teachers worldwide. It is also the time for all those of us who enjoy and benefit from teachers’ work – governments, parents, community leaders, non-governmental organizations, international agencies, employers, researchers and students – to seek to better understand their living and working conditions. Only by doing so will we be able to mobilize the necessary resources and engage in constructive dialogue in favour of teachers and teaching.

With this year’s theme, “Teachers for Gender equality”, we are reminded that in order to achieve Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals, the gender dimension of teaching in all educational systems must receive particular attention. Research has shown that “countries that have the lowest secondary enrolment rates among girls typically have the lowest proportions of female teachers in primary education” (UIS Global Education Digest, 2010). Knowing the impact of education on health and civic participation, to name just these two, we can easily understand the importance of a gender-balanced teaching force.

The global proportion of female primary teachers is 62%, while at the secondary level men make up 49% of the teaching force. Indeed, in most parts of the world, the share of male teachers increases as we move up the education ladder. Moreover, the perceived trend towards an overall feminization of the teaching profession – which has been linked to the lowering status of the profession in many countries (De Castro and Menezes, 2008) – is valid only for classroom teaching positions. When it comes to school leadership, institutional management positions and decision-making within ministries of education, the data once again indicate an imbalance in favour of men. Female teachers are also scarce in subjects such as science, mathematics and technology. Is it therefore surprising that data collected by organizations such as the Southern and Eastern Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) show that girls do less well in these subjects?

Teachers also have a critical role to play in the equity and quality of education systems. If qualified female teachers avoid postings in disadvantaged and rural areas for fear of not being able to find a partner or bring their husbands, how can we convince reluctant parents to send their girls to school? If effective male teachers leave the profession due to difficult working and living conditions, leaving behind an education system marked by low quality, repetition and drop-out (Mulkeen, 2010), how can school be relevant and a worthwhile investment for students and their parents?

The performance of educational systems is increasingly assessed through measurement of learning outcomes and learners’ achievements. The conclusion of these studies is clear “teachers matter”. At the same time, an expanding body of research explores boys’ underachievement in certain regions. Social stereotypes, differing teacher expectations of female and male learners, and physiological factors are among the reasons put forward for low learning outcomes among boys.

Finally, teachers are sometimes exposed to violence linked to their gender – for example in discordant urban neighbourhoods, in disaster and conflict situations, when they are asked or choose to teach about sensitive subjects, and when they legitimately try to claim their rights. Governments, communities and school administrators must find effective measures to protect all teachers against the threat of violence.

“Gender equality is a challenging concept…since it often requires [a] fundamental change in mindset” (IIEP newsletter Jan-April 2010). Efforts include: eliminating gender stereotypes in school textbooks and curricula, gender-responsive budgeting and gender training as an integral part of teacher training. If we are to eliminate the injustices and inequalities affecting our educational systems and societies – if we want to give equal opportunities to our sons and daughters to realize their full potential – we must devise policies and strategies that attract and motivate capable men and women to teach, while also protecting them. Teaching must once again be recognized as a ‘noble profession’ and elicit the respect it deserves.

On World Teachers’ Day 2011, we call on all governments and education partners to renew their commitment to put teachers at the centre of their educational agenda.

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