Thursday, 20 July 2017

No more robot wars in London

a post by Torsten Bell published by Resolution Foundation on 2 May 2017

“The robots are coming to take our jobs”, the Evening Standard told Londoners in December 2016. In case that didn’t depress their readers enough, the article went on to spell out the coming doom: “The sheer pace of change in computational power and grinding efficiencies of automation will alter or eliminate many of our jobs, far faster than we anticipate.”

And then, to ensure the anxiety was sufficiently widespread, they reminded their middle-class readers that “many of the relatively fortunate in the professional class in London will face upheavals too”.

Anxiety about the impact of robots on the world of work has been a hot topic across Western countries for several years. You couldn’t move at Davos last year without seeing grown men (it’s always men) with their heads in their hands predicting the end of work. Bill Gates is so worried that he has called for a robots tax.

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Scale of pangolin slaughter revealed – millions hunted in central Africa alone

a article by Damian Carrington (Environment editor) for the Guardian published on 20 July 2017

A ground pangolin. Pangolins are one of the world’’s most endangered species, some estimate that over one million of them are killed every year for their scales, meat and blood.
A ground pangolin. Pangolins are one of the world’s most endangered species, some estimate that over one million of them are killed every year for their scales, meat and blood.
Photograph: Adrian Steirn/Barcroft Images

The true scale of the slaughter of pangolins in Africa has been revealed by new research showing that millions of the scaly mammals are being hunted and killed.

Pangolins were already known to be the world’s most trafficked wild mammal, with at least a million being traded in the last decade to supply the demand for its meat and scales in Asian markets. Populations of Asian pangolins have been decimated, leaving the creatures highly endangered and sharply shifting the focus of exploitation to Africa’s four species.

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I had thought to include this story in with the "frivolous" or "merely interesting" stories in my composite posts but this so incensed me that I though I would pass it on separately.

Capturing unmet needs

a post by Simone Vibert for DEMOS published on 21 June 2017

Demos has a long-standing interest in the social and financial impact of disability and health conditions. People living with serious health conditions can face a significant financial burden, a large part of which is the extra costs resulting from looking after one’s health or undergoing treatment. In new research released today,[1] Demos found that people with motor neurone disease (MND) incur average regular costs of £9,645 per year – this includes care costs, increased energy bills, travel in areas where public transport is inaccessible, and so on. They also incur one off costs (such as adapting their home or vehicle so it is wheelchair accessible) which typically amount to at least £2,175 over the course of the disease.

The scale of the extra costs we uncovered are staggering. However, our experience in assessing the financial impact of disability and health conditions has taught us that extra costs are only one side of the story. It is also vital to capture the hidden extent of unmet need: the things people go without in order to manage their finances.

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It is not a pretty story.

Ten more of the slightly quirky items from the world of published material

How to Be Civil in an Uncivil World
via 3 Quarks Daily: James Ryerson in the New York Times

Americans seem to be forever undergoing a “crisis” of civility. Year after year, we’re told that the norms dictating decent behaviour are eroding; that we’ve lost sight of the basic regard we owe our fellow participants in public life; that the contentiousness of our culture threatens to undermine our democracy.
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Benjamin Franklin and the sea
via OUP Blog by David E Curtis

Everyone knows about Benjamin Franklin. His revolutionary electrical experiments made him famous, and the image of the kite-flying inventor spouting aphorisms have kept him so for more than two centuries. His Autobiography could be considered a founding document of the idea of America, the story of a poor but bright young indentured servant who eventually became so famous he appeared before kings and on our money. Printer, journalist, community organizer, natural philosopher, satirist, diplomat – Franklin’s skill with language and his ability to shape it to personal, national, and scientific purposes are unparalleled in American history.
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Watch hypnotic egg-breaking machines for ten minutes
via Boing Boing by Andrea James
These three different egg-breaking and separating machines have slightly different tasks, but they are all equally hypnotic.
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The old oak: a year in the life of a tree – photo essay
The seasons change, but the tree remains: Christopher Thomond has been photographing a single, 200-year-old Lancashire oak throughout 2016
Oak tree in Greenmount November 2 2016
When Guardian photographer Chris Thomond volunteered to spend a year photographing a tree, he spent “a mad couple of weeks auditioning trees” – sending photos of them to his picture editors. “Many were an hour away from my home and we realised we needed something nearby. As I was driving along one day, 10 minutes from my house on the edge of Manchester, I saw a farmer repairing a fence and said, ‘You probably think I’m bonkers, but have you got any nice-looking trees?’ He was a bit wary but then he said, ‘I think I’ve got just the one. People are forever photographing it.’ It just went from there.”
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Maxime Causeret’s gorgeous animation shapes order from chaos
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Break out your headphones for this one. Maxime Causeret has created a beautiful animation for Max Cooper's instrumental track “Order from Chaos”. Seemingly random elements slowly coalesce into lifelike forms as the track moves from raindrops to increasingly complex sounds.
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The Life and Death of Schrodinger’s Cat, and What It Really Means
via Big Think by Scotty Hendricks
Article Image
Schrodinger’s cat is one of the most famous thought experiments in all of science. The source of countless jokes, t-shirts, and pseudo-intellectual conversations. The idea is this: if a cat is put into a box with an elaborate quantum booby trap then when we open the box the trap will either be activated and kill the cat or not be activated at all. Quantum Physics says the cat should be in “superposition” while we are not looking at it, just like the rest of the quantum system. Meaning the cat is both alive and dead at the same time until we look at at! Zombie cat!
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I know nothing about quantum physics but I do know a cute kitten picture when I see one.

