Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Take a Chance: Don’t Let Your Inner Saboteur Hold You Back

a blog post by Melissa Pennel for Tiny Buddha


“’It’s impossible,’ said pride. ‘It’s risky,’ said experience. ‘It’s pointless,’ said reason. ‘Give it a try,’ whispered the heart.” ~Unknown

On my first day back in college, I sat on a bench outside a classroom and wrote in a tiny notebook. Glancing around at the young students lining up, my sunglasses slid down my nose as I hurriedly scribbled the thoughts buzzing around in my head.
“I’m afraid of being unprepared. I’m afraid of not being smart enough. I’m afraid of being left behind in the coursework. I’m afraid of giving up like I did last time.”
As evidenced in that journal entry, I was pretty terrified to be back in school.

Continue reading being aware that the writer is writing about education in the USA. This does not detract from the meaning you can take from the story.


Not by degrees: Improving student mental health in the UK’s universities

a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) by Craig Thorley

Levels of mental illness, mental distress and low wellbeing among students in higher education in the UK are increasing, and are high relative to other sections of the population.

Around three-quarters of adults with a mental illness first experience symptoms before the age of 25. With widening access to higher education the student population is more closely reflecting the UK’s wider socioeconomic and demographic make-up, and a growing proportion of students would appear to be affected by mental illness. Over the past 10 years there has been a fivefold increase in the proportion of students who disclose a mental health condition to their institution.

The higher education sector and government both have an interest in helping to improve the mental health and wellbeing of students. Universities should make the issue a strategic priority and adopt a ‘whole-university’ approach based on prevention and promotion, early intervention and low-level support, responding to risk and crisis management, and referral into care and treatment. There is currently too much variation in the extent to which universities are equipped to meet this challenge. This sector-led approach should be complemented by strengthened NHS provision and new government initiatives to ensure that no student is held back by their mental health.

Summary (PDF 2pp)

Full text (PDF 77pp)


Ten items that I found interesting

Bugs don't recognize nationality
via OUP Blog by Chelsea Clinton and Devi Sridhar

This female mosquito (Aedes aegypti) is just starting to feed on a person’s arm on May 23, 2012. USDA photo by Stephen Ausmus. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr. 
Science matters. In a moment in which facts can apparently have factual and alternative flavors, it feels important to state that unequivocally. We recognize that in an era of growing insularity and retrenchment, it may seem strange to argue for more global health investments and cooperation. But, we hope that, regardless of individual or even national views on the larger debate of insularity or openness, consensus exists – or at least could emerge – that cooperation is necessary in global health. Microbes have not yet met an ocean, wall, or national border they could not permeate. Zika once again has demonstrated that large and small countries, relatively wealthy and relatively poorer countries all are dependent on a larger infrastructure for their national health security – even the United States cannot rely solely on itself to fight an outbreak or protect itself and Americans from the next one.
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Wild orangutan figures out how to saw wood
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
This wild-born, free-living orangutan found a saw and quickly figured out how to cut wood with it.

That’s it, nothing more to read.

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The Purpose of Sleep? To Forget, Scientists Say
via 3 Quarks Daily: Carl Zimmer in The New York Times

