Thursday, 27 April 2017

Ten fun, quirky items including fusion, Dr Seuss, and an album of gay love songs

Empire of Tolerance
via 3 Quarks Daily: Simon Winchester in The New York Times

Genghis Khan seated on his throne with his wife, as depicted in a 15th-century Persian work. CreditDeAgostini/Getty Images
It was in an earlier best-selling volume that [Jack] Weatherford persuasively argued that the 25-year blitzkrieg mounted by Genghis and his cavalries – who, in “the most extensive war in world history” beginning in 1206, swept mercilessly and unstoppably over the Altai Mountains to their west and the Gobi Desert to their south – brought civilization, fairness, meritocracy and avuncular kindliness to legions of undeserving satrapies across Eurasia. Those who believed Genghis to be a tyrant of monstrous heartlessness have thus lately come to think otherwise: Weatherford’s writings present us revisionist history on a grand scale, but one as scrupulously well researched (with ample endnotes) as such an intellectual overhaul needs to be.
Now, with “Genghis Khan and the Quest for God” he has taken his thesis still further, arguing with equal fervor and conviction that the Khan, though godless himself, favored total religious freedom for his subjugated millions. While his empire encompassed “Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Confucians, Zoroastrians, Manichaeans, Hindus, Jews, Christians and animists of different types” (Weatherford’s passions for lists can sometimes seem like stylistic overkill), he was eager that all should “live together in a cohesive society under one government.” No walls to be built, no immigration bans, no spiritual examinations.
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‘Lost’ Austrian film predicting rise of Nazism restored and relaunched
via the Guardian by Philip Oltermann
City Without Jews premiered in Vienna in 1924. Now the original version, lost for 90 years, has been saved from decay
A still from the film City without Jews
A still from the film City without Jews, which was based on a dystopian novel by the Jewish publicist Hugo Bettauer. Photograph: Filmarchiv Austria
It is the end of the first world war, inflation is soaring and the inhabitants of a German-speaking city are starting to turn on each other. Politicians are quick to find a scapegoat: “The people,” the chancellor announces, “demand the expulsion of all Jews.”
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The Side of Dr. Seuss You Don’t Know
via Big Think by Derek Beres
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Theodor Geisel was a political thinker. The lifelong cartoonist drew hundreds of confrontational and thoughtful panels highlighting not only his disdain for Hitler and war, but for American inactivity and politicking during World War II as well. Most people don’t know this side of the man, for it was his middle name used in his most famous works.
Seuss.
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Literal music video interpretation of Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody”
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
Advert is an integral part of the video at the end!
Of course, after this I had to go and listen to the real thing
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The Lightness of Errol Flynn
via 3 Quarks Daily: Brian Doyle at The American Scholar

I know this sounds crazy – believe me, I know – but I just saw 19 Errol Flynn movies in a row (from Captain Blood, the 1935 film that made him instantly famous, to 1953’s The Master of Ballantrae, his last decent film and good performance before he died in 1959, only 50 years old), and I just read all three of the books he wrote, and I have read an awful lot written and said about him by other people.
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But I'll have to hunt to find an Errol Flynn movie in my collection – something which needs to be remedied.

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Love Is a Drag: the story behind the groundbreaking secret 60s gay album
via the Guardian by Jim Farber
‘At a time when gay people were deep in the closet, here was an album for them’ ... the 1962 release Love Is A Drag.
It was Liberace’s favorite LP and gained a cult following, but the collection of love songs was released at a time when those behind it had to stay in the shadows
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Fusion Gets Closer as Scientists Discover Plasma’s Secret
via Big Think by Robby Berman
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99% of the universe is believed to be comprised of plasma, a hot ionized gas made up equally of positively charged ions and negatively charged electrons. It’s viewed as a fourth state of matter because it behaves differently than anything else: It’s electrically charged, responds to external magnetic fields, and contains its own magnetic fields. When the magnetic field lines in plasma come together, break apart, and re-join, they produce explosive bursts of energy in a process called “reconnection.” It results in solar flares, northern and southern lights, and cosmic gamma-ray bursts.
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Inequality and new forms of slavery
via OUP Blog by Ilaria Ramelli
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The issues of social justice, poverty, and all the forms of human trafficking, deployment, and oppression that can be grouped under the umbrella concept of “slavery” are problems that sorely affect the world today and urgently need concrete solutions. But they are not at all new problems; on the contrary, they were prominent and discussed already in antiquity and especially in late antiquity – a period in history that bears impressive similarities to our contemporary multi-cultural, multi-religious, and interconnected (“globalized”) world, with many conflicts to mediate and increasing inequality to correct. Investigating, and reflecting on, late antique history, society, philosophy, and religion can prove extremely valuable for humanity today, and for the improvement of human condition – what philosophy and religion should aim at.
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This shy octopus is too cute for scientists to handle
via Boing Boing by Caroline Siede
The scientists commenting on the E/V Nautilus live stream just can’t contain themselves when it comes to this adorable Flapjack Octopus.
[via The Dodo]
Click through for the video

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Roy Hudd: 'I saw Dick Whittington and spent a fortnight on all fours impersonating a cat'
via the Guardian: Interview by John Hind
Roy Hudd as Mother Goose at Wilton’s Music Hall. Food from Gatherers at Wilton’s.
Roy Hudd as Mother Goose at Wilton’s Music Hall. Food from Gatherers at Wilton’s.
Photograph: Pal Hansen for the Observer

I don’t remember eating with Mum or Dad. Dad wasn’t around in Croydon, then Mum died while I was evacuated out in Maidford. Afterwards Gran managed to bring us up on her £2 and 15 shillings pension and still found spare coins for seats at the Croydon Empire every Tuesday evening. I remember seeing Dick Whittington there and then impersonating a cat for the next fortnight – lapping my milk from a saucer, taking my meals under the kitchen table, on all fours. And Gran never batted an eyelid. People would say “Roy’s half daft” and she’d say “Well, I like him”.
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Monday, 24 April 2017

Let's start the week with non-work items -- items include skeletons, Samuel Pepys and chromosomes

