A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!
Filmmaker Andrew Stanton is the writer behind the three “Toy Story” movies, the writer/director of “WALL-E,” and “John Carter.” In the video below he shares what he knows about storytelling — starting at the end and working back to the beginning.
Oh, yes, believe it or not, teachers also have homework, and yes, it is homework they mostly give themselves after getting inspiration from their students. My homework today is, as the title hints, a matter of taste, and I would like to start with one of the five, namely the sweet taste. This post comes with a warning for all of you out there with a sweet tooth.
It all started from the innocent little word chew, plural chews, the category of sweets which includes candy like Toffee and the traditionally American Saltwater Taffy. I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew with my topic, so I’ll reveal the red thread that led me to the “candy store online archives”, on the world wide web.
Just like many of you, I deal with managing blogs and different profiles on various social and professional network sites on a daily basis. Nothing out of the ordinary here, so I am sure you may have also pondered on questions like:
What are the key differences between the social and professional networks we dedicate part of our time to on a regular basis?
Do we really need them all?
or, to put it a bit more bluntly,
Is keeping up-to-date with one’s Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin accounts a pain? If so, what do we stand to gain from it all?
Lucky me, I found a very practical answer to these more-or-less rhetorical questions this very morning from none other than Reid Hoffman, Linkedin co-founder and Executive Chairman, in the Bloomberg West Special “Inside Linkedin”.
“… I think they deliver to different value propositions, so, for example, and I think this is a direction you’ll see each of them more elaborating over time, so in the Linkedin case, we are trying essentially to assemble what you need to know as a professional, and it is not what is happening in this moment. For example, in all the tragedy of what was happening in Boston, Linkedin is a bad source for that. Twitter is an awesome source. Twitter is like “real time”, it’s like “what’s going on right now?”. There are pictures that someone’s taken in chasing a subject that are actually being up on Twitter, so it’s much more a “real-time” medium as opposed to, you know, the “what’s going on today, this week, within a business arena”. And then Facebook tends to be a kind of combination of “what’s going on with me socially”, you know, pictures and all, and also entertainment, right? Like, “Oh, boy, this is a really funny video!”, “Did you see that video?”, that sort of thing. It is not to say that the content doesn’t cross over between them, but I think that is where each of these ecosystems have evolved into.”
Here are two more remarks I found particularly appealing. They come from the same source.
“[At Linkedin] we’re not really meaning to replace media as much as organise the entire Internet through the curation of professional networks.”
“… as we like to say, here we connect talent & opportunity.”
Spot on! So, shall I tweet this link post right now, or just wrap up by wishing you a wonderful Sunday? Well, why not both? Carpe diem!
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PS: There is something else I recommend to all of you avid Sunday readers out there, interested in other kinds of communication possibly including the so-called love skills. You can read more about these in the article below, picked up from the Health section of TIME: “The Key to Happy Relationships? It’s Not All About Communication” by Francine Russo.
If couples were paying any attention during the last few decades, they should be able to recite the one critical ingredient for a healthy relationship — communication. But the latest study shows that other skills may be almost as important for keeping couples happy.
While expressing your needs and feelings in a positive way to your significant other is a good foundation for resolving conflicts and building a healthy relationship, these skills may not be as strong a predictor of couples’ happiness as experts once thought.
In an internet-based study involving 2201 participants referred by couples counselors, scientists decided to test, head-to-head, seven “relationship competencies” that previous researchers and marital therapists found to be important in promoting happiness in romantic relationships. The idea was to rank the skills in order of importance to start building data on which aspects of relationships are most important to keeping them healthy. In addition to communication and conflict resolution, the researchers tested for sex or romance, stress management, life skills, knowledge of partners and self-management to see which were the best predictors of relationship satisfaction. Couples were asked questions that tested their competency in all of these areas and then queried about how satisfied they were with their relationships. The researchers correlated each partner’s strengths and weaknesses in each area with the person’ relationship satisfaction.
Not surprisingly, those who reported communicating more effectively showed the highest satisfaction with their relationships. But the next two factors — which were also the only other ones with strong links to couple happiness—were knowledge of partner (which included everything from knowing their pizza topping preferences to their hopes and dreams) and life skills (being able to hold a job, manage money, etc).
