Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Self-reflection on privacy research in social networking sites

Ralf De Wolf (Vrije Universiteit, Brussel, Belgium; Ghent University, Belgium), Ellen Vanderhoven and Tammy Schellens (Ghent University, Belgium), Bettina Berendt (KU Leuven, Herverlee, Belgium) and Jo Pierson (Vrije Universiteit, Brussel) published in Behaviour & Information Technology Volume 36 Issue 5 (2017)

Abstract

The increasing popularity of social networking sites has been a source of many privacy concerns. To mitigate these concerns and empower users, different forms of educational and technological solutions have been developed.

Developing and evaluating such solutions, however, cannot be considered a neutral process. Instead, it is socially bound and interwoven with norms and values of the researchers.

In this contribution, we aim to make the research process and development of privacy solutions more transparent by highlighting questions that should be considered.
(1) Which actors are involved in formulating the privacy problem?
(2) Is privacy perceived as a human right or as a property right on one’s data?
(3) Is informing users of privacy dangers always a good thing?
(4) Do we want to influence users’ attitudes and behaviours?
(5) Who is the target audience?

We argue that these questions can help researchers to better comprehend their own perspective on privacy, that of others, and the influence of the solutions they are developing. In the discussion, we propose a procedure called ‘tool clinics’ for further practical implementations.


Information need as trigger and driver of information seeking: a conceptual analysis

an article by Reijo Savolainen (University of Tampere, Finland) published in Aslib Journal of Information Management Volume 69 Issue 1 (2017)

Abstract

Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to elaborate the picture of the motivators for information behaviour by examining the nature of information need as a trigger and driver of information seeking.

Design/methodology/approach
A conceptual analysis was made by focussing on the ways in which researchers have conceptualised information need in models for human information behaviour (HIB). The study draws on conceptual analysis of 26 key studies focussing on the above topic.

Findings
Researchers have employed two main approaches to conceptualise information needs in the HIB models. First, information need is approached as a root factor which motivates people to identify and access information sources. Second, information need is approached as a secondary trigger or driver determined by more fundamental factors, for example, the information requirements of task performance. The former approach conceptualises information need as a trigger providing an initial impetus to information seeking, while the latter approach also depicts information need as a driver that keeps the information-seeking process in motion. The latter approach is particularly characteristic of models depicting information seeking as a cyclic process.

Research limitations/implications
As the study focuses on information need, no attention is devoted to related constructs such as anomalous state of knowledge and uncertainty.

Originality/value
The study pioneers by providing an in-depth analysis of the nature of information need as a trigger and driver of information seeking. The findings refine the picture of motivators for information behaviour.


10 more interesting things from my "saved for later use" file

How Europe became so rich
In a time of great powers and empires, just one region of the world experienced extraordinary economic growth. How?
via Arts & Letters Daily: Joel Mokyr in aeon

Dam Square with the New Town Hall under Construction (1656) by Johannes Lingelbach.Photo courtesy The Amsterdam Museum/Wikipedia
How and why did the modern world and its unprecedented prosperity begin? Learned tomes by historians, economists, political scientists and other scholars fill many bookshelves with explanations of how and why the process of modern economic growth or ‘the Great Enrichment’ exploded in western Europe in the 18th century. One of the oldest and most persuasive explanations is the long political fragmentation of Europe. For centuries, no ruler had ever been able to unite Europe the way the Mongols and the Mings had united China.
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How nature created consciousness – and our brains became minds
via The New Statesman by Steven Poole
In From Bacteria to Bach and Back, Daniel C Dennett investigates the evolution of consciousness.
In the preface to his new book, the ­philosopher Daniel Dennett announces proudly that what we are about to read is “the sketch, the backbone, of the best scientific theory to date of how our minds came into existence”. By the end, the reader may consider it more scribble than spine – at least as far as an account of the origins of human consciousness goes. But this is still a superb book about evolution, engineering, information and design. It ranges from neuroscience to nesting birds, from computing theory to jazz, and there is something fascinating on every page.
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Serial Killers Should Fear This Algorithm
via 3 Quarks Daily: Robert Kolker at Bloomberg
On Aug. 18, 2010, a police lieutenant in Gary, Ind., received an e-mail, the subject line of which would be right at home in the first few scenes of a David Fincher movie: “Could there be a serial killer active in the Gary area?”
It isn’t clear what the lieutenant did with that e-mail; it would be understandable if he waved it off as a prank. But the author could not have been more serious. He’d attached source material – spreadsheets created from FBI files showing that over several years the city of Gary had recorded 14 unsolved murders of women between the ages of 20 and 50. The cause of each death was the same: strangulation. Compared with statistics from around the country, he wrote, the number of similar killings in Gary was far greater than the norm. So many people dying the same way in the same city – wouldn’t that suggest that at least a few of them, maybe more, might be connected? And that the killer might still be at large?
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Ten facts about the accordion
via OUP Blog by Berit Henrickson

“Accordion playing boy in Rome” by Per Palmkvist Knudsen. CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.
Whether you dub accordion music annoying or enticing, you cannot deny the instrument’s persistence. The earliest version of the accordion emerged in the early 1800’s and one can still find it on many street corners today. Certain universities, museums, and soloists have assisted in the accordion’s longevity. We’ve assembled 10 facts about the instrument that may satisfy our enduring curiosity about the instrument.
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Did Darwin’s theory of evolution encourage abolition of slavery?
via Arts & Letters Daily: Jerry A. Coyne in The Washington Post