Somerset skeletons are oldest evidence of monks found in UK
via the Guardian by Caroline Davies
Volunteers excavating the area that included the monastic graves in Somerset.
Skeletons excavated at a site near Glastonbury are the oldest examples of monks ever found in the UK, carbon dating has proved.
The remains, unearthed at the medieval Beckery chapel in Somerset, said to have been visited by legendary figures such as King Arthur and St Bridget, indicate a monastic cemetery dating back to the fifth or early sixth centuries AD, before Somerset was conquered by the Saxon kings of Wessex in the seventh century.
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Peter Sellers recites the Beatles (in funny voices)
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Robbo writes, “Peter Sellers recorded a series of performances, in a variety of voices, reciting the lyrics of popular Beatles songs. It is demented weirdness - and perfect in all its madness.”
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The Mortal Marx
via Arts & Letters Daily: Jeremy Adelman in Public Books
In the mid-1860s, as an anxious and ailing Karl Marx worked on the 30-page essay that would billow into Das Kapital, his daughter Eleanor – “Tussy” – would play under his desk. With her dolls, kittens, and puppies, Tussy turned the sage’s study into her playroom. Occasionally, Marx would take a break from his “fat book” (as the family friend and patron, Friedrich Engels, called the growing pile of pages) to work on a children’s story to recite to his daughter. It featured an antihero, Hans Röckle, who became Tussy’s favorite character, a dark-eyed, bearded magician devoted to creating marvels in his chaotic toy shop. Years later, Eleanor would recognize Röckle’s struggles as her father’s own and see the child’s tale as a send-up of his unorthodox life. Röckle’s magic was also a parable about making value out of things and accumulating capital out of debt, the fictive version of what Marx was determined to demystify in Das Kapital.
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Adding 50 new tours for schools with Google Expeditions
via ResearchBuzz Firehose: Ben Schrom (Expeditions Product Manager, Google)
Since launching the Google Expeditions Pioneer Programme in September [2016], we’ve visited over 200,000 students across the UK. They’ve gone on hundreds of virtual journeys, from the peak of Mont Blanc to standing on the battlements of Edinburgh Castle. And today, we’re adding 50 new adventures to their classrooms with our virtual reality field trips taking the total number of expeditions now available to over 400.
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The man who brought 'Civilisation' to a mass market
via 3 Quarks Daily: Michael Dirda at The Washington Post

In 1969 the BBC aired a 13-part documentary entitled “Civilisation: A Personal View”. Hosted by an upper-class Englishman with crooked teeth and a penchant for tweed, it traced the history of European art, music and literature from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, ending on a note of slightly qualified despair. The humanist values celebrated in the series were being lost or forgotten. More and more, we worshipped the machine and the computer, and instead of living with joy, confidence and energy, we dwelt gloomily in the valley of the shadow of global destruction. Still, there had been Dark Ages in the past, and humankind just might squeak through, by – as the very first episode declared – “the skin of our teeth”.
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How cities took over the world: a history of globalisation spanning 4,000 years
via the Guardian by Greg Clark
By 1840 London had surpassed Beijing’s all-time population record, reaching two million.
History shows that cities have tended to embrace international opportunities in waves and cycles. They rarely break out into global activity by themselves. Cities participate in collective movements or networks to take advantage of new conditions, and often their demise or withdrawal from a global orientation is also experienced jointly with other cities as circumstances change, affecting many at once.
The world’s first great market-driven cities were established more than 4,000 years ago in the early bronze age, and their rich history is only now beginning to be understood. An urban revolution was taking place, with most residents of what is today southern Iraq living in cities, and this process of urbanisation was accompanied by trade on a new scale.
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How About a New Theory of Evolution with Less Natural Selection?
via Big Think by Robbery Berman
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In early November, a group of preeminent biologists, doctors, anthropologists, and computer scientists met in London to consider making a major change to the concept of evolutionary biology introduced by Charles Darwin in Origin of the Species in 1859. It’s not that they’re interested in throwing out the idea of natural selection. It’s just that they think recent research suggests it doesn’t account for evolution all by itself. This isn’t the first time such a revision has happened, actually. And it’s not clear that it will this time: Conference co-host Kevin Laland told Quanta magazine mid-conference, “I think it’s going quite well,” Laland said. “It hasn’t gone to fisticuffs yet.”
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The life and times of Samuel Pepys
via OUP Blog by Amelia Carruthers
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Samuel Pepys penned his famous diaries between January 1660 and the end of May 1669. During the course of this nine year period, England witnessed some of the most important events in its political and social history. The diaries are over a million words long and recount in minute and often incredibly personal detail events such as the restoration of the monarchy, the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Great Fire, and Great Plague of London. By detailing his daily life with such frankness (Pepys never anticipated his diaries to be so publicly scrutinized) he provided an unprecedented window into the everyday experiences of seventeenth century Londoners as well as major political events.
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Almost Half of What’s In a Chromosome Is Still a Mystery
via Big Think by Robby Berman
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While it’s true that every chromosome contains some of 25,000 genes, it now turns out to be the case that this is only a little more than half the story. Computer modeling has revealed that up to 47% of each chromosome is an enigmatic sheath-like substance called the “chromosome periphery,” something about which little is known. That’s because it’s almost impossible to get a good look at actual chromosomes.
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The best place to sit in a “suicide circle” if you really don’t want to die
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Math problems are more interesting when they are posed as horror stories.
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Friday, 21 April 2017

What can be done to help low-achieving teenagers?

This article (CentrePiece Spring 2017) summarises ‘Adjusting Your Dreams? High School Plans and Dropout Behaviour’ by Dominique Goux, Marc Gurgand and Eric Maurin, which is forthcoming in the Economic Journal

Dominique Goux is at CREST, Paris. Marc Gurgand and Eric Maurin are at the Paris School of Economics. Maurin is also an international research associate in CEP’s education and skills programme and an expert adviser to the Centre for Vocational Education Research (CVER) at LSE. He presented these findings as a keynote address at CVER’s annual conference in September 2016.

Abstract

Young people who drop out of school are far more likely to experience unemployment and poverty than their peers. Experimental research by Eric Maurin and colleagues in deprived neighbourhoods of Paris shows the effectiveness of low-cost interventions that clarify educational options for low-achievers and dramatically reduce the number of dropouts.

Full text (PDF)


Labour Market Policy under Conditions of Permanent Austerity: Any Sign of Social Investment?

an article by Mattias Bengtsson and Kerstin Jacobsson (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and Caroline de la Porte (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark) published in Social Policy & Administration Volume 51 Issue 2 (March 2017)

Abstract

Social investment (SI) is part of a strategy to modernise the European welfare states by focusing on human resource development throughout the life-course, while ensuring financial sustainability. Recognising that this strategy was only partially implemented by the EU member states prior to the financial and Eurozone crises, this article investigates whether reforms and expenditure patterns in labour market policy (LMP) have moved more towards or away from SI following the 2008 financial crisis.

We use quantitative and qualitative data to investigate the degree to which there have been shifts in the SI aspects of LMPs in eight countries across four welfare state regimes. We also investigate which aspects of LMPs have been strengthened and which have been weakened, enabling us to make a nuanced assessment of labour market SIs across the EU in a period of permanent austerity.

We find that although the eight countries under examination have different starting points, there is little evidence of increased SI-orientation of LMPs. Upskilling, which is at the heart of SI, did not increase from 2004–08 to 2009–13, while incentive reinforcement and employment assistance – more about labour market entry and marketing of skills – grew in importance.

