Sunday, 31 July 2016

Ten interesting items to close your weekend

Pluto and other known “not-planets” in our solar system mapped in scale image montage
via Boing Boing by Xeni Jardin
Montage by Emily Lakdawalla.
“Now that I have a reasonable-resolution global color view of Pluto,” writes Emily Lakdawalla, “I can drop it into one of my trademark scale image montages, to show you how it fits in with the rest of the similar-sized worlds in the solar system: the major moons and the biggest asteroids.”
Continue reading

We were wrong about how boa constrictors kill their prey
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
I was in two minds about this but so long as I don’t include the picture (and you don’t click through to continue reading) we should both be safe
Since we were kids, we’ve been taught that a boa constrictor wraps itself around its prey and suffocate it. A new study suggests that’s incorrect.
Continue reading

Is Arabic really a single language?
via OUP Blog by Michael Erdman
All language-learners face the difficulties of regional variations or dialects. Usually, it takes the form of an odd word or turn of phrase or a peculiar pronunciation. For most languages, incomprehension is only momentary, and the similarity — what linguists often refer to as the mutual intelligibility — between the standard language taught to foreigners and the regional speech pattern is maintained. For a language such as French, only the most extreme cases of dialectical differences, such as between Parisian and Québécois or Cajun, pose considerable difficulties for both learners and native speakers of dialects close to the standard. For other languages, however, differences between dialects are so great as to make most dialects other than the standard totally incomprehensible to learners. Arabic is one such language.
Continue reading

Sound is the forgotten flavor sense
via Boing Boing by Gastropod

Manipulating sound can transform our experience of food and drink, making stale potato chips taste fresh, adding the sensation of cream to black coffee, or boosting the savory, peaty notes in whiskey.
Continue reading

House Party: 1950
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
From photographs by Stanley Kubrick for the Look magazine article “The Debutante Who Went to Work”: “Socialite model/actress Betsy Von Furstenberg attending a weekend house party. Includes Von Furstenberg, hostess Sandra Stralem and other young women in ball gowns”
View original post

‘Agreeing to Disagree’ Is the End of Truly Listening to Each Other
via Big Think by Orion Jones
When conversation hits a road bump, participants often turn toward a way of agreeing with each other without actually having to agree. It's the famous "let's agree to disagree" line. In my own life, the proposal tends to come up in two specific cases:
  1. A way to move past a superficial disagreement (someone is quibbling and they think it’s cute) to get closer to the heart of what we’re talking about.
  2. A socially acceptable way to end a conversation that is beginning to get heated – without saying something like “You're a jerk. How could you think that?”
In the first situation, I’m thankful to have the phrase. In the second, I’m grateful for the peace it delivers, but am ultimately left with an empty feeling, as though I haven’t properly understood the other person, or that they haven’t adequately listened to my point of view.

Continue reading

Pentaquarks Have Physicists Psyched – And Baffled
via 3 Quarks Daily: Sophia Chen at Wired
Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider have been smashing protons together, on and off, since 2009. On Tuesday they announced that they’d encountered a new particle as a result of all those subatomic crack-ups called the pentaquark—and it could help explain what holds together other subatomic particles like protons and neutrons.
Continue reading and see some fascinating images

The “There Their and They're” Song, by Jonathan Mann
via Boing Boing by Xeni Jardin
Shove it down the throats of anyone you encounter who misuses any of these words. Thank you for your service to humanity.

This land is your land
via OUP Blog by Stephen Petrus
Seventy-five years ago folk singer Woody Guthrie penned the initial lyrics to “This Land Is Your Land,” considered by many to be the alternative national anthem. Sung in elementary schools, children’s summer camps, around campfires, at rallies, and during concert encores, “This Land Is Your Land” is the archetypal sing-along song, familiar to generations of Americans. But what most do not know is that Guthrie, the “Oklahoma Cowboy,” actually wrote the song in New York and that its production and dissemination were shaped by the city’s cultural institutions. Indeed, “This Land Is Your Land” is essentially an urban creation.
Continue reading

Why men fight wars – and what could make them stop
via 3 Quarks Daily: David Berreby in Psychology Today