Ballerina: the animated kids’ film that gets to the pointe of ballet
via the Guardian by Lyndsey Winship
Ballet XXL … the animated film Ballerina.
Ask any ballet dancer about the film Black Swan and you’ll immediately get a groan that falls somewhere between disdain and disgust. They’re tired of the myths about ballet being a world of competition and cruelty, of freakishly talented and freakishly driven dancers – never mind that there’s some truth in that.
Ballet both feeds on its myths – of it being exceptional and otherworldly – and is constantly trying to demolish them. And each new fiction adds another layer in the popular imagination, even an unassuming, entertaining children’s animation such as Ballerina, the French-Canadian film which follows orphan FĂ©licie on her quest to be a dancer.
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Here’s how hand-printed books get those marble-patterned pages
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Paper marbling is alive and well at Oberlin College’s Letterpress Studio. Alex Fox filmed his friend Jones Pitsker demonstrating a couple of techniques.
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I can do marbling but not like this. Mine is much more hit and miss – mostly miss.

Shame on you
via Arts & Letters Daily: by Firmin deBrabander in AEON
Unburdening ourselves online can feel radical and liberating. But is baring and sharing all as emancipatory as it seems?
There’s a well-known contradiction in the way many of us behave online, which is this: we know we’re being watched all the time, and pay lip service to the evils of surveillance by Google and the government. But the bounds of what’s considered too personal, revealing or banal to be uploaded to an app or shared with a circle of social media ‘followers’ seems to shrink by the day. When faced with an abundance of digital toys that offer magical levels of connectivity and convenience, many of us succumb to a ‘giddy sense that privacy is kind of stupid’, as the writer Gary Shteyngart wrote in The New Yorker in 2013.
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Will malfunction or incompetence start World War Three?
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Eric Schlosser’s book and film Command and Control look at the terrifying prospects of nuclear friendly fire, where one of America’s nukes detonates on US soil. It also looks at what might happen if a false alarm gets relayed to a trigger-happy general or President. He starts this New Yorker piece with a terrifying story from June 3, 1980:
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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

‘It seems at the moment my career is dependent on factors outside of my control’: reflections on graduates’ experiences of employment and career enactment in an era of economic uncertainty and austerity

an article by Tony Leach (York St John University, UK) published in British Journal of Guidance & Counselling Volume 35 Issue 2 (2017)


This paper explores contested notions of the purpose of education and careers work. The research for the paper examines public sector employee reactions to notion of a psychological contract breach, when cuts in funding put their jobs and careers at risk.

It argues that, in this environment, the search for career fulfilment can be marked by feelings of cruel optimism, wicked problems and broken expectations.

The findings are then used to present the case for further research, firstly, to address the notion of possible selves, as individuals explore alternative identity affirming career opportunities; and secondly, the impact of changes in public policy on the processes of psychological contracting between students and staff in further and higher education.

Evidence-based practice in autism educational research: can we bridge the research and practice gap?

an article by Karen Guldberg (University of Birmingham, UK) published in Oxford Review of Education Volume 43 Issue 2 (2017)


In order to develop deeper and better understandings of what constitutes effective educational practices, and to bridge the gap between research and practice, there is a need for a paradigm shift in autism educational research. The contribution of this paper is to examine the key methodological challenges that stand in the way of autism educational research impacting on practice.

This research field is dominated by experimental research designs that evaluate the impact of ‘interventions’ that focus on developing the skills, knowledge, and understanding of pupils with autism.

For educational research to have an impact on the lives of individuals with autism, their families, and the practitioners who work with them, movement towards a more balanced range of methodologies is needed.

This needs to include methodologies that situate the knowledge base of practitioners on a par with the knowledge base of researchers, drawing on the evidence base from the classroom itself, and bringing in the perspectives and views of individuals with autism, their families, and the practitioners who work with them.