If this trend continues across Europe, there is a risk that SI will become lost in translation and end up as a clearer neo-liberal version of workfarism.

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Welfare States and Labour Market Change: What is the Possible Relation?

an article by Bent Greve (Roskilde University, Denmark) published in Social Policy & Administration Volume 51 Issue 2 (March 2017)

Abstract

Welfare states in many countries have, at least since the financial crisis, been under strong pressure from high levels of unemployment. We are expecting dramatic changes to labour markets.

This article first presents the various arguments as to why there have or have not been substantial changes to labour markets, and whether there might be in the future, including arguments pro and con the possible impact thereof. The article thus provides a review of knowledge within the field, with a focus especially on how this can or might have an impact on welfare states, given the often strong connection between being on the labour market, access to a variety of welfare benefits and the ability to finance welfare states.

It uses concepts such as under-employment and new forms of jobs as indicators of change. These changes implying, more than ever, that having a job does not necessarily entail that a person has a stable and solid income above the poverty level.

Lastly, the article discusses whether some welfare states régime types are more prepared than others.

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Thursday, 20 April 2017

10 interesting items for you to share

Spectacular bronze age gold torc unearthed in Cambridgeshire field
via the Guardian by Maev Kennedy
The bronze age torc
The torc is much larger than usual examples and is regarded as the best found in England in more than a century. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
A gigantic gold torc, so big one expert thinks it may have been worn to protect a pregnant woman, has been found by a metal detectorist in a ploughed field in Cambridgeshire. It was made from 730 grams of almost pure gold more than 3,000 years ago, and is regarded as the best found in England in more than a century.
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“We Have Conquered Pain!” The Uses & Abuses of Ether in History
via The Chirugeon’s Apprentice by Dr Lindsey Fitzharris
Image removed!
The surgical revolution began with an American dentist and a curiously sweet-smelling liquid known as ether.
Officially, ether had been discovered in 1275, but its stupefying effects weren’t synthesized until 1540, when the German botanist and chemist Valerius Cordus created a revolutionary formula that involved adding sulfuric acid to ethyl alcohol. His contemporary Paracelsus experimented with ether on chickens, noting that when the birds drank the liquid, they would undergo prolonged sleep and awake unharmed. He concluded that the substance “quiets all suffering without any harm and relieves all pain, and quenches all fevers, and prevents complications in all disease.” Yet inexplicably, it would be several hundred years before it was tested on humans.
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This viral photo changed America – in 1863
via Arts & Letters Daily: Christopher Klein in the Boston Globe
On the fourth of July in 1863 – an Independence Day that dawned with twisted, bloated bodies carpeting the fields and orchards of Gettysburg — tens of thousands of Americans who thought themselves numb to violence learned they were wrong. Leafing through the new issue of Harper’s Weekly, they encountered the graphic sight of a shirtless black slave in profile revealing a barbaric web of welts across the canvas of his bare back, testament to a ferocious whipping.
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I've not put the photograph in here – it is horrific and I do not want anyone coming across it unprepared as I did.

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'Housman Country: Into the Heart of England' by Peter Parker
via 3 Quarks Daily: Paul Keegan at the London Review of Books
Parker is interested in the daisies and dandelions, the untidy and contingent evidences of Housman’s continuing presence in an England whose further reaches include Morse or Morrissey. In the West Country you can drink Shropshire Lad ale or you could (until recently) be drawn by a locomotive of that name. But Housman had foresuffered all, with his lads who down their troubles in ‘pints and quarts of Ludlow beer’; or in a letter to his brother Laurence in 1920: ‘I have just flown to Paris and back, and I am never going by any other route, until they build the Channel Tunnel.’ Housman was already in full possession of the Housman effect.
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Capitol Records at 75: Frank Sinatra, the Beatles and MC Hammer
via the Guardian by Guardian Music
Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra at Capitol Tower studio B , Los Angeles, in October 1958, during the sessions for Martin’s Sleep Warm LP
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Capitol Records in 2017, publisher Taschen delved into the company’s photographic archive for a new book that documents the label’s decades of success. From the studio to the streets of Hollywood, here’s a glimpse of Capitol’s 20th- and 21st-century evolution.
Stunning images here to save yourself £99.99 you may find the Taschen book in your local library.

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Remarkable New Theory Says There’s No Gravity, No Dark Matter, and Einstein Was Wrong
via Big Think by Paul Ratner
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Gravity is something all of us are familiar with from our first childhood experiences. You drop something - it falls. And the way physicists have described gravity has also been pretty consistent - it’s considered one of the four main forces or “interactions” of nature and how it works has been described by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity all the way back in 1915.
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Watch a master glassblower make an intricate dragon
via Boing Boing by Andrea James
mongrain-dragon-01
In under an hour, glass artist James Mongrain transforms blobs of molten glass into a stunning green dragon. The choreographed teamwork, the variety of tools, and the interesting narration make this a real treat.
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Yes, the video is just under an hour long and no, I have not watched it right through but I have picked out bits.

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Top 20 Weirdest Inventions Ever
via Big Think by Paul Ratner
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For all the iPhones, virtual reality headsets, deep space rocket engines and self-driving cars that are a part of our modern world, many a crazy contraption was invented along the way. It’s entirely possible the ideas presented below are not the weirdest inventions ever simply because the truly weird ones probably never got close to the light of day or their creators were somehow destroyed in the process. Still, these are some of the strangest fruits of human ingenuity we know.
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Eye Candy for Today: Bosch’s vision of Hell
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Line and Colors decided today would be a good day to feature “Hell”, the right panel from the tryptich, The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch. It was painted between 1480 and 1505.
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This takes me back to my weekend in Madrid with my daughter (birthday present) when I sat on the floor in front of this painting for what seemed like ages.

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The irony of gunpowder
via OUP Blog by Alex Roland
Few inventions have shaped history as powerfully as gunpowder. It significantly altered the human narrative in at least nine significant ways. The most important and enduring of those changes is the triumph of civilization over the “barbarians”. That last term rings discordant in the modern ear, but I use it in the original Greek sense to mean “not Greek” or “not civilized”. Historian Kenneth Chase has represented such people as nomads from “the Arid Zone” – the Eurasian steppe and the North African desert. They were often what anthropologists call pre-state communities, usually governed by tribal or kin relationships. Their containment made possible what sociologist Norbert Elias called The Civilizing Process (1939) and what psychologist Steven Pinker has recently captured in his magisterial The Better Angels of Our Nature: How Violence Has Declined (2011).
The irony, however, is not that gunpowder reduced violence.
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Origins of happiness

an article by Andrew Clark, Sarah Flèche, Richard Layard, Nick Powdthavee and George Ward (Centre for Economic Performance, LSE, London, UK) published in CentrePiece Volume 22 Number 1 (Spring 2017)

Abstract

Understanding the key determinants of people’s life satisfaction makes it possible to suggest policies for how best to reduce misery and promote well-being. A forthcoming book by Richard Layard and colleagues discusses evidence on the origins of happiness in survey data from Australia, Germany, the UK and the United States.