A PET scan of a brain during normal sleep. Two scientists say sleep may help the brain prune back unneeded synapses. CreditHank Morgan/Science Source
Over the years, scientists have come up with a lot of ideas about why we sleep. Some have argued that it’s a way to save energy. Others have suggested that slumber provides an opportunity to clear away the brain’s cellular waste. Still others have proposed that sleep simply forces animals to lie still, letting them hide from predators. A pair of papers published on Thursday in the journal Science offer evidence for another notion: We sleep to forget some of the things we learn each day. In order to learn, we have to grow connections, or synapses, between the neurons in our brains. These connections enable neurons to send signals to one another quickly and efficiently. We store new memories in these networks.
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10 of the Best Classical Plays Everyone Should Read
via Interesting Literature
The best drama from the ancient world
For over 2,000 years, the Greek dramatist Menander’s works were lost. Then, in the twentieth century, they were rediscovered. Menander was praised by his contemporaries as a great comic playwright – some even said the greatest, beating even Aristophanes into second place. But when Menander’s work was rediscovered in the twentieth century, it was something of a disappointment. Translators and Greek scholars were lukewarm in their praise for the newly discovered Menander material. He was, perhaps, the first writer to be the victim of over-hype surrounding his work.
All of this makes us wonder: which are the greatest plays of the classical era? What are the finest ancient Greek and Roman plays? Here is our pick of ten of the best. We’ve tried to offer as great a range of authors as possible here, so have restricted ourselves to just two entries by the same playwright (which proved difficult with some playwrights who wrote a number of classic plays).
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Everyone should read? No way. Everyone should see which is what a dramatic work is about.
However, I know that I cannot do what an acquaintance of mine does. He takes every possible opportunity of watching these, and other classical plays, in their original language.


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Nobody Heard or Saw This Landslide. What’s the Big Deal?
via Big Think by Robby Berman
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On October 17, 2015, a rainy night to begin with, a huge tsunami cresting at 600 feet barrelled through the darkness of the remote Taan fjord in Alaska. It stripped away forests on both sides of the fjord, and dragged an iceberg out into Icy Bay on the coast. Nobody witnessed it, and it’s only by seismic waves picked up 155 kilometres away that scientists knew something had happened. That something was a one-minute-long 200-million ton, 72-million cubic meter landslide of stones slamming down into the deep waters of the fjord. To give you a sense of the resulting wave’s height, the tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011 was only 130 feet above sea level. To say that scientists are concerned is an understatement, since this may just one of many such catastrophes we can expect thanks to climate change. There have been five other huge landslides in the area in just the last five years.
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Turkey splits up fight between roosters
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
Dennis Coon was unable to stop two roosters kicking off in the yard, but Officer Gobbles was having none of it.

Nothing further to read

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It Turns Out Cosmic Dust Is Everywhere
via Big Think by Robby Berman
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Who among us doesn’t thrill to catch a glimpse of a meteorite streaking across the night sky? Except for a few colorful cases – a living room in Connecticut, an explosion in the sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia – these beauties disappear into our atmosphere. They’re just a small fraction of the objects that hit the earth – scientists estimate that some 4,000 tons of them arrive yearly. Some are so tiny they don’t even fall: They just float down. So where is all this stuff? Researchers have found micrometeorites – which are typically smaller than width of a human hair – in Antarctica and other remote locations. Now a new picture book, In Search of Stardust: Amazing Micro-Meteorites and Their Terrestrial Imposters, reveals that, really, it’s everywhere.
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The Mathematician In The Asylum
via 3 Quarks Daily: Romeo Vitelli in Providentia
BlochA[1]
As one of the leading French mathematicians of his generation and author of two books on elementary geometry, Jacques Hadamard was always open to new mathematical ideas. When he received a mathematical proof in the mail from a previously unknown mathematician named Andre Bloch, Hadamard was mesmerized by its elegance. The proof related to a branch of elementary geometry involving paratactic circles, systems of two circles with orthogonal planes with the intersection being the common diameter of the two circles and cut according to a harmonic division. According to Bloch, parataxy remained invariant under inversion and any inversion with respect to a point situated on one of them transforms them into a circle and its axis.
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The Real Story of What Got Us to the Top of the Food Chain
via Big Think by Jag Bhalla
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What got us to the top of the food chain? Yuval Harari says it wasn’t bigger brains and tools. His view of what mattered will surprise fans of evolution’s red-in-tooth-and-claw story.
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Tiny crack in steel seen through an electron microscope
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza

Canyon or crack? Crack, obviously, since it’s right there in the headline, but isn’t it amazing? Especially with clouds photoshopped in to improve its virality coefficient.
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Monday, 18 September 2017