Couples counselors, however, rarely address these two areas, as the focus on strengthening relationships has been on improving communication to reduce destructive behavior and to build support and comfort for each other. “For the last 25 years,” says Tom Bradbury, a veteran couples researcher at UCLA, “the prevailing attitude has been that relationships need to meet our emotional needs.” To be successful, however, he’s also found that relationships need to function in more practical, and perhaps mundane ways as well.
And learning more about your partner, says the study’s lead author Robert Epstein, a professor of psychology at the University of the South Pacific, could be relatively easy if people (men especially, since they scored worse in this area) took the trouble to find out, remember and put to use such relatively simple information as the names of their partner’s relatives and the dates of birthdays and anniversaries. Even more important, Epstein says, is knowing such critical things as whether your partner wants children. While his study did not separate trivial from such profound knowledge, he says that the two are strongly linked.
While other marriage researchers agree that forgetting things like birthdays or food preferences can be annoying and detrimental to a relationship, they believe the importance of life skills that was revealed in the study is telling.
“It’s an old idea, really,” says Bradbury. “In 1900 a woman or man would think, ‘My partner must be able to provide for me.’ ‘She must be able to help me plant and dig up the crops.’” If the couple had this foundation, they’d consider themselves lucky if they also got their emotional needs met. In Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage, historian Stephanie Coontz traces the gradual erosion of this old idea of marriage back about 200 years in Western society as cultural expectations about marriage changed from one rooted in kinship, property and utility to one in which people were expected to get nearly all of their emotional needs met by one person.
For today’s couples interested in improving their relationships, say the study’s authors, therapists might consider going back to the basics, and incorporating more practical social skills into their discussions. And that may include referring those who lack these skills to money managers or career coaches. “Communication skills are necessary,” says University of Texas( Austin) couples researcher Lisa Neff, but they’re not sufficient when couples are under stress.”
It’s important for couples to know how the outside world —whether they can get a job, whether their kids can play outside safely or go to a good school—will affect their relationship even if they have good life skills and good communication skills. Strong relationships, says Bradbury, recognizes how pressures outside of the home and the relationship can influence, and even break down good communication skills.
“Outside,” Bradbury says, “there is a real world that impinges on us.” To deal with it takes communication, but also an understanding that even the strongest communication networks among partners can falter and when they’re under these intense external pressure. The strategy he suggests for couples he counsels is to join forces rather than turn away from each other. “It’s not you against each other; It’s you against the world,” he says.
[Couples who want to take the test can do so at MyLoveSkills]
1. Żywiec Beer has a unique front label which went through significant changes.
2. The Żywiec logo includes all of the most important historical symbols of the brewery. The Krakow dancing couple holds a coat of arms adorned with the crown. There are three Spruce trees and the year 1856 on the coat of arms. The name Żywiec is placed on the red sash with the golden trimming in the lower part of the mark.
3. The Żywiec logo is the most famous mark or a brand of beer in Poland and the trademark of the entire brewery.
Zywiec Logo – CLUE 5
More about beer, senses, and our DNA in the article below, posted by Alexandra Sifferlin on the Health & Family section of the TIME blog.
The Beer-Smell Gene and Other Ways DNA Drives Our Senses
Beer smells like beer and a violet smells like a violet to everyone, right? Maybe not, according to the latest study that traced the way we smell to differences in our genes.
It turns out that our senses are intimately connected to our DNA, and small variations in our genes can determine whether we are partial to the smell of blue cheese, or can’t stand the taste of cilantro. That’s not such a surprise, but what is impressive is the precision with which scientists can match up sensory experiences (such as an appreciation for the spicy scent of curry) to specific stretches of DNA. We may occupy the same environment, but the way we see, smell, taste, touch and hear things may vary widely depending on our genomes.
Perhaps the best example of this gene-based sensory diversity is color blindness — people with genetic abnormalities in the types of cone cells produced in the eye have trouble seeing red, blue or green light. And research has shown that 21% of people from East Asia, 17% of Europeans, and 14% of people of African descent taste a soapiness in cilantro that makes the popular herb unwelcome in their meals. The reason? 23andMe, the company that sequences consumers‘ genes, surveyed 30,000 of their customers and traced the soapy sensation to a gene called OR6A2, which can make some people sensitive to the aldehyde chemicals that flavor cilantro.
