Saturday, 31 December 2011

10 - not edited for 31 december

Is Immorality Our Default Mode? via Big Think by Big Think editors
Accusations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain and the Penn State rape scandal have left many saying: “If I were in that situation, I would have done the right thing.” But time and time again, research demonstrates that we are less given to moral behaviour than we would like to think, particularly when we are put on the spot. Individuals imagine themselves to be more upright than those around them, even though most everyone seems willing to act immorally without much provocation.
Read it at The New York Times

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Everything is suddenly a distraction to William Ian Miller. His brain is “balsa wood floating in a helium sea”. In truth, his brain is shrinking. And so is yours... more

How Star Wars Characters Could Have Benefited From Online Training via Stephen's Lighthouse
This would make a great poster to advertise a session on searching and research skills. Common experiences like Star Wars, Star Trek, ET, Indiana Jones, and Wizard of OZ all make great connections to audiences.
See the infographic here

Deep Intellect: Inside the mind of the octopus via 3quarksdaily by Azra Raza
From Orion Magazine:
Measuring the minds of other creatures is a perplexing problem. One yardstick scientists use is brain size, since humans have big brains. But size doesn't always match smarts. As is well known in electronics, anything can be miniaturized. Small brain size was the evidence once used to argue that birds were stupid – before some birds were proven intelligent enough to compose music, invent dance steps, ask questions, and do math. Octopuses have the largest brains of any invertebrate. Athena’s is the size of a walnut – as big as the brain of the famous African gray parrot, Alex, who learned to use more than one hundred spoken words meaningfully. That’s proportionally bigger than the brains of most of the largest dinosaurs.
Another measure of intelligence: you can count neurons. The common octopus has about 130 million of them in its brain. A human has 100 billion. But this is where things get weird. Three-fifths of an octopus’s neurons are not in the brain; they’re in its arms. “It is as if each arm has a mind of its own,” says Peter Godfrey-Smith, a diver, professor of philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and an admirer of octopuses. For example, researchers who cut off an octopus’s arm (which the octopus can regrow) discovered that not only does the arm crawl away on its own, but if the arm meets a food item, it seizes it – and tries to pass it to where the mouth would be if the arm were still connected to its body.
More here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Ben Jonson, Britain's first literary celebrity, was a bruiser, intellectually and physically. It surprised no one that he stabbed a man to death... more

Elizabeth And Hazel Story Humanizes Little Rock Nine Icon via Big Think by Kris Broughton
“Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate!” The black and white picture from the fifties of a teenaged white girl yelling racial epithets at a young black coed who marches through an angry white mob to desegregate a Deep South high school in 1957 is world famous. Read More

Evolution of Apple Ads 1975-2002 via HOW TO BE A RETRONAUT by Chris
Thank you to Nikola Lazarevic
Some of these are absolutely stunning – hard to pick a favourite from so many but this caught my eye.
See them all here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
From seamstress to mistress to magnate, Coco Chanel never kept her little black dress on for very long... more

Bunnies and science, minus the ethical debates via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Speaking of smart games, Spongelab's Natural Selection is almost more of an interactive demonstration than an actual game, but it's still way cool. The goal: Learn about how evolution works by causing mutations in populations of cute, fluffy bunnies.

Image: Bunny, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from aigle_dore's photostream

A Man With A Mission: Ban Speaks To The World via Big Think by Mark Seddon
Sir Brian Urquhart, one of the oldest surviving senior UN staff members, reminded us recently in an article in the New York Times that a former Secretary General of the UN, Dag Hammarskjold, had once said; “The United Nations was not created to bring us heaven, but to save us from hell”. …
Read More

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Rude word censored – but definitely muttered under my breath

about the British Journal of Educational Technology

Those readers of long standing will know that I read or, more truthfully, glance at the table of contents, with abstracts, for a large number of journals.

I will then either:
  • mentally discard the information as not relevant to careers practitioners (the majority of what passes before my eyes);
  • send an email, or cut and paste the URL, into my blog’s drafts folder for later posting (sometimes gets discarded at this stage; or
  • write, using paper and pencil, the journal title and the page number so that I can request said journal to read the full article on my next visit to the British Library.
The system works well until you try to open a journal at page E117 to read “What fantasy role-playing games can teach your children (or even you)” to discover that there are thirteen items which are not included in the print version of said journal.

Fortunately the British Library has the electronic version but, to be honest, by this time I have lost interest in what I thought would be interesting!

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting (should have been Christmas Day)

The First Aircraft Carrier, 1910 via HOW TO BE A RETRONAUT by Amanda

On November 14, 1910, Eugene Ely became the first pilot to successfully launch a plane from a stationary ship. The Curtiss pusher airplane, one of the first models in the world to be built in any significant quantity, flew for two miles before Ely landed on a beach. Using the same aircraft, Ely landed on the USS Pennsylvania on January 18, 1911, while the ship was anchored at the San Francisco waterfront. He had to use a braking system made of ropes and sandbags, but he was able to quickly turn around and take off once again'
Thank you to The Atlantic

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
What makes a good prophet? Showmanship and luck, but also a taste for secrecy and controversy. Most of all, be a blank slate: People see what they want to see... more

To Slow Aging, Remove Old Cells via Big Think by Big Think Editors
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota have unveiled a long-kept medical secret: What causes aging and the onset of age-related disease. After studying a group of mice, who because of a natural disease aged relatively fast, researchers concluded that our body’s oldest cells – called senescent cells because they no longer divide – may cause aging and age-related disease.
Read More

What good is half a wing? via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
One of the most common arguments you'll hear against evolution (or, at least, one of the most common arguments I heard growing up amongst creationists) had to do with transitional forms. An eye is a valuable thing, this argument goes. But half an eye? That's just a disability.
Like many of the really common arguments against evolution, this one crumbles the minute you start to apply the slightest bit of fridge logic. Sure, half an eye is less useful than a full eye. (Or, more accurately, a clustering of light-sensitive cells don't have all the functionality of a modern eyeball and optic nerve system.) But, if most of the other creatures have no eyes, and you have a few light-sensitive cells, you've got an advantage. And an advantage is all it takes.
Now apply that to the evolution of birds. One of the cool things about this process is that it appears that feathers evolved before flight. In fact, feathers seems to have evolved rather independently of flight.
You might ask: What's the point of that? How are feathers an advantage if they can't help you fly? Is this just about looking pretty? Maybe. But on his blog, The Loom, Carl Zimmer presents another hypothesis. Feathers and wings, even without flight, might have given their owners a physical advantage over bare-skinned cousins. The birds in this video aren't flying. You can see that their feet don't leave the ground. But the act of flapping those feathers around helps them to walk up inclines that would otherwise be impassable walls. That's enough to escape a predator and live to breed another day. And it's also pretty damn astounding to watch.
And there's a fascinating Video on YouTube.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
John Milton would appreciate today's personal ads: seekers in meticulous revolt, like Satan, against the reality imposed on them... more

Tees Transporter Bridge

Happy birthday to a transport of delight
Middlesbrough marks the centenary of its famous bridge which still clanks to and fro on the quarter-hour.The comedian Terry Scott drove off it by mistake. More sedately, you can abseil from it for £3
Posted by Alan Sykes on The Northerner Blog from Guardian
Read all about it here