An original copy of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” published in 1859. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
On New Year’s Day, 1860, four men sat around a dinner table in Concord, Mass., contemplating a hefty green book that had just arrived in America. Published in England barely a month before, Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” was sent by the author himself to Asa Gray, a Harvard botanist who would become one of Darwin’s staunchest defenders. Gray gave his heavily annotated copy to his wife’s cousin, child-welfare activist Charles Loring Brace, who, lecturing in Concord, brought it to the home of politician Franklin Sanborn. Besides Sanborn and Brace, the distinguished company included the philosopher Bronson Alcott and the author/naturalist Henry David Thoreau.
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Guy visits the least used train stations in the UK
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Geoff Marshall is making entertaining videos of his visits to the least used rail station in each county of the UK. In this episode, Geoff takes a ride in a cute little old old heritage train at Little Kimble - the least used station in Buckinghamshire.
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Crimes without criminals
via OUP Blog by Vincenzo Ruggiero
Stocks
‘business-stock-finance-market’ by 3112014. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.
There are crimes without victims and crimes without criminals. Financial crime belongs to the second type, as responsibilities for crises, crashes, bubbles, misconduct, or even fraud, are difficult to establish. The historical process that led to the disappearance of offenders from the financial sphere is fascinating.
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Lesney toys: they fit inside a matchbox
via The National Archives blog by David Gill
Selection of Matchbox toysmanufactured by Lesney between the 1960s and the 1970s
The motto goes that that the best things come in small packages. If this is true then it must surely be applicable to Lesney Toys, the original manufacturer of Matchbox model cars. After looking at the history of the Mettoy company (the creators of Corgi Toys), it would be unfair of me not to give the same treatment to Lesney, their distinguished rivals.
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Lost in space? A brief guide to the ‘holographic principle’ of the universe
via the Guardian by Stuart Clark
The Cone nebula, or NGC 2264
Do the maths: another step on the way to unlocking the secrets of the universe.
Photograph: Alamy

The universe is a “vast and complex” hologram, according to scientists from the University of Southampton and colleagues in Canada and Italy. But fear not. It does not mean that we are all figments of an alien overlord’s dabbling with a mega-Imax projection system.
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After a century of failing to crack an ancient script, linguists turn to machines
via 3 Quarks Daily: Mallory Locklear in The Verge













Steatite seal with humped bull, Indus Valley, Mohenjo-Daro, 2500–2000 BC.
 Photo by CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images
In 1872 a British general named Alexander Cunningham, excavating an area in what was then British-controlled northern India, came across something peculiar. Buried in some ruins, he uncovered a small, one inch by one inch square piece of what he described as smooth, black, unpolished stone engraved with strange symbols — lines, interlocking ovals, something resembling a fish — and what looked like a bull etched underneath. The general, not recognizing the symbols and finding the bull to be unlike other Indian animals, assumed the artifact wasn’t Indian at all but some misplaced foreign token. The stone, along with similar ones found over the next few years, ended up in the British Museum. In the 1920s many more of these artifacts, by then known as seals, were found and identified as evidence of a 4,000-year-old culture now known as the Indus Valley Civilization, the oldest known Indian civilization to date.
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Stunning 23-foot wall chart of human history from 1881
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

Sebastian C. Adams's Synchronological Chart from the late 19th century presents 5,885 years of history (4004 BCE - 1881 AD) on a magnificent 27 inch x 23 foot illustrated and annotated timeline. What a stunner. You can zoom and pan through the whole thing at the David Rumsey Map Collection or order a scaled-down print.
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Monday, 14 August 2017

Private schooling and labour market outcomes

an article by Francis Green and Golo Henseke (University College London, UK) and Anna Vignoles (University of Cambridge, UK) published in British Educational Research Journal Volume 43 Number 1 (February 2017)

Abstract

Though a relative small part of the school sector, private schools have an important role in British society, and there are policy concerns about their negative effect on social mobility. Other studies show that individuals who have attended a private school go on to have higher levels of educational achievement, are more likely to secure a high-status occupation and also have higher wages.

In this article we contribute new evidence on the magnitude of the wage premium, and address a puzzle found in previous studies: how to explain the direct pay premium whereby privately educated male workers have higher wages even than their similarly educated peers. It is commonly conjectured that the broader curriculum that private schools are able to deliver, coupled with the peer pressures of a partially segregated section of society, help to inculcate cultural capital, including some key ‘non-cognitive’ attributes.

We focus here on leadership, organisational participation and an acceptance of hard work. We find that privately educated workers are in jobs that require significantly greater leadership skills, offer greater organisational participation and require greater work intensity. These associations are partially mediated by educational achievement.

Collectively these factors contribute little, however, to explaining the direct pay premium. Rather, a more promising account arises from the finding that inclusion of a variable for industry reduces the private school premium to an insignificant amount, which is consistent with selective sorting of privately educated workers into high-paying industries.

Full text (PDF)


New report shows digital skills are required in all types of jobs

via Val Skelton (InformationToday Europe)

The European Commission has just published the final report of the study “ICT for Work: Digital Skills in the Workplace” on the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on the transformation of jobs and skills. The evidence shows that digital technologies are used in all types of jobs, also in economic sectors not traditionally related to digitisation e.g. farming, health care, vocational training and construction.

The digital economy is transforming the way people work and the skills they need at work. This represents a major challenge for employers, workers and public authorities. The study presents data and policy recommendations that could support the transformation of the labour market into opportunities for all.

Main findings
  • Digital technologies are widely used in workplaces in the European Union. 93% of European workplaces use desktop computers, 94% use broadband technology to access the internet, 75% use portable computers and 63% other portable devices. 22% use intranet platform, 8% automated machine or tools or 5% programmable robots. Larger workplaces report a higher use of digital technologies than smaller ones.
  • Most jobs require basic digital skills. Basic digital skills include being able to communicate via email or social media, to create and edit documents digital documents and to search for information, or to protect personal information online. 98% of workplaces require managers and 90% that professionals (e.g. engineers, doctors and nurses, teachers, accountants, software developers, lawyers and journalists), technicians, clerical workers or skilled agricultural workers should have at least basic digital skills. 80% of workplaces require basic digital skills for sales workers. Workplaces also often require basic digital skills for building workers (50% of workplaces), plant machine operators (34%) and even employees in elementary occupations (27%). However, there are still some workplaces that do not consider digital skills to be important for some occupations e.g. craft workers, waiters and cooks.
  • Technicians, professionals (both 50%) and managers (30%) are required to have specialist digital skills, especially in larger workplaces.
  • The use of ICT has increased significantly in the last five years in more than 90% of workplaces. Micro-sized workplaces are more likely to report limited increase compared to bigger ones.
  • Over the last five years, investments in ICT to improve efficiency or business volume increased These investments are more frequent in sectors with traditionally low levels of digital intensity, e.g. agriculture, manufacturing or construction.
  • 38% of workplaces report that the lack of digital skills has an impact on their performance. Loss of productivity (46%) and decrease in the number of customers (43%) are the main negative impacts.
  • 15% of workplaces report employees lack digital skills. Digital skills gaps are more likely to be found in high- and medium skilled than in low-skilled jobs.
  • 88% of workplaces have not taken any action to tackle the lack of digital skills of their employees. Training is the most common action undertaken. High costs seem to be the main barrier encountered when undertaking actions to deal with digital skills gaps.
Recommendations