“Because our genes encode the machinery that we use to perceive the outside world, our perceptions of the outside world are all a little bit different,” says Dennis Drayna, a geneticist at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). “Think about it. You and I know what green is, or what a rose smells like, but does green look to you the same as it looks to me? Maybe, but maybe not. What you and I call green may be slightly different things. There’s no doubt this is going on, and it is going to become better understood.”
How specific is the map tying sensory experiences to genes? Here’s a brief rundown of what geneticists are learning:
Smell In a study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers traced variations in smell sensitivity to four odors to different versions of smell genes.
The scientists, from Plant and Food Research in New Zealand, tested 10 different scents in hundreds of subjects, who were provided with wine glasses containing either water or a range of diluted scents.
The four odors related to apples, violets, blue cheese and malt, and depending on the participants’ genetic makeup, their smell receptors either detected the floral scent of violets, for example, or a rancid, acidic smell that wasn’t so pleasant. Or they could either pick out the sour smell of malt — the germinated grains that form the base of beer — or be unable to smell it at all.
“These smells are found in foods and drinks that people encounter every day, such as tomatoes and apples. This might mean that when people sit down to eat a meal, they each experience it in their own personalized way,” said study author Jeremy McRae in a statement.
Taste In his research, Drayna found that about a quarter of the world’s population does not taste the same bitter sensations as the majority do. His team identified a gene that encodes the TAS2R bitter taste receptor, which is expressed in taste cells on the tongue. There are three different places where the DNA code for the gene differ, resulting in an individual being unable to taste some bitter flavors. He’s also identified specific genetic variants, called SNPs, that explain about 16% of the differences in how people perceive sweets and why some people are less able to taste sweet substances.
Sight “Every single person has had the experience where you look at something and you want to call it one color, and you’re with someone and they want to call it a different color,” says Jay Neitz, a professor of ophthalmology and a color vision researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle. Neitz’s lab has done groundbreaking research into color blindness, even curing the disorder in primates.
Even among those without color-blindness, Neitz says there is a wide variety in how eyes distinguish color. “If you take the rainbow and spread out all the different colors, it turns out some colors almost everyone agrees on how they look, and there are other colors with huge disagreement,” he says.
For instance, almost everyone agrees on what yellow looks like. But if you ask someone to point to what they classify as uniquely green on a color spectrum, there’s huge variability. The same goes for red. “This is one of the things that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention because people have not been able to nail [down] why this is true,” says Neitz. “It turns out that there is variability in the ratio of red and green cones in the eye that’s huge.”
These cones affect how sensitive a person’s eyes are to those colors. Normal-sighted people can contain anywhere from 30% to 95% of red cones, with the remainder being green. Neitz says a series of genetic mutations can affect whether cells destined to become cone cells in the eyes become red or green.
Scientists are looking into such gene-based differences in the way other senses are perceived too. Some researchers have identified touch genes that help distinguish hot and cold, for example, from studies of people with genetic disorders that prevent them from telling the difference, and Drayna has also looked at the significant variability in hearing among people — from those who are deaf to people with perfect pitch.
The work isn’t just academic. How people sense taste and smell, for example, has a direct connection to what they eat, so testing people for these senses is becoming an important part of nutrition surveys. For example, since January 2013, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an annual government look at eating habits and nutrition among a representative sample of Americans, began asking participants to scratch and sniff cards containing scents of four common food items and four non-food items, and to report what they smelled. To better understand taste differences, the survey takers also apply solutions of various flavors to the tips of participants’ tongues.
“Taste and smell, our chemosensory perceptions, form the basis for what we choose to eat or drink,” said Howard Hoffman, the program director of epidemiology and statistics at the NIDCD in a statement. “Does the ability to taste and smell impact nutrition? I would say so, but in what ways and to what degree remains uncertain.”
Such data would undoubtedly be helpful to the food industry as well. Manipulating ingredients to counteract the off-putting flavors that some people taste or smell, for example, could expand the market for certain products.
And it’s not just what we eat that is affected by flavor. The Food and Drug Administration recently concluded that menthol cigarettes likely pose a greater public health risk than regular cigarettes, and Drayna’s research suggests that may be due to people’s preference for that flavor, which could induce them to smoke more heavily. “African Americans almost exclusively smoke menthol cigarettes. The menthol receptor is a temperature receptor and menthol is a chemical that activates that receptor, so it produces the perception of cold,” Drayna explains. “Africans have quite a different version of this gene than non-Africans, so we are working to see whether that genetic difference is actually responsible for a perception difference.”