How tide predicting, analog computers won World War II via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Without Lord Kelvin, there would have been no D-Day.
There's some very cool science history in the September issue of Physics Today, centering around a collection of analog computers, developed in the 19th century to predict tides. This was a job that human mathematicians could do, but the computing machines did the job faster and were less prone to small errors that had big, real-world implications.
Physics Today explains why the behaviour of tides was so important at D-Day and why the tide calculators were so important to Allied success.
You can read more about tide predicting machines on Wikipedia, and try out a Java simulation of Lord Kelvin's tide predicting machine at the American Mathematical Society website.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The Loeb Classical Library – 518 volumes covering 1,400 years of Greek and Latin literature – is among the greatest accomplishments of modern scholarship... more

Dolphins and US (That’s Not to Say Dolphins ARE us) via Big Think by Peter Lawler
So there’s a lot of excitement about dolphins on BIG THINK these days. If we can figure out how to communicate with them, we can figure out how to communicate with the aliens (ETs) that are bound to be somewhere out there. But here’s one difference between dolphins and any ETs we’ll ever find out …
Read More

Dinosaur feathers in amber via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
This photo shows dinosaur feathers found in amber. Discovered in Alberta, Canada, the preserved plumage likely came from dinosaurs and birds that lived 75 to 80 million years ago. The University of Alberta researchers published their findings in the new issue of the journal Science.
 Wpf Media-Live Photos 000 403 Cache Dino-Feathers-Clumped-Barbs 40362 600X450
Read more – lots more!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting (should have been last Saturday)

Why being wrong makes us angry via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Christie Aschwanden is a science journalist. Last month, she joined a lot of other science journalists at the National Association of Science Writers conference and gave a short Ignite presentation about why people get angry when presented with evidence that their beliefs are wrong. She's posted a storyboard of the presentation to The Last Word on Nothing blog. It's definitely worth a read.
Do, please, read it. It makes sense and not only in relation to science writing but also to life in general. Underneath all the bluster you know that you’re wrong but can’t bring yourself to admit it as this impinges on you as a person not just your beliefs.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Literature and the loo. For Henry Miller, the toilet enriched certain works: Ulysses could not be read anywhere else... more

Heating Up: Wildfire in the Arctic Tundra (Science Up Front) via Britannica Blog by Kara Rogers
In 2007 the Anaktuvuk River fire burned 1,039 square kilometers of Alaska’s Arctic tundra, increasing by two-fold the area burned since 1950 across the entire Arctic tundra biome. The burn resulted in the release of some 2.1 teragrams of carbon – an amount equivalent to that absorbed each year for the last 25 years by the tundra ecosystem, according to a study led by University of Florida biologist Michelle C. Mack.
Prepare to be frightened, if not terrified, by the statistics. Read it here.
Using machine translation techniques to attack ciphers reveals secrets of ancient German opthalmology cult via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
A team of Swedish and American researchers used machine translation techniques to crack an 18th century cipher used by a secret society. The approach – presented to the Association for Computational Linguistics in a paper called The Copiale Cipher (PDF 8pp) – treated the encrypted text as a foreign language and used techniques similar to those employed by Babelfish and Google Translate to derive the cleartext.
(via Reddit)
How Revolutionary Tools Cracked a 1700s Code []

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The hole in The Old Farmer's Almanac made it easier to hang in an outhouse, where it served dual purposes, equally useful... more

Quant Trading or How Mathematicians Run the World via Big Think by Big Think Editors
Once the purview of obsessive traders, financial markets the world over are increasingly controlled by algorithmic trading formulas that buy and sell large volumes of stock automatically. Developed by some of the world’s leading theoretical mathematicians …
Read More

Travelling in realms of gold via Prospero by The Economist
Swift, direct, plain, and eminently noble; Homer’s Iliad has inspired translations for centuries. Our correspondents consider four new ones.
Nice podcast here (calls itself video but that is only the advert).
I never managed to conquer this in the original (a bit of Latin but never Greek) although I thought the sound of it really melodic.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Evil and us. Sloppy historical analogies, amateurish psychological speculations, oversimplifications, tired moral platitudes – we've gotten evil all wrong... more
In my opinion this essay deserves to be read, in full, thoughtfully and carefully. You may not agree with everything that is being said but you will, I believe, be moved by the arguments.

Friday Fun: Siege Hero – Viking Vengeance via the How-To Geek by Asian Angel
Your work week is almost over, but until you can leave for the day why not sneak in some castle crunching fun? In this week’s game you lead an army of Vikings on a crusade to conquer your enemies, grab the gold, and save your allies along the way.
Read Asian Angel's walk-through here or go straight to Siege Hero – Viking Vengeance
Looks to me like a dozen or so other games but …

The psychopathic neurobiologist via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
James Fallon studies the brain. Then he studied his own, and found out that he has the same brain malfunctions as psychopathic serial killers. What happened next is a fascinating story about the brain, the mind, and the duelling influences of nature and nurture.
Read it here (or actually watch the video – 15 minutes but worth every one of them).

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Social Problems Everywhere and No Attention to Spare

I had thought to put this article into one of my regular "trivia/interest" blog posts but decided that it would make a post in its own right.

via Big Think by Matthew C. Nisbet Guest by Audrey Payne, American University graduate student.

It seems like there are so many problems discussed in the media every day- public health, the environment, the economy, political protests…. Have you ever stopped to wonder why? Even more importantly, why do some issues tend to dominant mediscussion while others remain third or fourth tier considerations.

Read it here

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Students with disabilities and other special needs in the process of higher education: inclusion issues

an article by Violeta Vida?ek-Hainš, Valentina Kirini? and Andreja Kova?i? published in International Journal of Knowledge and Learning Volume 7 Number 1/2 (2011)
[with apologies to the authors for the mangling of their names - this was all that I could find online]


Nowadays, there is an increasing number of persons with disabilities eager to pursue their education in higher education institutions as well as of students with some specific learning difficulties like dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, etc. A lot of institutional resources at different levels enable the inclusion of persons with disabilities and learning difficulties into higher education.

This primarily refers to organisational resources and professional staff resources, including services and student counselling within universities or particular faculties, educational assistants, current legislation (development strategies), financial support, environmental support, ICT support and others.

This paper presents initial experiences in organising a supportive/effective academic environment for students with disabilities by means of contemporary information and communications technology. Although the described experiences have arisen from the early stage of establishing an effective learning environment for students with disabilities, they can be valuable in future implementation of such an environment.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Students’ conceptions and experiences of Web 2.0 tools

an article by Sirje Virkus and Alice A. Bamigbola, (Institute of Information Studies, Tallinn University, Estonia) published in New Library World Volume 112 Issue 11/12 (2011)


This paper aims to present the results of a study that investigated the Erasmus Mundus Digital Library Learning (DILL) Master programme students' conceptions and experiences of the use of Web 2.0 tools.
The study adopted phenomenography as a research approach to identify DILL students' conceptions and experiences of Web 2.0 tools. Semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions were conducted with 12 students from Africa and Asia within the DILL Master programme.
The data analysis revealed four categories of descriptions of Web 2.0 tools: communication, educational, professional and multipurpose. For each category of descriptions preferred Web 2.0 tools were identified.
Research limitations/implications
The study analyses only conceptions and experiences of the use of Web 2.0 tools of 12 DILL students. This small group of students was from Africa and Asia and, therefore, the results should not be generalised to describe all DILL students' conceptions and experiences of the use of Web 2.0 tools.
Practical implications
The results of this study can be taken into consideration when designing and delivering a DILL programme. In order to use technologies to support learning there is a need to understand and know what students do with these new technological tools.
This paper supports the idea of integration of information and communication technologies into education and highlights the potential of Web 2.0 tools to support teaching and learning in the higher education setting.