Ten more interesting items: floods and droughts, population growth, women in charge etc

New tool tracks floods, droughts for world's most vulnerable farmers
via ResearchBuzz Firehose: Lisa Nikolau in Humanosphere
Researchers have developed a drought and flood monitoring tool for farmers without easy means of anticipating such weather events, even though their livelihoods rely almost solely on rainfall.
Developed at the request of UNESCO, the program provides a way to view a vast amount of weather data across Africa and Latin America, including some of the world’s most environmentally and economically vulnerable regions. Users can access a wealth of information on wind speed, temperature, precipitation and stream runoff, and organize the data to better visualize weather patterns over short-term, seasonal and climatic time frames.
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Population will soon hit 8 billion. Here’s why that scares people
via OUP Blog by Molly Farrell

“A Rolling Stones crowd” by Sérgio Valle Duarte. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Any day now, global population will hit 7.5 billion. Experts predict that we humans will reach eight billion in number sometime around the year 2024. Does that fact fill you with trepidation? Chances are that it does, even though it’s only a number, after all. “Eight billion” says nothing about innovations in agriculture or renewable energy technologies, and certainly nothing about global social justice. How we will live as eight billion, and how we will interact with our planet’s ecosystems is still a question that is very much up in the air. Yet I can predict with relative certainty that the stories that will appear when population reaches eight billion will be couched in terms of grave concern, perhaps even catastrophic foreboding, and not solely because this is how we discussed population when we reached the milestone of seven billion in 2011. I know this because the tendency to talk about potential cataclysm when we talk about population dates back to the origins of the word “population” itself. We literally do not have the words to discuss our collective numbers with each other without invoking potential devastation.
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The kingdom of women: the Tibetan tribe where a man is never the boss
via the Guardian by Hannah Booth
It’s a place where women rule, marriage doesn’t exist and everything follows the maternal bloodline. But is it as good for women as it sounds – and how long can it last?
A Mosuo woman weaves with a loom at her shop in Lijiang, China.
A Mosuo woman weaves with a loom at her shop in Lijiang, China. Photograph: Chien-min Chung/Getty Images
Imagine a society without fathers; without marriage (or divorce); one in which nuclear families don’t exist. Grandmother sits at the head of the table; her sons and daughters live with her, along with the children of those daughters, following the maternal bloodline. Men are little more than studs, sperm donors who inseminate women but have, more often than not, little involvement in their children’s upbringing.
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Astronomy: The Gateway Drug of Science
via Big Think Editors
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People wait for the sun to go down to view Mars at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Doing astronomy may be the closest activity we have to science-for-science’s-sake – gazing across endless distances to view objects that aren’t in the location we currently perceive them to be in. While the common dream of space travel, and the colonization of the solar system, has been a dream for millennia, our ability to make real the promises of space are still several decades off – at least.
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Orson Welles interviews Andy Kaufman (1982)
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