Even beyond the food industry, custom scents are already being exploited by retailers to attract consumers. As Business of Fashion reports, Bloomingdales hired global scent marketing company ScentAir to create different scents for its various departments, such as a coconut fragrance for the swimwear racks and a lilac scent in the lingerie area. Since scent is evocative of emotions and memories, store executives hope that being reminded of pleasant experiences at the beach will entice customers to purchase swimwear.
That connection between the senses and our experiences — to moods, emotions, and memories — is part of our sensory world, and ultimately work in combination with our genes to determine how we perceive everything from foods to scents. “There’s a strong environmental component to food preferences that doesn’t have to do with genetics, but experience,” says Drayna. “But genetic differences are real, and probably very common and we have a lot more to learn from them.”
This school year is rapidly drawing to a close, so I will take this opportunity to wish you all a very peaceful summer and to reassure you that the ELB is going to still benefit from new thoughts in the summer, just like before. After all, life’s lessons never seem to go on holiday like we do. They are always there, for us to take our pick and share.
I am writing this post below, to share some thoughts with you, yes, as I have been known to do, on prejudice and intolerance, the lack of which will help us maintain and cultivate broad-mindedness. Or open-mindedness, if you will. Now, what is different about this post is that, in truth, it hasn’t happened yet, by which I mean that the activities I will describe and the links I am about to recommend below are going to be put to work with the students in one of my adult learners groups later today for the first time. Imagine their surprise when I will disclose to them the existence of this article at the end of the class. :) I will be back with impressions in a little while, so hang on.
“Things Should Be as I Think”
“I KnowBest About This (Whatever This Might Be)”
The first two activities I have come up with sprang from a dialog I witnessed at a class one week ago between two of my students. The general topic of the dialogue was good manners around the world, and the more specific aspect discussed was ways of spending Christmas in Poland. I was surprised to discover how certain one of these students was about THE way of spending Christmas in Poland, the one and only PROPER way. The discussion turned out to be very insightful, as it showed that even open-minded people can have strict ideas and views on certain topics. There is, or there may be prejudice, my dears, even in areas we least expect it to appear. The good part is that once exposed hovering around some ideas in our minds, it can easily go out in a splash, like a candle blown out by a kid at bedtime.
- that you were offered an all-inclusive opportunity to travel to an area in your country or to an area that you have never visited beforein a poor country. What would you choose and why?
- that you were living in a slum (a poor urban area in a big city, sometimes found in developing countries). How would you feel? What would your celebrations/ anniversaries look like? Would you miss anything?
- that you are a CNN reporter who is given an assignment to interview one of the following people: a trainer from India, an Australian writer or a famous person in your country. Who would you choose to interview and why?
Use the words below to frame or express your own idea about your outlook on the world, on personal success, values and lifestyle:
passion (a sense of) purpose humour the voice within generations
inhibitions failures disabilities problems
(passing on) legacies (ways of )speaking sensitivity (to various issues)
Would you cross out any of these words as unnecessary? How about adding anything else to the ones you selected? Explain.
Watch the recently published TED video below (one of the 29,409 vids currently on the TEDx Youtube channel), in which the stand-up Indian comedian from Bangalore, Sandeep Rao, uses the concepts in Activity 2 above, to shape his own view of life and living.
Do his views differ from yours? In what ways?
This is another video to watch and analyse, which is the second part in a CNN series called Talk Asia. It is a very special video to me, because it is a brief, 9-minute guided tour of the Indian universe described in one of my favourite books, Shantaram, a tour given by the author himself, the Australian-born, controversial and very charming Gregory David Roberts.
There are a zillion questions I could think of asking after watching this video, but the ones that I would probably go for at my class, a few hours from now, are:
Can Christians, Muslims and Hindus celebrate together? Can people, in other words, celebrate together if their beliefs, background, and outlooks are very different?
Would you like to be able to be “adopted” by a society that is very different from the one you were born in?
Do you think you would be able to “adopt” someone who comes from a society very different from yours? How would you welcome them into your world as you know it?
How long do you think a society can last? Can societies disappear completely or do they change into something else? What can they change into, if they do and how are these changes possible?
