Monday, 24 April 2017

Let's start the week with non-work items -- items include skeletons, Samuel Pepys and chromosomes

Somerset skeletons are oldest evidence of monks found in UK
via the Guardian by Caroline Davies
Volunteers excavating the area that included the monastic graves in Somerset.
Skeletons excavated at a site near Glastonbury are the oldest examples of monks ever found in the UK, carbon dating has proved.
The remains, unearthed at the medieval Beckery chapel in Somerset, said to have been visited by legendary figures such as King Arthur and St Bridget, indicate a monastic cemetery dating back to the fifth or early sixth centuries AD, before Somerset was conquered by the Saxon kings of Wessex in the seventh century.
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Peter Sellers recites the Beatles (in funny voices)
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Robbo writes, “Peter Sellers recorded a series of performances, in a variety of voices, reciting the lyrics of popular Beatles songs. It is demented weirdness - and perfect in all its madness.”
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The Mortal Marx
via Arts & Letters Daily: Jeremy Adelman in Public Books
In the mid-1860s, as an anxious and ailing Karl Marx worked on the 30-page essay that would billow into Das Kapital, his daughter Eleanor – “Tussy” – would play under his desk. With her dolls, kittens, and puppies, Tussy turned the sage’s study into her playroom. Occasionally, Marx would take a break from his “fat book” (as the family friend and patron, Friedrich Engels, called the growing pile of pages) to work on a children’s story to recite to his daughter. It featured an antihero, Hans Röckle, who became Tussy’s favorite character, a dark-eyed, bearded magician devoted to creating marvels in his chaotic toy shop. Years later, Eleanor would recognize Röckle’s struggles as her father’s own and see the child’s tale as a send-up of his unorthodox life. Röckle’s magic was also a parable about making value out of things and accumulating capital out of debt, the fictive version of what Marx was determined to demystify in Das Kapital.
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Adding 50 new tours for schools with Google Expeditions
via ResearchBuzz Firehose: Ben Schrom (Expeditions Product Manager, Google)
Since launching the Google Expeditions Pioneer Programme in September [2016], we’ve visited over 200,000 students across the UK. They’ve gone on hundreds of virtual journeys, from the peak of Mont Blanc to standing on the battlements of Edinburgh Castle. And today, we’re adding 50 new adventures to their classrooms with our virtual reality field trips taking the total number of expeditions now available to over 400.
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The man who brought 'Civilisation' to a mass market
via 3 Quarks Daily: Michael Dirda at The Washington Post

In 1969 the BBC aired a 13-part documentary entitled “Civilisation: A Personal View”. Hosted by an upper-class Englishman with crooked teeth and a penchant for tweed, it traced the history of European art, music and literature from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, ending on a note of slightly qualified despair. The humanist values celebrated in the series were being lost or forgotten. More and more, we worshipped the machine and the computer, and instead of living with joy, confidence and energy, we dwelt gloomily in the valley of the shadow of global destruction. Still, there had been Dark Ages in the past, and humankind just might squeak through, by – as the very first episode declared – “the skin of our teeth”.
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How cities took over the world: a history of globalisation spanning 4,000 years
via the Guardian by Greg Clark
By 1840 London had surpassed Beijing’s all-time population record, reaching two million.
History shows that cities have tended to embrace international opportunities in waves and cycles. They rarely break out into global activity by themselves. Cities participate in collective movements or networks to take advantage of new conditions, and often their demise or withdrawal from a global orientation is also experienced jointly with other cities as circumstances change, affecting many at once.
The world’s first great market-driven cities were established more than 4,000 years ago in the early bronze age, and their rich history is only now beginning to be understood. An urban revolution was taking place, with most residents of what is today southern Iraq living in cities, and this process of urbanisation was accompanied by trade on a new scale.
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How About a New Theory of Evolution with Less Natural Selection?
via Big Think by Robbery Berman
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In early November, a group of preeminent biologists, doctors, anthropologists, and computer scientists met in London to consider making a major change to the concept of evolutionary biology introduced by Charles Darwin in Origin of the Species in 1859. It’s not that they’re interested in throwing out the idea of natural selection. It’s just that they think recent research suggests it doesn’t account for evolution all by itself. This isn’t the first time such a revision has happened, actually. And it’s not clear that it will this time: Conference co-host Kevin Laland told Quanta magazine mid-conference, “I think it’s going quite well,” Laland said. “It hasn’t gone to fisticuffs yet.”
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The life and times of Samuel Pepys
via OUP Blog by Amelia Carruthers
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Samuel Pepys penned his famous diaries between January 1660 and the end of May 1669. During the course of this nine year period, England witnessed some of the most important events in its political and social history. The diaries are over a million words long and recount in minute and often incredibly personal detail events such as the restoration of the monarchy, the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Great Fire, and Great Plague of London. By detailing his daily life with such frankness (Pepys never anticipated his diaries to be so publicly scrutinized) he provided an unprecedented window into the everyday experiences of seventeenth century Londoners as well as major political events.
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Almost Half of What’s In a Chromosome Is Still a Mystery
via Big Think by Robby Berman
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While it’s true that every chromosome contains some of 25,000 genes, it now turns out to be the case that this is only a little more than half the story. Computer modeling has revealed that up to 47% of each chromosome is an enigmatic sheath-like substance called the “chromosome periphery,” something about which little is known. That’s because it’s almost impossible to get a good look at actual chromosomes.
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The best place to sit in a “suicide circle” if you really don’t want to die
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Math problems are more interesting when they are posed as horror stories.
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Friday, 21 April 2017