Full text (PDF)

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Ten "frivolous" items for you

Hidden Logic of Genes In Genesis?
via Big Think by Jag Bhalla
Article Image
“The story of Eden is a greater allegory than man has ever guessed.”
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Young, British and black: opposing race discrimination
via The National Archives Blog by Sarah Castagnetti
On 15 September 1973 Mr Lorne Horsford went out to the Mecca Palais dance hall in Leicester with his girlfriend. Mr Horsford was refused entry despite being sober and adhering to the required dress code. His girlfriend, Sue Kepka, was allowed to go in.
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A little over 40 years ago black men were being refused entry to dance halls because they were black. This despite the law saying this was illegal.
I guess this is history for some and this NA post will add to their knowledge of what went on.

Why stepping on Legos hurts like hell
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
My kids haven't played with Lego in years but somehow the tiny bricks manage to crawl out of the woodwork, waiting for me like caltrops on a dark road. The pain such a tiny colourful piece of plastic can cause for a bare foot is truly indescribable. This episode of “Today I Found Out” explains why.
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An Orphaned Sewing Machine
via 3 Quarks Daily: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in Harvard Magazine

The orphaned Singer sewing machine
Photograph courtesy of Harvard University's Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments
Every object tells a story, and most objects tell many stories. Some can help us transcend boundaries between people, cultures, and academic disciplines to discover crosscurrents in history. Allow me to make that argument by examining a common object, an “orphaned” sewing machine. Several years ago, my colleague Ivan Gaskell and I decided it would be interesting to have students look at one of the landmark inventions of the nineteenth century – a sewing machine. The first sewing machines were patented about 1845. By 1900 they were as common as a cell phone might be today – and just as much a model of innovation and social transformation. When we couldn’t find a sewing machine in any of Harvard’s museums, I called a curator who had been cataloguing Harvard’s so-called “ephemeral collections”, things kept in offices, dormitories, or classroom buildings. She said Harvard did not have a sewing machine, but she did and she would be happy to let me use it.
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Archaeologist defies sceptics in pursuit of lost city of Trellech
After facing years of doubts, Stuart Wilson’s claim that he has found medieval city on English-Welsh border is being listened to
via the Guardian by Steven Morris
One of the artefacts found at the site
One of the artefacts found at the site.
Photograph: Wales News Service

The first clue was provided by moles. As the creatures burrowed beneath a farmer’s field close to the border between England and Wales, they threw up fragments of what appeared to be medieval pottery.
Stuart Wilson, an archaeology graduate who was working in a toll bridge booth, took a gamble and bought the field for £32,000 when he could have been investing in his first house.
Over the past 15 years he and a hardy band of volunteers have painstakingly unearthed what they believe are the remains of a sprawling medieval city.
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FBI thought Pete Seeger was a commie
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza

Legendary folk singer, activist and countercultural icon Pete Seeger died in 2014 at the age of 94, but we’re only now learning that the FBI thought he was a communist as a young man.
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25 Words Coined by Nineteenth-Century Authors
via Daily Writing Tips by Mark Nichol
Read for yourself!

The Hit Aesthetic
via 3 Quarks Daily by Misha Lepetic
At a recent cocktail party, the conversation turned to conspiracy theorists and how to engage them. I offered a strategy that has served me fairly well in the past: I like to ask my interlocutor what information they would need to be exposed to in order to change their minds about their initial suspicion. To be clear, I think of this more as a litmus test for understanding whether a person has the capacity to change their minds on a given position, rather than an opening gambit leading to further argument and persuasion. Climate change is a good example: What fact or observation might lead a person to consider that global warming is happening, and that human economic activity is responsible for it? It is actually quite surprising how often people don’t really have a standard of truth by which they might independently weigh the validity of their argument. Of course, in today’s ‘post-truth’ world, I suspect that it is just as likely that I might be told that nothing can change a person’s mind, since everything is lies and propaganda anyway.
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Arnold Spielberg (Steven’s dad) developed the first computer to run BASIC in 1964
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Arnold Spielberg (Steven’s father) developed the computer that first ran the BASIC programming language on May 1, 1964. Here's an interview with 99-year-old Arnold on the exciting early days of computers.
I wish I could say “ah yes, I remember it well” but having started in computing on leaving college in 1961 I was more concerned with producing babies than computer programs by 1964.

Why did Britain's first road atlas take you to Aberystwyth?
via The New Statesman Blog by Manjit Kumar
Alan Ereira's new The Nine Lives of John Ogilby tells the story of a remarkable book – and its remarkable creator.
John Ogilby was a talented dancer with a bright future. Performing at White Hall Palace in February 1619, the 18-year-old leapt higher than ever to impress the watching James I and his queen. But then, crashing to the floor with a torn ligament, Ogilby never danced again. It was one of many misfortunes he overcame in a remarkable life. He went on to become a theatrical impresario, the deputy master of the revels in Ireland, a poet, a translator and a publisher of ancient classics. He even organised the public celebration of Charles II’s coronation. He was also an accomplished soldier, sailor and spy, as Alan Ereira reveals in this entertaining account of his “lives” and times.