In a sparsely appointed trailer in northern Iraq, close to the sandbagged front line where Kurds faced the advancing forces of the Islamic State, fighters sat on the floor last spring and talked to Lydia Wilson about war. “Here,” one would say, pointing to his neck, “is where I was wounded – and here, and here.” Another trailed off from his own story to tell her about the wars in which his father and grandfather had fought in defense of their ethnic identity. Others praised their French allies’ efficiency in carrying out air strikes – the Americans, they said, took too long to arrive and flew away too soon. Some wondered out loud whether the coming night would bring suicide attackers driving trucks laden with explosives toward their position. Daytime offered quiet and some respite in the trailer, but by nightfall, they knew, ISIS would be back.
Continue reading

Friday, 29 July 2016

The Limits of Mindfulness: Emerging Issues for Education

an article by Terry Hyland (Free University of Ireland, Dublin) published in British Journal of Educational Studies Volume 64 Issue 1 (2016)


Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are being actively implemented in a wide range of fields – psychology, mind/body health care and education at all levels – and there is growing evidence of their effectiveness in aiding present-moment focus, fostering emotional stability, and enhancing general mind/body well-being.

However, as often happens with popular innovations, the burgeoning interest in and appeal of mindfulness practice has led to a reductionism and commodification – popularly labelled ‘McMindfulness’ – of the underpinning principles and ethical foundations of such practice which threatens to subvert and militate against the achievement of the original aims of MBIs in general and their educational function in particular.

It is argued here that mindfulness practice needs to be organically connected to its spiritual roots if the educational benefits of such practice are to be fully realised.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Online counselling in secondary schools: would students seek help by this medium?

an article by K.J. Glasheen, I Shochet and M.A. Campbell (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia) published in British Journal of Guidance and Counselling Volume 44 Number 1 (January 2016)


Students in secondary schools experience problems that can impact on their well-being and educational outcomes. Although face-to-face counselling is available in most Australian secondary schools, many students, particularly boys, do not seek appropriate help. Research suggests that online counselling can be effective and increase engagement.

This study of 215 secondary school students sought to assess students’ intention to use online counselling if it was made available in schools. The results found no gender difference in the likely intentions to seek online help though year level was significant and students experiencing psychological distress had a preference for online counselling. If students did use online counselling it was more likely they would discuss sensitive topics rather than for career issues.

Implications for school counselling are discussed.

Full text (HTML)

What happens when the definition of disability changes? The case of obesity

an article by Jennifer Bennett Shinall (Vanderbilt University Law School) published in IZA Journal of Labor Economics Volume 5 Number 2 (2016)


This paper examines how Congress’s 2008 expansion of who is disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) impacts the labor market outcomes of newly covered individuals.

Focusing on obese individuals, I exploit variation in coverage of obesity before and after the 2008 expansion to identify effects of the legal change, but I find no improvement in the labor market outcomes of the obese. Although the 2008 expansion was intended to remedy the unintended consequences of the ADA and improve labor market outcomes of the disabled, these early estimates suggest that the expansion has not yet achieved Congress’s stated goals.

JEL codes: J14, J21, J78, K31

Full text (HTML)

Hazel’s comment:
Yes, this a US-centric article but throws some light on what obese people can expect by way of discrimination.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Mindfulness training and employee well-being

an article by Nadine Joelle Mellor and Anne-Helen Harding (Work Psychology, Health and Safety Laboratory, Buxton, UK) and Leanne Ingram, Marc Van Huizen and John Arnold (Institute of Work Psychology, The University of Sheffield, UK)


The purpose of this paper is to assess the effects of mindfulness training (MT) on employee well-being. Mindfulness is the awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, sensations, actions and surroundings in the present moment.

The authors used pre-post training measures and a four-week follow-up on a sample of 23 employees from a UK-based organization. The MT group (n=12) received a weekly two-hour training over eight weeks whilst the control group (n=11) received no training. Qualitative interviews (n=36) were conducted with the MT group at three time points to further assess the subjective experiences of training participants.

Compared to the control group, the MT group significantly increased their mindfulness skills including observing and acting with awareness. Scores on well-being, i.e. satisfaction with life, hope and anxiety also improved and were generally maintained at follow-up. Some improvements were seen in the control group too but there was a larger difference in change scores in the MT group on most variables. Qualitative data show additional benefits of MT such as improved concentration at work and better interpersonal relationships. More practice at home led to greater benefits suggesting a dose-response relationship between the amount of practice and substantial benefits.