What can be done to help low-achieving teenagers?

This article (CentrePiece Spring 2017) summarises ‘Adjusting Your Dreams? High School Plans and Dropout Behaviour’ by Dominique Goux, Marc Gurgand and Eric Maurin, which is forthcoming in the Economic Journal

Dominique Goux is at CREST, Paris. Marc Gurgand and Eric Maurin are at the Paris School of Economics. Maurin is also an international research associate in CEP’s education and skills programme and an expert adviser to the Centre for Vocational Education Research (CVER) at LSE. He presented these findings as a keynote address at CVER’s annual conference in September 2016.

Abstract

Young people who drop out of school are far more likely to experience unemployment and poverty than their peers. Experimental research by Eric Maurin and colleagues in deprived neighbourhoods of Paris shows the effectiveness of low-cost interventions that clarify educational options for low-achievers and dramatically reduce the number of dropouts.

Full text (PDF)


Labour Market Policy under Conditions of Permanent Austerity: Any Sign of Social Investment?

an article by Mattias Bengtsson and Kerstin Jacobsson (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and Caroline de la Porte (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark) published in Social Policy & Administration Volume 51 Issue 2 (March 2017)

Abstract

Social investment (SI) is part of a strategy to modernise the European welfare states by focusing on human resource development throughout the life-course, while ensuring financial sustainability. Recognising that this strategy was only partially implemented by the EU member states prior to the financial and Eurozone crises, this article investigates whether reforms and expenditure patterns in labour market policy (LMP) have moved more towards or away from SI following the 2008 financial crisis.

We use quantitative and qualitative data to investigate the degree to which there have been shifts in the SI aspects of LMPs in eight countries across four welfare state regimes. We also investigate which aspects of LMPs have been strengthened and which have been weakened, enabling us to make a nuanced assessment of labour market SIs across the EU in a period of permanent austerity.

We find that although the eight countries under examination have different starting points, there is little evidence of increased SI-orientation of LMPs. Upskilling, which is at the heart of SI, did not increase from 2004–08 to 2009–13, while incentive reinforcement and employment assistance – more about labour market entry and marketing of skills – grew in importance.

If this trend continues across Europe, there is a risk that SI will become lost in translation and end up as a clearer neo-liberal version of workfarism.

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Welfare States and Labour Market Change: What is the Possible Relation?

an article by Bent Greve (Roskilde University, Denmark) published in Social Policy & Administration Volume 51 Issue 2 (March 2017)

Abstract

Welfare states in many countries have, at least since the financial crisis, been under strong pressure from high levels of unemployment. We are expecting dramatic changes to labour markets.

This article first presents the various arguments as to why there have or have not been substantial changes to labour markets, and whether there might be in the future, including arguments pro and con the possible impact thereof. The article thus provides a review of knowledge within the field, with a focus especially on how this can or might have an impact on welfare states, given the often strong connection between being on the labour market, access to a variety of welfare benefits and the ability to finance welfare states.

It uses concepts such as under-employment and new forms of jobs as indicators of change. These changes implying, more than ever, that having a job does not necessarily entail that a person has a stable and solid income above the poverty level.

Lastly, the article discusses whether some welfare states régime types are more prepared than others.

