Saturday, 18 November 2017

10 for today starts with a special train and gets through space and literature to reach Richard Rorty

Mail Rail delivers an underground history lesson at London’s new Postal Museum
A subterranean railway once whizzed four million letters a day across London. The public were oblivious to it but will soon be able to ride it, as it forms the centrepiece of the new Postal Museum
via the Guardian by Priya Khaira-Hanks
London’s Mail Rail snakes through underground tunnels that have lain abandoned for years at the new Postal Museum.
London’s Mail Rail snakes through underground tunnels that have lain abandoned for years at the new Postal Museum. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images
“Mail Rail was like having your own giant train set to run.” The words are those of Ray Middlesworth, one of the last engineers on London’s underground postal network, and they are now etched on an information plaque in the subterranean section of the new Postal Museum, which has opened in Farringdon.
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Looks fascinating but it is not cheap.

A Short Analysis of John Donne’s ‘The Canonization’
via Interesting Literature
A reading of a classic Donne poem
‘For God’s sake hold your tongue, and let me love’: such an opening line demonstrates with refreshing directness John Donne’s genius for grabbing our attention right from the first line of a poem. ‘The Canonization’ is a difficult poem, but closer analysis of its language and imagery is rewarding.
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Scientists finally discover why this river has such an unreal shade of blue
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Rio Celeste is a gorgeous Costa Rican river with a length that's famous for its unusual turquoise waters. After decades of guessing, scientists finally determined the cause was aluminosilicate.
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How a scientist you never heard of made String Theory possible
via 3 Quarks Daily: Paul Halpern in Medium

Calabi Grid, courtesy of Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics
When he died on September 7, 2012, theoretical physicist Claud W. Lovelace left behind a house filled with parakeets. With no family or close companions, the eccentric Rutgers professor loved to be surrounded by his colorful fine-feathered friends and listen to classical music as he contemplated the nuances of unified field theory. A loner not particularly close to his colleagues, members of the Physics and Astronomy department were astounded and delighted when he willed his entire fortune of $1.5 million to it. The funds were used to help establish endowed positions in practical fields of physics, a far cry from his own speculative work. He also willed his collection of more than 4,000 classical CDs to Rutgers’ School of the Arts and donated his body to its Medical School.
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Coffee makes you live longer? Don't believe the buzz
via Boing Boing by Adam Gelbart

Two new studies from the Annals of Internal Medicine have made the rounds on news sites, each claiming that an increased coffee consumption leads to a higher life expectancy.
Continue reading and discover that coffee drinkers do live longer but that there is no causation between those two things.

It’s Complicated: Unraveling the mystery of why people act as they do
via 3 Quarks Daily: Michael Shermer in The American Scholar

Angelica Kauffman, Self-Portrait Hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting, 1791 (via Wikimedia Commons)
Have you ever thought about killing someone? I have, and I confess that it brought me peculiar feelings of pleasure to fantasize about putting the hurt on someone who had wronged me. I am not alone. According to the evolutionary psychologist David Buss, who asked thousands of people this same question and reported the data in his 2005 book, The Murderer Next Door, 91 percent of men and 84 percent of women reported having had at least one vivid homicidal fantasy in their life. It turns out that nearly all murders (90 percent by some estimates) are moralistic in nature – not cold-blooded killing for money or assets, but hot-blooded homicide in which perpetrators believe that their victims deserve to die. The murderer is judge, jury, and executioner in a trial that can take only seconds to carry out.
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It is almost worth skimming through the book review to get to the comments!! H

A Short Analysis of John Donne’s ‘What if this present were the world’s last night’
via Interesting Literature
A reading of a classic Donne poem
‘What if this present were the world’s last night?’ In other words, what if the world ended tonight – what, then, would be the fate of my immortal soul? This is the matter that John Donne considers in this, one of his holy sonnets. As ever with Donne, his language and imagery require a bit of careful unpacking and close analysis, but the meaning of his poem can be ascertained by going through this powerful sonnet.
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Astounding close-up image of Jupiter’s Giant Red Spot
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