CentrePiece article full text (PDF)

Further reading

Richard Easterlin (1974) ‘Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence’, in Nations and Households in Economic Growth: Essays in Honor of Moses Abramovitz edited by Paul David and Melvin Reder, Academic Press.

Sarah Flèche (2016) ‘Teacher Quality, Test Scores and Non-cognitive Skills: Evidence from Primary School Teachers in the UK’, CEP mimeo.

Richard Layard and David M Clark (2014) Thrive: The Power of Evidence-based Psychological Therapies, Penguin.

OECD (1962) ‘Policy Conference on Economic Growth and Investment in Education, Washington, 16th-20th October 1961: Targets for Education in Europe in 1970’, paper by Ingvar Svennilson in association with Friedrich Edding and Lionel Elvin.

Theodore Schultz (1961) ‘Investment in Human Capital’, American Economic Review 51(1): 1-17.

George Ward (2015) ‘Is Happiness a Predictor of Election Results?’, CEP Discussion Paper No. 1343.


Data mining approach to monitoring the requirements of the job market: A case study

an article by Ioannis Karakatsanis, Wala AlKhader, Armin Alibasic, Mohammad Atif Omar, Zeyar Aung and Wei Lee Woon (Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) and Frank MacCrory (MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, MA, United States) published in Information Systems Volume 65 (April 2017)

Highlights
  • A Text-Mining approach for matching raw job advertisement documents with occupation description data in the O*NET database is proposed.
  • A Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) model was utilized along with a wide collection of preprocessed data from online sources.
  • Crowdsourcing was deployed to validate the proposed methodology.
  • Results reveal that the suggested method can be directly applied to different job markets, commercial sectors and geographical regions.
Abstract

In challenging economic times, the ability to monitor trends and shifts in the job market would be hugely valuable to job-seekers, employers, policy makers and investors. To analyze the job market, researchers are increasingly turning to data science and related techniques which are able to extract underlying patterns from large collections of data.

One database which is of particular relevance in the presence context is O*NET, which is one of the most comprehensive publicly accessible databases of occupational requirements for skills, abilities and knowledge.

However, by itself the information in O*NET is not enough to characterize the distribution of occupations required in a given market or region.

In this paper, we suggest a data mining based approach for identifying the most in-demand occupations in the modern job market.

To achieve this, a Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) model was developed that is capable of matching job advertisement extracted from the Web with occupation description data in the O*NET database.

The findings of this study demonstrate the general usefulness and applicability of the proposed method for highlighting job trends in different industries and geographical areas, identifying occupational clusters, studying the changes in jobs context over time and for various other research embodiments.

Hazel&rsquo's comment:
I do not wish to come across as a wet blanket but this or something similar has been tried before. Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the intelligent human when it comes to indexing.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

10 fun items for you (actually a couple are fairly serious)

Create a customizable animal robot
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Our pals at Two-Bit circus have designed this paper craft robotic owl, to give kids a "taste of basic mechanical principles, electronics and programming." It looks really cool.
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Take a 360° tour of Oxford's Bodleian Library – Hogwarts' library in the Harry Potter films
via Lone Wolf Librarian


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What the Trees Say
via 3 Quarks Daily: Thomas Pakenham in the New York Review of Books
Quiver Tree Forest, Namibia; photograph by Beth Moon from her book Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time (2014). A collection of her color photographs, Ancient Skies, Ancient Trees, has just been published by Abbeville.
Quiver Tree Forest, Namibia; photograph by Beth Moon from her book Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time (2014). A collection of her color photographs, Ancient Skies, Ancient Trees, has just been published by Abbeville.
In 1664 John Evelyn, diarist, country gentleman, and commissioner at the court of Charles II, produced his monumental book on trees: Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees. It was a seventeenth-century best seller. Evelyn was a true son of the Renaissance. His book is learned and witty and practical and passionate all by turns. No later book on trees has ever had such an impact on the British public. His message? A very modern one. We are in desperate need of trees for all kinds of reasons. Get out there with your spade and plant one today.
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Louisa May Alcott: a practical utopian from a divided US
via the Guardian by Rafia Zakaria
Louisa May Alcott.
Practical utopian ... Louisa May Alcott. Photograph: Hulton Deutsch/Corbis/Getty
The author of Little Women grew up among idealistic transcendentalists – and the book itself was a practical sacrifice to sustain those dreams.
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Why Physics Is a Friend of Religion More than Other Sciences
via Big Think by Derek Beres
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Attempts to unite religion and science are not new. A big part of the challenge is finding the right language to draw parallels with, and physicists have been especially willing to walk this line.
The first of such physicists, Fritjof Capra, was aided with psychedelics. When Capra published The Tao of Physics in 1975, publishers were skeptical of relating theoretical physics with Eastern mysticism. But the book became a best-seller, catapulting a framework for discussing spirituality and science into new light – even as critics doubted whether Capra understood quantum field theory.
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10 representations of Psalm 137 throughout history [slideshow]
via OUP Blog by David Stowe
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Psalm 137 is the only one out of the 150 biblical psalms set in a particular time and place. The vivid tableau sketched by the opening lines has lent itself to visual representations over the millennia.
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept,
when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the Lord‘s song in a strange land?

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How Boys’ and Girls’ Brains React Differently to Stress
via Big Think by Philip Perry
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There is an old saying in education that girls cry tears while boys cry bullets. In other words, females are allowed in our society to express their vulnerability and less pleasant emotions such as sadness. While boys must remain stoic and shoulder the burden quietly or else get angry, and express their pain not through outbursts of emotion, but instead through action. Might there be a biological phenomenon behind these culture-based roles? A study published online in the journal Depression and Anxiety suggests so. It found that boy’s brains react differently than girls in the aftermath of a highly stressful event.
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Eye Candy for Today: Bosch’s vision of Hell
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Line and Colors decided today would be a good day to feature “Hell”, the right panel from the tryptich, The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch. It was painted between 1480 and 1505.
Continue reading
This takes me back to my weekend in Madrid with my daughter (birthday present) when I sat on the floor in front of this painting for what seemed like ages.