My dears, yours truly (drum roll) is currently studying for her driving license. The theoretical exam is right around the corner, coming up next week as a matter of fact (OMG!!!), so fingers crossed and God bless your English teacher!
As preparation for the exam, the English version of it, since I am currently stationed in Poland :), I am studying the English version of the Driving manual (which would make a story in itself, and possibly another blog post in the future – oh, and, yes, I haven’t finished reading it yet!!!), as well as investigating the topic of cars on my beloved TED. Feel free to join me in my “car universe discovery” journey. Playlists on Ted have become increasingly popular, so here’s my very own playlist on cars. Well, I’ve always said I would have loved to work as a curator, so here’s my chance. Hope it brings you as much insight as I hope it has brought to me!
Alina’s TED Playlist:
Cars and their Universe,
a Third Degree Encounter
1. The magic of motion… Let’s start with Newton’s fundamental laws of motion (1687):
The Law of Inertia Force = Mass x Accelleration The Action/ Reaction Pair
Here’s thebrilliant clip of Newton’s 3 Laws with a Bicycle, by Joshua Manley:
Tip for teachers: you can use this and other lesson videos like this in class in a variety of ways (do check the activities suggested on TED under these three headings: Watch, Think, Dig Deeper,and investigate the “flipping” function provided).
2. Bill Ford: A future beyond traffic gridlock (2011)
Who is Bill Ford?
Bill Ford is a car guy — his great-grandfather was Henry Ford, and he grew up inside the massive Ford Motor Co. So when he worries about cars’ impact on the environment, and about our growing global gridlock problem, it’s worth a listen. His vision for the future of mobility includes “smart roads,” even smarter public transport and going green like never before. [Read more]
His talk makes you think about:
A change of perspective: What if all we do is sell more cars and trucks?
Passions: automobiles (heritage insights + the belief that with mobility comes freedom and progress) & the environment (literary heritage insights + personal beliefs)
The business world dilemma in the past: Environmental friendliness + technology =”Environmental wackos”. Is there still a conflict?
The origins of what we now call “sustainability“.
Reducing and one day eliminating CO2 emissions
The freedom of mobility now threatened by the population reaching its highest limits of growth (Today there are about 6.8 billion people; the global population is estimated to go up to 9 billion in our lifetime – by 2044. There are about 800 million cars on the roads worldwide. By 2050 that number is going to grow to about between 2 & 4 billion cars. In the years to come 75% of the population will live in cities, and 50 of those cities will be of 10 million people or more.)
The result: a global gridlock that will stifle economic growth and our ability to deliver food and health care particularly to people that live in city centres. And our quality of life is going to be severely compromised.
The time we spend stuck in traffick jams & the commuting time will change.
“The mobility model we have today will not work tomorrow.”
If we make no changes today, what is tomorrow going to look like?
Possible solutions: no silver bullets, but a global network of interconnected solutions; not only building smart cars, but also smart roads, smart parking, smart public transportation system and more.
“No-compromise sustainable mobility” (“We need an integrated system that uses real-time data to optimise personal mobility on a massive scale without hassle or compromises for travellers.”)
The future: On NY’s 34 street gridlock will soon be replaced with a connected system of vehicle-specific corridors; the system called Octopus in Hong Kong (tying together all the transportation assets into a single payment system).
The idea of “talking cars” that will help create a smart vehicle network. The potential of a connected car network is almost limitless. Just imagine: your car could book you a parking spot before reaching a destination.
“We need all of you“: people from all walks of life, leading thinkers, not just inventors, we need policy makers, and government officials + an infrastructure that’s designed to support this flexible future.
Bottom line: we need to get going, and we need to get going today.
“I believe we’re at our best when we’re confronted with big issues.”
3. Chris Gerdes, The Future Race Car – 150 mph, and no driver (2012)
Who is Chris Gerdes?
It’s 2012. And many of us no doubt imagined that flying cars would be all the rage by now. While that hasn’t happened yet, some major driving innovations are on their way down the pipeline.