I was expecting this to be a train wreck, but Orson Welles (in an unusually ungrumpy mood) did a terrific job of interviewing Andy Kaufman, who was always a tough nut to crack. Welles basically took over and did most of the talking and was very funny.
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Preserving the Past in Damascus Builds Hope for the Future
via Research Buzz Firehose: Sami Moubayed in Syria Deeply
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The Tetrapylon was destroyed in the historical architectural complex of Ancient Palmyra in Homs Governorate, Syria. Palmyra was captured by the Syrian army with a support from the Russian air force.
Long before Damascus became Syria’s capital, the city was conquered by Alexander the Great, redesigned by ancient Roman architects and established as the capital of the Umayyad caliphate. Each civilization left its mark on the city, giving it an unparalleled cultural, political, social, economic and architectural history that has survived since the third millennium B.C.
However, after six years of war in Syria, many of the city’s ancient palaces, historical homes, museums, artifacts and government documents have fallen into disrepair, been destroyed, stolen or even abandoned as people flee the conflict.
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Scientists Discover Fast-Moving Galaxies That May Contradict Einstein’s Theory of Gravity
via Big Think by Paul Ratner
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A present-day near-miss of two spiral galaxies NGC 5426 and NGC 5427, which is possibly comparable to the early flyby of the Andromeda Galaxy past our own Milky Way. Courtesy of © Gemini Image Gallery.
A discovery of fast-moving galaxies, 10 million light years wide, may cause physicists to re-examine Einstein’s theory of relativity. A team from University of St. Andrews in Scotland found the enormous ring of galaxies speeding away from our galaxy much faster than existing physics modeling predicts. In fact, the scientists believe the galaxies are moving so quickly that they are calling this expansion “a mini Big Bang”.
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Copulating seahorses and a lavish snail ballet: the underwater wonders of Jean Painlevé
via the Guardian by Hettie Judah
Jean Painlevé with Debrie camera in waterproof box, 1935
Desperately seeking the nose of a shrimp … Jean Painlevé with his camera in a waterproof box, 1935 Photograph: Image courtesy of Archives Jean Painlevé, Paris
In the course of his lifetime, the aquatic French film-maker Jean Painlevé hung out with Man Ray and Alexander Calder, showed his work in galleries alongside the surrealists, and inspired George Balanchine to choreograph a lobster ballet. His most successful film, 1934’s L’Hippocampe ou Cheval Marin, didn’t just incur the wrath of censors with its intimate footage of copulating seahorses. It also provoked such a mania for the arresting little creatures that the Frenchman, somewhat improbably, launched a range of fashion accessories.
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Artificial Stupidity
via 3 Quarks Daily by Ali Minai
“My colleagues, they study artificial intelligence; me, I study natural stupidity.” – Amos Tversky, (quoted in “The Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis).
Not only is this quote by Tversky amusing, it also offers profound insight into the nature of intelligence – real and artificial. Most of us working on artificial intelligence (AI) take it for granted that the goal is to build machines that can reason better, integrate more data, and make more rational decisions. What the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky shows is that this is not how people (and other animals) function. If the goal in artificial intelligence is to replicate human capabilities, it may be impossible to build intelligent machines without “natural stupidity”. Unfortunately, this is something that the burgeoning field of AI has almost completely lost sight of, with the result that AI is in danger of repeating the same mistakes in the matter of building intelligent machines as classical economists have made in their understanding of human behavior. If this does not change, homo artificialis may well end up being about as realistic as homo economicus.
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Public entomologists struggle with an epidemic of delusional parasitosis
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Dr Gale Ridge is a public entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, where an average of 23 people a day call, write or visit; an increasing proportion of them aren't inquiring about actual insects, they’re suffering from delusional parasitosis, and they’re desperate and even suicidal.
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Sunday, 17 September 2017

Get Out the Crayons: Study Shows Doodling Boosts Your Brain Power

via World of Psychology blog by Kalia Kelmenson



A few years back, I came across an old box that held notebooks from my college courses.

As I leafed through the pages, I smiled at my prolific use of the margins as a space for doodling. A new study shows that by doodling, rather than simply wasting ink, I was giving my brain a boost.

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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Ten interesting items! If you can understand the first one you win an unspecified prize.

20 years ago, Ted Cruz published a law paper proving companies could always beat customers with terms of service
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