Apart from analysing digital skills in the workplace the study lists a number of recommendations that have been formulated in consultation with experts and stakeholders.
  1. Raise awareness on digital technologies and the need for digital skills to support and improve business performance, productivity and internal organisation, and of the need for digital skills in relation to new digital technologies.
  2. Promote access to digital technologies, particularly for micro and small sized companies. Loans, grants and other mechanisms should be used to enhance and support access to digital technologies.
  3. Expand the availability of digital skills through the education and training system. Programmes at all levels and sectors of education should be updated and digital skills should be part of the core competences required at every level.
  4. Promote access to training to employers through their professional or sectoral organisations and associations, or through governmental channels.
  5. Build multi-stakeholder partnerships and agree on a digital skills strategy.
  6. Consider diversity and avoid the ‘one-size fits all’ approach in the strategy
  7. Include digital skills in a wider skills strategy in which other transversal skills relevant to employers such as soft skills and communication skills are included.
  8. Provide access to funding for digital technologies and digital skills development
  9. Reduce the digital divide, focusing in particular on the categories of individuals who do not possess digital skills and are consequently at risk of marginalisation not only in the labour market, but also in day-to-day life, which can contribute to social and economic exclusion.
Background

This final report complements the intermediate report of this study “The impact of ICT on job quality: evidence from 12 job profiles” published last year, and presents mostly findings from the ‘European Digital Skills Survey’, carried out among a representative sample of 7,800 workplaces which are statistically representative of 13,803,113 workplaces in the whole European Union (EU28) in 12 economic sectors with different levels of digital intensity. These workplaces employ a total of 150,563,540 employees in different job roles.

Further information

ICT for work: Digital skills in the workplace

Intermediate report “The impact of ICT on job quality: evidence from 12 job profiles”


10 further items which do not fit into a "work" or "lifestyle" category

Gagauzia: A Country That’s Just 3 Towns in Size?
via Big Think by Frank Jacobs
Article Image
If the saying is true that a language is a dialect with an army and a navy, then landlocked, frigate-less Moldova is only halfway there. The Eastern European republic, celebrated for its obscurity, has struggled with its national identity ever since breaking free of the Soviet bear-hug in the early 1990s.
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How does our brain process fear? Study investigates
via 3 Quarks Daily: Ana Sandoiu in Medical News Today
From an evolutionary perspective, fear and anxiety are quite useful. These deeply ingrained emotions used to protect our ancestors from predators, and in our times the “fight-or-flight” response is still a healthy reaction to dangerous situations.
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Iceland’s unruly terrain and hidden inhabitants
via OUP Blog by Corinne G Dempsey

The “northern capital” of Akureyri in winter. Photo by Svavar Alfreð Jónsson. Used with permission.[in the blog]
When people first learn about my travels to Iceland, the response I most often hear goes something like: “Iceland! That’s on my bucket list.” I understand. It’s hard to resist an arctic wonderland littered with flaming volcanoes and thundering waterfalls, where for months on end the sun barely sets on moss-crazed mountains and whale-infested waters. Maybe you’ve already been there, adding your own drop to a rising sea of tourists, estimated at nearly two million in 2016, a veritable flood for an island whose population hovers around 330,000.
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‘Extraordinary’ levels of pollutants found in 10km deep Mariana trench
via the Guardian by Damian Carrington
A container of Spam, seen resting at 4,947 meters on the slopes of a canyon leading to the Sirena Deep. 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas expedition
Scientists have discovered “extraordinary” levels of toxic pollution in the most remote and inaccessible place on the planet – the 10km deep Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean.
Small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.
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The creation story of the atomic bomb told through a powerful and moving picture book
via Boing Boing by Marykate Smith Despres

When asked if I was interested in reviewing a picture book about the making of the atomic bomb, I told the publicist that a lot was going to depend on how the book ended. I had seen some of the interior art and text at that point, and I was intrigued by the way the tone of both Jeanette Winter’s illustrations and her son Jonah Winter’s text so thoroughly conveyed the almost frenzied, kinetic energy of the inventors and the eerily quiet secrecy of the The Secret Project. After reading the book, I realized that I had greatly underestimated the importance of the telling in its entirety, which is done so masterfully by the Winters.
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The Alley Cats of Istanbul
via 3 Quarks Daily: Darrell Hartman at The Paris Review

STILL FROM KEDI.
If you love something, you let it go. Cat people understand this intuitively. You never quite possess a cat, and the sooner you acknowledge that, the better. Cats will chase the tinfoil ball, if they are in the mood, but they will almost certainly not bring it back. We forgive them for this because there is no other option.
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What happens if all Earth’s coral dies
via Boing Boing by Caroline Siede
The YouTube channel Life Noggin digs into this terrifying question and sings the praises of coral along the way.
Check it out here