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Primitive Technology: shrimp trap
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Primitive Technology is a YouTube video channel produced by an Australian guy who goes into the jungle with nothing but the clothes on his back, and makes things like shelters, tools, and weapons. There are no words or text in the video, only the sounds of nature for a soundtrack. In this episode, he weaves a trap to catch shrimp, which he puts in an earthenware jug, and then cooks them over a fire he starts with friction.
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Elizabeth I’s monarchy: rule of a ‘weak and feeble’ woman?
via The National Archives blog by Clare Horrie
A new online collection offers people interested in history unprecedented and extensive access to Queen Elizabeth I in her own words. It contains 40 unique documents from The National Archives’ collection, each transcribed and available to read in high definition.
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10 myths about the vikings
via OUP Blog by Eleanor Barraclough
The viking image has changed dramatically over the centuries. Romanticized in the 18th and 19th centuries, they are now alternatively portrayed as savage and violent heathens or adventurous explorers. Stereotypes and cliches run rampant in popular culture. Vikings and their influence appear in various forms, from Wagner’s Ring Cycle to the comic Hägar the Horrible, from History channel’s popular series Vikings to the Danish comic-book series Valhalla, and from J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Marvel’s Thor. But what is actually true? Eleanor Barraclough sheds light on and dispels ten common viking myths.
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In brief... Is technology to blame for jobless recoveries?

an article by Georg Graetz (Uppsala University and CEP, London, UK) and Guy Michaels (LSE, London, UK and CEP) published in CentrePiece Volume 22 Issue 1 (Spring 2017)

Abstract

Since the early 1990s, the United States has been plagued by weak employment growth when emerging from recessions – so-called ‘jobless recoveries’. Georg Graetz and Guy Michaels look at multiple recoveries elsewhere in the world over a 40-year period to see if the same applies – and whether modern technology is responsible.

JEL Classification: E32, J23, O33

CentrePiece article full text (PDF)

CEP Discussion Paper No. 1461 (January 2017) full text (PDF)


Work-based learning as a catalyst for sustainability: a review and prospects

an article by Tony Wall, Ann Hindley, Tamara Hunt, Jeremy Peach, Martin Preston, Courtney Hartle and Amy Fairbank (University of Chester, UK) published in Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning Volume 7 Issue 2 (2017)

Abstract

Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to highlight the continuing dearth of scholarship about the role of work-based learning in education for sustainable development, and particularly the urgent demands of climate literacy. It is proposed that forms of work-based learning can act as catalysts for wider cultural change, towards embedding climate literacy in higher education institutions.

Design/methodology/approach
This paper draws data from action research to present a case study of a Climate Change Project conducted through a work-based learning module at a mid-sized university in the UK.

Findings
Contrary to the predominantly fragmented and disciplinary bounded approaches to sustainability and climate literacy, the case study demonstrates how a form of work-based learning can create a unifying vision for action, and do so across multiple disciplinary, professional service, and identity boundaries. In addition, the project-generated indicators of cultural change including extensive faculty-level climate change resources, creative ideas for an innovative mobile application, and new infrastructural arrangements to further develop practice and research in climate change.

Practical implications
This paper provides an illustrative example of how a pan-faculty work-based learning module can act as a catalyst for change at a higher education institution.

Originality/value
This paper is a contemporary call for action to stimulate and expedite climate literacy in higher education, and is the first to propose that certain forms of work-based learning curricula can be a route to combating highly bounded and fragmented approaches, towards a unified and boundary-crossing approach.


Being old in an always-on culture: Older people’s perceptions and experiences of online communication

an article by Marika Lüders (University of Oslo, Norway) and Edith Roth Gjevjon (Diakonova University College, Oslo, Norway and University of Oslo, Norway) published in The Information Society: An International Journal Volume 33 Issue 2 (2017)

Abstract

Research on the digital divide has moved beyond connectivity to skills and usage disparities. Yet for many older people lack of connectivity remains a challenge, and for those who do have access, skills and usage remain an issue.

We report findings of an in-depth qualitative study of older people's perceptions of online communications and also their actual experiences.

Findings indicate that older people who are already socially well connected benefit from online communication more than those who are not.


Social Trust, Impartial Administration and Public Confidence in EU Crisis Management Institutions

an article by Thomas Persson, Charles F. Parker and Sten Widalm (Department of Government, Uppsala University, Sweden) published in Public Administration Volume 95 Issue 1 (March 2017)

Abstract

In this article, we investigate whether differences in social trust and impartial public administration have an impact on public confidence in EU crisis management institutions. Our assessment is based on a cross-country comparison using aggregate country-level data of the member states in the European Union.

Earlier studies on the EU as a crisis manager have not carefully studied to what extent differences in social trust and administrative culture may or may not matter.

Our analysis shows that in countries where citizens are treated impartially by their own national public administration institutions, people are less likely to support EU-coordinated civil protection efforts.

In contrast, in places where citizens perceive their government's treatment of them as partial and unfair, citizens will tend to support EU-coordinated civil protection.


Sanctions and the exit from unemployment in two different benefit schemes

an article by Henna Busk (Pellervo Economic Research PTT, Helsinki, Finland; University of Jyväskylä, Finland) published in Labour Economics Volume 42 (October 2016)

Highlights
  • We examine the effect of benefit sanctions on the exit rate from unemployment using the timing-of-events approach.
  • The effect of sanctions differs according to the benefits received.
  • Sanctions increase the exit rate from unemployment to work among flat-rate labour market support receivers.
  • Sanctions increase the exit rate from unemployment to outside the labour force among earnings-related benefit receivers.
Abstract

This paper investigates the effect of benefit sanctions on the exit rate from unemployment using a unique set of rich register data on unemployed Finnish individuals. The timing-of-events approach is applied to distinguish between the selection and causal effects of sanctioning.

The results imply that the effect of sanctions differs according to the benefits received. Sanctions encourage unemployed individuals receiving flat-rate labour market support (LMS) to find jobs, whereas unemployed individuals receiving earnings-related (UI) allowances to leave the labour force.

The encouraging effect of sanctions on active labour market policy programmes is relatively small and statistically significant only among LMS recipients.

JEL classification: C41, J64, J65


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Larrikin youth: can education cut crime?

CEP discussion paper (CEPDP1456) by Tony Beatton and Dipa Sarkar (Queensland University of Technology), Michael Kidd (RMIT University) and Stephen Machin (director of CEP) published in CentrePiece Volume 22 Number 1 (Spring 2017)

Abstract

This paper reports new evidence on the causal link between education and male youth crime using individual level state-wide administrative data for Queensland, Australia. Enactment of the Earning or Learning education reform of 2006, with a mandatory increase in minimum school leaving age, is used to identify a causal impact of schooling on male youth crime.

The richness of the matched (across agency) individual level panel data enables the analysis to shed significant light on the extent to which the causal impact reflects incapacitation, or whether more schooling acts to reduce crime after youths have left compulsory schooling.

The empirical analysis uncovers a significant incapacitation effect, as remaining in school for longer reduces crime whilst in school, but also a sizeable crime reducing impact of education for young men in their late teens and early twenties. We also carry out analysis by major crime type and differentiate between single and multiple offending behaviour.

Crime reduction effects are concentrated in property crime and single crime incidence, rather than altering the behaviour of the recalcitrant persistent offender.