What is the Threshold of Teachers’ Recognition and Report of Concerns About Anxiety and Depression in Students? …

An Exploratory Study With Teachers of Adolescents in Regional Australia

 an article by Michelle Trudgen (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Melbourne) and Sharon Lawn (Flinders University, Australia) published in Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling Volume 21 Issue 2 (December 2011)


Anxiety and depression in adolescence is prevalent but often unrecognised and untreated. This can lead to serious disorders in later life. This study explored how teachers recognise anxiety and depression in secondary school students and act on their concerns.
Twenty teachers from four secondary colleges in regional Victoria, Australia were interviewed regarding their experiences. In-depth interviews were analysed using descriptive thematic analysis in order to understand how teachers respond to this issue.
Teachers’ recognition of mental health problems in students and the threshold for reporting their concerns was subjective and not based on any formal knowledge of how to identify anxiety or depression risk factors in students. Years of teaching experience was not associated with increased knowledge of mental health problems in students. Time pressures and lack of resources in student well-being teams were barriers to teachers reporting their concerns about students.
Education bodies and teaching universities responsible for training teachers and providing ongoing professional learning need to ensure that mental health training is part of every teacher’s core skill set, so that teachers can confidently promote mental well-being, identify emerging mental health problems, know how to facilitate access to more specialist intervention where required and contribute effectively to follow-up support.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Article Rental from Cambridge Journals

via Peter Scott's Library Blog by Peter Scott

Cambridge Journals has announced a brand new Article Rental scheme, which will see single academic research articles being made available over a 24-hour period at a significantly lower cost. For just £3.99, $5.99 or €4.49, users are now able to read single articles online for up to 24 hours, a saving of up to 86% compared with the cost of purchasing the article. After registration and payment, the reader is emailed a link, through which they can access and read the article in PDF format as often as they wish during the subsequent 24 hours.

Hazel’s comment:
If the publisher of the article you want to read does not operate a scheme similar to the one managed by Cambridge Journals then there’s always DeepDyve which has articles from Springer, Nature Publishing Group, Wiley-Blackwell, Emerald and lots more.

Multi-dimensional poverty in Australia and the barriers ill health imposes on the employment of the disadvantaged

an article by Emily Joy Callander, Deborah J. Schofield and Rupendra N. Shrestha (School of Public Health and NHMRC Clinical Trial Centre, The University of Sydney) published in Journal of Socio-Economics Volume 40 Issue 6 (December 2011)


A little over one million individuals in Australia between the ages of 24 and 64 years are in Freedom poverty – they have low family income, and have either poor health or an insufficient level of education. These individuals are some of the most disadvantaged in society due to their multiple capability restrictions. Current political rhetoric focused on reducing the number of individuals out of the labour force to improve their living standards may offer a means of improving the lives of these most disadvantaged individuals. Indeed, of those in Freedom poverty, 80% are not in employment. But these individuals also have poor health and/or a poor education and these capability limitations may act as barriers to their labour force participation. Indeed, 49% of individuals in freedom poverty who were out of the labour force cited ill health as the reason for this (39% cited their own ill health, and 10% cited another's ill health). Not only will these individual's ill health act as a barrier to their engaging in the labour force, but ill health will also contribute to reduced quality of life. Political promises to improve the lives of citizens should not focus narrowly upon increasing labour force participation rates, but should take a holistic view of the lives of individuals taking note in particular of how health may be restraining their quality of life.

Coping with Complexity and Instability in the UK Vocational Training System

an article by Gábor Halász (ELTE University Budapest) published in European Journal of Education Volume 46 Issue 4 (December 2011)


Vocational training systems that take the needs of the world of work seriously and maintain strong and dynamic connections with it are faced with growing complexity and instability. Some countries try to cope with this through creating new mediation mechanisms between the systems of training and work that allow higher level complexity while maintaining appropriate social control over the linkages between these systems.

The training policy of the United Kingdom offers an interesting example for this.

The key message of this article is that increasing complexity and high level instability may seriously impede the engagement of employers for training and human resource development but reducing it have to be made in a cautious way, so that it does not harm the achievement of the strategic goals of making training more demand-led, making it more responsive to the changing skills needs of companies and letting employers have a decisive role in determining the content of training and the way it is delivered. The skills policy of the United Kingdom is used as an example to illustrate the growing social complexity that characterise modern social systems, including vocational training, and one specific way of devising public policies based on new innovative forms of steering and regulating that enhance coping with complexity and instability.

Subject choice and earnings of UK graduates

an article by Arnaud Chevalier (Royal Holloway, University of London and Geary Institute University College Dublin) published in Economics of Education Review Volume 30 Issue 6 (December 2011)


Using a survey of a cohort of UK graduates, linked to administrative data on higher education participation, this paper investigates the labour market attainment of recent graduates by subject of study. We document a large heterogeneity in the mean wages of graduates from different subjects and a considerably larger one within subject with individuals with the most favourable unobserved characteristics obtaining wages almost twice as large as those with the worst. Moreover, gender differences in wages within subjects are also large. We then simulate a graduate tax to calculate a willingness to pay – in form of tuition fees – to capture these subject wage premia.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Earnings returns to the British education expansion

an article by Paul J. Devereux and Wen Fan (School of Economics and Geary Institute UCD, Ireland) published in Economics of Education Review Volume 30 Issue 6 (December 2011)

We study the effects of the large expansion in British educational attainment that took place for cohorts born between 1970 and 1975. Using the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, we find that the expansion caused men to increase education by about a year on average and gain about 8% higher wages; women obtained a slightly greater increase in education and a similar increase in wages. Clearly, there was a sizeable gain from being born late enough to take advantage of the greater educational opportunities offered by the expansion. Treating the expansion as an exogenous increase in educational attainment, we obtain instrumental variables estimates of returns to schooling of about 6% for both men and women.

Adaptive browsing: Sensitivity to time pressure and task difficulty

an article by Susan C. Wilkinson (University of Wales Institute Cardiff) Will Reader (Sheffield Hallam University) and Stephen J. Payne (University of Bath) published in International Journal of Human-Computer Studies Volume 70 Issue 1 (January 2012)


Two experiments explored how learners allocate limited time across a set of relevant on-line texts, in order to determine the extent to which time allocation is sensitive to local task demands. The first experiment supported the idea that learners will spend more of their time reading easier texts when reading time is more limited; the second experiment showed that readers shift preference towards harder texts when their learning goals are more demanding.

These phenomena evince an impressive capability of readers. Further, the experiments reveal that the most common method of time allocation is a version of satisficing (Reader and Payne, 2007) in which preference for texts emerges without any explicit comparison of the texts (the longest time spent reading each text is on the first time that text is encountered). These experiments therefore offer further empirical confirmation for a method of time allocation that relies on monitoring on-line texts as they are read, and which is sensitive to learning goals, available time and text difficulty.

Do RFIDs (radio frequency identifier devices) provide new ethical dilemmas for librarians and information professionals?

an article by Clare Thornley (University College Dublin), Stuart Ferguson (University of Canberra), John Weckert (Charles Sturt University, New South Wales) and Forbes Gibb (University of Strathclyde) published in International Journal of Information Management Volume 31 Issue 6 (December 2011)


This paper provides an analysis of the current and potential ethical implications of RFID technology for the library and information professions. These issues are analysed as a series of ethical dilemmas, or hard-to-resolve competing ethical obligations, which the librarian has in relationship to information objects, library users and the wider social and political environment or state.

A process model of the library is used as a framework for the discussion to illustrate the relationship between the different participants in the library system and it is argued that ethical analysis should involve the identification of future developments as well as current issues. The analysis shows that RFIDs do currently pose some dilemmas for librarians in terms of the conflicts between efficient service, privacy of users and an obligation to protect the safety of society as a whole, and that these are likely to become more problematic as the technology develops.

