Category Archives: science

Computers are becoming the standard text book

Millions of trees could be sighing a breath of relief in the future as computers become the standard in schools instead of textbooks if some reports are correct. Still those mighty oaks will have to wait a while before they are in the clear.
Not everyone is in favor of textbooks going the way of the dinosaur but it does make ecological sense. Textbooks are quickly outdated while computers are updated within minutes. Still it depends on what level of education to understand the near future trends when it comes to textbooks vs. computers. It may be many years before the companies that make those heavy textbooks delve into a world without pages to turn. In college those tomes are a money maker. Students generally spend over $1,000 a year for their books. As professors demand the latest editions the used books are worthless for the next year’s students. Delaware Online reports:

“It’s safe to say that paper, printed texts continue to be the bulk of the demand,” said Elio DiStaola, spokesman for the Follett Higher Education Group, which manages 800 bookstores in North America, including those at Delaware State University and St. Mark’s High School. “But we’re seeing more of those texts available in the electronic format. Our bookstores are preparing for that shift to accelerate. We have to assume that it will.”

There are about 4,500 college stores in the United States that survive because of those heavy tomes. With average sales hovering around $3 million the owners are unlikely to push for computers being the new textbooks. Computer teaching has a more self-study approach than standard textbooks approach. Information on the computer is grasped in a different way than when it is obtained by reading a book. It’s hard to write in the margins of a computer after all. While higher learning institutions don’t see the textbook being replaced by computers United States school systems may be nudging towards that day. A report in The New York Times shows that many school districts are providing their students with computers for lessons and homework assignments. Some teachers see the day when the computer is the textbook.

“Kids are wired differently these days,” said Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer for the Calcasieu Parish school system in Lake Charles, La. “They’re digitally nimble. They multitask, transpose and extrapolate. And they think of knowledge as infinite. “They don’t engage with textbooks that are finite, linear and rote,” Dr. Abshire continued. “Teachers need digital resources to find those documents, those blogs, those wikis that get them beyond the plain vanilla curriculum in the textbooks.”

In California some science and math texts are being replaced with open source digital versions. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hopes that this initiative could save hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The computer is not a reliable text tool though unless every student is equip with not only their own device but also with Internet access.

“A large portion of our kids don’t have computers at home, and it would be way too costly to print out the digital textbooks,” said Tim Ward, assistant superintendent for instruction in California’s 24,000-student Chaffey Joint Union High School District, where almost half the students are from low-income families.

The fairly near future though may see kids toting their computer bags instead of backpacks jammed full of books weighing half of what they do. The future student may not understand how their parents sat in a class listening to a teacher lecture and then going home to read chapters at a time. They are liable to ask, “But what program did you use to store the information in so that you could use it later Mom?”
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Women Eat Less When On a Date

Perhaps the best dieting tool for ladies is to eat out with single men. A study by Canada’s McMaster University shows women eat less calories when dining with men than alone or with other women.
Scientists have confirmed what men have known all along, women order a salad instead of a steak when they are on a date. The study was recently published in the international journal Appetite. When women are dining out with men, either alone or in a mixed-gender group they order smaller caloric meals than when they are dining with other women. The less men in the dining picture the more hearty a meal will be ordered by a lady. When dining with men in a group the average woman’s meal was 450 calories compared to the 700 to 750 calories when dining with other women. Canada.com reports:

“It seems to fit with our intuition. We always hear advice about going on a first date and only eating salad,” said Young, a PhD candidate with the university’s department of psychology, neuroscience and behaviour. “Our hypothesis was that we use food to signal attractiveness: ‘We’re healthy. We’re in good shape. we’re pretty.”

Researchers observed 469 people dining alone, couples and larger groups over four weekdays during one week at three different large cafeterias in Hamilton, Ontario. The observers did scan sampling, observing the room and gathering the data that happens at that moment. The researchers recorded the food items in front of each person other than beverage choice. The teams then converted the caloric information of each meal using data from the dining management of each cafeteria. The researchers at McMaster University believe that this act is a subconscious way to attract a mate. Newslite reports:

“It is possible that small food portions signal attractiveness, and women conform, whether consciously or unconsciously, to small meals in order to be seen as more attractive,” says researcher Meredith Young.


One in Four Tweets Created by Bots?