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The saltmarsh has its own rich tang of whisky, earth and algae
via the Guardian by Matt Shardlow
Patterns in the mud, Old Hall Marshes, Essex
Patterns in the mud, Old Hall Marshes, Essex. Photograph: Matt Shardlow
A tongue of land borrowed from the mouth of the Blackwater estuary. Inside the mile-long V of grassy banks that exclude the sea the tamed land is riven by the contorted veins of once-tidal channels, now filled with freshwater. Today they are frozen into wide, snaking sheets of white. The khaki reeds that fringe the ice blend into fields of dead grass dotted with the greener humps of ancient yellow meadow ant hills.
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This enormous whirlpool fountain is hypnotic
via Boing Boing by Andrea James
The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore has lots of cool features, but this whirlpool fountain outisde their shopping area could keep some visitors transfixed all day.
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Foundations of three Roman houses found under Chichester park
via the Guardian by Maev Kennedy
Archaeologists digging in Priory Park in Chichester, West Sussex, where the remains of three near-complete Roman buildings were discovered.
Archaeologists digging in Priory Park in Chichester, West Sussex, where the remains of three near-complete Roman buildings were discovered. Photograph: Chichester district council/PA
Large properties just inside city walls, identified using radar, would have been equivalent to homes worth millions today
Foundations of three large Roman houses preserved for almost 2,000 years have been discovered in a park in the centre of Chichester.
James Kenny, an archaeologist at Chichester district council, believes that when fully excavated they will prove to be some of the best Roman houses found in a city centre in Britain.
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Sunday, 13 August 2017

Maslow's Hierarchy through to telephone use via menstruation -- as varied as usual

The Missing Apex of Maslow’s Hierarchy Could Save Us All
via Big Think by Robby Berman
new pyramid
Maslow's revised Hierarchy of Human Needs
When psychologist Abraham Maslow died, he wasn’t quite finished with his famous hierarchy of human needs.
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The eternal Cheshire cat
via OUP Blog by Anatoly Liberman

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by John Tenniel, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Unlike Alice, who was advised to begin at the beginning and stop only when she came to an end, I’d rather begin at the end. The English-speaking world is interested in the Cheshire cat only because Lewis Carroll mentioned it. The origin of the proverbial grin has never been explained, so that, if you hope to receive an enlightening answer from this post, you can very well stop here. Moreover, no one knows the answer even in Cheshire, though some things are beyond dispute: Lewis Carroll did grow up in Cheshire, and it was not he who coined the idiom, though something he heard or remembered about Cheshire cats might have suggested the image of a grinning feline to him. Most of what I’ll say about the subject can be found elsewhere, but a few details will, I hope, pique our readers’ curiosity.
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If the body isn't sacred, nothing is: why menstrual taboos matter
Menstrual seclusion was once about giving women a safe space – hunter gatherer cultures can teach us how women’s blood is potent, not polluting
via the Guardian by Dr Camilla Power
Indian Hindu sadhvis
Indian Hindu sadhvis (holy women) take part in a religious procession on the eve of the annual Ambubachi festival at the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati
Photograph: Biju Boro/AFP/Getty Images

These days we tend to assume that menstrual seclusion, menstrual taboos, menstrual huts and pollution beliefs, which are prevalent in some developing countries, are all examples of sexist practices that undermine women’s rights and freedoms.
But what if seclusion once gave women a safe space, where they could find solidarity with other women? Suppose those taboos were first invented by women for reasons of their own?
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Bouquets of flowers made from kitchen utensils
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Sculptor Ann Carrington's 2016 Pop Goes the Weasel show at the Royal College of Art included her "Bouquets and Butterflies", an amazing series of floral arrangements made from kitchen utensils. (via Colossal)
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Germ warfare: the battle for the key to modern vaccines
In the late 1960s the scientist behind the world’s most successful antiviral vaccines took on his employer and the US government in a fight for custody of the cells that he called his ‘children’
via the Guardian by Meredith Wadman

On 9 October 1964, a baby girl was born at Philadelphia general hospital. She arrived early, when her mother was about 32 weeks pregnant. The baby weighed 3.2lb and was noted to be blue, floppy and not breathing. The only sign of life was her slow heartbeat. Nonetheless, she clung on, and her 17-year-old mother named her.
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What cats can teach us about how to live
via The New Statesman by John Gray
We should celebrate the solitary hunters among us.
A philosopher once assured me, many years ago, that he had converted his cat to veganism. Believing he was joking, I asked how he had achieved this feat. Had he supplied the cat with mouse-flavoured vegan food? Had he presented his cat with other cats, already practising veganism, as feline role models? Or had he argued with the cat and convinced it that eating meat is wrong? My interlocutor wasn’t amused, and I realised that he really believed the cat had opted for a meat-free diet. So I ended our exchange with a simple question: did the cat go out? It did, he told me. That solved the mystery. Plainly, the cat was supplementing its diet by covert hunting. If it ever brought home any of the carcasses – a practice to which ethically undeveloped cats are sadly prone – the virtuous philosopher had managed not to notice them.
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Charterhouse in London opens to public for first time in 400 years
via the Guardian by Maev Kennedy
Charterhouse in central London.
Charterhouse in central London. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian
London’s Charterhouse, a former 14th-century Carthusian monastery and burial ground for victims of the Black Death, will open its doors to the public for the first time in 400 years on Friday.
Visitors will be able to walk across the graves of thousands of Londoners, and enter the secret world of the medieval charity that is still operating in the heart of the capital. A new museum and the chapel, which holds the founder’s grand tomb, will welcome the public in six days a week.
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An Irish cavalryman spent most of World War I living in this cupboard
via Boing Boing by Futility Closet

In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell two stories about people who spent years confined in miserably small spaces. North Carolina slave Harriet Jacobs spent seven years hiding in a narrow space under her grandmother's roof, evading her abusive owner, and Irishman Patrick Fowler spent most of World War I hiding in the cabinet of a sympathetic family in German-occupied France.
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Gene-Modified Ants Shed Light on How Societies Are Organized
via 3 Quarks Daily: Natalie Angier in The New York Times

Dr. Daniel Kronauer, shown in a double exposure, above, studies ants with altered DNA in order to understand complex biological systems.CreditBéatrice de Géa for The New York Times
Among clonal raider ants, there are no permanently designated workers and queens. Instead, all the ants in a colony switch back and forth from one role to the other. About half the time, they behave like workers, gathering food for their young – generally, by raiding the nests of other ants and stealing their larvae. The rest of the time, they go into queen mode and all colony members lay eggs together.
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How to use a telephone
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

In ye olden days, a telephone user had to ask the operator to call the desired party and make the connection. Then the dial telephone empowered us all to, er, reach out and touch someone. This 1927 instructional film from the telephone company explains the basics: “The ringing signal is an intermittent burring sound telling you the bell of the called telephone is ringing”.
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How does the choice of A-level subjects vary with students' socio-economic status in English state schools?

an article by Catherine Dilnot (Oxford Brookes University, UK) published in British Educational Research Journal Volume 42 Issue 6 (December 2016)

Abstract

The reasons why students from lower socio-economic groups are under-represented at high status universities are not yet entirely understood, but evidence suggests that part of the gap may be a consequence of differential choice of A-levels by social background.