This paper is part 2 of a series of papers on RFIDs and the library and information professions.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting - this is really today’s

Dresses of Tsarina Alexandra Romanova via HOW TO BE A RETRONAUT by Chris
Alexandra Feodorovna Romanova (1872 – 1918), was Empress consort of Russia as spouse of Nicholas II, the last Emperor of the Russian Empire. Alexandra is best remembered as the last Tsarina of Russia, as one of the most famous royal carriers of the haemophilia disease and for her support of autocratic control over the country. Her notorious friendship with the Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin was also an important factor in her life. Wikipedia
Thank you to Grand Ladies where you can see many dresses like this one. Such elegance.
1894 Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, born Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine in Russian court gown by Ilya Galkin (location unknown to gogm)

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“We live in a world where information is potentially unlimited,” says George Dyson. “Information is cheap, but meaning is expensive. Where is the meaning?”... more

Microbial home: fuelling the kitchen with methane from waste via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
This concept design for a “microbial home” centered around a methane digester hub that feeds gas from your food into various appliances has a nice, bodgy, Rube Goldberg feel. We can call it methanepunk (not perfect, but better than “fartpunk”).
The Microbial Home is viewed as a cyclical biological machine where wastes like sewage, effluent, garbage, wastewater are filtered, processed and recycled to be used as inputs for the various home functions. The project includes various aspects like a Bio Digester Island and Larder in the kitchen, Urban Beehive, Bio-light, Apothecary, Filtering Squatting Toilet and Paternoster Plastic Waste Up-cycler.
The Microbial Home (via Beyond the Beyond)

Prizma Puzzle Challenges via the How-To Geek by Asian Angel
In this game your mission is to successfully create energy bridges between two points on an isometric grid before running out of energy.
Read Asian Angel’s walkthrough here or go straight to the game here
This one looks as though it requires a bit more intellectual effort than most of the freebies.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
fMRI's and free will. Imagine a neuroscientist knowing what you'll decide before you do. Is consciousness a biochemical afterthought?... more

Dead Sea Scrolls Available Online via Big Think by Big Think Editors
With Google as its partner, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem will launch a new website that allows the public to examine the Dead Sea Scrolls in fine detail. “The site provides searchable, high-resolution images of the scrolls, plus explanatory videos and background on the foundational texts.”
Read More

Support for Tsunami Recovery in Galápagos Islands
The powerful tsunami resulting from the devastating March 11th 2011 earthquake off the coast of Japan struck the Galápagos Islands several hours later, damaging a number of coastal buildings. Funding from the World Heritage Centre's Rapid Response Facility helped repair and re-equip the Charles Darwin Research Station's marine conservation centre.
Help preserve World Heritage today!

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“I'm getting old,” says Bernard Lewis. But his memory remains sharp. Just ask him about swapping Marx Brothers films with the Shah… more

Antibiotic resistance is older than antibiotics via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
This came out while I was travelling, but I wanted to post it here in case you missed it. It is very cool, in that “maybe cool isn’t the right word” sort of way. Our modern antibiotics are really just purified and pumped-up versions of naturally occurring compounds, right? So, it makes sense that, long before we started using them as antibiotics, bacteria had already started building defenses against the natural compounds. In other words: Antibiotic resistance is older than the use of antibiotics

Infestor via the How-To Geek by Asian Angel
In this game two factions on a human colony are about to have the fragile peace they enjoy shattered by a new biological weapon known as Infestor. Are you ready to use Infestor to defeat the enemy?
Asian Angel’s walk through is here or you can, of course, take a leap into the dark and start playing it here.

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting - what I should have posted yesterday

Why We Can't Tell Good Wine From Bad via 3quarksdaily by Abbas Raza
David McRaney in The Atlantic
The Misconception: Wine is a complicated elixir, full of subtle flavors only an expert can truly distinguish, and experienced tasters are impervious to deception. 
The Truth: Wine experts and consumers can be fooled by altering their expectations.
In 2001, Frederic Brochet conducted two experiments at the University of Bordeaux. 
More here.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Is evil free-willed wickedness? Or are evildoers compelled to act as they do, victims of an errant electrochemical impulse, an anomaly in the amygdala?... more


Consider the Slime Mold: How Amoebas Form Social Networks via Big Think by Megan Erickson
“It turns out we’re not the only species that assembles ourselves into networks,” says physician and sociologist Nicholas Christakis in his Floating University lecture, If You're So Free, Why Do You Follow Others? Read More

Little Red Hen illustrated by Andy Warhol, 1958
Thank you to Glyphjockey

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Would you like a planet with old-growth forests, a living ocean, and no extreme climate change? Of course. Only technology can make such a world possible... more

Go Back in Time With Sims Medieval via Popgadget: Personal Tech for Women
If you've ever wanted to live in Medieval times, with kingdoms, castles, damsels and wizards, here's your chance with the new Sims Medieval Pirates and Nobles on EA Games.
Build up your own kingdom from the ground up, choosing a primary Sims hero, be it a blacksmith, a wizard or monarch to carry out a quest. But it's not as easy as it sounds; you must choose two traits AND one fatal flaw. For example, your King might be bloodthirsty, your blacksmith may be a drunk (mine is), or your pirate dastardly cruel.
Popgadget is not somewhere I expect to find games (quirky, often useless fun, gadgets but not games) so when I do see one it must be good – and it is.
Popgadget’s description is here or go straight to the game here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In 1967, Noam Chomsky accused intellectuals of deceit and distortion for rationalizing American militarism. Four decades later, little has changed... more

Broadband data ad from 1963 via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Phil Are Go! has unearthed this 1963 advertisement for “broadband” data services from Western Union: “So, by 1963, business guys who were rich enough to have those little egg cups could transmit pictures, charts, stock data and stuff over the phone lines. Who knew? Well, the Internet knew. It's just jarring to see the word ‘broadband’ appearing in print as early as the sixties. I tried to find some numbers on what qualified as broadband back then, but couldn't find anything. Shazbot.”
I don't know what 1963 considered broadband either, but I'm guessing 300 baud?
Western Union - Broadband 1963 style

Deco commercial illustrations for Arrow Collars via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
JC Leyendecker's commercial illustrations from the 1920s sure were beautiful.
Have a look at a couple of them

Light-Insensitive Cavefish Provide Insight into Circadian Rhythm via Britannica Blog by Kara Rogers

A zebrafish, Danio rerio. Credit: Soulkeeper

Each day, living organisms cycle through a series of physiological changes that correspond roughly to the 24-hour day-night cycle. In many species, this internal clock, known as circadian rhythm, is dictated by exposure to light. But what about species that are never exposed to light? A recent study comparing the Somalian cavefish Phreatichthys andruzzii, which has a 47-hour rhythm that functions in the complete absence of light, with zebrafish (Danio rerio), which experience typical day-night cycles, has revealed that there is in fact much more to circadian rhythm than light alone.
Read more

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ethnography goes online: towards a user-centred methodology to research interpersonal communication on the Internet

an article by Roser Beneito-Montagut (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain) published in Qualitative Research Volume 11 Number 6 (December 2011)


Ethnographic research is increasingly concerned with how the Internet operates within our everyday life. This article attempts to offer a methodological contribution of online communication and an exploration of initial empirical data generated with this methodology. The article calls for a specification of how ethnography can be applied appropriately to the study of relationships online. It departs from the real versus virtual dichotomy, offering a user-centred methodology to study interpersonal communications on the internet. It suggests the use of three main strategies to pay tribute to the characteristics of uses online: multi-situated, online and offline, and flexible and multimedia data collection methods. This approach facilitates a holistic analysis of the way in which social information and communication technologies operate within society in everyday life. It deals with the problem of defining the setting of research online and proposes an expanded ethnography. The article specifies details of this methodology for research into interpersonal communications and emotions online. It does so by drawing on empirical data generated in a study on everyday life and emotions on the internet. Epistemic questions related to this methodological approach will also be discussed. Overall, the exemplification suggests that the methodological approach proposed here is able to capture the uses and understandings of the Internet.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The best laid plans of mice and men

and of women too, do not always go as one would like them to.