As many as one in four tweets on Twitter are sent by automated bots but most of those tweets are not spam. Around 32 per cent of all tweets made by the most active Twitter users were generated by machine bots
With most Tweets made by actual humans the social network is not going anywhere soon. It’s estimated that by 2010 there will be over 18 million people worldwide using Twitter. Most Twitter users hail from the United States with 60.6 percent of tweets. The United Kingdom comes in a far second place with only 6.91 percent of users. Japan, Canada and Brazil round out the top five twitter usage. Almost half of those that use Twitter have more than 100 followers. Mashable reports:

We found that 32% of all tweets made by the most active Twitter users were generated by machine bots that posted more than 150 tweets/day. The actual percentage of machine-generated tweets among the most active users is probably higher than 32% because there many bots that update less than 150 times/day.

With over 3 million Tweets a day Twitter users appear to actively use the social network a lot. The average user sends 15 messages a day.

The Peace Corps launches YouTube channel

Jody K. Olsen, the acting director of the Peace Corps, has announced that they have their own YouTube channel. The agency is also on Twitter and has a newly designed website.

The Peace Corps channel launched with 45 videos about the agency and their current projects around the world. It also has videos that deal with the history of the organization, founded by President John F. Kennedy and Sargent Shriver.

“The YouTube channel is an excellent resource for anyone considering Peace Corps service to better understand what Peace Corps service is really like on the ground,” said acting Director Olsen.

During the first week the Peace Corps channel had about 1,000 viewers.


Bloggasm’s Simon Owens Talks Citizen Media, Blogging

Bloggasm is a site that really shows the way of modern journalism. Run by Simon Owens, a 25-year-old former newspaper journalist, it hits today’s media issues with Owens’ special style.
Owens is no slouch when it comes to journalism. He writes on a regular basis for PBS’s Media Shift. The blog, Bloggasm was named in 2008 as one of PC Magazine’s favorite blogs. Focusing on media subjects Owens recently tackled the rumors about Sarah Palin divorcing and questioned the ethics behind repackaging news articles. Mr Owens took the time to discuss his views on citizen journalism, his site and online journalism. KJ- Why did you go digital journalism from print? SO- Well in many senses I was immersed in the online blogging world well before I became a print journalist. I started my first blog when I was a freshman in college and then launched one that began conducting original interviews when I was a junior, and even as a print journalist I secretly maintained Bloggasm, staying sometimes up until 2 in the morning after work interviewing sources and trying to break stories. Eventually it got to the point where I had made so many contacts within the blogging world that I got some job offers and jumped into the digital realm completely. KJ- Digital Journal is comprised of both professional and citizen journalists. What do you think of citizen journalists? SO- I find myself between the new media evangelists and the old media curmudgeons. I think that citizen journalism has a fascinating role in how information spreads and yet being immersed within the blogosphere daily I get frustrated with the sheer amount of misinformation and shoddy blogging that goes on — I think the traditional journalism filter does do something to battle that, though traditional journalism has its own problems that citizen journalism helps counteract. KJ- Bloggasm is a really cool site, I see you launched it prior to graduating. Has the focus changed since that time? SO- Oh yes, it wasn’t a very good site when it first launched, I had an idea that it would just feature Q and A interviews with prominent bloggers, and so they were just conducted via email and weren’t very specific or interesting. But as I began working as a print reporter and learning how to break news, conduct good interviews and weave them into a narrative, I thought: “Why couldn’t I do this for my blog?” I also got incredibly adept at getting my stories to spread using blogger outreach (I now do digital PR utilizing these skills) and so I began publishing feature-length stories, getting really good scoops and interviews having to do with online media. KJ- I read that you do marketing articles at times. Would you write a positive piece for something that you completely disagree with? SO- I’ve done digital PR outreach for clients that I wasn’t 100% behind. I doubt I would do anything on my blog along these lines without any kind of full disclosure, I tend to not ever write about clients on my blog anyway. Maybe “not 100% behind” is a bad phrase, more like it was a political issue I was somewhat indifferent on. KJ- Are you able to support yourself as an online journalist? SO- That’s the plan. Basically my blog is a “loss leader,” in that I don’t make much direct revenue on it (I do sell ads, though I don’t think I’ll make much that way). My blog is basically an advertisement for my online media and digital PR skills. If I can get a lot of people to come to it, then a certain percentage of them will need my skills to help spread the word about their product/media outlet/issue and contact me to hire me. KJ- That makes a lot of sense. Last question. What advise do you have for people just starting out in the field of online journalism? SO- Keep your blog layout simple and easy to read. Make your contact info readily available (you’d be surprised how many don’t do this) in case some kind of scoop lands in your inbox. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and actually pick up a phone and call a source, because 99% of your competition will take the easy route, giving you a leg up. That’s good advice from Mr. Owens. As traditional media moves closer to digital media the old tricks of the trade like confirming sources are as needed as much they ever were. Pulling up your sleeves and doing the hard work will in time see citizen and digital news have the same weight as old school print journalism.