The Russell Group of universities has since 2011 published guidance on A-level subject choices, describing some A-levels as ‘facilitating’ in that choosing these helps keep the largest number of Russell Group degree courses open. The numbers of students gaining AAB in facilitating subjects has subsequently been developed as a performance measure for individual schools and sixth form colleges, and, in aggregate, as a government Social Mobility Indicator.

While it is clear that there is a gap between the proportions of students in maintained and private schools achieving this measure, there is little other work to date on how social background is related to the take-up of facilitating subjects, or to a more fine-grained categorization of all the large number of ‘non-facilitating’ subjects.

I develop a taxonomy of all 96 A-levels certified for English students in 2014/15 beyond the facilitating/non-facilitating dichotomy according to Russell Group members’ expressed preferences, and use it to analyse the A-level subject choices of three A-level cohorts (2010–2012), using National Pupil Database data.

I find that large differentials in A-level subject choice exist by social background, particularly for facilitating subjects. These differentials substantially disappear when GCSE attainment and subject choices are taken into account. Closing this choice gap at A-level is likely therefore to depend on reducing differentials in attainment and subject choice by social background at GCSE.

The introduction of the EBacc may help with the GCSE subject choice element.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

The impact of National Qualifications Frameworks: by which yardstick do we measure dreams?

an article by Nick Pilcher (Edinburgh Napier University, UK), Scott Fernie (Loughborough University, UK) and Karen Smith (University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK) published in Journal of Education and Work Volume 30 Issue 1 (2017)

Abstract

National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) are a global phenomenon. This is evidenced by their scale, coverage and intrinsic link with education policy across Europe and beyond. Research into their impact has encompassed a number of perspectives; theoretical, practical and evaluative.

Yet, despite the existence of critical literature related to the development, design and impact of NQFs, little research has questioned the actual feasibility of researching the ‘impact’ of NQFs per se.

The arguments in this paper position such research as both unfeasible and futile: a dream for which it is impossible to identify a suitable yardstick to measure. We base our argument around three broad themes: linguistics and semantics; homogeneity; and methodological complexity.

Around these themes, we aim to show why such research has proved problematic and, in doing so, contribute to the field as it explores the impact of NQFs in the future.


Is the learning organisation still alive?

an article by Mike Pedler (Henley Business School, University of Reading, UK) and John G. Burgoyne (Management School, Lancaster University, Bailrigg, UK) published in The Learning Organization Volume 24 Issue 2 (2017)

Abstract

Purpose
It has recently been suggested that the learning organisation (LO) is dead (Pedler, 2013). The authors make the case here that it is still alive. This paper provides a brief history of LO and organisational learning, follows this with some survey findings, a discussion and an exploration of some related contemporary issues and concludes with an overview and summary of the conclusions.

Design/methodology/approach
Survey of practitioners.

Findings
From this small survey, whilst some of the 16 respondents are still excited by the idea, a larger group sees the learning organisation as more of a background concept, performed in ways that might not fit with the aspirations of 20 years ago.

Research limitations/implications
The authors started with the question: is the LO idea still alive in 2016? No clear answer emerges. Given the variety of the responses, it is difficult to sum them up in a simple way. The yea-sayer will find plenty of evidence for the LO’s continued existence and relevance, but the nay-sayers will also feel at least partly vindicated. What does emerge clearly arise from the mixed messages, are the opportunities for further research.

Practical implications
This paper calls for further research and suggests useful directions.

Social implications
LO is still seen as socially useful.

Originality/value
The paper is based on small empirical sample of practitioners who display multivocality on this concept.


Friday, 11 August 2017

And yet another ten items I hope are of interest

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From Byron to boy bands: A timeline of heartthrobs
via OUP Blog by Carol Dyhouse
From dreams of Prince Charming or dashing doctors in white coats, to the lure of dark strangers and vampire lovers; from rock stars and rebels to soulmates, dependable family types or simply good companions, female fantasies about men tell us as much about the history of women as they do about masculine icons. The changing position of women has shaped their dreams about men, going from Lord Byron in the early nineteenth century to boy-bands in the early twenty-first. The timeline below highlights ten heartthrobs, fictional and real, that set hearts aflutter over the decades.
Continue reading although you probably won’t find your own special heartthrob in the limited selection.

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‘Quiffs were a must’: teddy boys and girls in London, 1955
Ted Burton and his friends pose for Ken Russell, the photographer and film director
via the Guardian by Candice Pires
Ted Burton and other teddy boys and girls
Ted Burton, seen here over Jeanie Rayner’s right shoulder. Photograph: TopFoto/Ken Russell
This was taken when I was 16, near the Seventh Feathers Club in north Kensington, London, where we all lived. A sort of youth club run by well-to-do ladies, it was our world. I’d make a beeline for it every night of the week; I had left school a year earlier and was working on a site in west London, knocking down a bomb shelter.
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I was just a few years too young to appreciate this look. The difference between 12 and 16 is enormous.