JEL Classification: I2, K42

The article in CentrePiece summarises ‘Larrikin Youth: New Evidence on Crime and Schooling’ by Tony Beatton, Michael Kidd, Stephen Machin and Dipa Sarkar, CEP Discussion Paper No. 1456


Examining and challenging the intentions of work-integrated learning

an article by Jenny Fleming and Neil J. Haigh (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand) published in Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning Volume 7 Issue 2 (2017)

Abstract

Purpose
While the intended outcomes of work-integrated learning (WIL) are well documented, significant challenges arise when the stakeholders have different understandings and expectations. The purpose of this paper is to examine the alignment of stakeholder views on the defining features of cooperative education as a model of WIL.

Design/methodology/approach
An interpretive case-study methodology, incorporating questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, was used to determine the views of students, workplace supervisors and university academic supervisors involved in a sport cooperative education program.

Findings
Students, workplace supervisors and academic supervisors shared a perception that the students’ development of employability skills and their acquisition of experience in industry were the primary intended outcomes. As an associated benefit, students would be work-ready. Ideally, cooperative education experiences should also provide opportunities for students to learn to integrate theory and practice, further develop their personal and professional identities, and learn to navigate the important ethical aspects of being a professional.

Practical implications
While the employability emphasis in the findings aligns well with government agendas, graduates need to be prepared for complex and dynamic workplaces, and to be future ready for careers that are yet to exist. WIL curricula need to explicitly address this expanded agenda, which in turn needs to be communicated clearly to all stakeholders.

Originality/value
This paper challenges stakeholders in WIL to move beyond a focus on preparing students for the “now” and to reconsider the learning outcomes that should be imperative for university education in the twenty-first century.


Computer-Aided Identification and Validation of Intervenability Requirements

an article by Rene Meis and Maritta Heisel (The Ruhr Institute for Software Technology, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany) published in Information Volume 8 Article 30

Abstract

Privacy as a software quality is becoming more important these days and should not be underestimated during the development of software that processes personal data.

The privacy goal of intervenability, in contrast to unlinkability (including anonymity and pseudonymity), has so far received little attention in research. Intervenability aims for the empowerment of end-users by keeping their personal data and how it is processed by the software system under their control. Several surveys have pointed out that the lack of intervenability options is a central privacy concern of end-users.

In this paper, we systematically assess the privacy goal of intervenability and set up a software requirements taxonomy that relates the identified intervenability requirements with a taxonomy of transparency requirements.

Furthermore, we provide a tool-supported method to identify intervenability requirements from the functional requirements of a software system. This tool-supported method provides the means to elicit and validate intervenability requirements in a computer-aided way.

Our combined taxonomy of intervenability and transparency requirements gives a detailed view on the privacy goal of intervenability and its relation to transparency.

We validated the completeness of our taxonomy by comparing it to the relevant literature that we derived based on a systematic literature review. The proposed method for the identification of intervenability requirements shall support requirements engineers to elicit and document intervenability requirements in compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation.

Full text (HTML)

Hazel’s comment:
I am simply too far away in terms of years from writing software or developing a taxonomy to understand all of this but it seems to make sense.



The Role of Domestic Employment Policies in Shaping Precarious Work

an article by Merita Jokela (Department of Social Research, University of Turku, Finland) published in Social Policy & Administration Volume 51 Issue 2 (March 2017)

Abstract

This article compares policy approaches regarding domestic employment in affluent countries and examines their impact on precarious work. Drawing on secondary literature and policy documents, this study identifies five policy approaches commonly applied in affluent countries to regulate and develop domestic employment:
  1. affordable services;
  2. simplifying use;
  3. regulating employment;
  4. regulating labour migration; and
  5. no policy. 
The comparative analysis of different policy types shows that policy design is crucial in regulating employment conditions and the level of precariousness in paid domestic labour.

Based on a literature review, three dimensions of precarious work are studied:
  1. the nature of employment (formal/informal);
  2. the employment relationship; and
  3. the form of employment (temporary or permanent, part time or full time).
I argue that the current policy measures in place may increase precariousness either directly by promoting, for example, informal and irregular work, or indirectly through households (offering incentives for households that weaken workers’ positions).

The analysis also identifies positive measures that contribute to creating more secure employment conditions in domestic work through formalizing the sector. While there are differences in the outcomes of the different policy types, the findings suggest that across welfare states, domestic employment policies are still mostly demand driven and sustain the traditional, special nature of domestic work – often at the workers’ expense.

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10 more of my interesting items (should have been published 14 April)

Learn the Geeky Details of Any Apple Product, Old and New
via How-To Geek by Matt Klein
img_5817971be1e5a
If you’re a fan of Apple products, but your hardware is limited to what you can afford, then you can still have fun taking a trip through Apple’s product history with Mactracker.
Apple Mac hardware is generally a straightforward experience. You may not even know exactly what processor or graphics card is in your system, but you can easily discover this information yourself by using the System Report.
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Ken Russell’s post-war London – in pictures
via the Guardian
Promenade in Portobello,1954. From a series: “Portobello – scenes of everyday life”
Promenade in Portobello, 1954
Before his uproarious film career, Ken Russell started out with a Rolleicord camera, documenting teddy girls and bomb-scarred streets.
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1954 is the year I started at "senior school" and I still had a hairstyle very reminiscent of these younger girls. Parting on the left and a single hair ribbon (which I was continually losing) on the right.

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A beautiful ghost rainbow
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

Landscape photographer Melvin Nicholson captured this stunning shot of a ghost rainbow, aka white rainbow or fog bow, in Rannoch Moor north of Glasgow, Scotland.
Like rainbows, fogbows are caused by sunglight reflecting off water drops. However, as NASA explains:
The fog itself is not confined to an arch -- the fog is mostly transparent but relatively uniform.The fogbow shape is created by those drops with the best angle to divert sunlight to the observer. The fogbow's relative lack of colors are caused by the relatively smaller water drops. The drops active above are so small that the quantum mechanical wavelength of light becomes important and smears out colors that would be created by larger rainbow water drops acting like small prisms reflecting sunlight.