You might think that when companies impose crappy, abusive terms of service on their customers that the market could sort it out, by creating competition to see who could offer the best terms and thus win the business of people fed up with bad actors.
You’d be wrong.
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Man-Made Glaciers May Be Himalayan Farmers’ Last Resort
via Big Think by Teodora Zareva
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Sonham Wangchuk's ice stupas. Photo: Rolex Awards
For Himalayan farmers, living at altitudes of 11,000 feet (3,500m), water availability has become a serious problem. The only sources of water in this arid land are the nearby glaciers, whose melting is essential for sustaining life in the summer. These glaciers, however, have been steadily receding over the last decade, removing the water source further and further away from the villages. The European Geosciences Union predicts that over 70% of glacier volume in the Everest region could be lost by 2100.
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World's largest dinosaur footprints discovered in Western Australia
via the Guardian by Hannah Devlin and agencies
The prints indicate enormous animals that were probably around 5.3 to 5.5 metres at the hip.
The prints indicate enormous animals that were probably around 5.3 to 5.5 metres at the hip. Photograph: Damian Kelly/University of Queensland/EPA
The largest known dinosaur footprints have been discovered in Western Australia, including 1.7 metre prints left by gigantic herbivores.
Until now, the biggest known dinosaur footprint was a 106cm track discovered in the Mongolian desert and reported last year.
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Scott Weaver's incredible toothpick sculptures
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
By day, Scott Weaver is a grocery store clerk. When he's not working, he's making elaborate sculptures out of toothpicks and Elmer's Glue. His tool is a nail clipper. His largest work is called "Rolling Through the Bay." It's a 9-foot sculpture of San Francisco. You drop a marble in it at the top, and it will take a rolling tour through Coit Tower, Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other landmarks. It took him over 3,000 hours over a 30-year-year period to make it, and it has 105,387 and 1/2 toothpicks.
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A Short Analysis of John Donne’s ‘Batter my heart, three-person’d God’
via Interesting Literature
A reading of a classic Donne poem
‘Batter my heart, three-person’d God’: a typically blunt and direct opening for a John Donne poem, from a poet who is renowned for his bluff, attention-grabbing opening lines. This poem, written using the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet form, sees Donne calling upon God to take hold of him and consume him, in a collection of images that are at once deeply spiritual and physically arresting.
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Why Are Pandas Black and White?
via Big Think by Usman Chohan
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What’s black, white, and read all over? Pandas read one another’s markings for identification and communication, and they have black-and-white fur patterns to camouflage in shade and snow. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images).
The Giant Panda’s iconic black-and-white­ fur makes it exceptionally recognizable in a world where mammals are generally a drab brown or dull grey, and according to a new study in the journal Behavioral Ecology, both camouflage and communication might explain why.
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These tiny papercraft models of vintage synthesizers are adorable
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Colossal has a gallery of Australian designer and illustrator Dan McPharlin's Analogue Miniatures – “a marvel of papercraft. The tiny analogue synthesizers and pieces of recording equipment were pieced together with paper, framing mat board, string, rubber bands and cardboard.”
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Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest for Freedom
via 3 Quarks Daily: Catherine Fletcher at Literary Review
Be Like the Fox tells Machiavelli’s life story. Its title refers to his advice that by being like the fox one can avoid snares. In a rather breathless historical present, Benner organises Machiavelli’s own words into dialogue and commentary as her protagonist makes his way through the religious drama of Savonarola’s regime, encounters with Cesare Borgia, torture and exile, and finally his later years of writing. Machiavelli’s wonderful turns of phrase make for a creative, lively and very readable book with more than a little contemporary resonance. ‘Victories are never so clear’, he writes, ‘that the winner does not have to have some respect, especially for justice.’
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This man is the master at making hedge mazes
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

Adrian Fisher is the master of making hedge mazes. He's designed more than 700 mazes in 40 countries
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Working behind the scenes at Westminster Abbey – in pictures
via the Guardian by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

[My personal favourite of the fifteen available here]

Matt Haig: ‘There is no more shame in mental illness than having tonsilitis’

I am having a real problem with finding a point at which to stop copying the article by Matt Haig in the Guardian and asking you to continue reading. Every point that he makes seems to me to be valid.

An MRI image of a brain
‘The brain is the body. Mental health is physical health.’ Photograph: Alamy

The problem we have with talking about mental health is that we still don’t think of it as an equal priority with physical health. This is wrong not simply because it leads to less money being spent on mental health service provision by governments, but also because it fails to see that the whole idea of mental health shouldn’t be an isolated one.

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