NASA’s Juno probe just completed the closest ever flyby of Jupiter’s Giant Red Spot. The above is a processed version of an image created by Gerald Eichst√§dt from the Juno imaging data. Juno was passing about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the Red Spot.
Continue reading to find links to lots more images

Earth’s sixth mass extinction event under way, scientists warn
Researchers talk of ‘biological annihilation’ as study reveals billions of populations of animals have been lost in recent decades
via the Guardian by Damian Carrington Environment editor
A “biological annihilation” of wildlife in recent decades means a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is under way and is more severe than previously feared, according to research.
Scientists analysed both common and rare species and found billions of regional or local populations have been lost. They blame human overpopulation and overconsumption for the crisis and warn that it threatens the survival of human civilisation, with just a short window of time in which to act.
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Richard Rorty: Life, Pragmatism, and Conversational Philosophy
via Arts & Letters Daily: Santiago Zabala in Los Angeles Review of Books

When Richard Rorty (1931–2007) passed away 10 years ago, public intellectuals such as Martha Nussbaum, Stanley Fish, and Gianni Vattimo, as well as newspapers from around the world, praised him as one of the most influential thinkers of the second part of the 20th century. There has not been another American philosopher since John Dewey who managed to transform so many philosophical problems and fascinate so many readers as Richard Rorty.
Although Rorty was a committed academic who taught in a number of distinguished universities (Princeton, the University of Virginia, Stanford), and was awarded several institutional prizes (the Meister Eckhart Prize, a MacArthur “Genius Grant”, and honorary doctorates from several universities), he always remained an independent thinker capable of critiquing not only these establishments, but also his own nation when necessary. For example, when he heard the news about 9/11, his first concern was that George W. Bush and the Republican Party would use this “the way Hitler used the Reichstag fire”, to “keep us in a state of perpetual war from now on – under the guise of the War on Terrorism”.
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Nobody reads privacy policies – here’s how to fix that

a post by Florian Schaub (University of Michigan) for The Conversation with grateful thanks to ResearchBuzz Firehose for the link

Most people don’t know what they’re agreeing to. Micolas/

Have you ever actually read an app’s privacy policy before clicking to accept the terms? What about reading the privacy policy for the website you visit most often? Have you ever read or even noticed the privacy policy posted in your doctor’s waiting room or your bank’s annual privacy notice when you receive it in the mail?

No? You’re not alone. Most people don’t read them.

People are confronted with terms of service agreements and privacy policies all the time. Regulations requiring these notices aim to ensure that consumers can make informed decisions, but current privacy policies miss the mark. They are surprisingly ineffective at informing consumers, as Rebecca Balebako, Lorrie Cranor and I analyze in a recently published article.

In 2008 a study estimated that it would take 244 hours a year for the typical American internet user to read the privacy policies of all websites he or she visits – and that was before everyone carried smartphones with dozens of apps, before cloud services and before smart home technologies. With our research, my colleagues and I propose a better way to make clearer privacy policies that are easier to follow.

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Constrained Labour as Instituted Process: Transnational Contract Work and Circular Migration in Late Capitalism

an article by Mahua Sarkar (Binghamton University, NYC, USA) published in European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie Volume 58 Issue 1 (April 2017)


The paper proposes a critical understanding of contemporary “low-skilled,” transnational contract work/circular migration as a guest-worker regime. Rather than approach circular migration as an instrument of development, or a human rights problem, this paper situates it within the larger, historical debates over the status of labour that emphasise questions of surplus extraction.

Drawing on ethnographic research among Bangladeshi male migrants in Singapore and return workers in Bangladesh, the paper explores two crucial moments in the life of migrants – of choosing overseas contract work, and of leaving. In each moment, it highlights certain mechanisms that push migrants along the porous line between free and un-free work, incrementally toward the latter.

