Boing Boing pal Eric Paulos, an engineering professor and artist at UC Berkeley, has a history of high-tech provocations, from his early work with machine performance group Survival Research Laboratories to his controversial art installations such as a vending machine for pathogens. Above is the performance/prank Eric recently staged to open his Critical Making class:
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On the first day of class, I wanted to make a point about expectations – about expectations for this course and more importantly about leaving them behind as we engage in the material and topics within Critical Making. Rather than say it or even show a slide, I unexpectedly and dramatically lifted "my" laptop and smashed it across the floor of the classroom.
Next, I setup the room, ensuring that the impact area would be clear and safe and also that I could adequately conceal my real laptop underneath using a haphazardly stacked set of design textbooks as camouflage. You can see my real laptop in the image below, carefully concealed underneath the broken laptop. I was able to easily advance my slides using a handheld remote control. I placed a board across, concealing my real laptop and then placed the staged laptop on top. A few more books covered up the board and a fake cable were attached to the broken laptop giving the illusion that all was normal – as expected.
I rehearsed the staging, where I would stand, what I would say, and how I would grab the laptop. Remember the bottom of the laptop would completely fall apart if lifted improperly.
Central Michigan University student Anna G should earn an honorary doctorate in pranksterism. Welcome to, er, Wii U.
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The Sigma Nu fraternity at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia has been suspended in connection with these asinine signs displayed at a private residence where members of the frat live. The brilliant individuals hung the banners during move-in week when parents were dropping new students at campus. Read the rest
Caitlin Flanagan has written the funniest and most incisive glimpse into what it's like for today's road hacks whose livelihoods depend on navigating the treacherous waters of the college comedy circuit. Read the rest
A "very aggressive" turkey has apparently been terrorizing people on the University of Michigan's North Campus.
"Do not try to approach the turkey," deputy police chief Melissa Overton said. "We've gotten calls from people who have been trapped and unable to move because he's cornered them."
"He hasn't hurt anybody, but he's a very aggressive bird... He's also created a traffic hazard because apparently he likes to lay down in the middle of the road and not move. It can be very difficult for the buses to get around him."
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Are you a college student who embodies the virtues of the Triforce and needs five hundred bucks for school?
Meet Kyle Kandilian, a 20-year-old University of Michigan-Dearborn student who raises tens of thousands of cockroaches
, in his apartment, for fun and profit. Depending on the species, Kandilian's roaches can be had for as little as a dime a dozen, or as much as $200 for a very special individual bug. He's using the money to help pay for college. Read the rest
And that's true even if the savings account doesn't have enough money
in it to cover a full degree — or even a semester. A study from Washington University in St. Louis has attributed this effect to aspirations. A kid who grows up knowing that their parents and others expect high education — and who grows up thinking about higher ed as an option for them — is more likely to go. That makes sense to me. Anecdotally, my grandparents sold a cow when I was born and put the money into a savings bond college fund. It wasn't much when I turned 18. But it was part of creating a family culture that made college something I planned on doing. The catch to this idea, of course, is the rising cost of college. I was lucky enough to attend school in a time and place (1999, Kansas) where my freshman year only cost me about $2000 a semester. Read the rest
There is some truth to the American ideal of meritocracy. But there's a lot of myth, as well. Biologist Danielle Lee describes her experience coaching poor kids in St. Louis on science fair projects — an activity that often becomes a stepping stone to a career in the sciences. But, for the kids Lee met, intelligence and a good idea aren't enough to overcome the institutional barriers working against them
. This is how discrimination happens. It's not simple and easy to fix and it isn't pretty to watch. Read the rest
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.
"Magical mysteries of visiting prof" Read the rest
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.
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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
Image: Groupe de Laocoon, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from hailemichaelfiseha's photostream Read the rest
(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:
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. Read the rest
As much as 40 percent of the people who start out majoring in science and engineering end up switching to other degrees. Why? The answers are complex, and the people who drop out are often the best-of-the-best. The New York Times looks at why college students leave science majors
and what can be done to change that. Read the rest