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Archeaologists Have a Huge New Stonehenge to Figure Out
via Big Think by Robby Berman
Article Image
Archeaologists have a new mystery to solve in Kazakhstan, a complex of stone structures reminiscent of Stonehenge but much bigger. The site is the size of 200 American football fields, about 300 acres. It was discovered in 2010 by a man identified as F. Akhmadulin, who was exploring the sagebrush desert area in Altÿnkazgan on the Mangÿshlak Peninsula along the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea with a metal detector.
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Guy restores a century-old letterpress to perfect condition
via Boing Boing by Andrea James
diresta-print-01
Jimmy DiResta kept passing by a 1911 Chandler & Price letterpress sitting out in the rain. After buying it from the neglectful owner, he spent several years lovingly restoring it, eventually learning how to print with it.
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Vermeer and violins: science and art – strange bedfellows or partners in crime?
via OUP Blog by Quincy Whitney
EPSON scanner image
When Einstein claimed his theory of relativity came from a musical insight, no one blinked twice. Of course music could inspire scientific insight. But the reverse idea is often fraught with baggage. Artistic circles often feel that science is more threat than ally.
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The beginnings of the Iraq Museum
via The National Archives Blog by Dr Juliette Desplat
Iraq has very much been in the news lately. Overwhelmed with the war stories, you may have missed the very uplifting news of the opening of a museum in Basra, in one of Saddam Hussein’s old palaces. The museum gathers artefacts relating to the history of the city since the Hellenistic period, and is a fantastic place. This took me back to the 1920s and the opening of another museum…
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Retro TV has old-school channel-changing knob
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Doshisha’s new Vintage Taste 20-inch LCD Television has HDMI, AV, USB, LAN inputs, and digital audio outputs, coated in a plastic craptastic retro veneer. It's main selling point is a clickable knob to change channels.
More information

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When Not to Translate
via Arts & Letters Daily: Tim Parks in The New York Review of Books
Illustration from a French edition of <em>The Decameron</em>, fifteenth century
We live in a time of retranslation. New versions of the classics appear fairly regularly, and of course, as soon as the seventy years of copyright following an author’s death runs out, there is a spate of new translations. So Proust and Thomas Mann have recently been retranslated into English, while writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, and D. H. Lawrence are all reappearing in new versions in Europe.
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I found this article fascinating.

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History of Mechanical Keyboards
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza

Andrew Lekashman offers a brief pictorial a history of mechanical keyboards, from adding machines to dumb terminals to Symbolics monstrosities to modern blank-key hacker totems. There was a lot of ingenious tech left by the wayside on the way to finding the perfect click.
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How would the ancient Stoics have dealt with hate speech?
via OUP Blog by William Irvine
Insults have lately been making headline news. Last year [2015], the world witnessed an attack on the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Eleven people were killed, and another eleven were injured. The attackers felt that some of the cartoons the newspaper had published had insulted the prophet Mohammed, and they were willing to sacrifice their own lives to right that wrong.
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Examining privacy settings on online social networks: a protection motivation perspective

an article by Tziporah Stern and Nanda Kumar (City University of New York, USA) published in International Journal of Electronic Business Volume 13 Number 2/3 )(2017)

Abstract

The easy accessibility of information on online social networks (OSN) such as Facebook, has boosted the significance of ‘privacy settings’ as a front-line of defence against information misuse.

In this study a model is built based on the intersection of protection motivation theory (PMT), social exchange theory (SET), and privacy risk research to examine behaviour through both the use of privacy settings (adaptive/desirable behaviour) and the non-use of privacy settings (measuring maladaptive coping response). To validate the model a survey is conducted.

Strong support was found for the mediating role played by PMT variables-cost, benefits, risk, and efficacy – on both maladaptive coping and adaptive behaviour. This research successfully applies PMT in the information privacy context and operationalises adaptive behaviour in a unique, but thus far unexplored, manner. It also identifies important risk antecedents to the PMT model which help further explain privacy on OSN.


Sunday, 16 April 2017

Immune systems through to people who read fiction. More trivia for you to relax with

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A Single Neanderthal Gene Differentiates African from European Immune Systems
by Big Think by Philip Perry
Article Image
You would think that since we are actually all one race, the human race, we would have the same susceptibility to diseases. But in fact, there is tremendous variance among the immune systems of different peoples living in varying parts of the world. The likelihood of developing certain infections, autoimmune diseases, or inflammatory conditions varies greatly, depending on where in the world your ancestors hailed. The immune systems of those of African and European descent diverge for instance, due to the different health challenges each population faced, historically.
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A tragically beautiful retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears
via Boing Boing by Caroline Siede
Tumblr user Earthsong9405 posted this gorgeous storyboard with the following message:
For my Screen Design class, we had to take a fairytale and retell it in however we wanted in storyboard form. I chose the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Just as a heads-up, I’ve replaced the bears with Ursa Major/Ursa Minor, the constellation based on a bear.
I could always tell the story myself, but I figured I should let the art do the talking and only answer questions if you’re curious about it. The only hint I’ll give is to pay attention to the faces of the characters.
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Why this historic six-hour silent film about Napoleon is ideal for the boxset generation
via The New Statesman by Jame Cooray Smith
Abel Gance’s black-and-white epic from 1927 has been digitally restored, in the culmination of a 50-year project. And somehow it’s perfect for modern audiences.
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Watch 52,000 books reshelved in two minutes at New York public library – timelapse video
via the Guardian
A hypnotic timelapse video shows staff stocking the library’s grand Rose main reading room before its reopening after restoration work. The stunning reading room – roughly the length of two city blocks on its Fifth Avenue location – has been closed for more than two years after a partial ceiling collapse.
Video credit: Max Touhey Photography.
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Top 15 Most Powerful Women in History|
via Big Think by Paul Ratner
Article Image
A number of powerful women have shaped the course of history with their intelligence, strength, passion, and leadership qualities. They have challenged the status quo, made lasting reforms, and many have presided over their countries for decades, ushering in prosperity and cultural revolutions.
While this list is certainly subjective, it tries to take into account the actual power and the impact of each person.
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The blessing of Babel
via OUP Blog by Matthew Reynolds
wood-cube-473703_1920
I am in Palermo, sitting on the floor of the puppet museum with a circle of teenagers. Around us hang gaudy, dormant marionettes of characters from the Orlando Furioso: the valiant Orlando and his horse Brigliadoro, his rival Rinaldo, his beloved the beautiful Angelica. Their stories are amazing, the stuff of epic and romance; but in fact the teenagers around me, all boys, have been through adventures no less extraordinary, though harsh and real. They have travelled to Palermo from many parts of Africa including Guinea, Libya, Mali, and Sudan; they have crossed the Mediterranean via smugglers’ boats, shipwreck and rescue, and it is only a few months since Sicily became their sanctuary.
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Alan Bennett: “I hope I'm not being too old-gittish”
via New Statesman by Liz Thomson
Alan Bennett
Thanks to the Guardian for the image, the NS one would not copy.
At 82, Alan Bennett has lost none of his wit or compassion – nor his anger at the “nastification” of Britain.
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Measuring up
via OUP Blog by David J. Hand
scale-1209837_1260-485
Scale kitchen measure by Unsplash. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.
My first degree was in mathematics, where I specialised in mathematical physics. That meant studying notions of mass, weight, length, time, and so on. After that, I took a master’s and a PhD in statistics. Those eventually led to me spending 11 years working at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, where the central disciplines were medicine and psychology. Like physics, both medicine and psychology are based on measurements. In medicine we might measure enzyme levels, blood pressure, heart rate, urinary flow rate, tumour size, and an unlimited number of other characteristics in patients. In psychology we might measure reaction time, pain thresholds, well being, depression, political orientation, food preferences, intelligence, and so on. What is clear about these lists is that while some of them have the same sort of physical directness as measurements in physics, others are very different. We can measure body temperature using a thermometer, but there is no physical instrument which will allow us to measure intelligence or depression. And yet we use the same word, “measurement”, in all cases. This apparent discrepancy intrigued me.
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How to raise a genius: lessons from a 45-year study of super-smart children
A long-running investigation of exceptional children reveals what it takes to produce the scientists who will lead the twenty-first century.
via Arts & Letters Daily: Tom Clynes in Nature
On a summer day in 1968, professor Julian Stanley met a brilliant but bored 12-year-old named Joseph Bates. The Baltimore student was so far ahead of his classmates in mathematics that his parents had arranged for him to take a computer-science course at Johns Hopkins University, where Stanley taught. Even that wasn't enough. Having leapfrogged ahead of the adults in the class, the child kept himself busy by teaching the FORTRAN programming language to graduate students.
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Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Still Read Fiction
via Stephen’s Lighthouse: Gabe Bergado at Arts.Mic
They tend to be more empathetic toward others.
It's not news that reading has countless benefits: Poetry stimulates parts of the brain linked to memory and sparks self-reflection; kids who read the Harry Potter books tend to be better people. But what about people who only read newspapers? Or people who scan Twitter all day? Are those readers' brains different from literary junkies who peruse the pages of 19th century fictional classics?
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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Another 10 great items that don't fit into any category except "other stuff"