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Thursday, 20 April 2017

10 interesting items for you to share

Spectacular bronze age gold torc unearthed in Cambridgeshire field
via the Guardian by Maev Kennedy
The bronze age torc
The torc is much larger than usual examples and is regarded as the best found in England in more than a century. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
A gigantic gold torc, so big one expert thinks it may have been worn to protect a pregnant woman, has been found by a metal detectorist in a ploughed field in Cambridgeshire. It was made from 730 grams of almost pure gold more than 3,000 years ago, and is regarded as the best found in England in more than a century.
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“We Have Conquered Pain!” The Uses & Abuses of Ether in History
via The Chirugeon’s Apprentice by Dr Lindsey Fitzharris
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The surgical revolution began with an American dentist and a curiously sweet-smelling liquid known as ether.
Officially, ether had been discovered in 1275, but its stupefying effects weren’t synthesized until 1540, when the German botanist and chemist Valerius Cordus created a revolutionary formula that involved adding sulfuric acid to ethyl alcohol. His contemporary Paracelsus experimented with ether on chickens, noting that when the birds drank the liquid, they would undergo prolonged sleep and awake unharmed. He concluded that the substance “quiets all suffering without any harm and relieves all pain, and quenches all fevers, and prevents complications in all disease.” Yet inexplicably, it would be several hundred years before it was tested on humans.
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This viral photo changed America – in 1863
via Arts & Letters Daily: Christopher Klein in the Boston Globe
On the fourth of July in 1863 – an Independence Day that dawned with twisted, bloated bodies carpeting the fields and orchards of Gettysburg — tens of thousands of Americans who thought themselves numb to violence learned they were wrong. Leafing through the new issue of Harper’s Weekly, they encountered the graphic sight of a shirtless black slave in profile revealing a barbaric web of welts across the canvas of his bare back, testament to a ferocious whipping.
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I've not put the photograph in here – it is horrific and I do not want anyone coming across it unprepared as I did.

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'Housman Country: Into the Heart of England' by Peter Parker
via 3 Quarks Daily: Paul Keegan at the London Review of Books
Parker is interested in the daisies and dandelions, the untidy and contingent evidences of Housman’s continuing presence in an England whose further reaches include Morse or Morrissey. In the West Country you can drink Shropshire Lad ale or you could (until recently) be drawn by a locomotive of that name. But Housman had foresuffered all, with his lads who down their troubles in ‘pints and quarts of Ludlow beer’; or in a letter to his brother Laurence in 1920: ‘I have just flown to Paris and back, and I am never going by any other route, until they build the Channel Tunnel.’ Housman was already in full possession of the Housman effect.
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Capitol Records at 75: Frank Sinatra, the Beatles and MC Hammer
via the Guardian by Guardian Music
Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra at Capitol Tower studio B , Los Angeles, in October 1958, during the sessions for Martin’s Sleep Warm LP
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Capitol Records in 2017, publisher Taschen delved into the company’s photographic archive for a new book that documents the label’s decades of success. From the studio to the streets of Hollywood, here’s a glimpse of Capitol’s 20th- and 21st-century evolution.
Stunning images here to save yourself £99.99 you may find the Taschen book in your local library.

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Remarkable New Theory Says There’s No Gravity, No Dark Matter, and Einstein Was Wrong
via Big Think by Paul Ratner
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Gravity is something all of us are familiar with from our first childhood experiences. You drop something - it falls. And the way physicists have described gravity has also been pretty consistent - it’s considered one of the four main forces or “interactions” of nature and how it works has been described by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity all the way back in 1915.
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Watch a master glassblower make an intricate dragon
via Boing Boing by Andrea James
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In under an hour, glass artist James Mongrain transforms blobs of molten glass into a stunning green dragon. The choreographed teamwork, the variety of tools, and the interesting narration make this a real treat.
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Yes, the video is just under an hour long and no, I have not watched it right through but I have picked out bits.

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Top 20 Weirdest Inventions Ever
via Big Think by Paul Ratner
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For all the iPhones, virtual reality headsets, deep space rocket engines and self-driving cars that are a part of our modern world, many a crazy contraption was invented along the way. It’s entirely possible the ideas presented below are not the weirdest inventions ever simply because the truly weird ones probably never got close to the light of day or their creators were somehow destroyed in the process. Still, these are some of the strangest fruits of human ingenuity we know.
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Eye Candy for Today: Bosch’s vision of Hell
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Line and Colors decided today would be a good day to feature “Hell”, the right panel from the tryptich, The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch. It was painted between 1480 and 1505.
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This takes me back to my weekend in Madrid with my daughter (birthday present) when I sat on the floor in front of this painting for what seemed like ages.

