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09 Jul 14:07

Who should Africa back in the World Cup?

Fourteen of France's footballers are eligible to play for African nations, but what are Africa's other remaining World Cup links?
09 Jul 13:54

Letter from Africa: Complaining about colonialism makes us the victims

Deriding Africa's former colonial rulers will not solve the continent's many problems, writes Nigerian journalist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.
02 Jul 09:37

Oscar Wilde

"To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable."
30 Jun 11:56

What a hoot! Tawny owl takes a bath

The owl was seen bathing in a pool of water in Thixendale in North Yorkshire.
30 Jun 11:38

Learning to Love Dogs in Kigali

by Alexandra E. Petri
Rwandans are embracing dogs as pets in spite of the country’s dark canine history.
29 Jun 14:57

How trees secretly talk to each other

Plants share resources using an underground network called the "Wood Wide Web".
29 Jun 14:51

Grindr? Doodles? What do you do during boring meetings?

How instant feedback software and AI bots could make meetings more interesting and productive.
23 Jun 13:09

AMORPHIS и SOILWORK гостуват в София на 23 януари 2019 г.

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   На 23 януари 2019 г. в зала "Универсиада" в София ще се състои съвместен концерт на AMORPHIS, SOILWORK, JINJER и ...
10 Jun 16:01

Doctors Hail World First as Woman's Advanced Breast Cancer is Eradicated

by msmash
A woman with advanced breast cancer which had spread around her body has been completely cleared of the disease by a groundbreaking therapy that harnessed the power of her immune system to fight the tumours. From a report: It is the first time that a patient with late-stage breast cancer has been successfully treated by a form of immunotherapy that uses the patient's own immune cells to find and destroy cancer cells that have formed in the body. Judy Perkins, an engineer from Florida, was 49 when she was selected for the radical new therapy after several rounds of routine chemotherapy failed to stop a tumour in her right breast from growing and spreading to her liver and other areas. At the time, she was given three years to live. Doctors who cared for the woman at the US National Cancer Institute in Maryland said Perkins's response had been "remarkable": the therapy wiped out cancer cells so effectively that she has now been free of the disease for two years. "My condition deteriorated a lot towards the end, and I had a tumour pressing on a nerve, which meant I spent my time trying not to move at all to avoid pain shooting down my arm. I had given up fighting," Perkins said. "After the treatment dissolved most of my tumours, I was able to go for a 40-mile hike."

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01 Jun 08:40

Sultan of Yogyakarta: A feminist revolution in an ancient kingdom

The tiny Islamic kingdom of Yogyakarta is locked in a bitter battle over whether the sultan's daughter can inherit the throne.
01 Jun 06:05

Frank Herbert

"The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand."
29 May 05:31

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28 May 11:39

Bulgarians tweeting in Cyrillic confused for Russian bots

The use of the Cyrillic alphabet is one way Twitter tries to identify Russian automated accounts.
28 May 08:32

Oracle Calls Java Serialization 'A Horrible Mistake', Plans to Dump It

by EditorDavid
An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Oracle plans to drop from Java its serialization feature that has been a thorn in the side when it comes to security. Also known as Java object serialization, the feature is used for encoding objects into streams of bytes... Removing serialization is a long-term goal and is part of Project Amber, which is focused on productivity-oriented Java language features, says Mark Reinhold, chief architect of the Java platform group at Oracle. To replace the current serialization technology, a small serialization framework would be placed in the platform once records, the Java version of data classes, are supported. The framework could support a graph of records, and developers could plug in a serialization engine of their choice, supporting formats such as JSON or XML, enabling serialization of records in a safe way. But Reinhold cannot yet say which release of Java will have the records capability. Serialization was a "horrible mistake" made in 1997, Reinhold says. He estimates that at least a third -- maybe even half -- of Java vulnerabilities have involved serialization. Serialization overall is brittle but holds the appeal of being easy to use in simple use cases, Reinhold says.

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19 May 10:11

Boston Public Library Put Its M.C. Escher Collection Online, So It's Time to Redecorate Your Dorm Room

by Andrew Liszewski

If you’re not already familiar with the works of illustrator Maurits Cornelis Escher (better known as M.C. Escher) through jigsaw puzzles or poster sales at your local college, now’s the time to experience the artist’s reality-bending pieces. The Boston Public Library has digitized and shared its entire collection of…

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18 May 12:44

How People Make Only a Jar of Trash a Year

by Stephen Leahy
The growing zero-waste community is radically slashing their waste output, while living more fulfilling lives.
18 May 05:51

Hackers Steal Millions From Mexican Banks In Transfer Heist

by BeauHD
happyfeet2000 shares a report from Reuters: Thieves siphoned hundreds of millions of pesos out of Mexican banks, including No. 2 Banorte, by creating phantom orders that wired funds to bogus accounts and promptly withdrew the money, two sources close to the government's investigation said. Hackers sent hundreds of false orders to move amounts ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of pesos from banks including Banorte, to fake accounts in other banks, the sources said, and accomplices then emptied the accounts in cash withdrawals in dozens of branch offices. The total amount is estimated to be as much as $20 million (~400 million pesos).

