Saturday, 6 May 2017

Starting off today's ten interesting items with a magnificent photograph

Turns out flying squirrels can fly while holding giant pine cones
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Moonlight Gliders is a beautifully shot and reported piece on mating season for Montana's flying squirrels. Among the amazing facts shared by Alexander V. Badyaev: they can glide while carrying rather large pine cones in their mouths.
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5 Best Online Games to Play When Bored
via Lifehack by Abhay Jeet Mishra
Online gaming refers to playing of any type of game over a computer network or through the internet. People refer it as video games which they play over internet and multiple players connect together from different locations across the world. These games can be simple text-based games or games which are incorporated with virtual worlds and complex graphics. These require high-speed internet connection and optimal hardware. Some games need hardware devices like game controllers or joysticks, too. Gaming software is available in CDs or DVDs, or even available as a simple download through the internet. People are getting interested in online gaming for a number of reasons, but obviously, it helps to kill time when playing head-to-head games.
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The Seahorse In Your Brain: Where Body Parts Got Their Names
via 3 Quarks Daily: Joy Ho and Erin Ross in NPR

The name hippocampus comes from the Greek word for seahorse. It's a part of the brain involved in emotion and memory.
Joy Ho/NPR
When the ancient Greeks were naming body parts, they were probably trying to give them names that were easy to remember, says Mary Fissell, a professor in the Department of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins. "Sure, there were texts, but the ancient world was very oral, and the people learning this stuff have to remember it." So the Greek scholars, and later Roman and medieval scholars, named bones and organs and muscles after what they looked like. The thick bone at the front of your lower leg, the tibia, is named after a similar-looking flute.
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Finding North America’s lost medieval city: Cahokia was bigger than Paris – then it was completely abandoned
via 3 Quarks Daily: Annalee Newitz in Ars Technica

Artist’s recreation of downtown Cahokia, with Monk's Mound at its center.
A thousand years ago, huge pyramids and earthen mounds stood where East St. Louis sprawls today in Southern Illinois. This majestic urban architecture towered over the swampy Mississippi River floodplains, blotting out the region's tiny villages. Beginning in the late 900s, word about the city spread throughout the southeast. Thousands of people visited for feasts and rituals, lured by the promise of a new kind of civilization. Many decided to stay.
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Opus Anglicanum: medieval embroidery and fashion
via The National Archives Blog by Euan Roger and Paul Dryburgh
On Monday 7 November, members of The National Archives’ Medieval and Early Modern teams visited Opus Anglicanum, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition about medieval English embroidery. In this post we’re going to take a closer look at the exhibition and introduce some of the many records The National Archives holds which relate to medieval fine cloth and clothing.
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And you may like to look at the V&A exhibition page with some superb images

An ax(e) to grind
via OUP Blog by Anatoly Liberman
“Indo-European languages” by MapLoader, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
That words travel from land to land is no secret. I do not only mean the trivial borrowings of the type known so well from the history of English. For instance, more than a thousand years ago, the Vikings settled in most of Britain, and therefore English is full of Scandinavian words. Some time later, the French conquered the country, and, as a result, two thirds or so of the words one finds in Webster’s dictionary are of French origin. Cultural cross-currents are equally obvious: the language of music is full of Italian terms, and the language of art testifies to the influence of French and Italian on English. All this is trivial information. It is much harder to trace the history of migratory words, for instance such as denote the names of tools. A case in point is the origin of the word ax (or, if you prefer the British spelling of it, then axe: an extra letter at the end of a word never hurts).
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Super-trippy interactive visualizer feels like getting high for free
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

