Saturday, 7 April 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

How This Woman Became King (And Empowered a Village in the Process) via Big Think by Megan Erickson
Peggielene Bartels was an administrative assistant in Washington D.C. when she got a phone call informing her she’d been elected King of Otuam, the Ghanian fishing village where she was born. Her uncle had died in the middle of the night, and sacred rituals revealed that she would be the next leader of Otuam.
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Present at the creation. In 1604 scholars began to rethink the Bible. Their work wasn’t a miracle, but it’s a masterpiece, if a flawed one... more

How is climate change like Copernicus? via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
An article in the latest issue of Physics Today puts modern contrived controversies into historical perspective. After all, this isn’t the first time that humans have looked at the evidence supporting a profound paradigm shift in science, realized how badly it would screw with their deeply held social and political beliefs, and, then, soundly rejected the evidence.
The decision [whether to accept the new theory] was not exclusively, or even primarily, a matter for astronomers, and as the debate spread from astronomical circles it became tumultuous in the extreme. To most of those who were not concerned with the detailed study of celestial motions, Copernicus’s innovation seemed absurd and impious. Even when understood, the vaunted harmonies seemed no evidence at all. The resulting clamour was widespread, vocal, and bitter.
Thus does science historian Thomas Kuhn describe the difficulties experienced by astronomers in convincing the public of the heliocentric theory of the solar system, which ultimately ushered in the scientific revolution. The “clamor&rdqwuo; prevailed around the time of Galileo Galilei, more than a half century after Nicolaus Copernicus, on his deathbed, published the heliocentric model in 1543. Copernicus’s calculations surpassed all others in their ability to describe the observed courses of the planets, and they were based on a far simpler conception. Yet most people would not accept heliocentricity until two centuries after his death.
Read the rest of this at Physics Today. It's a really fascinating piece, filled with neat science history about the controversy surrounding heliocentrism. There’s also some information on another “controversy” where science ended up being debated through a political lens: Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Via Steve Easterbrook

How Small Can you Get?
Once upon a time, AV projectors were large beasts and cost an arm and a leg. Now you can use a miniature projector that will attach to your iPhone - and it's available at under £100!
The Koolertron Mini Portable Multimedia Pocket Cinema Pico Projector (such a big name for a small piece of kit) is a pocket-sized mini projector for iPhone and iPod that features a compact and lightweight design. Which means what, exactly? The recommended usage does rather question the business credibility of the product. What do you make of a product described as being “ideal for business meetings and presentations, outdoor camping and travel”?
Koolertron Projector [link to Amazon}
From NFP Techno (The Online Newsletter for the Not For Profit Sector)

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
A member of the Roman élite, Petronius knew that in times of abundance, hedonism is cheap. But our capacity for pleasure, including that for information, is finite... more

From the department of Horrible Sounding Ideas That May Actually Be Good Ideas via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
An acidic tampon? In my vagina? It's more likely to be a reasonable and healthy idea than you might think. (Also: If you aren’t reading the Context and Variation blog, you’re missing out on the best in lady parts science, and I pity you.)

How Good Listeners Succeed More Often via Big Think by Orion Jones
When it comes to making better decisions for yourself and your family or company, too much emphasis is placed on improving your own skills, says Bernard Ferrari, author of a new book on the importance of listening. Instead, lending an ear to those around you – really listening to them with an open mind – may be the best way to improve the quality of your organization.
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Master of understatement. Darwin’s only mention of humans in Origin is on page 488. “Much light will be thrown on the origin of man.” Indeed... more

German Airship Lands in Moscow, September 1930 via Retronaut by Chris
After World War I, Germany was deprived of its right to construct airships. The ban was in force until 1925. So, in fall 1928 their new airship LZ-127 made its first flight. On September 10th, 1930 the airship reached Moscow, circled above the city for two hours and landed on Khodynka Field. Over 3,000 viewers could watch the landing. The airship had 42 crew members, 23 passengers and 21 kg of mail aboard. It took the airship about 26 hours to cover the distance of 2,372m.
English Russia

Thank you to English Russia
This capsule was curated by Alex Butterworth

Turning artificial joints into scrap metal at the crematorium via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Combine the spike in commodity metal prices with advances in geriatric medicine and the increased trend to cremation and what do you get? A thriving trade in artificial joint harvesting and recycling. A Dutch company called OrthoMetals recycles 250 tons of scrap from cremated bodies – cofounder Ruud Verberne notes that it takes five hips to make one kilo of metal, which fetches €12 on the scrap market.
Clark Boyd and Rob Hugh-Jones from PRI write on the BBC:
The company works by collecting the metal implants for nothing, sorting them and then selling them - taking care to see that they are melted down, rather than reused.
Melting down hips and knees: The afterlife of implants

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