Fun book about toys of the '50s, '60s and '70s
via Boing Boing by Bob Netzger

There are lots of books about baby boomer toys, but this fun collection is presented from the viewpoint of the kids who played with the toys and includes lots of personal memories and photographs. Sure, there are many interesting facts and histories about well-known toys and their creators. Classic toys and games that are still made today like Tonka trucks, Easy-Bake Oven, G.I. Joe, Matchbox and Hot Wheels, Twister and Mousetrap are featured in loving color photographs and vintage ads. Their stories are well-known, too. For example, writer and artist Johnny Gruelle patented his rag doll design in 1915, the same year his daughter Marcella died after a controversial smallpox vaccination. The Rageddy Ann and Andy dolls and books helped Gruelle keep his memories of his daughter alive.
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What is Color? & Who Cares?
via 3 Quarks Daily
Nine minute video. Great fun.

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Can’t get you out of my head – what makes a song an earworm
via the Guardian by Nicola Davis
You may have perfected your Poker Face but you’re unlikely to be able to resist Lady Gaga’s catchy tunes.
Researchers have discovered why some songs get stuck in your head – and reveal that Lady Gaga and Kylie are top of the pops at creating infectious tunes.
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Accessible and inaccessible disciplines: why philosophy and science are similar but are treated differently
via OUP Blog by Paul Humphreys
humphreys-featured
Amongst my books is a late nineteenth century edition of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Purchased from a used bookshop many years ago, it contains the previous owner’s signature on the flyleaf together with a commentary: “Started Boston 1883. Began again in Salt Lake City February 1891. Began again 698 East Capitol St. Oct. 1911. Finished Nov. 1911.” I feel a bond with that reader, almost certainly not a professional philosopher, who persevered with difficult material, convinced that what was within was worth understanding. The commentary illustrates a striking difference between types of academic discipline. In some, the material, at least superficially, is accessible. In others, the door is firmly closed. Many of the creative arts fall into the first kind. Allen Ginsburg’s Howl can be appreciated by a teenager for its dark dynamics, despite the multitude of scholarly texts that deepen our understanding of that poem. In many sciences, the primary sources – journal articles – are impenetrable to nonexperts.
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Industrial shredder eats a car
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
This is what happens to cars that misbehave.
See for yourself

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Free Will or Free Won’t? Neuroscience on the Choices We Can (and Can’t) Make
via Big Think by Scotty Hendricks
Article Image
Do you have free will? This question has been on the minds of philosophers for millennia. More recently, neuroscientists have attempted experiments to identify the relationship of free will to neuroscience. There is an increasingly large and fascinating body of work on this subject, as well as a slew of interpretations as to what the results mean.
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Rock tumblers are annoying, loud gifts
via Boing Boing by Jason Weisburger

Perfect for the kid of someone you don't like very much is a Rock Tumbler.
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Nebuchadnezzar to Saddam Hussein: The history of the myth of Babylon
via OUP Blog by Trevor Bryce
pieter_bruegel_the_elder_-_the_tower_of_babel-1260
Featured image credit: The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
‘Babylon’ is a name which throughout the centuries has evoked an image of power, wealth, and splendour – and decadence. Indeed, in the biblical Book of Revelation, Rome is damned as the ‘Whore of Babylon’ – and thus identified with a city whose image of lust and debauchery persisted and flourished long after the city itself had crumbled into dust. Powerful visual images in later ages, like Bruegel’s Tower of Babel and Rembrandt’s Belshazzar’s Feast perpetuate the negative image Babylon acquired in biblical tradition. The latter found musical expression in William Walton’s composition Belshazzar’s Feast, and the reign of Babylon’s most famous – and infamous – king Nebuchadnezzar in Verdi’s opera Nabucco, best known for its ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves.’ In recent years, the representation of Nebuchadnezzar as a ruthless, despotic tyrant was given a fresh airing in the political propaganda of Saddam Hussein who claimed to be the ancient king reincarnated – and sometimes had himself depicted on posters riding a chariot and decked out in Nebuchadnezzar’s military gear.
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From cobwebs to silk: a world of human uses for spider thread
A new book on uses of spider silk shows its role in nature, science, technology, art and the human imagination
via the Guardian by Rebekah Higgitt
Spider silk on a loom, made by the artist and author, Eleanor Morgan.
 Spider silk on a loom made by the artist and author, Eleanor Morgan. Photograph: Eleanor Morgan
It is in September and October that we in Britain are most likely to spot spiders and their webs in our gardens and hedgerows. These are the gossamer days, when the silken threads strung over bushes and across gates and gaps catch the autumn sunshine. They seem ephemeral, but a new book on spider silk shows how it provides a whole arsenal, toolkit and material world for both spiders and humans.
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The enigma machine takes a quantum leap
via 3 Quarks Daily: From Phys.org
The enigma machine takes a quantum leap
The quantum enigma machine developed by researchers at the University of Rochester, MIT, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Credit: Image by Daniel Lum/University of Rochester.
Researchers at the University of Rochester have moved beyond the theoretical in demonstrating that an unbreakable encrypted message can be sent with a key that's far shorter than the message – the first time that has ever been done.
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