In a new TEDTalk, Chris Gerdes of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (awesomely abbreviated as CARS) explains that he and his team are busy at work developing the motor vehicles of the future. One of their starting points? Studying the brainwaves of the best motorists in the world — professional race car drivers. The idea is to combine computer technology with human intuition and skill behind the wheel. [Read more]
His talk makes you think about: 5 fascinating cars. Five cars we may be seeing a lot more of in the future. Sure, they don’t fly. But, hey, many allow you to sit back and enjoy the ride without having to do a thing.
Shelley, the autonomous race car Nascar and Formula One racing are popular for a reason — professional race car drivers are masters at estimating the friction between the tire and the road, and instinctively being able to use the throttle and brakes to steer. Gerdes and his team have created a race car that can do these same things — without a driver. Nicknamed “Shelley,” their race car can drive itself at 150 mph while avoiding every possible accident thanks to an onboard computer. Shelley has taken high-speed spins around Thunderhill Raceway Park and navigated the 153 turns of Pike’s Peak hill climb route. As Gerdes explained to CBS News, Shelley’s algorithms could someday be in your car, helping you avoid collisions.Google’s self-driving car It’s amazing to imagine a car that can make every split-second decision for you, even delivering you home safely when you’re too tired to drive. Google’s DARPA Challenge-winning self-driving car has attracted a lot of attention. Developed by a team led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun (watch hismoving TEDTalk here), these cars use intelligent driving software, proximity sensors and extensive GPS data to figure out how to get from one point to another. What happens if the driver actually wants to do something? They can just tap the wheel or brakes and take back control. In May, the state of Nevada granted Google the first license for a car that drives itself, reports Time. Meaning that — head to Vegas, and you could potentially see the car being tested on the roads.GM’s Electric Networked-Vehicle This two-person vehicle looks something like a cross between a Mini and a Segway. Why would someone create such a thing? According to GM, by the year 2030, urban areas will house 60 percent of the world’s 8 million people — and standard cars might no longer be an option. The balancing EN-V car could help solve problems like traffic congestion and parking scarcity. Bonus: they are electric, and could also boost air quality while helping to lower oil reliance.
P1, the car that can’t spin out Developed by students in Gerdes’ lab, this electric, steer-by-wire vehicle allows for each wheel to be tuned independently, maximizing performance while minimizing wear on tires. “We believe P1 to be the world’s first autonomously drifting car,” says Gerdes, explaining that the vehicle helped develop the racing algorithms used for Shelley. “It’s a concept we call ‘envelope control.’ Under envelope control, the driver can do absolutely anything, including drift — but cannot spin the car.”
Nissan’s PIVO 2 commuter car A three-person commuter car, this Nissan concept looks like something straight out of the Pokémon universe with its bubble-like body. The small car uses a robotic interface, reminiscent of a video game, that both interacts with the driver and scans the environment for information. But the best part? This car spins and can drive sideways thanks to “by-wire” technology rather than traditional mechanics.
4. Jennifer Healey:If cars could talk, accidents might be avoidable (2013)
Who is Jeniffer Healey?
Jennifer Healey imagines a future where computers and smartphones are capable of being sensitive to human emotions and where cars are able to talk to each other, and thus keep their drivers away from accidents. A scientist at Intel Corporation Research Labs, she researches devices and systems that would allow for these major innovations. [Read more]
Her talk makes you think about:
Computer vision giving you the bird’s eye view
Position data (GPS) sharing/ cars “talking” (so that we would be surrounded by what she calls “a sea of gossip“, with cars “talking behind your back”)
Adding robots to assist you while driving: stereo cameras, GPS, two-dimensional range finders (common in backup systems), a discrete short-range communication radio plus many more.
TMI (too much information, or, to quote Jennifer Healey, “too much chatter“), hence the Q: How do we prioritise? A: According to her, that is where the predictive model comes to our rescue.
Q: How can we best alert everyone (if there’s a problem, like a driver driving off-course)? A: The combined ability of the car + driver.
Driver state modeling
Being able to calculate the safest route for everyone – is this a dream about to come true?
A question of privacy: to let or not to let your car gossip about you? That is Jennifer Healey’s question.
5. Elon Musk: The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity … in conversation with Chris Anderson (2013)
Who is Elon Musk?
Entrepreneur Elon Musk is a man with many plans. The founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX sits down with TED curator Chris Anderson to share details about his visionary projects, which include a mass-marketed electric car, a solar energy leasing company and a fully reusable rocket. [Read more]
His talk makes you think about:
Why build an all-electric car?