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The ingenious design of the aluminum beverage can
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Every second, 15,000 aluminum beverage cans are manufactured. This is a terrific video about how beverage cans are made, and why they look the way they do.
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“Space Archaeologists” Find Hundreds of Pyramids, Lost Tombs, and Forgotten Cities
via Big Think by by Arpan Bhattacharyya
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Archaeologist Sarah Parcak is allowing anyone in the world with an internet connection to participate in discovering new archaeological sites, and protect vulnerable archaeological sites from looting. Using the $1 million she got from winning the TED Prize as well as support from the National Geographic Society and DigitalGlobe, she recently launched GlobalXplorer. The organization seeks to engage people from all backgrounds in finding and preserving archaeological sites through the use of satellite images. The methods in question have, according to GlobalXplorer’s website, already produced impressive results.
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Imperial melting pot: how a new book reveals the remarkable history of Istanbul
via New Statesman by Maureen Freely
AEGEE-Istanbul: TURCOPERATION : SUltans on the Way | AEGEE Summer ...
A Tale of Three Cities by Bettany Hughes shows how kings, emperors and sultans have been fighting over the city for millennia.
Eight thousand years ago, the Black Sea was a lake and the land on which Istanbul now sits was not where Europe ended and Asia began. In its place was a ribbon of land, fed by springs and dotted with Neolithic settlements that may have farmed as well as hunted. Around 5500BC, however, a rapid melting of the ice sheets led to a rise in sea level of up to 238 feet. The waters surging in ran right over those coastal settlements, cutting through to the Black Sea to create the deep and fast-moving waterway we now call the Bosphorus.
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Cash for Words: A Brief History of Writing for Money
Money taints everything, why not writing too?
via Arts & Letters Daily: Colin Dickey in New Republic

Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin, by Ilia Efimovich Repin, 1884.The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Humanities Fund Inc., 1972.
Charles Dickens was paid by the word. This was junior high, we were reading A Tale of Two Cities, and this fact, when it was first uttered, raced like a rumor through the classroom, overtaking everything. Suddenly, every other word in Dickens’s novel seemed like unnecessary padding, every sentence overstuffed, wasteful, filled with excessive detail. It didn’t matter that A Tale of Two Cities is among Dickens’s shorter novels; once we’d been introduced to the economy of writing, everything was tainted.
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Did This Medieval African Empire Invent Human Rights?
via Big Think by Philip Perry
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Catalan Atlas showing the Western Sahara. Mansa Musa is seen seated holding a gold coin.
Attributed to Abraham Cresques, Wikimedia Commons

We usually think of the Magna Carta as the first document to encapsulate any sort of human rights. However, the “Kurukan Fuga Charter” also known as the “Manden Charter” is its contemporary and according to at least one scholar, may even predate it. In 2009, the charter was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. But the charter wasn’t written down. Instead, it was passed down orally from one generation to the next. This went on for centuries, illustrating West Africa’s rich oral tradition.
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Artist creates dimensional scenes on old plates by precisely sandblasting through successive layers
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Caroline Slotte is a sculptor in Finland who layers old, decorated china plates atop one another, then carefully removes material from successive layers with precision masking and sandblasting and carving, created 3D scenes with gorgeous depth.
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John Evelyn describes a Frost Fair on the Thames
via the Guardian by Tim Radford
A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Stairs by Abraham Hondius, c1684.
A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Stairs by Abraham Hondius, c1684.
Photograph: Heritage Images/Getty Images
January, 1684. “The weather continuing intolerably severe, streets of booths were set upon the Thames; the air was so very cold and thick, as of many years, there had not ben the like. The small pox was very mortal,” says the Diary of John Evelyn, in the 1879 edition by William Bray.
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Beautifully-shot video of a box being made
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
Watching Laura Kampf build a poplar projector box is an education in 1) excellent craftsmanship and 2) tools I must now get. The way dovetail jointing is illustrated is particularly fascinating: in 5 minutes of well-shot arty youtube cinema I feel I learned more than a dozen talky howto videos where the content is buried somewhere after a minute of intro music, five minutes of "HEY GUYS" rambling, and nine more fooling around in the shop. Don't miss the sketchbook!
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Thursday, 10 August 2017

WOW, opal mines to Turkmenistan and eight other items between

Underground city made from old opal mines has 3,500 residents
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Coober Pedy is an Australian mining town with such an extensive labyrinth of depleted opal mines that half the town's residents live underground. There are bookstores, churches, and other public spaces.
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Fictional Job Applications
via Stephen's Lighthouse by Stephen Abram
There is no way I can get the infographic to copy. You will need to view it here.

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The shout that awakened nations
via The New Statesman by Simon Heffer
There is still the odd parish church in England with a notice on its south door that begins: “There are those who will tell you that at the time of the Reformation the Church of England ceased to be Catholic and became Protestant. Do not believe them.” It is a bemusing argument, hinting at the divisions within Anglicanism that stemmed from Henry VIII’s decision to establish a state church in 1534 and reject the authority of the pope in Rome.
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The Cost of Blowing up the Death Star? The Biggest Recession in the Universe
via Big Think by Laurie Vazquez
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Blowing up the Death Star would cripple the universe’s economy.
That’s the premise of a new paper out of Washington University. Written by financial engineer Dr. Zachary Feinstein as a way of applying his esoteric knowledge to a popular subject, the paper uses real-world economics to examine the total costs of an enormous setback in the fictional Star Wars universe.
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Zola and anti-semitism – short review of my book
via Michael Rosen's blog by Michael Rosen
A review by someone called 'Paul' - (I don't know him!) - on a site called 'Good Reads'. I think he's got what it is I was trying to write about. (But I would say that, wouldn't I!)
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1000-year old windmills still in use
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
WikiGOGO - Old Wind Mills | Interesting, nashtifan
Nashtifan, Iran, is home to some of the oldest windmills in the world. Ali Muhammad Etebari, the last custodian of the mills, laments that he cannot find an apprentice.
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Archaeologists discover man whose tongue was replaced by a stone
via the Guardian by Dalya Alberge
A close-up of the skull with a flat stone wedged between the jaws
A close-up of the skull with a flat stone wedged between the jaws.
Photograph: Historic England