Research limitations/implications
Inviting participants to have a greater amount of practice between sessions may further increase the benefits of mindfulness. Future research should consider a longer follow-up period to further explore the sustainability of the training benefits.

Employing a mixed-method approach, this study showed that MT is a viable psychological intervention for enhancing employee well-being.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The purpose and value of higher education: an economic perspective

an article by Yu Peng Lin (affiliation unknown) published in International Journal of Economics and Accounting Volume 7 Number 1 (2016)


The purpose of this research is to understand the rationality of applying the concept of return on investment in valuing higher education from the perspective of economics.

Higher education serves its own unique purposes. Instead of attempting to directly define the purpose of higher education, economists more frequently try to tackle the question from the output side by trying to figure out how to value the outcome of college education. Yet, there are some uncertainties in the higher education system, which lead to the observed heterogeneous market price on the graduates. We show that while the market achieves equilibrium, the market wage tends to be equal to the graduate's expected productivity.

The data of the median earnings for adults during the years 2005-2013 confirms that the market institutes value on higher education. Overall, the results of this study shed some light on justifying the use of return on investment in the task of valuing college education.

And yet more "trivial" items

Donald Duck taught me how to play billiards
via Boing Boing by Michael Borys
Before the age of YouTube, you cherished the chance to see a rerun – and you had to take notes.
Are you too young to remember the television series, The Wonderful World Of Disney? It ran once a week and you never knew what you were going to get. It may have been a classic Disney film, a live action tour of the Disney parks or a set of animated shorts.
If you've never seen the show, you're probably also unfamiliar with Donald In Mathmagic Land.
Continue reading

Against Honeymoons
via 3 Quarks Daily: Charles Comey in The Point
The honeymoon as we know it, the postnuptial trip for two, hasn’t been around all that long. In the nineteenth century there was something called a “bridal tour,” where newlyweds would travel, sometimes accompanied by friends and family, to visit relatives who hadn’t been able to attend the wedding. The bridal tour made sense when a marriage was much more about social ties and the joining of two families than it is now: the pair journeyed not as tourists but as a tour. At the turn of the century couples began to adapt the bridal tour to make it a private pleasure trip instead. In Marriage, a History Stephanie Coontz talks about the transition from bridal tour to honeymoon as part of a larger revolution in the form of family life in general: the increasing interiority and privacy of the family unit, as well as marriage becoming obsessively all about the two individuals and their bond.
Continue reading

The Man With No Name, my role model for life
via Boing Boing by Michael Borys
Read the story for yourself

Man of Steel: 1942
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
May 1942
“Denver, Colorado. Interior of a shipbuilding plant, showing workman who previously assembled incubator parts and amusement park devices, now working on hulls and decks of escort vessels. He and his co-workers will be invited to Mare Island, 1,300 miles away, to help launch the ships they are building’
4x5 nitrate negative for the Office of War Information
View original post

Is This New Swim Stroke the Fastest Yet?
via 3 Quarks Daily: Regan Penaluna in Nautilus
Humans are land animals, and not natural swimmers. We have to learn how to swim, and it is up to us to find the fastest way to do so. The search may finally be coming to an end. In the last few decades, stroke mechanic experts have discovered that swimming under the surface is faster than swimming on the surface. “It’s hard to fathom that this could happen in track and field,” says Rick Madge, a swim coach and blogger. “Nobody is going to come up with a new way of running that is going to be faster than anything else. Yet we just did that in swimming.” And the fish kick may be the fastest subsurface form yet.
Continue reading

A tiny instrument with a tremendous history: the piccolo
via OUP Blog by Dani Mermelstein
Although often overlooked, the piccolo is an important part of the woodwind instrument family. This high-pitched petite woodwind packs a huge punch. Historically, the piccolo had no keys, but over the years, it has transformed into an instrument similar in fingering and form to the flute. It still serves as a unique asset to the woodwinds.
Continue reading

The most amazing building in the world was started in 1883 – still not finished building it
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
One of the most amazing things I've ever seen was Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The basilica looks like a giant drippy asymmetrical sandcastle. Gaudi started working on it in 1883. He was still working on it in 1926 when a tram ran over him and killed him. It was not complete when I visited it 20 years ago. This video shows what Sagrada Familia will look like when it is complete in 2026 (this is wishful thinking on their part). In a way, I hope they keep working on Sagrada Familia for as long as intelligent lifeforms exist on Earth - it's a worthy Long Now project.

