Tag Archives: innovation

Finnish-ing school

Certain countries just lend themselves to English puns. Hungary? Try some Turkey Chile fried in Greece. The Finnish must get particularly tired of this sort of thing. But luckily they can be smug in the knowledge that their schools are good.

Finland’s historic achievements in delivering educational excellence and equity to its children are the result of a national love of childhood, a profound respect for teachers as trusted professionals, and a deep understanding of how children learn best…

Children at this and other Finnish public schools are given not only basic subject instruction in math, language and science, but learning-through-play-based preschools and kindergartens, training in second languages, arts, crafts, music, physical education, ethics, and, amazingly, as many as four outdoor free-play breaks per day, each lasting 15 minutes between classes, no matter how cold or wet the weather is. Educators and parents here believe that these breaks are a powerful engine of learning that improves almost all the “metrics” that matter most for children in school – executive function, concentration and cognitive focus, behavior, well-being, attendance, physical health, and yes, test scores, too.

The homework load for children in Finland varies by teacher, but is lighter overall than most other developed countries. This insight is supported by research, which has found little academic benefit in childhood for any more than brief sessions of homework until around high school.

April 2017 in Review

Most frightening stories:

Most hopeful stories:

Most interesting stories, that were not particularly frightening or hopeful, or perhaps were a mixture of both:

  • I first heard of David Fleming, who wrote a “dictionary” that provides “deft and original analysis of how our present market-based economy is destroying the very foundations―ecological, economic, and cultural― on which it depends, and his core focus: a compelling, grounded vision for a cohesive society that might weather the consequences.”
  • Judges are relying on algorithms to inform probation, parole, and sentencing decisions.
  • I finished reading Rainbow’s End, a fantastic Vernor Vinge novel about augmented reality in the near future, among other things.

the middle seat

I like this idea for making the middle seat on airplanes just a bit more spacious and comfortable than the others, so people wouldn’t mind it so much and might even prefer it.

But if Molon Labe Designs gets its way, that panic could give way to placidity. The upstart Colorado aviation design firm wants to kill the middle seat’s middle child reputation. Its “stagger seat” concept sits slightly below and behind its neighbors, so it can be three inches wider than its window- and aisle-adjacent companions. It has its own armrests.

“Flying sucks, and design makes it suck less,” says Hank Scott, the CEO of Molon Labe, who’s currently in Germany to show off the prototype at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg. (BMW Groups’ Designworks and Panasonic Avionics also had a hand in the design.) By extending curved armrest back, the designers ensure the middle seater has access to at least half of its length. (“If you’re in the aisle or window seat, you couldn’t possibly steal the entire armrest—your elbows would be behind your back at a weird angle,” Scott says.) That also gives the middle seat’s in-flight entertainment system room to grow to a whopping 18 inches, compared to the puny 15-inch screens on other seat backs. For all this design prowess, however, this thing gets you nothing in extra legroom.

Tesla vs. Ford

BBC says Tesla’s market value is now greater than Ford’s.

At the close of trading Tesla had a market value of $49bn (£38bn), compared with Ford’s value of $46bn…

The firm delivered more than 25,000 cars in the first quarter, up 70% on the same quarter last year.

While Tesla’s sales are growing fast they are still a fraction of Ford’s, which sold almost 6.7 million vehicles in 2016.

Tesla delivered 76,000 electric cars last year.

The legacy Detroit car companies could be embracing the new technologies, but instead they are allowing themselves to be creatively destroyed. Their business model, I believe, is to keep cramming pickup trucks into developing countries until they burst at the seams. Meanwhile, Tesla and Google and Uber will pass them by and become the new face of the U.S. auto industry. Then next time Ford, GM, and Chrysler tell us they need a taxpayer bailout or the U.S. auto industry will disappear, we may not have to listen.

March 2017 in Review

Most frightening stories:

  • La Paz, Bolivia, is in a serious crisis caused by loss of its glacier-fed water supply. At the same time we are losing glaciers and snowpack in important food-growing regions, the global groundwater situation is also looking bleak. And for those of us trying to do our little part for water conservation, investing in a residential graywater system can take around 15 years to break even at current costs and water rates.
  • Trump admires Andrew Jackson, who I consider a genocidal lunatic and the worst President in U.S. history.
  • Fluoridated drinking water could eventually be looked back on as a really stupid idea that damaged several generations of developing brains, like leaded gasoline. Or not…I’m not sure who to believe on the issue but caution is clearly warranted.

Most hopeful stories:

  • A new political survey says there is a chance that a majority of Americans are not bat-shit crazy. Which suggests they might not be too serious about Steve Bannon, who believes in some bat-shit crazy stuff. There are a number of apps and guides out there to help sane people pester our elected representatives when they fail to represent our interests.
  • South Korean women are projected to be the first to break the barrier of an average life expectancy of 90, with a 50% probability of this happening by 2030.
  • Advanced power strips can reduce the so-called “vampire loads” of our modern electronic devices that are never really off.

Most interesting stories, that were not particularly frightening or hopeful, or perhaps were a mixture of both:

  • This long NASA article first gets you excited about the possibility of life on eight new planets it has just discovered, and then throws cold water (actually, make that lethal X-rays) all over your excitement.
  • Bill Gates has proposed a “robot tax”. The basic idea is that if and when automation starts to increase productivity, you could tax the increase in profits and use the money to help any workers displaced by the automation. In related somewhat boring economic news, there are a variety of theories as to why a raise in the minimum wage does not appear to cause unemployment as classical economic theory would predict.
  • CRISPR could be used to create new crops out of the wild ancestors of our current crops.

The Death of Expertise

This sounded familiar to me:

a surge in narcissistic and misguided intellectual egalitarianism that has crippled informed debates on any number of issues. Today, everyone knows everything: with only a quick trip through WebMD or Wikipedia, average citizens believe themselves to be on an equal intellectual footing with doctors and diplomats. All voices, even the most ridiculous, demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any claim to the contrary is dismissed as undemocratic elitism.

It’s from the Amazon description of a new book called The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters.

The Convergence

from Amazon:

Convergence is a history of modern science with an original and significant twist. Various scientific disciplines, despite their very different beginnings, and disparate areas of interest have been coming together over the past 150 years, converging and coalescing, to identify one extraordinary master narrative, one overwhelming interlocking coherent story: the history of the universe. Intimate connections between physics and chemistry have been revealed as have the links between quantum chemistry and molecular biology. Astronomy has been augmented by particle physics, psychology has been increasingly aligned with physics, with chemistry and even with economics. Genetics has been harmonised with linguistics, botany with archaeology, climatology with myth. This is a simple insight but one with profound consequences. Convergence is, as Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg has put it, ‘The deepest thing about the universe.’ This book does not, however, tell the story by beginning at the beginning and ending at the end. It is much more revealing, more convincing, and altogether more thrilling to tell the story as it emerged, as it began to fall into place, piece by piece, converging tentatively at first, but then with increasing speed, vigour and confidence. The overlaps and interdependence of the sciences, the emerging order that they are gradually uncovering, is without question the most enthralling aspect of twenty-first-century science.

February 2016 in Review

3 most frightening stories

3 most hopeful stories

3 most interesting stories

  • The idea of growing human organs inside a pig, or even a viable human-pig hybrid, is getting very closeTiny brains can also be grown on a microchip. Bringing back extinct animals is also getting very close.
  • Russian hackers are cheating slot machines by figuring out the pattern on pseudo-random numbers they generate.
  • From a new book called Homo Deus: “For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.”