A gruesome and seemingly unique mutilation has emerged from a Roman Britain burial site in Northamptonshire – the skeleton of a man whose tongue had apparently been amputated and replaced with a flat stone wedged into his mouth.
The man had been interred face down, perhaps amid fears that his corpse would rise to threaten people once again, archaeologists believe.
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Vatican Museums Launches New Web Site
via Research Buzz Firehose: Vatican Radio
The new director of the Vatican museums, Barbara Jatta, presented a new multimedia web site to journalists at the Vatican press office on Monday. The user-friendly site, available in Italian, English, French, Spanish and German, contains thousands of images plus over fifty videos and virtual tours and has taken almost three years to complete.
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This granular life
That the world is not solid but made up of tiny particles is a very ancient insight. Is it humanity’s greatest idea?
via Arts & Letters Daily: by Carlo Rovelli in AEON
According to tradition, in the year 450 BCE, a man embarked on a 400-mile sea voyage from Miletus in Anatolia to Abdera in Thrace, fleeing a prosperous Greek city that was suddenly caught up in political turmoil. It was to be a crucial journey for the history of knowledge. The traveller’s name was Leucippus; little is known about his life, but his intellectual spirit proved indelible. He wrote the book The Great Cosmology, in which he advanced new ideas about the transient and permanent aspects of the world. On his arrival in Abdera, Leucippus founded a scientific and philosophical school, to which he soon affiliated a young disciple, Democritus, who cast a long shadow over the thought of all subsequent times.
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I got lost about half way through but the background story is interesting.

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Man camped at Turkmenistan’s “Door to Hell” and shot video of it
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza

Nothing seems real to me now until it’s been youtubed on a cellphone camera; that special mix of artifacty shadows, blown highlights and uncanny detail everywhere else signifies the zenith of media-era simulated authenticity.
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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Ten more interesting nuggets to waste some of your precious time

Caught Our Eyes: Crash Landing
via Library of Congress, Picture This by Julie Stoner
Douglas SBD "Dauntless" dive bomber balanced on nose after crash landing on carrier flight deck, June 21, 1943. Photo by U.S. Navy. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a45218
While browsing through the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, the perfect timing and composition of this shot caught my eye. Seeing the final moment before the plane completes its flip and collides with the deck, I want to reach out and stop the accident from happening.
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A 19th century Lithuanian book smuggler defies the autocrat’s book-ban
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

This is Vincas Juska, a knygnešys – “book smuggler” – one of the brave people who defied Tsar Alexander II's "Temporary Rules for State Junior Schools of the Northwestern Krai" by smuggling books written with Latin characters into Lithuania, defying the ban put into place after the Polish-Lithuanian insurrection of 1863.
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How Camus and Sartre split up over the question of how to be free
via Arts & Letters Daily: Sam Dresser in AEON
Albert Camus by Cecil Beaton for Vogue in 1946. <em>Photo by Getty</em>
Albert Camus by Cecil Beaton for Vogue in 1946. Photo by Getty
They were an odd pair. Albert Camus was French Algerian, a pied-noir born into poverty who effortlessly charmed with his Bogart-esque features. Jean-Paul Sartre, from the upper reaches of French society, was never mistaken for a handsome man. They met in Paris during the Occupation and grew closer after the Second World War. In those days, when the lights of the city were slowly turning back on, Camus was Sartre’s closest friend. ‘How we loved you then,’ Sartre later wrote.
They were gleaming icons of the era. Newspapers reported on their daily movements: Sartre holed up at Les Deux Magots, Camus the peripatetic of Paris. As the city began to rebuild, Sartre and Camus gave voice to the mood of the day. Europe had been immolated, but the ashes left by war created the space to imagine a new world. Readers looked to Sartre and Camus to articulate what that new world might look like. ‘We were,’ remembered the fellow philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, ‘to provide the postwar era with its ideology.’
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Does Your Brain Lag in the Morning? Put On Your Thinking Cap-puccino
via Big Think by Derek Beres
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While the dominant theme in education is focused on the current pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, and her vigilance in implementing voucher programs, not as much is being discussed regarding the broader conditions surrounding performance. For example, one argument states students should have later start times, given that teenagers have an especially hard time waking up in the morning. Proper sleep is a chronic elephant in the room in modern education.
A research team lead by Boston College’s Stephanie Sherman decided to test a particularly popular mechanism during students’ non-optimal time of day, early morning hours: caffeine.
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Short Cuts
via Inner Temple Library: Stephen Sedley in London Review of Books
‘Anonymous and pseudonymous publication has a long history. It may now be the exception in literary and specialist journalism, but at the start of the 19th century it was pretty much the rule – to the extent that France in 1850 legislated to forbid the publication of unsigned articles on philosophical, political and religious subjects. A new book by Eric Barendt, Anonymous Speech: Literature, Law and Politics (Hart, £25), traces the contemporaneous voluntary abandonment of anonymity in England and the often pompous arguments that accompanied it. The fact was that journals’ recruitment of well-known writers – Thackeray, Dickens – was starting to put a premium on names. So when the Fortnightly Review started up in 1865, it announced that all its articles would be signed and free of editorial pressure. By contrast, from its foundation in 1913 the New Statesman anonymised its contributors, though the editor, having explained that this was necessary in order to establish a common style and tone, couldn’t resist announcing that Sidney Webb and Bernard Shaw would be writing for it. In 1925 the Spectator, after not quite a hundred years of unsigned articles, abandoned anonymity, and the New Statesman followed. Articles in the TLS remained anonymous until 1974, and obituaries in the Times and Telegraph are unsigned to this day. So are the entirety of the Economist and the bulk of Private Eye.’
Full story

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I'm a Wuss
via An Awfully Big Blog Adventure by Joan Lennon

Knight, Death and the Devil by Albrecht Durer 1513 (wiki commons)I’m a wuss about all sorts of things – time travel, for example (I’m cowardly about bad smells and no painkillers and dying in childbirth and what do I do if my glasses break?) and going into caves and aggressively spicy food and the fear of falling through not-quite-thick-enough river ice. And as a writer, I’m a wuss about killing characters.
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Enchanting and whimsical papercraft buildings
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Zim & Zou make these delightful hand-cut paper buildings for their Forest Folks display in Dubai.
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Bacteria Apparently Send eVites to Each Other Throughout the Body
via Big Think by Robby Berman
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Bacillus subtilis swarm (ADRIAN DAERR)
We have a two-sided relationship with bacteria. On one hand, these single-celled organisms are the source of disease. On the other, each of us hosts some 40 trillion bacteria in our own personal biomes – some estimates suggest we’re 90% bacteria, 10% human. However many there are, these fellow travelers help us break down our food, affect our emotions, and play a part in our lives that we’re just beginning to comprehend. In fact they’re so important in both roles – just last month, a woman died from a bacterial infection that overcame all of the available antibiotics – we can hardly know enough about them. And now a new study published in Cell says they can communicate with other electrically at a distance.
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How the panda’s ‘thumb’ evolved twice
via 3 Quarks Daily: Jane Qiu in Nature