Gay Berlin
via 3 Quarks Daily: Ian P. Beacock in The Point
One evening in October 1905, when most Berliners were bundled away at home, Kurt Hiller wandered alone through the Tiergarten. Well, not quite alone. Walking in the southeast corner of the park between Lennéstraße and the Brandenburg Gate, the nineteen-year-old law student found himself boxed in by silhouettes: men searching the shadows for the company of other men, the “warm brothers” (warme Brüder) for which Berlin was so well-known. It was Hiller’s first visit to the city’s most notorious cruising ground, but he quickly found what he was looking for. He sat down on a bench next to a wiry man perhaps ten years his senior, rakish and mysterious in the moonlight. The law student wasted little time with small talk; he asked about the most important things. The man raised his arm and flexed. “I checked for myself,” Hiller recalled. “His bicep was broad, curved, and strong as steel.” Returning to the apartment of his anonymous lover, Hiller noticed with some distaste that the man’s body was quilted with tattoos. This was a man of the outskirts: a sailor or a criminal, a soldier or a circus performer. Taken briefly aback, the law student was rapidly overcome by lust for the man’s taut, sculpted frame. He let the door to the hallway close behind him
Continue reading

Good stories of bad Bloomsbury behaviour
via Arts & Letters Daily: Anne Chisholm in Spectator
Bunny Garnett and Henrietta Bingham may have been borderline members of the Group, but they made up for it with their scandalous escapades, as Sarah Knights and Emily Bingham reveal
In March 1923 a large birthday party was held in a studio in Bloomsbury. It is often assumed that the eponymous Group was habitually glum or intense; but there were a lot of parties. The artists were Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and the birthday was David Garnett’s 31st. David (known as Bunny) was a handsome, fair-haired fellow of bisexual charm, beloved by Grant, among others. His second novel, Lady into Fox, inspired and illustrated by his wife, Ray, had been a literary sensation the year before.
Continue reading (fascinating stuff)

Severed heads on the Elizabethan stage
via OUP Blog by Michael J. Hirrel
On Tower Hill, 25 February 1601, Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, was beheaded with three blows of an axe before some 150 spectators. The headsman held the head up for the spectators to see. He called out, “God save the Queen”. This beheading and others of that time color an important question for Shakespeare scholars. Severed heads populate many Elizabethan period plays. What objects represented those heads on stage? Elizabethan acting companies did, as we know from the records of theatre owner Philip Henslowe, employ realistic stage properties. But all stage performances require audience imagination. So might the heads have been pumpkins or were they in fact realistic representations of the actors themselves.
Continue reading

Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation

an article by David H Autor (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts) published in Journal of Economic Prospects Volume 29 Number 3 (Summer 2015)


In this essay, I begin by identifying the reasons that automation has not wiped out a majority of jobs over the decades and centuries. Automation does indeed substitute for labor as it is typically intended to do. However, automation also complements labor, raises output in ways that leads to higher demand for labor, and interacts with adjustments in labor supply. Journalists and even expert commentators tend to overstate the extent of machine substitution for human labor and ignore the strong complementarities between automation and labor that increase productivity, raise earnings, and augment demand for labor. Changes in technology do alter the types of jobs available and what those jobs pay.

In the last few decades, one noticeable change has been a "polarization" of the labor market, in which wage gains went disproportionately to those at the top and at the bottom of the income and skill distribution, not to those in the middle; however, I also argue, this polarization is unlikely to continue very far into future.

The final section of this paper reflects on how recent and future advances in artificial intelligence and robotics should shape our thinking about the likely trajectory of occupational change and employment growth. I argue that the interplay between machine and human comparative advantage allows computers to substitute for workers in performing routine, codifiable tasks while amplifying the comparative advantage of workers in supplying problem-solving skills, adaptability, and creativity.

JEL Codes: E24, J22, J23, J24, J31, O31

Full text (PDF 29pp)

The effects of father’s worklessness on young adults in the UK

an article by Wouter Zwysen (Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex) published in IZA Journal of European Labor Studies Volume 4 Number 2 (2015)


Using the United Kingdom household longitudinal study (UKHLS), this paper shows the effect of experiencing a father being out of work on a range of labour market outcomes as young adults.

Children of non-working fathers work less and are less satisfied while working despite similar wages and contract types.