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Friday, 17 November 2017

'Childline for older people' gives friendly ear to 10,000 lonely callers each week

an article by Saba Salman pubslihed in theGuardian

Anxiety and mobility issues mean that 76-year-old Anna Bolton* is usually housebound. But regular calls to a free, confidential helpline for older people have helped her “feel normal”.

Bolton’s mental health deteriorated after she was widowed two years ago. Although she has had some support from local mental health counsellors in her native north-east England, help from Blackpool-based the Silver Line was “invaluable” and more immediate than waiting months for a counselling referral.

The Silver Line, created in 2013 by Esther Rantzen (who also created Childline), is a free, 24-hour, 365-day-a-year helpline offering information and friendship, and signposts people to local organisations for support or social activities.

“There’s still stigma about mental health,” says Bolton. “It’s often easier to speak to a stranger, and nice to know you can call day or night.”

Bolton, who has no family nearby, contacted the helpline after it was mentioned by a receptionist at her GP surgery. She is among the 10,000 people who call the helpline – often referred to as the Childline for older people – every week.

New figures show that August was the charity’s busiest ever month, receiving more than 45,000 calls – up by 1,200 on the same month last year.

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Record-breaking number of billionaires signals a second "Gilded Age" with inequality hitting 1905 levels

a post by Cory Doctorow for the Boing Boing blog

The total wealth controlled by the world’s billionaires has reached $6,000,000,000,000, up nearly 20% from last year. There are now 1,542 dollar-denominated billionaires on earth.

The current levels of inequality have not been seen since 1905. Billionaires.’ fortunes are growing at 17%/year on average, double than the stock market average.

Billionaires are apparently getting concerned about guillotines and are trying to forestall them by endowing galleries “to share their collections with the public”.

But they’re not advocating for higher taxes, an end to offshore tax-havens, or an increase in estate taxes to end the cycle of hereditary privilege.

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The robots are taking over, and the legal profession is not immune

a post by Rosalind English for the UK Human Rights Blog

Richard Susskind, IT adviser to the Lord Chief Justice, has spent many years looking into the future of the law. In a fascinating podcast paving the way for his new book The Future of the Professions and the updated Tomorrow’s Lawyers, he discusses with OUP’s George Miller the new world of technological advancements in the day to day management of dispute resolution. We have taken the liberty of summarising the podcast here and posting a link to the interview at the end of this post.

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If there is one thing I would like you to take away from this item it is this: “Build a fence at the top of the cliff instead of positioning an ambulance below it”.

“Bringing heaven down to earth”: the purpose and place of religion in UK food aid

an article by Madeleine Power, Bob Doherty and Kate E. Pickett (University of York, UK) and Neil Small and Barbara Stewart-Knox (University of Bradford, UK) published in Social Enterprise Journal Volume 13 Issue 3 (2017)


This paper uses data from a city with a multi-ethnic, multi-faith population to better understand faith-based food aid. The paper aims to understand what constitutes faith-based responses to food insecurity, compare the prevalence and nature of faith-based food aid across different religions and explore how community food aid meets the needs of a multi-ethnic, multi-faith population.

The study involved two phases of primary research. In Phase 1, desk-based research and dialogue with stakeholders in local food security programmes were used to identify faith-based responses to food insecurity. Phase 2 consisted of 18 semi-structured interviews involving faith-based and secular charitable food aid organizations.

The paper illustrates the internal heterogeneity of faith-based food aid. Faith-based food aid is highly prevalent and the vast majority is Christian. Doctrine is a key motivation among Christian organizations for their provision of food. The fact that the clients at faith-based, particularly Christian, food aid did not reflect the local religious demographic is a cause for concern in light of the entry-barriers identified. This concern is heightened by the co-option of faith-based organizations by the state as part of the “Big Society” agenda.

This is the first academic study in the UK to look at the faith-based arrangements of Christian and Muslim food aid providers, to set out what it means to provide faith-based food aid in the UK and to explore how faith-based food aid interacts with people of other religions and no religion.