I had intended that I would travel the slow, but extremely cheap as in FREE using my bus pass, way from Kettering to London. The first half of the journey on a Stagecoach Gold bus, which has free wifi, would have allowed me to catch up on items in Google Reader and, maybe, read some tweets.

I caught the bus I intended, settled into my very comfortable leather-clad seat, and woke up when the bus reached Milton Keynes!

Now, sitting at the dining table in my daughter's house, fed and watered, I need to do the couple of hours work I didn't do on the bus - and maybe even translate some of my reading into blog posts before hitting the British Library tomorrow and increasing the number of items already in draft.

Rural and urban areas: comparing lives using rural/urban classifications

an article by Tim Pateman (Office for National Statistics) published in Regional Trends Volume 43 Issue 1 (2011)


Most people have a clear impression of what the cities, towns and countryside look like in the UK, both physically and in terms of the lives of the people who live there. This article compares rural and urban areas statistically for themes such as working, earnings, services and population, using geographical classifications.

There is quantitative evidence that rural areas are better off than urban areas on a number of different measures, such as unemployment and crime, but there are substantial differences within both rural and urban areas. In a few respects rural areas are worse off. Analysis indicates that house prices are less affordable to local workers in rural areas than urban areas and the costs, travel time and carbon emissions resulting from transport tend to be higher in rural areas.

Using classifications that show sparse areas of England, some topics, such as incomes and qualifications, show ‘two countrysides’ – a better off, less sparse and more accessible one, and a less populous and isolated sparse countryside. Patterns within urban areas often differ, with the most urban areas of England frequently showing different trends from those in other places, and the widest variations.

This article shows that while no single rural/urban classification can be used for all geographies, using such a product helps to better understand the differing characteristics of rural and urban areas in a consistent, transparent way. This article will be of interest to those who wish to explore local authority or small area datasets, covering countries within the UK, for rural/urban differences, as well as those who wish to develop a greater understanding of rural/urban differences in general. It will also be of interest to those involved in local policy development and the allocation of resources within areas, as well as academics, journalists, researchers and members of the public with an interest in the classification and characteristics of rural and urban areas.

Regional statistics

The Eurostat regional yearbook 2011 is now available, giving regional indicators for 16 topics:
  • population, 
  • labour market, 
  • labour cost, 
  • education, 
  • health, 
  • cities, 
  • GDP, 
  • household accounts, 
  • structural business statistics, 
  • information society, 
  • tourism, 
  • land cover and land use, 
  • coastal regions, 
  • transport, 
  • science, and 
  • technology and innovation. 
This edition also includes a section on trends in densely and thinly populated areas. The 240-page yearbook covers the EU Member States, plus the EFTA and candidate countries. The content will be updated on the ‘Statistics explained’ website.

More details in Press Release 182/2011

Full report (PDF 240pp)
Hard copy is also available from the EU Bookshop for 20 Euros

Product code: KS-HA-11-001
ISBN: 978-92-79-20366-4
ISSN: 1830-9674
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.2785/1392

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Internet-Based Self-Help Career Assessments and Interventions: …

Challenges and Implications for Evidence-Based Career Counseling

an article by Itamar Gati and Lisa Asulin-Peretz (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)published in Journal of Career Assessment Volume 19 Number 3 (August 2011)


A major characteristic of the 21st century with significant implications on career decision making is the growing prevalence of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Challenges involving ICT-based self-assessment and self-help interventions aimed at facilitating career decision making are discussed. Specifically, this article focuses on the importance of using career counselors’ expert knowledge to develop more advanced online career self-assessments and self-help interventions and ways of incorporating them into the process of career counseling.

The first section of this article focuses on online career assessment. To help individuals, online self-assessments should include not only scoring but also an interpretation of the scores (e.g., indicating what the client’s main difficulties are) as well as recommendations for future actions (e.g., how to cope with these difficulties).

The second section focuses on developing online evidence-based career interventions that are tailored to the individual’s needs and characteristics, designed to both advance clients’ career decision-making process, and deal with specific difficulties that impede decision making.

The third section discusses the challenges of incorporating self-assessments and self-help interventions into face-to-face career counseling. Career clients can use online assessments and interventions before approaching a career counselor or as part of the career counseling process. Consequently, career counselors should broaden their expertise by becoming familiar with various Internet self-assessments and interventions, and capable of evaluating their quality, so that they can make the best use of them for the benefit of their clients.

Student effort and educational attainment: …

Using the England football team to identify the education production function

a research paper from CMPO (The Centre for Market and Public Organisation) by Robert Metcalfe (University of Oxford), Simon Burgess (CMPO, University of Bristol) and Steven Proud (University of Bristol) (Working Paper No. 11/276)


We use a sharp, exogenous and repeated change in the value of leisure to identify the impact of student effort on educational achievement. The treatment arises from the partial overlap of the world’s major international football tournaments with the exam period in England. Our data enable a clean difference-in-difference design. Performance is measured using the high-stakes tests that all students take at the end of compulsory schooling. We find a strongly significant effect: the average impact of a fall in effort is 0.12 SDs of student performance, significantly larger for male and disadvantaged students, as high as many educational policies.

Full report (PDF 42pp)

The introduction of Jobcentre Plus: An evaluation of labour market impacts

a research report from the Department for Work and Pensions (RR871) by Rebecca Riley, Helen Bewley, Simon Kirby,Ana Rincon-Aznar and Anitha George (National Institute of Economic and Social Research)

The main objective of the analysis in this report is to assess the labour market impacts of the introduction of Jobcentre Plus. Specific questions addressed are:
  • What impact has the introduction of Jobcentre Plus had on the numbers of people moving off benefit and into work?
  • What impact has the introduction of Jobcentre Plus had on the employment rate overall and the employment rate of different sub-groups?
  • What impact has the introduction of Jobcentre Plus had on the wider economy, including output and the public finances?
Chapter 3 of the report discusses the potential changes to exits from benefit to work for the three main client groups that may arise with the changes in service delivery brought about with Jobcentre Plus.

Full report (PDF 171pp)

Who uses Facebook? …

An investigation into the relationship between the Big Five, shyness, narcissism, loneliness, and Facebook usage

 an article by Tracii Ryan and Sophia Xenos (RMIT university, Melbourne, Australia) published in Computers in Human Behavior Volume 27 Issue 5 (September 2011)


The unprecedented popularity of the social networking site Facebook raises a number of important questions regarding the impact it has on sociality. However, as Facebook is a very recent social phenomenon, there is a distinct lack of psychological theory relating to its use. While research has begun to identify the types of people who use Facebook, this line of investigation has been limited to student populations. The current study aimed to investigate how personality influences usage or non-usage of Facebook. The sample consisted of 1,324 self-selected Australian Internet users (1,158 Facebook users and 166 Facebook nonusers), between the ages of 18 and 44. Participants were required to complete an online questionnaire package comprising the Big Five Inventory (BFI), the Narcissistic Personality Inventory – 29-item version (NPI-29), the Revised Cheek and Buss Shyness Scale (RCBS), and the Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale for Adults – Short version (SELSA-S). Facebook users also completed a Facebook usage questionnaire. The results showed that Facebook users tend to be more extroverted and narcissistic, but less conscientious and socially lonely, than nonusers. Furthermore, frequency of Facebook use and preferences for specific features were also shown to vary as a result of certain characteristics, such as neuroticism, loneliness, shyness and narcissism. It is hoped that research in this area continues, and leads to the development of theory regarding the implications and gratifications of Facebook use.