A sensitivity analysis shows that this effect of father’s worklessness is robust to the inclusion of strong unobserved confounders, indicating non-spuriousness. Support is found for the idea that young adults who grew up experiencing their father’s worklessness develop a different, less negative attitude, towards being out of work.

JEL codes: J620, J640, J30

Full text (HTML)

Friday, 22 July 2016

The co-dependent relationship of technology and communities

an article by Daniel W. Surry* and Fredrick W. Baker III (Auburn University, AL, USA) published in British Journal of Educational Technology Volume 47 Issue 1 (January 2016)


Technology is one the defining features of humanity. It is ubiquitous in modern society and plays an important role in nearly everything that humans do. New technologies frequently spur our imagination, can evoke powerful emotions and often serve as the topic of heated debate. Many people are in awe of the power and potential of new technologies while others fear its increasing importance in human life.

New technologies can create new employment opportunities, spawn new businesses and even revitalize entire economies. Conversely, they can cause unemployment, destroy long-standing organizations and lead to global economic upheaval. While technology undoubtedly impacts people and societies in profound ways, people and societies also impact the development and use of technologies. The intelligence, dedication and support of numerous people, businesses and social groups are needed to develop even relatively simple technologies. Once developed, new technologies rely on a myriad of economic, social, human and political forces for their continued use and expansion.

The field of learning technologies serves as an important and interesting case in which to explore the complex relationship between technology and society. In this paper, we will provide an overview of some of the most important philosophical and theoretical views of the relationship between technology and social systems, describe key issues related to the topic that are important for Learning Technologists to consider, and provide a series of recommendations for research and practice.

Full text (HTML)

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Careers guidance and social mobility in UK higher education: practitioner perspectives

an article by Fiona Christie (University of Salford, UK) published in British Journal of Guidance and Counselling Volume 44 Number 1 (January 2016)


This paper reveals findings from a small-scale research project which explored how university careers advisers experience their role in guiding clients within a labour market where barriers to social mobility prevail. The research discovers that advisers' daily work gives them a depth of insight into social mobility.

The professional turbulence in which advisers operate and the evolution of their role from in-depth work to a focus on breadth is chronicled. University environments vary with regard to the scope advisers have to impact lives, but a strong set of values anchors them.

Recommendations are made with regard to how high quality careers information, advice and guidance can support social mobility for traditionally disadvantaged students into the labour market.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Religious Non-Places: Corporate Megachurches and Their Contributions to Consumer Capitalism

an article by George Sanders (Oakland University, USA) published in Journal of Critical Sociology Volume 42 Number 1 (January 2016)


The corporate megachurch represents a pecuniarily driven institution that both emphasizes marketing for the purposes of constant growth, and focuses on the manufacture and delivery of consumer-centric goods and services.

This article draws on the theory of the non-place as conceptualized by Augé, who argues that the non-place is a direct effect of contemporary capitalism’s incessant incursion into ever more areas of life. The non-place refers to any variety of transitory sites that lack historical, cultural, or geographic reference points, and while they seem to be everywhere one is left with the sense of being ‘nowhere’ in particular.

One such place that lacks distinguishing features and fails to provide any contextual reference is the corporate megachurch. Because of its strategic work to distance itself from traditional Christian churches and focus instead on creating homologies with entertainment, self-help, and retail, the non-place church normalizes the banality of consumer capitalism.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

An exploration of older worker flexible working arrangements in smaller firms

an article by Carol Atkinson (MMU Business School, Manchester) and Peter Sandiford (Business School, University of Adelaide) published in Human Resource Management Journal Volume 26 Issue (January 2016)


This article explores flexible working arrangements (FWAs) for older workers in smaller UK firms.

We address three questions:
~~ how far older workers need and value FWAs,
~~ the type of FWAs they need, and
~~ whether smaller firms can offer these FWAs.

We draw on 46 semi-structured interviews from six smaller case study firms to present a qualitative exploration of both owner-manager and (under-researched) worker perspectives. We evidence the offer and importance of temporal and work-role FWAs, together with the use of i-deals and ad hoc FWAs in meeting the needs of this diverse group.

We make three contributions:
first, theoretically, in arguing for an extended definition of FWAs and understanding formality of offer;
second, to practice, in highlighting FWA mechanisms appropriate to older workers;
third, to policy, in questioning the effectiveness of both the business case approach to older worker FWAs in smaller firms and policy's positioning of older workers as a homogeneous group.