What is innovative about the process of building the Tesla Model S car?
What is the most surprising thing about the experience of driving the car?
Can the Tesla become a mass-market vehicle?
Will there be a nationwide network of charging stations for the car that would be fast?
What’s unusual about the company Solar City?
Can you buy/ lease a solar system?
How do you, the company benefit?
How soon will we go solar?
Why on Earth would someone build a space company (SpaceX)?
What is the big innovation lying ahead?
What is it about you, how have you done this?
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Now this is what I call really, really cool.
A big “Wow!” to end this first part of Cars, Cars, Cars – A Beginner’s Guide.
This post is dedicated to David Crystal, who has recently inaugurated his brand new website.
Here is the story behind it, in the great man’s own words.
The pregnancy is over. The conception was nine months ago, and I have been observing the slow but steady progress of the foetal website ever since. Yesterday and today saw its birth – two days because of the time it takes for the server to point everything in the new direction. This post is the equivalent of a birth announcement, except there is no gender or weight. You will find the baby here.
And also a response to a few correspondents who have asked me why a new site was needed. The motivation was actually the idea which became the Crystal Books Project, a feature of the new site. I am frequently asked for ways of obtaining some of my books which have gone out of print, and there was no easy solution. So the CBP is a way of solving that problem. The intention is to make available, in electronic form, my out-of-print back list. It will take a while for them all to get up there, because in the case of the older books they have to be rekeyed. No convenient electronic files in the 1960s – or even the 80s. Indeed, in the case of one of my books, published in 1976, I see that my first draft is entirely in handwriting – something I find inconceivable now!
The first few books are now available, in e-book form, and will shortly also be available as pdfs and as print-on-demand copies. The publishing firm that has provided the platform for the website, Librios, is exploring the best options as I write. Four e-books are now ready: the two Language A-to-Z books for schools (student and teacher book), which went out of print about 15 years ago; the Penguin book Language Play, which went o/p in the UK somewhere around 2005; and Words on Words, the anthology of language quotations, which went o/p at more or less the same time. All have a search function added, in their e-book incarnations.
There is a complete bibliographical listing of books and articles on the new website, as there was on the old one, but with better search facilities. One can now order searches by title or by publication date. And there is a more sophisticated range of filters – for example, one can search for Shakespeare + books, or Shakespeare + articles, and so on. We’ll be refining the filter list in the light of experience.
You’ll notice that most of the articles are downloadable. The ones that aren’t are those I don’t have a copy of. So, if anyone ‘out there’ notices a missing download and realises they have a copy of it, would they let me know? We can then arrange a way of getting the text online?
And with a new website comes new e-publishing opportunities. I haven’t used the medium in this way myself yet, but I do have in mind some projects which simply would not work in traditional publishing terms, but which would suit an electronic medium. More on this in due course. In the meantime, Hilary Crystal has chosen e-publication for her first children’s novel, The Memors, and that is available on the site too. This is a techno-fantasy tale aimed chiefly at that awkward-to-write-for group, the 10-14-year-olds, or tweenagers, as they are so often called these days. This is very much an experiment on our part. For it to work, the news of the new product needs to travel. So, if readers of this blog have tweenage contacts, do tell them about it.
A number of documentaries I watched recently on BBC Knowledge and Discovery have led me to an interesting net-surfing experience, in search of more info on two topics that I, among many others, find absolutely fascinating: the plasticity of the human brain – its causes and effects, as well as its connections with feelings like empathy. Listed below you will find some interesting links and quotes I came across during my search. Feel free to add to it any other sources/ links you consider of relevance.
1. You can watch a short video on the BBC Virtual Revolution Blog from 2009,in which Baroness Susan Greenfield approaches the question: Is the web changing us? The transcript is available on the site. Here’s an excerpt:
One of the most important issues I think, as well as the good thing about IQ going up, is the issue of risk. Obama said that the current financial crisis is attributable in part to greed and recklessness. Now greed are recklessness occur as part of something called a frontal syndrome, when the frontal part of the brain is less active in various conditions.
Could it be – and also this frontal part of the brain only comes on stream in late teenage years – could it be, given the brain is so obliging in the way it adapts, that if you’re putting it in a situation where you are living for the moment in a rather infant-like way with lots of sensory experiences, that that could be being changed? And I think that’s one of the things that would be very interesting to look at.