Hazel’s comment:
As you are aware I rarely comment on the articles I read. I leave it to you to decide if the topic interests you as much as it interested me based on the abstract (which is often all that I’ve read). My typical reader, who is in my mind all the time when I’m reading all these hundreds of journals, is, you will not be surprised to learn, a lot like me.
In this case I was sufficiently interested to wait until I could read the whole article and was fascinated. If you can get hold of the full text, and you have an interest in the psychology of social media, then this is highly recommended reading.
All ScienceDirect articles are available to rent from DeepDyve for prices around $3-5 depending on the publication.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The developmental roots of social responsibility in childhood and adolescence

an article by Laura Wray-Lake (Claremont Graduate University) and Amy K. Syvertsen (Search Institute) published in New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development Special Issue: Youth Civic Development: Work at the Cutting Edge, Volume 2011 Issue 134(Winter 2011)


Social responsibility is a value orientation, rooted in democratic relationships with others and moral principles of care and justice, that motivates certain civic actions. Given its relevance for building stronger relationships and communities, the development of social responsibility within individuals should be a more concerted focus for developmental scholars and youth practitioners. During childhood and adolescence, the developmental roots of individuals' social responsibility lie in the growth of executive function, empathy and emotion regulation, and identity. Efforts to cultivate children and adolescents' social responsibility in the proximal settings of their everyday lives should emphasize modeling prosocial behaviors, communicating concerns for others, and creating opportunities to practice civic skills.

Who owns that menu?

A restaurant, with a well-known proprietor, has recently been accused of copying another restaurant’s menu and branding in what is an increasingly challenging area of IP law.

Whilst there are doubtless similarities between the two menus in terms of content and layout, being able to prove that someone has copied such an item (which in addition features rather commonplace dishes) is a difficult – if not almost impossible – task.

Read more in the November Newsletter from the Intellectual Property Office.

Religious Communities, Immigration, and Social Cohesion in Rural Areas: …

Evidence from England

 an article by Rhys Andrews (Centre for Local and Regional Government Research, Cardiff University) published in Rural Sociology Volume 76 Issue 4 (December 2011)


Religious communities are important sources of bridging and bonding social capital that have varying implications for perceptions of social cohesion in rural areas. In particular, as well as cultivating cohesiveness more broadly, the bridging social capital associated within mainline religious communities may represent an especially important source of support for the social integration of new immigrant groups. Although the bonding social capital associated with evangelical communities is arguably less conducive to wider social cohesion, it may prompt outreach work by those communities, which can enhance immigrant integration. This article examines these assumptions by exploring the relationship between mainline and evangelical religious communities, immigration, and residents’ perceptions of social cohesion in rural areas in England. I model the separate and combined effects of religious communities and economic in-migration on social cohesion using multivariate statistical techniques. The analysis suggests that mainline Protestant communities enhance social cohesion in rural England, while evangelical communities do not. The social integration of immigrants appears to be more likely where mainline Protestant and Catholic communities are strong, but is unaffected by the strength of evangelical ones.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

A dinosaur’s teeth can be a map of its travels via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Bones can tell you a lot about a creature, but there’s much more they can't tell you. Bones are not behaviour. We know what the skeletons of dinosaurs looked like. But there's a great deal about their appearance and behaviour that we can only guess at.
Sometimes, though, bones can surprise you. Sometimes, they carry secrets locked inside. At Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong writes about a new study that's uncovered evidence about dinosaur behavior, using information stored in the dinosaurs’ teeth. The paper suggests that the North American Camarasaurus had a seasonal migration.
Fascinating stuff.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
"Hey, babe, fancy a shag?" Drink doesn't make us amorous and uninhibited. Culture does. So next time you wake up with regrets, blame not the booze, but yourself... more

Did the Italian Renaissance Begin in Baghdad? via Big Think by Bob Duggan
The Italian Renaissance remains one of those amazing hinges of human history where civilization made a great leap that continues to be felt today. For German art historian Hans Belting, this “quantum leap consistent in the way perspective introduced the gaze into the picture and thus, at the time, the human subject doing the gazing”.
Read More about Belting’s theory and the history behind his ideas.

‘I dreamed I was ‘X’ in my Maidenform bra’, 1944-1966 via HOW TO BE A RETRONAUT by Chris
Thank you to Vintage Ads and Stuff
See ALL the fantastic pictures here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Noël Coward likened reading a footnote to going downstairs to answer the door while making love. Digression didn't suit him. He's not alone... more

Friday Fun: Zombie Defense Agency via the How-To Geek by Asian Angel
In this game your mission is to set up a solid defence to stop the incoming waves of zombie hordes using the various weapon towers at your disposal.
As always you cxan choose to read Asian Angel’s walkthrough here or go straight to the game here

The beauty of ancient globalisation via Prospero by A.Y.
Today Peshawar in north-west Pakistan is a hotbed of insurgency and a strategic military entry point into Afghanistan. But more than 1,500 years ago the Gandhara region, which surrounded present-day Peshawar, was an important point along the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean. Propelled by Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian Empire, settlers from the West brought classical Greco-Roman influences, while traders from the East brought Buddhism. This unique cross-pollination permeates art from the Gandhara region, which encompassed swaths of north-west Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan between the first century BC and the fifth century AD. These works are an extraordinary example of ancient globalisation.
“The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara”, the first exhibition of Gandharan art from Pakistan in America since 1960, is on view at the Asia Society in New York through October.
“The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara” is on view at the Asia Society in New York through October 30th. Read more
Which means that by the time you read this it will be over – and I can find no mention anywhere of the exhibition being staged anywhere else in the world. Wikipedia has some stunning images and jump to Art.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
For Arthur Conan Doyle, who found "unaffectedness" his own chief virtue, the ideal of happiness was "men who do their duty." He did his... more

A Case Study of the “Primark Effect” via Big Think by Big Think Editors
The “fast fashion” retail model pioneered by companies such as Zara and H&M has been taken a step farther by Primark, the UK-based retailer offering clothes at rock-bottom prices. In fact, the significant change in consumer habits since the financial crisis, which … Read More

Yellowstone Bison via Boing Boing by Xeni Jardin

A herd of bison in a valley in the northwestern region of Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming). I shot this iPhone snap while shooting video with Miles O’Brien and team – we’re working on a story for the PBS NewsHour. We’re in Montana today, driving out shortly to a cattle rancher’s digs. Photo notes: I shot this in the “regular” (not HDR) iPhone photo setting, and did only very minor tweaks in Photoshop (levels, exposure, to bring some of those mid-range clouds into greater clarity). But this is not an HDR or faux-HDR photo, and I didn’t use any filters or do much in Photoshop. This is pretty much how it looks right on the iPhone.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

a fantasy of empire via 3quarksdaily by Morgan Meis
In 1929, two years after he resigned from his job as a policeman in Burma, George Orwell settled, in his mind at least, the question that still troubles many people in Britain and the US: whether the British empire was good or bad. Burma’s “relationship with the British empire&rdqwuo;, Orwell wrote, “is that of slave and master. Is the master good or bad? That is not the question; let us simply say that this control is despotic and, to put it plainly, self-interested.” Writing in 1942 about Rudyard Kipling’s legend of British soldiers, administrators and engineers in the colonies carrying heroically the white man’s burden, Orwell was blunter. “He does not seem to realise,” Orwell wrote, “any more than the average soldier or colonial administrator, that an empire is primarily a money-making concern.”
more from Pankaj Mishra at the FT here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
What's ugly beyond belief, singed, moldy, water-stained, and, until now, inaccessible? Archimedes' brain in a box... more