Full text (HTML)

Friday, 15 July 2016

If first-year students are afraid of public speaking assessments what can teachers do to alleviate such anxiety?

an article by Gregory Nash, Gail Crimmins & Florin Oprescu (University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Australia) published in Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education Volume 41 Issue 4 (2016)


Public speaking and oral assessments are common in higher education, and they can be a major cause of anxiety and stress for students. This study was designed to measure the student experience of public speaking assessment tasks in a mandatory first-year course at a regional Australian university.

The research conducted was an instrumental case study, with a student-centred focus. Surveys were designed to elicit student perceptions of their emotions and experience before and after engaging in public speaking skill development exercises and a public assessment task. After undertaking public speaking desensitisation and assessment, students experienced increased satisfaction and decreased fear, indecision and confusion.

However, students’ perceptions of their confidence to control nerves, maintain eye contact, use gestures and comfortably speak in front of 25 people reduced – an unexpected outcome of the research. The reasons for this remain unclear, which provides a window for further research. Public speaking assessment tasks should be aligned with learning activities, and opportunities to minimise the impact of barriers to students engaging in the learning activities or tasks should be incorporated into curriculum.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Decision-making skills – a key to driving change when agility is everything

an article by Linda Shave (researcher, consultant and auditor) published in Bulletin (of the Information and Records Management Society) Number 189 (January 2016)

Ms Shave takes readers through the six steps of decision-making skills.

There is no online copy of this article for me to crib so if you want further information, or to get Ms Shave's help in sorting out your, or your organisation's, decision-making skills she can be contacted at

Step 1: Understanding what decision-making skills are

Step 2: Knowing how decision-making skills are useful

Step 3: Grasping the foundation of a good decision

Step 4: Knowing how to use decision-making tools
  • informal discussion
  • brainstorming
  • elimination
  • prioritising
Step 5: Putting your decision to work

Step 6: Gathering information

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Learning with serious games: Is fun playing the game a predictor of learning success?

an article by Nina Iten and Dominik Petko (Schwyz University of Teacher Education, Switzerland) published in British Journal of Educational Technology Volume 47 Issue 1 (January 2016)


Serious games are generally considered to induce positive effects in the areas of learning motivation and learning gains. Yet few studies have examined how these factors are related. Therefore, an empirical study was conducted to test the relationship between anticipated enjoyment and willingness to play, as well as between game enjoyment, self-reported cognitive and motivational learning gains and test results.

In an explorative study, 74 children from five primary schools played the learning game AWWWARE. The results of pre- and post-tests were analysed using multiple linear regressions. The analysis showed that anticipated enjoyment played only a minor part in students’ willingness to learn with serious games. Of greater importance was the students’ expectation that the learning game would be easy and instructive. The level of actual enjoyment of the game also had a smaller influence than expected.

While there was a correlation between enjoyment and the motivation to continue being engaged with the subject matter of the game, no effect was found with respect to self-assessed or tested learning gains. The results lead to the conclusion that other factors, such as explicit learning tasks, instruction and support inherent in the game or supplemented by teachers, may be more decisive than the experience of fun during the game.

Full text available (HTML)

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Ten more trivial items you may enjoy

Why bother reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula?
via OUP Blog by Roger Luckhurst
The date-line is 2014. An outbreak of a deadly disease is happening in a remote region, beyond the borders of a complacent Europe. Local deaths multiply. The risk does not end with death, either, because corpses hold the highest risk of contamination and you must work to contain their threat. All this is barely even reported at first, until the health of a Western visitor, a professional man, breaks down. Too late: the disease has found a vector out of the margins and into fortress Europe. A carrier has travelled along the transport networks. Soon enough, the disease spreads from the entry port to the very heart of London. Only a few dedicated experts stand in the way of catastrophe.
Continue reading

World’s fastest trains – in 45 seconds
via BBC
A Japanese magnetic levitation train has broken the world speed record. In a test run near Mount Fuji, the train reached a top speed of 603km/h (374mph). However, Japan is not the only country to boast rail travel of such super speeds.
The BBC takes a look at some of the fastest passenger trains around the world.
Watch the video here

Did Affluence Spur the Rise of Modern Religions?
via 3 Quarks Daily: Bret Stetka in Scientific American