My final issue is identity, and it does stun me, Twitter for example, where the banality of some of the things that people feel they need to transmit to other human beings. Now what does this say about how you see yourself? Does this say anything about how secure you feel about yourself? Is it not marginally reminiscent of a small child saying “Look at me, look at me mummy! Now I’ve put my sock on. Now I’ve got my other sock on,” you know? And I’m just being neutral here, I’m just asking questions, right… What does this say about you as a person?
2. On Top Documentary Films you can read about and watch for free brilliant documentaries. Take another great series by the same insightful Susan Greenfield, called Brain Story.
The greatest numbers of documentaries on this site belong to the categories of Science (350) and Society (304). However, these are only 2 of the 25 categories you can browse, so plenty of resources to delve into.
3. On the topic of visual illusions, I think it is safe to presume that we all prefer and appreciate watching well-produced special effects in pretty much any kind of movie. The quality of the special effects in a science fiction movie is, for instance, what makes the difference between an A and a B movie for me. Hollywood award ceremonies never fail to highlight the best special effects in movies on a regular basis. This being said, I was surprised to find out that Harvard University also has an awarding ceremony called: “The Best Illusion of the Year Contest”!
Here‘s the winning illusion for 2011. The effect is called ”silencing by motion” and its source is Professor Michael Bach’s “Optical Illusions and Visual Phenomena”.
Click this link to visit Professor Bach’s site and get access to 101 such illusions and phenomena.
4. The link up next leads to a 2012 scientific research study from the biannual journal Essays in Philosophy whose intriguing title instantly caught my eye: “On Being Stereoblind in an Era of 3D Movies”, by Cynthia Freeland. Put on a scientist’s hat, or any other kind that is comfortable and feel free to investigate its content.
5. Can we adapt to unimaginable situations? How does our brain deal with catastrophes beyond our worst nightmares? Such questions are the subject of a movie that reached the Polish cinemas this month and that I warmly recommend, called The Impossible (2102).
Last but not least on today’s list, the following article from the Health section of the Times investigating “How Disasters and Trauma Can Affect Children’s Empathy” can be placed in the same category of the effects that surviving catastrophes can have on the human brain and the human behaviour – in this particular case, on kids aged 6, 9, and 12. I selected below some of the findings of the studies discussed in the article.
“There are developmental differences in empathy,[...] and younger children may not be able to regulate their emotions as well as older ones because the prefrontal regions in the brain responsible for such control are less mature. Faced with extreme stress, their self-regulation capacities regress even further. “Adverse events appear to cause six-year-olds to revert back to selfish ways typical of early childhood,” the authors write. Even in situations with less tragic consequences, but which are nonetheless stressful, such as living through a divorce, or getting lost in a public place, many children may resort to more immature tendencies.
By age nine, however, most youngsters have mature enough brains to not only recognize the feelings of others, but to try to mitigate bad ones. Their increased altruism during distress reflects what has been seen in many disasters, from man-made ones such as the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., to natural catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy. [...]
While the results support the intuitive sense that the personal experience of pain can increase compassion, there are cases when it can have the opposite effect. Indeed, research shows that if suffering occurs too early in life, when young brains are not equipped to process the experience, or if the pain is too overwhelming, it can make people less sensitive and more focused on self-preservation, such as often occurs in cases of child abuse and neglect. “Painful experiences may increase empathy and care, provided that one can regulate one’s own emotion,” Decety says. The findings suggest that our social and biological structures may be biased toward cooperation and empathy for others: “Without caring for others, we would not survive as a species,” he says.
It would be interesting to compare the findings of this article with the development of Lucas, one of the heroes in The Impossible, who is only 10, in the face of the sixth deadliest natural disaster in recorded history, the 2004 tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean, affecting Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and the Maldives and killing nearly 300 000 people. The earthquake which caused the tsunami was the 3rd largest in recorded history measuring a magnitude of 9.1–9.3.
Compared to being caught right in the middle of it, it is much easier to make sense of “the impossible” from a desk in the living-room or from a cinema seat,which is why I wish you all safe trips to the cinema :), tsunami-free vacations and peaceful school experiences, no guns involved…
May you be safe, show empathy, and, regardless of situation, always navigate through unpredictable changes with fresh new breaths of faith!