Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 20th, 2011

Take a test to learn

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Interesting article in the NY Times by Pam Belluck:

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.

The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.

One of those methods — repeatedly studying the material — is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other — having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning — is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.

These other methods not only are popular, the researchers reported; they also seem to give students the illusion that they know material better than they do.

In the experiments, the students were asked to predict how much they would remember a week after using one of the methods to learn the material. Those who took the test after reading the passage predicted they would remember less than the other students predicted — but the results were just the opposite.

“I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge,” said the lead author, Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University. “I think that we’re tapping into something fundamental about how the mind works when we talk about retrieval.”

Several cognitive scientists and education experts said the results were striking. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 January 2011 at 5:52 pm

Fractal planet

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Via Open Culture.

I don’t know what’s going on, but it looks like a 3-D cross-section of a higher-dimensional structure, with the cross section moving along (through? into?) the structure. Anyone know?

Written by Leisureguy

20 January 2011 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Science, Video

Galileo practiced on Dante’s Inferno

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Fascinating article in the Boston Globe by Chris Wright:

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

When Sir Isaac Newton made this remark, in 1676, the name Galileo Galilei would not have been far from his mind. Galileo, who died the year Newton was born, did much of the legwork for the English physicist’s Laws of Motion, as well as for many of the other principles that underpinned the Scientific Revolution. Galileo’s shoulders, possibly more than those of any single figure in history, have served as an observation deck for generations of scientists.

It was Galileo who conclusively swept away the idea that the sun revolved around the Earth, who dismantled the looming edifice of Aristotelian physics. Unlike others of the age, the Italian steadfastly refused to hammer the square pegs of discovery into the round holes of conventional wisdom. Through an unremitting dedication to observation and experiment, it was he who ushered in the age of modern science.

Given his devotion to empirical fact, it seems odd to think that Galileo’s most important ideas might have their roots not in the real world, but in a fictional one. But that’s the argument that Mount Holyoke College physics professor Mark Peterson has been developing for the past several years: specifically, that one of Galileo’s crucial contributions to physics came from measuring the hell of Dante’s Inferno. Or rather, from disproving its measurements.

In 1588, when Galileo was a 24-year-old unknown, a medical school dropout, he was invited to deliver a couple of lectures on Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Many in Galileo’s audience would have been shocked, even dismayed, to see this young upstart take the stage and start poking holes in what they believed about the poet’s meticulously constructed fantasy world.

Ever since its 1314 publication, scholars had toiled to map the physical features of Dante’s Inferno — the blasted valleys and caverns, the roiling rivers of fire. What Galileo said, put simply, is that many commonly accepted dimensions did not stand up to mathematical scrutiny. Using complex geometrical analysis, he attacked a leading scholar’s version of the Inferno’s structure, pointing out that his description of the infernal architecture — such as the massive cylinders descending to the center of the Earth — would, in real life, collapse under their own weight. Later, Galileo realized the leading rival theory was wrong, too, and that even the greatest scholars of the time simply didn’t understand how real-world structures worked.

Debating the mechanics of the Inferno might sound like intellectual horseplay, the 16th-century equivalent of MIT cafeteria debates about the viability of “Star Trek” teleporters. But there was more to the lectures than this. . .

Continue reading AND there’s a video at the link..

Written by Leisureguy

20 January 2011 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Science

The US as spoiler

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The US seems very eager to butt in to other countries’ business. Philip Smith reports:

A year and a half ago, the Bolivian government of President Evo Morales formally requested an amendment to the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to remove the ban on coca leaf chewing and bring the treaty in line with the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Now, with the deadline to contest that amendment drawing near, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) is reporting that the US and other Western countries are mobilizing to kill the amendment. The IDPC is calling on those countries to abstain from blocking the amendment.

There are only two weeks before the January 31 deadline. According to the IDPC, the US, Britain, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and Sweden are all planning to try to block the amendment. The IDPC characterizes the move as trying "to stop the right of Bolivians to express their own culture."