Silent Era Movie Posters via HOW TO BE A RETRONAUT by Amanda
Difficult choice, as always, but I think I liked this the best!
The rest are here.
Thank you to Verdoux

‘Men Who Plan Beyond Tomorrow’ Seagram’s Ads, 1940s via HOW TO BE A RETRONAUT by Chris

3D Movies
In the mid-1940s, Seagram’s advertised its VO Canadian whiskey with a series of extremely manly magazine ads about ‘Men Who Plan Beyond Tomorrow’ – unspecified futuristic thinkers who liked the fact that Seagram’s was patient enough to age VO for six years.
Technologizer Other pictures:

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Literary fiction is not a standard to aspire to, says Geoff Dyer. It's merely a convention that writers and readers collapse into, like an old sofa... more

Big Balloon to Cool Earth via Big Think by Big Think Editors
Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in the Philippines in 1991 led to the Earth cooling slightly for two years. Now British scientists are preparing to trial a potential solution to global warming that mimics the effect. This geo-engineering involves using an ordinary hosepipe …
Read More

From Spain to the Americas, from the convent to the front: Catalina de Erauso's shifting identities via Eurozine articles by Isabel Hernández
Isabel Hernández analyses the account of the 17th century nun Catalina de Erauso: She seized the first chance to run away from a convent and, dressed as a man, went to South America where she joined the Spanish army – “entirely a masculine realm”, as Hernández puts it.
Read more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Politics and principles. When it comes to staying in power, democrats and dictators have more in common than not... more

Ocean Acidity Blamed for Ancient Extinction via Big Think by Big Think Editors
Earth experienced its most dramatic extinction crisis of all time 250 million years ago when about 90 percent of ocean-dwelling species and 70 percent of land-dwellers disappeared. What caused the massive die-off has long been debated but a new study suggests ocean …
Read More

Debating “Guilty Pleasures” via 3quarksdaily by Robin Varghese
VinylOver in the blogosphere, a debate seems to be emerging. So far AtriosMatthew YglesiasAmanda Marcotte and Lindsay Beyerstein have weighed in.
It seems that “guilty pleasures” are things people like but can’t justify liking.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

International Potato Center
How the Potato Changed the World via 3quarksdaily by Azra Raza
From Smithsonian:
When potato plants bloom, they send up five-lobed flowers that spangle fields like fat purple stars. By some accounts, Marie Antoinette liked the blossoms so much that she put them in her hair. Her husband, Louis XVI, put one in his buttonhole, inspiring a brief vogue in which the French aristocracy swanned around with potato plants on their clothes. The flowers were part of an attempt to persuade French farmers to plant and French diners to eat this strange new species. Today the potato is the fifth most important crop worldwide, after wheat, corn, rice and sugar cane. More here.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Quantum mechanics is one of the most reliable theories in science, but that doesn't mean physicists understand it... more

Mysterious Brain Connections via Big Think by Big Think Editors
Researchers were recently surprised to find that brains missing a corpus callosum, which links the two hemispheres of the brain, were able to communicate information between the two halves quite effectively. Is the brain capable of using electromagnetic waves to ...
Read More

Why Are the Letters in ABC Order? via Stephen’s Lighthouse
Read the history and philosophy at mental_floss Blog by Matt Soniak and the evolution of the alphabet as a moving image here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Google wants to know your reading habits, taste in music, and where you are right now. You are not Google's customer. You are its product... more

Was Vincent Van Gogh Murdered? via Big Think by Bob Duggan
Every art lover knows the story. Sad, mad Vincent Van Gogh went into the wheat fields of Auvers-sur-Oise on the morning of July 27, 1890 to paint Wheatfield with Crows, his visual suicide note to posterity, before shooting himself in the chest. Read More

The Dark Side of High Achievement via Big Think by Peter Saalfield
It is a familiar tale, one told many times by writers and filmmakers from Shakespeare to Orson Welles. A dynamic thinker sets out on his or her career and makes an impact almost immediately. He brings new ideas to the table, sees angles that others do not, and consequently …
Read More

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
No more Manhattan Projects. Technological innovation has stalled, says Peter Thiel. Scientists are ignored. Today a letter from Einstein would get lost in the White House mailroom... more

Welcome to the Moral Sciences Club via Big Think by Will Wilkinson
Welcome to the club. Let’s begin with the name, which is swiped from the Cambridge Moral Sciences Club, a philosophy discussion group founded in 1878 for Cambridge men who were doing or had done the “moral sciences tripos”, a defunct course of study for the honours B.A. The original Cambridge …
Read More

Delicious or Disgusting? Depends on Where You’re Sitting via Big Think by David Berreby
When I hand my one-year-old son something to eat, he spends a short time looking at it and a long time looking at me: Is this good? Is it tasty? Is this what we eat? The answer (olive from me, yes; bug from floor, no) has a bit to do with the chemical and physiological process of perceiving the … Read More

Saturday, 3 December 2011

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine via Big Think by Big Think Editors
A new study out of Oxford University suggests that laughter can trigger the release of endorphins, the brain chemical that can make you feel good, distract you from pain and deliver other health benefits. In the study, participants watched sitcoms or stand up comedy … Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The demand for certainty is the innovation-killer of our age. Solve big problems, build big stuff? No. Don't risk failure... more

Friendly bacteria move in mysterious ways via 3quarksdaily by Azra Raza
From Nature:
Many yoghurts are loaded with live bacteria, and labelled with claims that consuming these microorganisms can be good for your health. But a study published today [28 October] shows that such yoghurts have only subtle effects on the bacteria already in the gut and do not replace them. Nathan McNulty, a microbiologist at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, recruited seven pairs of identical twins, and asked one in each pair to eat twice-daily servings of a popular yoghurt brand containing five strains of bacteria. By sequencing bacterial DNA in the twins’ stool samples, the team showed that the yoghurt microbes neither took up residence in the volunteers’ guts, nor affected the make-up of the local bacterial communities. Jeffrey Gordon, the microbiologist at Washington University who led the study, was not surprised. “We were only giving several billion bacterial cells in total to the twins, who harbour tens of trillions of gut microbes in their intestines,” he says. More here.