Tiger population falls dramatically in India

A century ago, India’s wild lands were home to about 40,000 tigers. Today, it’s estimated only 1,000 tigers remain as a result of poachers and big game hunters.
The two reserves, Panna and Sariska National Park, no longer have a tiger population.
Many of the tigers have been lost due to Asia’s demand for tiger bones, claws and skin. The animal parts are used in traditional medicines.
Tigers have also died as a result of electric fences, illegal logging and fighting among the few remaining males.
Panna park, once home to 24 tigers, has had no sightings since January.
The Wildlife Institute of India had stated in 2007 that the nation’s tigers were doing well within the reserves but not in the protected forest areas. At that time it was urged though for measures to be taken to save the species.
National Geographic reported in 2007:

“Indian tigers are not entirely down and out,” said Sujoy Banerjee, head of the species conservation program at the Indian branch of the international conservation organization WWF.”But if we don’t wake up now, the only tigers we will see will be at the zoo.”

The number of tigers surveyed that year seemed to differ from conservation groups and the Indian government. It was stated that the government did not want to report that the number of animals had decreased as much as the wildlife groups had indicated.
As the numbers dwindled in 2008 wildlife experts urged the government to save the felines.
BBC reported then:

“It is now time to act and save tigers from human beings. We have to create inviolate areas for tigers and provide modern weapons to forest guards,” conservationist Valmik Thapar told Hindustan Times newspaper.

Valmir Thapar spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the demise of tigers in his native India.

In India, 18 per cent of the land that is left as forest land. As that land degrades, the water supply also degrades. The disappearance of the tiger is a sign of the destruction of the ecosystem, something that has an impact on the entire animal population including humans.
It is becoming doubtful that the tiger population in India can be saved.
Since as far back as 2005 the nation’s forest ministry sent warning bells to the government but the local authorities did not heed them.
Dr Raghu Chundawat, an independent scientist is one of those who has been sounding alarms. He says that the state government is still refusing to listen to the seriousness of the problem.
Ashok Kumar, deputy chair of the Wildlife Trust of India, believes that India can reverse the population decline with the tigers. “The long-term future of the tiger can be saved.”
That hope is echoed by Madhya Pradesh’s forest minister Rajendra Shukla reports the BBC:

“Panna is our only park which has lost on this count,” he says. “Three of state’s reserve forests – Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench – have been adjudged among the best managed tiger reserves in the country.”

That statement though may be overly hopeful. Experts believe that the population is already to small for tigers to have a viable future. Even if the population could right itself the lack of law enforcement stopping poachers puts the situation on a downward spiral. Factoring in the ever expanding human population in the tiger’s habitat brings the chance of survival for this magnificent feline down even lower.
Ireland Online reports:

“The government must address the core problem of sufficient protection.
“Unless heads roll, translocation of animals is not going to help as these too might be lost and the situation will not change,” Mr Bhargav, a member of the National Board for Wildlife in India said.


British kids use pets to fool researchers doing exercise study

Children in east London taking part in an exercise study by Mile End Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine decided to let their pets do their walking. The clever children attached their pedometers to their dogs collars.
Researchers were surprised at the activity levels for some of the obese children that were in the study. After a week the scientists discovered why the 11 to 12-year-olds were still obese even with extremely active pedometer readings, the kids had let their dogs do their walking.
The study of about 200 east London children was compromised with the tricky kids. Still researchers were able to gather enough information to show that the kids were walking far less than what is recommended by doctors. Boys should be taking 15,000 steps a day. Most of the boys in the Whitechapel study only ran or walked 12,620 steps in a day.
The girls in the study also walked less than the recommended 12,000 steps with an average of 10,150 steps.
The borough of Tower Hamlets where the children reside have an 11 percent higher than national average of being overweight or obese.
Researchers are planning on expanding the study in the area, minus the dogs this time around.