About 2,500 years ago something changed the way humans think. Within the span of two centuries, in three separate regions of Eurasia, spiritual movements emerged that would give rise to the world's major moral religions, those preaching some combination of compassion, humility and asceticism. Scholars often attribute the rise of these moral religions – Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity included – to population growth, seeing morality as a necessary social stabilizer in increasingly large and volatile human communities. Yet findings from a recent study published in Current Biology point to a different factor: rising affluence.
Continue reading

Iridescent insect sculptures from ewaste

UK artist Julie Alice Chapell’s Computer Component Bugs sculptures are iridescent, intricate assemblage sculptures made from ewaste.
Continue reading

The long history of World War II
World War Two timeline
via OUP Blog by Richard Overy
World War Two was the most devastating conflict in recorded human history. It was both global in extent and total in character. It has understandably left a long and dark shadow across the decades. Yet it is three generations since hostilities formally ended in 1945 and the conflict is now a lived memory for only a few. And this growing distance in time has allowed historians to think differently about how to describe it, how to explain its course, and what subjects to focus on when considering the wartime experience.
Continue reading

The Source of 15 Major World Rivers
via Red Ferret by Nigel
It’s a fact that our civilization relies on the constant flow of water down the main rivers in each country. We build cities near them, use their water for our industrial systems, and enjoy their beauty in our leisure time. But how many of us think about the source of these majestic water flows? Well here’s a great set of images highlighting the source of 15 of the world’s biggest rivers for you to enjoy.
The mind-blowing thing about these photos is how humbly all rivers start out, just a trickle or a puddle of water, which gradually grows over the miles until you get the Amazon, Nile, Rhine, Mississippi, Yangtze, Ganga and more. Incredible.
Check the pictures for yourself (BEWARE: this is a massive time suck)

Blocked Italian toilet leads to thousands of years of buried history
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

A restaurateur in Lecce, Italy dug up the plumbing for his perennially blocked toilets and discovered thousands of years' worth of tunnels beneath the building, including a Messapian tomb.
Continue reading

Detroit Iron: 1903
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Detroit Iron: 1903
“Detroit Iron and Steel Co. mill”
One of the wonders of the Rust Belt
8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company
View original post

Biophilia Celebrates Colorful Creatures, Icky and Otherwise
via 3 Quarks Daily: Dana Jennings in The New York Times
Christopher Marley’s Biophilia is much more than a sumptuous coffee-table pleasure. It is also an elegant manifesto meant to nudge us off our couches and easy chairs and out the door. “It is clear to me that we are designed to experience as much of the natural world as possible with all five of our senses,” Mr. Marley writes. And later: “Without meaningful interactions with nature, we begin to deteriorate emotionally and spiritually”.
Biophilia offers hundreds of spectacular color images of insects, sea creatures, reptiles, birds and fossils and minerals (the last perhaps to remind us that we, too, eventually return to dust).
Continue reading

The most valuable semen in all the land
via Boing Boing by Gastropod
WARNING: Animal cruelty
In the 1920s, the USDA encouraged rural communities around the U.S. to put bulls on the witness stand – to hold a legal trial, complete with lawyers and witnesses and a watching public – to determine whether the bull was fit to breed. … Prepare to be horrified and amazed in equal measure.
Continue reading

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Let's have another ten "interesting" items

20 Classics You Should Read At Least Once In Your Life
via Lifehack by Ginnye Cubel
Nothing could be more fulfilling, exhilarating, or reassuring than a good book. Whether it’s to make you feel more at peace with yourself, inspire you to be brave when it’s hardest, or let you know that you aren’t alone, there’s nothing a good book can’t overcome. And nothing sticks with you like the classics. Books that have withstood the test of time for their universal truths and unique voices. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it is a good start for twenty classics you should read at least once, if not more!
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
3. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
4. Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
9. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
10. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
11. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
12. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
15. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
16. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
17. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
18. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
19. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
20. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Yeah, OK. Perhaps I am not quite as well-read as I thought I was.