How can parents ensure their children don’t marry outside their ethnicity? via Big Think by Marina Adshade
A woman recently shared with me the secret to finding a husband. She told me to write a list of qualities that my ideal man would have and tape it to my fridge. That’s it. And while it sounds too simple to be effective, she assured me that it worked well for her.
Read More
The answer to ensuring (or at least trying to ensure) that your son or daughter marries someone from the same ethnic group is to not let them be educated! Statistics have shown that the more educated someone is the more likely it is that they will marry someone from a different ethnic group.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Something's rotten in the Kingdom of Print. Books that call for 60 pages are fluffed out to 600. Why? The dismal economics of publishing... more

Noncommunicable Disease Epidemic via Big Think by Big Think Editors
The World Health Organization (WHO) has brought attention to the worldwide epidemic of noncommunicable diseases in a report that highlights the role of income inequality in how diseases are diagnosed and treated. The report recommends policies governments … Read More

Examining the Mystery of Skeleton, Sugar and Sex via 3quarksdaily by Azra Raza
From The New York Times:
THE HYPOTHESIS: Bones help regulate fertility in men.
For years, scientists thought they understood the skeleton. It serves as structural support for the body. It stores calcium and phosphate. It contributes to blood cell development. And it serves, indispensably, as the creepy mascot of Halloween. But as it turns out, there may be still more to bone. A few years ago, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center discovered, to everyone's surprise, that the skeleton seems to help regulate blood sugar. Now the team, led by Dr Gerard Karsenty, geneticist and endocrinologist at Columbia University, has found that bone may play an unexpected role in reproduction.
More here

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Early computer culture was a battle between gray, regimented corporations and psychedelic hippie-nerds. It’s still not clear who won … more

Books & Beer: Talking Literature With The Inklings via Reading Copy Book Blog by elizabethc
One of the most famous literary groups was a very informal one and included two pioneers of modern fiction – J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The Inklings liked to down a few pints of bitter while debating the merits of magical wardrobes and fantastic kingdoms, as well as Christianity and spirituality.
From poets to theologians and biographers, the Inklings were a diverse group united by a love of literature.
The book by Humphrey Carpenter is available from – prices start at £2.64. And at this point I give you one of my very few wholehearted and entirely unsolicited testimonials – AbeBooks has never let me down and I have, over the course of time, asked for some quite obscure items.

Finally, an extinct species you can feel good about via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
The specific strain of the bacteria Yersinia pestis that was responsible for the Black Death in Europe is probably now extinct, according to a new study. The bacterial DNA extracted from historic samples doesn’t match modern Y. pestis. This could go a long way toward explaining why the Plague seems significantly less deadly today than it was in medieval Europe.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Away from my desk – or absent without leave?

Blogging has been, to say the least of it, very light this week and the drafts folder has more items held over than for a long time.

Reasons, maybe I actually mean excuses, include:
  • not working at full stretch last week because of "viral infection of the upper respiratory tract" – which left me marking up items without actually writing them up;
  • clearing up the mess from partner who decided that some DIY was required on the wall (I simply could not work with the room in that state);
  • spending time at Online Information 2011 at Olympia; and
  • going to a party on Wednesday with KashFlow accountants and users (lots of interesting networking so could be called a good reason but I don’t do late nights and travelling across London at gone midnight was not a good idea).
Hopefully I'll be back to working at full capacity  next week. Unless him indoors has decided to do something even more disastrous in which case I may have to go to the library to work and simply ignore the state of the house!! The perils of working from home when partner does not understand that work is an activity not a place.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Regional labour market: …

higher unemployment rates and increasing disparities in 2010

Issue number 60/2011 via Eurostat Statistics in focus

The latest estimates for 2010 show the continuing impact of the economic crisis in the EU labour market. The employment rate for the 20-64 age group in the EU-27 stood at 68.6 % in 2010, 0.5 percentage points (p.p.) lower than the previous year.

The unemployment rate (15-74 age group) rose by 0.7 p.p., reaching 9.6 %, the highest value in the past decade. This impact is evident in most of the Member States, and is affecting all population groups. However, the scale varies from country to country, and even more from region to region. While almost 70 % of the NUTS 2 regions in the EU-27 recorded higher unemployment rates, 10 % of the regions achieved significant reductions.

As a result of differences in regional performance, cohesion in the labour market continued to deteriorate in 2010.

Full report (PDF 12pp)

For best results print in colour - the maps are really good.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

Why are rabbit’s feet considered lucky? via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker on 10/26/11
At Anthropology in PracticeKrystal DCosta looks at the cultural history of the rabbit's foot as a good luck charm, and attempts to figure out why bunny feet ended up being imbued with such significance. After all, owning that foot didn't turn out to be particularly lucky for the rabbit. But then, that may be part of the point.
It’s an interesting article, and D’Costa finds connections to both European hedge-witchery and African-American trickster legends.

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
When Groucho Marx met T.S. Eliot. The antic Jewish wit and the morose anti-Semite shared a friendship and a compulsion: extreme frankness... more

The Scariest Zombies in Nature via 3quarksdaily by Azra Raza
From Smithsonian:
Once the fungus invades its victim’s body, it’s already too late. The invader spreads through the host in a matter of days. The victim, unaware of what is happening, becomes driven to climb to a high spot. Just before dying, the infected body – a zombie – grasps a perch as the mature fungal invader erupts from the back of the zombie’s head to rain down spores on unsuspecting victims below, starting the cycle again. This isn't the latest gross-out moment from a George A. Romero horror film; it is part of a very real evolutionary arms race between a parasitic fungus and its victims, ants. More here.

Women by Robert McGinnis via HOW TO BE A RETRONAUT by Chris
Robert McGinnis (born 1926)is known for his illustrations of over 1200 paperback book covers, and over 40 movie posters, including Breakfast at Tiffanys (his first film poster assignment), Barbarella, and several James Bond films.
Thank you to The Painted Anvil

I think this one is my favourite of those included in the post – view them all

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The biologist and the billionaire. What's E.O. Wilson doing on the southern edge of Africa's Great Rift Valley? Stirring up controversy, of course... more

James Gurney paints a mud puddle by Mark Frauenfelder via BoingBoing
One of many reasons I admire artist James Gurney so much: he finds beauty in almost everything.
Yesterday I took my car to the shop because it needed an inspection. The rain was pouring down. There wasn't much space in the waiting room. So I sat under the awning out back between an old rusty engine and a forklift.
While I waited, I sketched the mud puddle beside me. The rain streamed off the corrugated roof and splashed the water, making big bubbles. The puddle was a sea of overlapping ripples.
James Gurney gets his car inspected

Ten Mistresses Who Changed History via 3quarksdaily by Abbas Raza
Elizabeth Weingarten in Slate:
Before Monica Lewinsky, Camilla Parker Bowles, or Marilyn Monroe, there was Hagar – the world's first known mistress.
According to the Bible, Hagar was an Egyptian slave sent to the bed of her master, Abraham, by his barren wife, Sarah.
Several millenniums later, the mistress remains a tenuous position, as historian Elizabeth Abbott explores in her new book, Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman, out this week [of 31 August]. Since Hagar's era, however, a handful of women have learned to parlay their scandalous relationships into positions of power – and some have changed history in doing so.
More here.

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
5-by-8-inch cardstock, about to be thrown away: the trade-school report cards of strangers long dead. Paul Lukas delivered a precious few to where they belong... more
Before you click on the “more” I have to warn you – if you have any interest in social history you will a) want to look at and you will find that you’ve lost a lot of time enjoying yourself.

Inside the sea caves of Devil’s Island via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Last year, when I posted here about the history of the lighthouse at Devil's Island, Wisconsin, several of you noticed the island's extensive network of sea caves, carved into the sandstone cliffs by splashing waves and moving water. This year, when some friends and I went on a little paddle through the caves, I took along a video camera. It doesn’t quite capture the eerie awesomeness of floating into the dark with Lake Superior behind you, but it’s still pretty neat.
Apologies in advance for the occasional sudden jerky movements and possible audible swearing. Devil’s Island is also home to a large population of biting flies and my ankles are, apparently, quite tasty.
Video Link

Bathing suit law, USA 1922
(Click here for full size resolution)
June 30, 1922. Washington policeman Bill Norton measuring the distance between knee and suit at the Tidal Basin bathing beach after Col. Sherrell, Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds, issued an order that suits not be over six inches above the knee.
National Photo Co.