Friday, April 29, 2011

Movie review "Race to Nowhere"

The documentary movie "Race to Nowhere" is the quiet counterpart to the better know movie "Waiting for Superman". The main difference between the two movies is that "Race to Nowhere" does not try to blame a single group (teacher unions) for the comparatively low performance of US students. The director of the movie, Vicky Abeles, is a middle-class Bay area mother of three children. Her motivation to shoot this movie was the stress she observed in her own children (her children are featured in several interviews in the movie). While "Waiting for Superman" focuses on low-performing schools in socio-economically disadvantaged US cities, "Race to Nowhere" focuses on the stress some high-performing college-bound high school students experience.

My concept map above aims to summarize the main points of the movie "Race to Nowhere". The movie states that US high schools do not aim to teach for deep understanding but to meet college admission requirements. Top colleges do not only expect straight A GPAs but also numerous extra-curricular activities. These high expectations can lead to chronic stress, health problems, burn-out syndrome, and abuse of performance-enhancing drugs. The movie pays special attention to time-consuming homework assignments that leave children with very little unstructured downtime (unsafe city environments also discourage children playing by themselves outside).

The "Race to Nowhere" website lists a number of action items for students, teachers, principals, and parents: Race to Nowhere | Changing Lives One Film at a Time

US colleges plan differential tuition for different majors

Different college majors require different kind of infrastructure. While humanities majors only need seminar rooms and libraries, engineering and science majors require expensive laboratories.

Several US universities consider charging higher tuition for undergraduates depending on their major - a system called "differential tuition".

According to the Omaha World Herald, 57% of 162 public research universities employ some form of differential tuition.

Some universities defend the practice of differential tuition by arguing that "studies where students will have strong earnings and the capacity to take on more debt, or where there’s a special case for investing more in a particular field" (from the World Herald).

Charging science and engineering students higher tuition could be counterproductive to encouraging more students to enter these fields.
Should Universities Base Tuition Off of a Student’s Major? | Geekosystem

Map of Monarchies around the World

It's the 21st century, but a number of countries are still monarchies. This interactive map by NPR shows the different countries and forms of monarchies around the world. [Click on the link below to see the interactive version].

See the interactive version here: Kings (And Queens) Of The World: Where Monarchies Still Exist : NPR

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Future Human Evolution

In this TED talk, medical ethicist Harvey Fineberg shows us three paths forward for the ever-evolving human species: to stop evolving completely, to evolve naturally -- or to control the next steps of human evolution, using genetic modification, to make ourselves smarter, faster, better.

Toilet Paper - Over or Under?

This infograph gives you the scientific exploration of the old question: Should the toilet paper roll be over or under? (Click to enlarge).

Gky7j.jpg (802×4036)

Mac People vs. PC People Comparison

Mac People vs. PC People - Infographic | Geekosystem

Alternative explanations for the Common Cold

Alternative explanations for the common cold (Click on picture to enlarge).

Found here: Causes Of The Common Cold | Ape, not monkey

Friday, April 22, 2011

International Teacher Salary Comparison Graph

How much do elementary school teachers earn in different countries (after 15 years on the job)? And how many hours do they have to work?

Source: tumblr_ljy48yJbTA1qedj2ho1_1280.jpg (715×961)

Elementary School Teacher International Comparison Infograph

This infograph compares conditions of elementary school teachers in different countries. How much money do elementary teachers (after 15 years on the job) make? How large are their classes? Do better payed teachers improve the performance of their students?

The data in this infograph is based on the OECD 2009 indicators.

Original source: A Teacher’s Worth Around The World [Infographic]

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Can you name the spoken languages?

This language game plays soundclips from 30 different languages from around the world. How many can you identify? Click here to play: Can you name the languages spoken in the sound clips?

[Thanks to Stian Haklev for this interesting link]

Chinese Government bans Science Fiction and Fantasy TV shows

New guidelines set forth by the Chinese State Administration of Radio Film and Television plans banning science fiction, supernatural, and fantasy television shows. They consider “fantasy, time-travel, random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots, absurd techniques, even propagating feudal superstitions, fatalism and reincarnation, ambiguous moral lessons, and a lack of positive thinking" to be in conflict with Chinese heritage.
Suggested alternatives are reproductions of the Chinese revolution and historical pieces with an emphasis on construction and reform.
Read more here: “No Time-Travel,” Says Chinese Government

Different types of facebook posts

This funny music video illustrates different types of facebook posts.