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The irony of gunpowder
via OUP Blog by Alex Roland
Few inventions have shaped history as powerfully as gunpowder. It significantly altered the human narrative in at least nine significant ways. The most important and enduring of those changes is the triumph of civilization over the “barbarians”. That last term rings discordant in the modern ear, but I use it in the original Greek sense to mean “not Greek” or “not civilized”. Historian Kenneth Chase has represented such people as nomads from “the Arid Zone” – the Eurasian steppe and the North African desert. They were often what anthropologists call pre-state communities, usually governed by tribal or kin relationships. Their containment made possible what sociologist Norbert Elias called The Civilizing Process (1939) and what psychologist Steven Pinker has recently captured in his magisterial The Better Angels of Our Nature: How Violence Has Declined (2011).
The irony, however, is not that gunpowder reduced violence.
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Origins of happiness

an article by Andrew Clark, Sarah Flèche, Richard Layard, Nick Powdthavee and George Ward (Centre for Economic Performance, LSE, London, UK) published in CentrePiece Volume 22 Number 1 (Spring 2017)

Abstract

Understanding the key determinants of people’s life satisfaction makes it possible to suggest policies for how best to reduce misery and promote well-being. A forthcoming book by Richard Layard and colleagues discusses evidence on the origins of happiness in survey data from Australia, Germany, the UK and the United States.

CentrePiece article full text (PDF)

Further reading

Richard Easterlin (1974) ‘Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence’, in Nations and Households in Economic Growth: Essays in Honor of Moses Abramovitz edited by Paul David and Melvin Reder, Academic Press.

Sarah Flèche (2016) ‘Teacher Quality, Test Scores and Non-cognitive Skills: Evidence from Primary School Teachers in the UK’, CEP mimeo.

Richard Layard and David M Clark (2014) Thrive: The Power of Evidence-based Psychological Therapies, Penguin.

OECD (1962) ‘Policy Conference on Economic Growth and Investment in Education, Washington, 16th-20th October 1961: Targets for Education in Europe in 1970’, paper by Ingvar Svennilson in association with Friedrich Edding and Lionel Elvin.

Theodore Schultz (1961) ‘Investment in Human Capital’, American Economic Review 51(1): 1-17.

George Ward (2015) ‘Is Happiness a Predictor of Election Results?’, CEP Discussion Paper No. 1343.


Data mining approach to monitoring the requirements of the job market: A case study

an article by Ioannis Karakatsanis, Wala AlKhader, Armin Alibasic, Mohammad Atif Omar, Zeyar Aung and Wei Lee Woon (Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) and Frank MacCrory (MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, MA, United States) published in Information Systems Volume 65 (April 2017)

Highlights
  • A Text-Mining approach for matching raw job advertisement documents with occupation description data in the O*NET database is proposed.
  • A Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) model was utilized along with a wide collection of preprocessed data from online sources.
  • Crowdsourcing was deployed to validate the proposed methodology.
  • Results reveal that the suggested method can be directly applied to different job markets, commercial sectors and geographical regions.
Abstract

In challenging economic times, the ability to monitor trends and shifts in the job market would be hugely valuable to job-seekers, employers, policy makers and investors. To analyze the job market, researchers are increasingly turning to data science and related techniques which are able to extract underlying patterns from large collections of data.

One database which is of particular relevance in the presence context is O*NET, which is one of the most comprehensive publicly accessible databases of occupational requirements for skills, abilities and knowledge.

However, by itself the information in O*NET is not enough to characterize the distribution of occupations required in a given market or region.

In this paper, we suggest a data mining based approach for identifying the most in-demand occupations in the modern job market.

To achieve this, a Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) model was developed that is capable of matching job advertisement extracted from the Web with occupation description data in the O*NET database.

The findings of this study demonstrate the general usefulness and applicability of the proposed method for highlighting job trends in different industries and geographical areas, identifying occupational clusters, studying the changes in jobs context over time and for various other research embodiments.

Hazel&rsquo's comment:
I do not wish to come across as a wet blanket but this or something similar has been tried before. Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the intelligent human when it comes to indexing.