If you don't live in a state that allows recreational marijuana yet, perhaps this fabulous Hopalong Orbits Visualizer by Iacopo Sassarini will tide you over till then.
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Star met spectacular fate: death by supermassive black hole
via the Guardian by Ian Sample
This artist’s impression depicts a sun-like star close to a rapidly spinning supermassive black hole, with a mass of about 100 million times the mass of the sun, in the centre of a distant galaxy.
This artist’s impression depicts a sun-like star close to a rapidly spinning supermassive black hole, with a mass of about 100 million times the mass of the sun, in the centre of a distant galaxy. Photograph: ESO, ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser
It was one of the most spectacular deaths in the known universe: an enormous star in a distant galaxy met its doom and as a parting shot released a brilliant flash of light half a trillion times brighter than the sun.
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Why Titan is the only colonizable world in the solar system beyond Earth
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
This Voyager 2 photograph of Titan, taken Aug. 23, 1981 from a range of 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles), shows some detail in the cloud systems on this Saturnian moon. The southern hemisphere appears lighter in contrast, a well-defined band is seen near the equator, and a dark collar is evident at the north pole. All these bands are associated with cloud circulation in Titan’s atmosphere. The extended haze, composed of submicron-size particles, is seen clearly around the satellite’s limb. This image was composed from blue, green and violet frames.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Finance proud and industry vulnerable: When governments fail to defend the economic realm, citizens revolt

an article by Ann Pettifor (Director of Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME)) published in Juncture Volume 23 Issue 4 (Spring 2017)


The subordination of society to self-regulating international markets is the reason why British workers and industries so often fall prey to predatory financiers, writes Ann Pettifor.

It is also a fundamental cause of current political crises throughout the west – just as Karl Polanyi described [in “The Great Transformation” see Wikipedia articlealmost 80 years ago.

Unfortunately full text is only available for purchase

People, places and earnings differentials in Scotland

an article by Patricia C. Melo (The James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland) published in Regional Studies Volume 53 Issue 3 (March 2017)


This paper investigates the contribution of ‘people’ and ‘place’ effects to earnings differentials in Scotland using individual and regional data. The main sources of differentials are attributed to workers’ characteristics (‘people’ effects), particularly academic and vocational qualifications, followed by occupational and industrial affiliations.

On the other hand, differences in the attributes of local area labour markets (‘place’ effects) explain only a small part of individual earnings differentials. The most relevant spatial attribute is local area human capital.

The findings suggest that people-based policies are likely to be more effective at improving workers’ earnings prospects than place-based policies.

Full text (HTML) scroll past the various translations of the abstract to read the main article

Developing effective policy to improve job quality

an article by Chris Warhurst (Professor and Director of the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick) published in Poverty: Journal of the Child Poverty Action Group Issue 156 (Winter 2017)

Job quality is back on the UK policy agenda. Indeed, it is back on the policy agenda of many countries’ governments, as well as international governmental bodies. As part of the G20, the UK government signed the 2015 Ankara Declaration that committed the UK and the other member countries to improving job quality with the aim of promoting inclusive growth, creating sustainable growth and reducing inequalities. Chris Warhurst draws on his research with Angie Knox to look at how job quality has become a policy focus and examines the challenges in improving it.

Full text (PDF 4pp)

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Third sector independence: relations with the state in an age of austerity

an article by Valerie Egdell and Matthew Dutton (Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland) published in Voluntary Sector Review Volume 8 Number 1 (March 2017)


Third sector organisations deliver a range of public services for government. They are valued and trusted by commissioners, clients and wider society because of their independence.

However, the extent to which the third sector is independent is questioned.

Drawing on qualitative longitudinal research with third sector organisations in Scotland, this article explores how third sector organisations delivering public services manage the demands of changing funding structures and relationships with government, and the implications for their independence. It explores how organisations understand and negotiate the tension between their independence and mission-driven social action, and delivering commissioned and contracted public services.

In doing so, it highlights the challenges to independence in a dynamically changing political, policy and financial climate, as well as opportunities for organisations to emphasise their distinctive contribution to public service delivery.