Altoids "Curiously Strong Awards" from Marc Ritzema on Vimeo.

Altoids "Curiously Strong Awards" on Vimeo

Circular Tree of Life

Fantastic circular tree of life. It includes over 3000 species, based on rRNA sequences. In case you are looking for homo sapiens, we are in the upper left area (Click on map to enlarge, and then zoom in.)

Found here: Download Graphic Images from the Hillis/Bull Lab

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chess becomes a compulsory subject in primary schools in Armenia

Armenia is to make chess a compulsory subject in primary schools. Children from the age of six will learn chess as a separate subject on the curriculum for two hours a week. The authorities led by President Serzh Sarkisian, an enthusiastic chess-supporter, have committed around $1.43 million to the project.

Supporters of the project hope that learning chess would "foster schoolchildren's intellectual development" and teach them to "think flexibly and wisely".

Chess is of great importance in Armenia: The national team won gold at the biennial International Chess Olympiad in both 2006 and 2008, and the country's top player, Levon Aronian, is currently ranked No.3 in the world, according to the World Chess Federation.

Read more here: Armenia makes chess compulsory in schools |

World map of natural resources by country

This world map, created by, shows which countries have the most of different natural ressources. (Click on image to enlarge).

mint-world-resources-map-r2.gif (1450×1450)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Car powered by aluminum

Aleix Llovet and Xavier Salueña

Inspired by the fusion-powered DeLorean from "Back to The Future"Aleix Llovet and Xavier Salueña from the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya built a remote control car, called the dAlh2Orean, that captures hydrogen created by the interaction of sodium hydroxide and aluminium. The hydrogen is then used to power an on-board fuel cell, leaving no polluting waste material. Additionally, the remaining fuel material can be reprocessed. See more info in the press conference.
See a demonstration in the video below.

dAlH2Orean H2 R/C Car powered by Aluminium from Aleix Llovet on Vimeo.

Found here: Aleix Llovet - Xavier Salueña - dAlh2Orean | Geekosystem

Sunday, April 17, 2011

People with impressive long names

Pablo Picasso (Image: Wikipedia)

Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, or simply Picasso.

Paracelsus (Image: Wikipedia)
Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, better know as Paracelsus (medieval medical doctor).

Mozart (Image: Wikipedia)
Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, better know as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Lamarck (Image: Wikipedia)
Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de la Marck, better known as Lamarck. He proposed an alternative theory of evolution.

-> Do you know more people with impressive names? Please et me know.

Honest Company Logos

Honest Logos: Designed by Viktor Hertz
See more honest logos here: Honest logos by @Viktor | Designerscouch #thecritiquenetwork

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Did Italian researchers successfully create a cold fusion reactor?

Near-room temperature fusion would provide a clean energy source - if it would work.  Studies have shown that cold fusion is theoretically implausible, but nevertheless two Italian scientists, Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of the University of Bologna, announced that they developed a cold fusion device capable of producing 12,400 W of heat power with an input of just 400 W.

The scientific community is highly skeptical, but Rossi and Focardi plan to start selling their reactor commercially soon.

Read more details here: PhysOrg Mobile: Italian scientists claim to have demonstrated cold fusion (w/ Video)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Do students need to learn how to fail?

Image Source: Understanding Science
Education research found that students learn through overcoming deliberate difficulties.

Arizona State University theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss takes this one step further and suggests that students have to learn to fail effectively. He points out that our education system provides students only with problems that are solvable and have a clear answer. Real-world problems however are often not solvable exactly, and there are many competing demands.

Read more here: Lawrence Krauss: Students Need To Learn Effective Failure: Scientific American Podcast

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Secret Messages in Company Logos

Did you ever notice that the well-known FedEx logo has an arrow between the E and the X?

Or that the Amazon logo has a yellow arrow that implies that they deliver from "A->Z"?

See more fascinating hidden messages in logos in this blog entry: Logos' Secret Messages | Geekosystem

Genetically Modified Cows produce "Human" Breast Milk

Scientists from he China Agricultural University have introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows to produce milk with the same properties as human breast milk. Using cloning technology, scientists brought human genes into the DNA of Holstein dairy cows before genetically-modified embryos were implanted into surrogate cows.

So far, the Chinese scientists successfully created cows that contains human milk proteins lysozyme, lactoferrin, and alpha-lactalbumin. It might take more than ten years until this cow-produced human milk will be commercially available.