Giant pandas and the distantly related red pandas may have independently evolved an extra ‘digit’ – a false thumb – through changes to the same genes. The two species share a common ancestor that lived more than 40 million years ago. Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are distant relatives of other bears, whereas red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) are more closely related to ferrets. Both species subsist on a diet composed almost entirely of bamboo, with the help of a false digit. The pandas’ ‘thumbs’ – which are actually abnormally enlarged wrist bones – allow both species to grip and handle bamboo with remarkable dexterity. But “exactly how such evolutionarily distant animals evolved such a similar lifestyle and body form has long been a mystery,” says Steve Phelps, a geneticist at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Watch this trippy LED hula hoop routine
via Boing Boing by Andrea James
LED hula hoop choreography set to a Massive Attack "Teardrop" remix? Yes, please! Find the video here

Monday, 7 August 2017

How To Mine The Internet For Hidden Clues About A Potential Job Offer

Via Research Buzz Firehose: Gwen Moran in Fast Company

A shocking number of people hate their jobs. They range from people who’ve simply lost interest in their work to those who realised soon after they started that they had made a terrible mistake.

To make sure you know what you are getting into before you start, you could simply log on to Glassdoor and ask around, or you could go full-on sleuth and employ some next-level investigation in your research. Ken Sawka, CEO and president of corporate intelligence firm Fuld + Company, says that gathering and analysing the right information can potentially save you from a bad job decision.

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Hazel’s comment:
Written for the US market but I felt it still contained some useful thoughts on job seeking in the UK.


Ten items from Mickey Mouse to Bob Dylan via "not climate change"

Why do cartoon characters wear white gloves?
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

The short answer is efficiency! But it was also an artistic choice that became a creative convention…
“We didn't want (Mickey Mouse) to have mouse hands, because he was supposed to be more human,” Walt Disney wrote. “So we gave him gloves. Five fingers looked like too much on such a little figure, so we took one away. That was just one less finger to animate.”
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The Time Machine: an audio guide
via OUP Blog by Roger Luckhurst

“Banner, Header, time, Ancient Clock” by PeteLinforth. Public Domain via  Pixabay
The first book H. G. Wells published, The Time Machine, is a scientific romance that helped invent the genre of science fiction and the time travel story. Even before its serialization had finished in the spring of 1895, Wells had been declared “a man of genius”, and the book heralded a fifty year career of a major cultural and political controversialist. This dystopian vision of Darwinian evolution is a sardonic rejection of Victorian ideals of progress and improvement and a detailed satirical commentary on the decadent culture of the 1890’s.
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Beautiful Patagonia avalanche
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
These guys taped a a beautiful avalanche at Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile. It stopped right before it reached them, and just hovered over them.
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Giant Australian Creatures, the Megafauna, Were Wiped Out By Humans, Not Climate Change
via Big Think by Paul Ratner
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About 50,000 years ago giant animals called “megafauna” roamed Australia. We are talking about 1,000-pound kangaroos, 500-pound flightless birds, 25-foot-long lizards and tortoises the size of cars. And after the arrival of the first humans, more than 85% of these animals went extinct.
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From bombs to bytes: How Beirut's tech scene is thriving
Happy hookah
via BBC Business by Monty Munford
Old man smoking hookah pipe
One of the most familiar sights in the Middle East is of local citizens gathering in cafes smoking hookah pipes as they drink coffee strong enough to knock out an Arabian horse.
But in Beirut, Lebanon's capital, such traditional pastimes are being given a hi-tech twist.
Not only is the city as hip and cool as any city in the West, Lebanese technology is even changing the nature of the hookah pipe.
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Chinese Labour Corps on the Western Front
via The National Archives Blog by Pad Kumlertsakul
As the First World War progressed, the need for more manpower became acutely problematic. The increased use of ammunition and supplies necessitated by trench warfare led to increased imports, which in turn put enormous strain on the transportation services. Depots, workshops, factories and ports were all desperate for manpower. At the start of the war in August 1914, there was no body of men trained or designated for these tasks. The British War Office had to put forward its troops for manual work near the front lines in the form of Pioneer Battalions, which were added to each Division.
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Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey by Frances Wilson
via 3 Quarks Daily: Levi Stahl at Open Letters Monthly
The vast majority of writers leave no lasting posthumous trace. They die, and their work, successful as it may have been in its time, simply fades away. A lucky few – the Dickenses, Trollopes, Woolfs – end up firmly ensconced in the culture, their major works widely read, their minor ones remaining in print, and even their ephemera published. Then there’s the middle ground: the writers who are known for one or two pieces drawn from a vast body of work that is otherwise almost wholly forgotten.
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We Used To Have 6 More Letters In Our Alphabet: where have all the letters gone?
via Medium: Hannah Poindexter in OMG Facts

Along quaint New England streets, you’ll probably spot a sign or two declaring itself “Ye Olde Tavern” or “Ye Old Soda Shoppe.” But before you adopt a British accent and order a pint of ale inside, there’s a bit of history you should know.
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Programming in the early days of the computer age
via BBC Technology
Joyce Blackler using Edsac
Everyone remembers the first computer they ever used. And Joyce Wheeler is no exception. But in her case the situation was a bit different. The first computer she used was one of the first computers anyone used.
The machine was Edsac - the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator - that ran for the first time in 1949 and was built to serve scientists at the University of Cambridge.
Joyce Wheeler was one of those scientists who, at the time, was working on her PhD under the supervision of renowned astronomer Fred Hoyle.
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Bob Dylan's “Only A Pawn In Their Game”
via Boing Boing by Jason Weisberger
Dylan performing his song on the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers at the same rally, 1963, where Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech.
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