Britain Works

an article by Jane Mansour (independent policy consultant) published in Poverty: Journal of the Child Poverty Action Group Issue 156 (Winter 2017)

Child Poverty Action Group and Working Families have launched a new project, ‘Britain works’, looking at in-work poverty and how work can be improved for families living on a low income. Here, Jane Mansour sets out the context, examining a range of evidence on the characteristics of low-paid work in Britain today, and reports on what employers say about their policies on and practices towards their low-paid staff.

Full text (PDF 4pp)

Corporate boards and environmental offence conviction: evidence from the United Kingdom

an article by Venancio Tauringana (University of Southampton, UK), Dragana Radicic (University of Cambridge, UK) and Alan Kirkpatrick and Renata Konadu (Bournemouth University, UK) published in Corporate Governance: The International Journal of Business in Society Volume 17 Issue 2 (2017)


This paper aims to report the results of an investigation into the relationship between corporate boards and the likelihood of a firm being convicted of an environmental offence in the United Kingdom (UK).

The study uses binary logistics regression analysis to model the relationship between corporate boards and the likelihood of a firm being convicted of an environmental offence in the UK, controlling for firm size, financial leverage and profitability.

The results suggest that the likelihood of a firm being convicted of an environmental offence increases with board size but decreases with the presence of a woman on the board. No support is found for the authors’ hypotheses about the proportion of outside directors and the presence of a lawyer on the board. Marginal effects’ results also show that adding one member to the board increases the chance of a firm being convicted for an environmental offence by 4.2 per cent, while having a woman on the board decreases the likelihood of a firm being convicted of an environmental offence by 31.8 per cent.

Research limitations/implications
The sample size of 55 firms is small which could affect the generalisability of the study.

The study uses proprietary data obtained from the UK Environmental Agency to provide evidence for the first time how corporate boards affect the chances of a listed firm being convicted of an environmental offence in the UK.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Euro area annual inflation up to 1.9%

Eurostat news release euroindicators 74/2017 - 28 April 2017

Flash estimate - April 2017
Euro area annual inflation up to 1.9%

Euro area annual inflation is expected to be 1.9% in April 2017, up from 1.5% in March 2017, according to a flash estimate from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

Looking at the main components of euro area inflation, energy is expected to have the highest annual rate in April (7.5%, compared with 7.4% in March), followed by services (1.8%, compared with 1.0% in March), food, alcohol & tobacco (1.5%, compared with 1.8% in March) and non-energy industrial goods (0.3%, stable compared with March).

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Employment rate of people aged 20 to 64 in the EU reached a new peak at 71.1% in 2016

Eurostat news release 69/2017 - 25 April 2017

In 2016, the employment rate of the population aged 20 to 64 in the European Union (EU) stood at 71.1%, up compared with both 2015 (70.1%) and its previous peak recorded in 2008 (70.3%). The Europe 2020 strategy target is to reach a total employment rate for people aged 20 to 64 of at least 75% in the EU by 2020. This objective has been translated into national targets in order to reflect the situation and possibilities of each Member State to contribute to the common goal.

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National evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme 2015 - 2020: family outcomes - family survey: part 1

via Interface Enterprises Ltd

A newly released report contains findings from the baseline survey of families (main carers and young people aged 11-21) in receipt of help from the Troubled Families Programme, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The national evaluation of the current Troubled Families Programme aims to explore the level of service transformation driven by the programme as well as establishing the impact of the family intervention approach on families themselves.

Key strands of the evaluation include:
  • The Family Survey - a quantitative longitudinal survey of families in receipt of help from the programme in nineteen local authorities
  • The National Impact Study, where individuals in families being worked with by all local authorities are matched to data held by other government departments and outcomes tracked throughout the programme
  • Annual staff surveys, online quantitative surveys of delivery staff (Troubled Family Co-ordinators, keyworkers/local practitioners and Troubled Family Employment Advisors (TFEAs))
  • Qualitative research involving in-depth interviews with staff delivering the programme and families receiving services
See the full report here.

This summary presents the key findings for families who are currently in receipt of troubled families support across the 19 local authorities participating in the Family Survey.