Five unusual ingredients in sweets
via OUP Blog by Connie Ngo
Headline image credit: Photo by artemtation. Public domain via Pixabay.
The number and variety of sweet treats in the world is staggering. Though many of us are familiar with the use of fresh fruits in desserts, flavorings in candy, and other ubiquitous ingredients, a great deal are unusual. They’re unusual in the sense that they’re “not commonly occurring,” or that we believe them to be so. With that, here are five ingredients you might find, but not expect, in your next dessert.
Continue reading

Amazing photos of jazz legends
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
Photo and print dealer Limited Runs is touring a fantastic collection of jazz photos from the archives of Metronome, an influential music magazine that published from 1881 to 1961.
Continue reading

Feminism and the City
via Arts & Letters Daily: Rachel Shteir in The Chronicle Review
Feminism and the City 1
Like many people I know, I devoured my copy of Vivian Gornick’s The Odd Woman and the City. Devoured because I am hungry as a reader, a woman, a feminist.
No, scratch that. Starving.
Consider this a complaint from a feminist dismayed. By women’s-studies programs on campus, which often seem intent on teaching students that they are victims or on broadening feminism until it loses its specificity and meaning. By these programs’ focus on the quantifiable, the politically correct, the facile.
Feminism on campus today seems to lack interest in life’s sweet and sour complexity and in the great 19th- and 20th-century literature energizing Gornick. It seems ablated from life. It makes the impersonal political.
The Odd Woman and the City stands against my dismay. Its particularity about what feminism has done for us ‐ and to us ‐ is spelled out as joyful, terrible, real.
Continue reading

We’ve evolved to disbelieve evolution
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Experimental psychologists find that humans prefer explanations for events that have certainty and a sense of purpose over undirected randomness.
Override the controversy: Analytic thinking predicts endorsement of evolution (abstract only), a paper by University of Kentucky psych researcher Will M. Gervais was published in September 2015’s Cognition, argues that a belief in Creationism is the result of both upbringing and this cognitive bias.

Look away now: The prophecies of Nostradamus
via OUP Blog by Bill McGuire

If you like your prophecies pin sharp and “on the ball” then look away now. The 16th century celebrity seer Nostradamus excelled at the exact opposite, couching his predictions in terms so vague as to be largely meaningless or so open as to invite almost any interpretation.
Actually this extremely interesting article is less about Nostradamus and much more about possible future cataclysmic events on earth. And a recap of the 1815 Tambora explosion.
Continue reading

Color Changing Mushroom Night Lights – bring the magic forest inside your home
via Red Ferret by Donyae Coles
Color Changing Mushroom Night Light
Night time can be dark and full of terror. These cute Color Changing Mushroom Night Lights can dispel the darkness and add a little magic to your evening.
Not as expensive as I thought they might be. I wonder if I should indulge my inner child.

Cinderella, Puss in Boots: what's in a shoe?
via Arts & Letters Daily: Nicolette Jones in The Telegraph
Made to dance: ballet shoes worn by Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) in Powell and Pressburger’s 'The Red Shoes’ (1948), currently on display at the V&A
Made to dance: ballet shoes worn by Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) in Powell and Pressburger’s 'The Red Shoes’ (1948)Photo: John Roan Photography
What is it about shoes that makes them such a recurrent motif in myths and fairy tales? “Fairy tales have their roots in social reality,” says Philip Pullman, who retold 50 stories in his Grimm Tales. “And in Northern Europe you needed boots. That’s why they appear more often than, say, hats or gloves.” In stories, shoes have often become magical objects, expressing freedom and punishment, loss and status, and, in psychoanalytic readings, sexuality. Their connotations are powerful, as is demonstrated by a new anthology, In Their Shoes: Fairy Tales and Folktales, which presents nine stories with footwear in their plots, ranging from a Greek myth to a French fairy tale from the Sixties, and embraces Perrault, Grimm, Andersen and Brer Rabbit.
Continue reading

Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbit hole would cost $14m if it were in the Shires of England
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
A U.K. realtor valued the subterranean residence at £8.5m (~$14m), on the assumption that it is situated in Worcestershire, the county J.R.R. Tolkien supposedly had in mind when creating the homeland for his doughty, half-height, very well-to-do hero.
Continue reading

Why do we eat?
via OUP Blog by Nicole Avena
At first pass, the answer is obvious – to obtain energy to support our everyday activities and ultimately, to promote our survival. However, many of our modern day food choices suggest another answer, one that actually stands to threaten our health and functioning. Increasingly, the reason we eat has less to do with sustenance and more to do with how certain foods and drinks taste. Moreover, our food choices are influenced by a multitude of other factors including the social situations we find ourselves in, our budgets, our sleep schedules, our stress levels, and the amount of time we have to prepare and eat a meal.
Continue reading