Washington made it official Tuesday. An anonymous "senior US official" told the Associated Press the US would file a formal objection to the request. "We hope a number of other countries will file as well," he said.

While coca is the raw material from which cocaine is made, it is also a plant that has been used by the indigenous peoples of the Andes for thousands of years. It is valued for its mild stimulant and hunger-suppressing effects. Bolivia is the world’s third largest producer of coca, behind Peru and Colombia.

"Coca leaf chewing is one of the socio-cultural practices and rituals of the Andean indigenous peoples. It is closely linked to our history and cultural identity,” President Morales wrote in a letter to the UN seeking the amendment. This traditional practice "cannot and should not be prohibited," he added.

"At a time when drug prohibition has enriched and emboldened criminal cartels to such an extent that they are attempting to violently annex the state in parts of Mexico and Guatemala, the US is expending considerable effort in blocking the Bolivian government’s legitimate and democratic right to protect and preserve a harmless indigenous practice," said British MP Jeremy Corbin, secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bolivia. "The international community needs to get its priorities right and resist this culturally ignorant attempt to dictate to indigenous people in Bolivia."

And someone needs to tell Washington.

Written by Leisureguy

20 January 2011 at 3:40 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

College progress

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Just back from campus visit. Checked out the bookstore, my classroom again, and the library. I now have an MPC library card.

Then I checked on Molly. She’s fine. But she’s not going to college.

Written by Leisureguy

20 January 2011 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Sauce and lunch progress

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The Worcestershire sauce is now in the refrigerator in a sealed jar, where it will sit for the next three weeks. Then I strain and bottle it. Smile

It was sort of fun to make, and it indeed smells like Worcestershire. I made the usual adjustments in the process: 4 cloves garlic instead of 2, 2 anchovies rather than 1, 2″ piece of cinnamon stick and 2″ piece of ginger instead of 1″ in each case. The syrup melted and became dark amber rather quickly, and clean-up was easy: water-soluble.

I made the GOPM (glorious one-pot meal) of chicken-mushrooms-spinach, very like what I made before, with these revisions:

  • quinoa instead of rice
  • an entire red bell pepper, chopped, instead of half a red bell pepper cut in strips
  • 1/4 bulb fennel and some fronds, sliced thinly (on the red pepper layer)
  • frozen spinach, an entire package—this was the loose kind, not the brick kind

I cut way back on the water since last time it had too much liquid. The only added liquid (beyond the liquid contained in the mushrooms and veggies) was the following whisked together:

  • 2 Tbsp vinaigrette
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

Written by Leisureguy

20 January 2011 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, GOPM

Diana Krall: Fly Me To The Moon

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Written by Leisureguy

20 January 2011 at 11:59 am

Posted in Jazz, Video


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Morning weight 199.5, and I think that’s "actual weight." Fairly often I’ve experienced and dramatic drop, followed by a bounce back. It’s as though the lower weight is just being tried. Here’s the past 7 days, including this morning’s weight:


Weird, but I don’t worry about it, just keep on with what I’m doing. The display is because I use a Withings Wi-fi-enabled scale: the image is from my Withings Web site.

Today I managed the 30 min of Nordic Track with no stop, pretty easily. Yesterday I had to pause several times, but I have had a bit of a runny nose so I think I might have a slight cold. Maybe it’s going away.

Tasks for today:

1. Make Worcestershire sauce.

2. Go visit the MPC campus, bookstore, library, etc.

Written by Leisureguy

20 January 2011 at 10:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Boar brush, great lather

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My Omega boar brush, now apparently well broken in, created a generous lather from the Klar Seifen shave soap, ample for 4, 5, or 6 passes. I did 3, using my Gillette President (rhodium plated now) loaded with a Swedish Gillette blade. Then a splash of Klar Seifen Klassik, and I’m good to go.

I was going to use the Grosvenor, but I can’t find the brush. Where could it go? My bathroom is not all that large. Suspicion naturally falls on Megs. Fortunately, the cleaning ladies will be here next Wednesday and they are great at finding things.

Written by Leisureguy

20 January 2011 at 9:55 am

Posted in Shaving

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