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Todd Landman is a professor of government at the University of Essex. He's also a talented stage magician and mentalist. Now, Landman has combined his love of teaching with his passion for illusion to become the world's first official Visiting Professor of Performance Magic, an appointment at England's University of Huddersfield's new Magic Research Group. Oh, if only I could audit. From the University:
Landman… delves deeply into the history and heritage of magic and believes that it enables the world to be viewed with a fresh sense of wonder.
“We are trying to rescue magic from its worst faults – which is cheesy guys in cheesy ties with rabbits in hats!” he says. “We are interested in the deeper side of things.”
He has a special fascination for renaissance men such as Dr John Dee and Sir Isaac Newton – scientists, astronomers and mathematicians who also practised astrology and alchemy. And today, the study of magic allows for “different ways of knowing the world”, according to Dr Landman.
Coinciding with the beginning of the US school year, researchers at UCLA published a study last week showing a correlation between lack of sleep and poor academic performance. Some 500 high schoolers kept two-week diaries of their sleep habits, how well they understood and participated in classroom work, and their scores on assignments and tests. The ones who slept less did less well in school.
The headlines on this study—like the one at Smithsonian.com, where I first saw it—tout the results as evidence that you shouldn't stay up late cramming. But cramming usually is a special-occasion thing—something you do the night before a test—not a daily occurrence. This study is really about chronic sleep deprivation, habits and behaviors that happen over weeks and months. Along with several other studies that have come out in recent years, it helps build a persuasive case not against occasional cram sessions, but against academic routines that all-but require students to operate constantly on an abnormal sleep cycle.
Pictured: Laocoon, who had some serious problems with his methodology.
I'll bet you didn't know that, in order to earn a Ph.D. from a major American university, you must first defeat a snake in combat. Don't feel too bad. They almost never mention this until you've already begun your graduate studies. Luckily, Luke Burns has a handy FAQ over at McSweeny's that will make sure you pass both your oral thesis defense and your mandatory snake fight with flying colors.
Q: Do I have to kill the snake?
A: University guidelines state that you have to “defeat” the snake. There are many ways to accomplish this. Lots of students choose to wrestle the snake. Some construct decoys and elaborate traps to confuse and then ensnare the snake. One student brought a flute and played a song to lull the snake to sleep. Then he threw the snake out a window.
Q: Does everyone fight the same snake?
A: No. You will fight one of the many snakes that are kept on campus by the facilities department.
Q: Are the snakes big?
A: We have lots of different snakes. The quality of your work determines which snake you will fight. The better your thesis is, the smaller the snake will be.
For god's sake, read the full FAQ. You do not want to arrive at your snake fight unprepared.
Via Andrew Thaler
(video: Jenna Chandler, Santa Monica Patch)
Last night at Santa Monica College (about 20 blocks from the beach here in Los Angeles, CA), police pepper-sprayed some 30 students in a crowd of about 150 protesters. The students want affordable education. They gathered during a meeting of the college's board of trustees to voice opposition to planned tuition hikes that would raise the cost of bread-and-butter courses during the summer session by as much as 400%. I was close enough to the location last night to hear helicopters and sirens as it happened.
The LA Times reports that Santa Monica police are today "trying to sort out" who used pepper-spray on the peacefully assembled students. Reports I heard last night indicated that the person or persons responsible were campus police, not Santa Monica police, who were called in later to secure the site. Among the injured: a child, who looks to be about 4 or 5 years old from these photos.
One student eyewitness tweeted:
Pepper sprayed a room full of students and two children. A poor lil five year old got it in the face.— Sarah Belknap (@mary_menville) April 4, 2012
There is apparently money for 3 cop choppers, pepper spray, batons, five squad cars, 8 ambulances, but no money for education.— Sarah Belknap (@mary_menville) April 4, 2012
More eyewitness video plus photos of two of the victims follow, at the end of this Boing Boing post.
Student blogger zunguzungu in Berkeley, who has been covering student protests and campus police brutality throughout California, rounds up news link and posts about the incident this morning. An excerpt: