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1982 high school yearbook with videogame theme

Prosp

Prosssss

London's IDEA booksellers unearthed this 1982 yearbook, from South Plantation High School in Florida, that has a fantastic hand-drawn video game theme. (via the excellent @ideabooksltd Instagram feed)

A moving long read about a medical school dissection class

Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has put together an amazing four-part story about medical students entering a human dissection lab for the first time. Interweaving the stories of the students, their teachers, and people who have chosen to donate their bodies to science, the series really gives you a sense of how emotionally intense the experience can be for students, and how it brings together all these different lives. Powerful stuff. Maggie 4

Student removed from school lessons after shaving head for charity

Rhys Johnson, 14, shaved his head to raise cash for medical research after three of his relatives were diagnosed with cancer. His school, Milford Haven School in Pembrokeshire, Wales, took him out of class for breaking its "haircut rules," leading to a 250-kid walkout of the school. The BBC reports:

On Thursday, a Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson said: "School policy is set by a school's governing body and implemented by the head teacher and school staff.

"When this policy is disregarded by a pupil - and in this instance the policy has been clearly communicated to the pupil concerned - the school is acting appropriately in enforcing its policy."

Note the dismissive, yet evasive bureacratic tone! And the fact that the BBC gave an official spokesperson, of a publicly-funded government body, the cloak of anonymity behind which to further criticize a child.

How to: Become a tenured professor at Harvard

You have, at some point, probably heard an academic wistfully daydream about what it would be like to have tenure, or (alternately) moan about the process that it takes to achieve that dream. Tenure is a promotion, but it's more than just a promotion. For instance, it's a lot harder to fire a tenured professor — something that is meant to make it easier for them to research and speak out on what they want without fear of administrative crackdowns. As a result, getting tenure can be a process that is nothing short of labyrinthian. This piece in the Harvard Crimson by Nicholas Fandos and Noah Pisner describes the phone-book-sized dossiers, decade-long preparations, and secret tribunals that are all a part of the standard Harvard tenure process. Maggie

Great moments in irony

On Monday, John Gurdon won the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine. This is an excerpt from his 1949 high school report card.

Things that almost make you want to go back to school

A new trend: Colleges offering chemistry cooking classes as an undergraduate science course. Maggie

Student sleep problems aren't just about individual behavior

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.

Read the rest

MIT issues certificates in piracy

Good news! You can now earn a certification in piracy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of the first crop of official pirates, Jacob Hurwitz, showed up for his interview with the Boston Globe "wearing a pirate hat, eye patch, earring, knickers, and a stuffed parrot on his shoulder." So you know it's official. (Via Kevin Zelnio) Maggie

One of the earliest known examples of math homework

It's stuff like this that makes me love archaeology. Turns out, we can trace the concept of math homework back to at least 2300 B.C.E., in ancient Mesopotamia.

In the early 20th century, German researchers found several clay tablets at the site of Šuruppak. (Today, that's basically the Iraqi city of Tell Fara.) Some of the tablets appear to be the remains of math instruction, including two different tablets that are working the same story problem.

A loose translation of the problem is: A granary. Each man receives 7 sila of grain. How many men? That is, the tablets concern a highly artificial problem and certainly present a mathematical exercise and not an archival document. The tablets give the statement of the problem and its answer (164571 men - expressed in the sexagesimal system S since we are counting men - with 3 sila left over). However, one of the tablets gives an incorrect solution. When analyzing these tablets, Marvin Powell commented famously that it was, "written by a bungler who did not know the front from the back of his tablet, did not know the difference between standard numerical notation and area notation, and succeeded in making half a dozen writing errors in as many lines."

That comes from a site set up by Duncan Mellville, a math professor at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. He's actually got a whole collection of essays on Mesopotamian mathematics. I am certain, that by posting this, I've just ruined somebody's productivity for, like, a week.

Image is not THE cuneiform tablet in question. Just A cuneiform tablet. I couldn't find a picture of those specific ones:Marks and signs, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from nicmcphee's photostream.

Via John Baez