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15 May 18:04

Sherry 101: An Introduction to the Hippest Old-Person Drink Around

by Dan Q. Dao

Don't confuse Spain's famous fortified wine with the dusty bottle on your grandma's shelf. Here's a breakdown of sherry styles from Fino and Manzanilla to Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, and beyond. Read More
15 May 17:47

Hold My Beer: How I Became a Certified Cicerone (and How You Can, Too)

by John Carruthers

If you have a passion for beer and want to prove it, becoming a Certified Cicerone might be for you. Our writer describes in detail the cramming (and drinking) he undertook to claim the title. Read More
10 Apr 16:31

Eating, Dining, and Drinking in Edinburgh (part 2)

by David
Rtersieva

todo

Continuing our edible (and drinkable) adventures in Edinburgh, I insisted after we hit the farmers’ market that we stop at Mary’s Milk Bar. A gazillion readers recommended it, and Charlotte and my friend Lani, were happy when we herded ourselves into Mary Hillard’s cozy shop.

I love meeting ice cream makers and Mary was one of the nicest I’ve ever met. She started as a chocolatier but ended up churning gelato. Her gelato is made mostly from milk with a little cream, and sugar. The first flavor I tried was simply labeled “Milk.”

Continue Reading Eating, Dining, and Drinking in Edinburgh (part 2)...

08 Apr 05:02

Programmer Unveils OpenGL Bindings for Bash

by EditorDavid
Slashdot reader silverdirk writes: Compiled languages have long provided access to the OpenGL API, and even most scripting languages have had OpenGL bindings for a decade or more. But, one significant language missing from the list is our old friend/nemesis Bash. But worry no longer! Now you can create your dazzling 3D visuals right from the comfort of your command line! "You'll need a system with both Bash and OpenGL support to experience it firsthand," explains software engineer Michael Conrad, who created the first version 13 years ago as "the sixth in a series of 'Abuse of Technology' projects," after "having my technical sensibilities offended that someone had written a real-time video game in Perl. "Back then, my primary language was C++, and I was studying OpenGL for video game purposes. I declared to my friends that the only thing worse would be if it had been 3D and written in Bash. Having said the idea out loud, it kept prodding me, and I eventually decided to give it a try to one-up the 'awfulness'..."

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07 Apr 10:55

Batter Up: Finding a Tempura Spot to Call My Own

by Matthew Amster-Burton

When my old regular tempura spot closed, all I wanted in a new one was really good food, ordered à la carte and served by a friendly chef at a comfortable, well-worn bar. In other words, I was like a newly single person looking for someone a lot like my ex. Great plan, right? Read More
06 Apr 09:23

Hold Up, Maybe Our Brains Actually Can Grow Back Neurons

by Ed Cara

A new study published Thursday in Cell Stem Cell is set to further stoke the debate over whether our brain can actually grow back neurons as we age. The research found that people, even into their golden years, are regenerating their stock of neurons right up until the point of death—seemingly contradicting the…

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05 Apr 10:51

Famous Japanese Snow Monkeys Take Baths to Lower Stress

by Sarah Gibbens
Just like us, snow monkeys may cope with winter weather by taking warm baths, a new study found.
03 Apr 11:26

Malaysians roast MasterChef over chicken dish

When a chicken rendang dish was dismissed for not being 'crispy', a nation's social media roared.
03 Apr 06:26

Large Crack in East African Rift is Evidence of Continent Splitting in Two

by msmash
A large crack, stretching several miles, made a sudden appearance recently in south-western Kenya. The tear emerged after heavy rains caused havoc in the nation last month, which also saw neighborhood get flooded and major highways closing off. The downpour also exposed a fault line that geologists now say is evidence that the African continent will split into two over the next tens of millions of years. From a report: The Earth is an ever-changing planet, even though in some respects change might be almost unnoticeable to us. Plate tectonics is a good example of this. But every now and again something dramatic happens and leads to renewed questions about the African continent splitting in two. The Earth's lithosphere (formed by the crust and the upper part of the mantle) is broken up into a number of tectonic plates. These plates are not static, but move relative to each other at varying speeds, "gliding" over a viscous asthenosphere. [...] The East African Rift Valley stretches over 3,000km from the Gulf of Aden in the north towards Zimbabwe in the south, splitting the African plate into two unequal parts: the Somali and Nubian plates. Activity along the eastern branch of the rift valley, running along Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, became evident when the large crack suddenly appeared in south-western Kenya. When the lithosphere is subject to a horizontal extensional force it will stretch, becoming thinner. Eventually, it will rupture, leading to the formation of a rift valley. This process is accompanied by surface manifestations along the rift valley in the form of volcanism and seismic activity. Rifts are the initial stage of a continental break-up and, if successful, can lead to the formation of a new ocean basin.

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30 Mar 06:31

Easter: Irish pubs lift Good Friday alcohol ban

Pubs in the Irish Republic will sell alcohol on Good Friday for the first time in almost a century.
30 Mar 06:03

Meeting Design

by by Kevin M. Hoffman

A note from the editors: We’re pleased to share an excerpt from Chapter 2 (“The Design Constraint of All Meetings”) of Meeting Design: For Managers, Makers, and Everyone by Kevin Hoffman, available now from Two Waves.

Jane is a “do it right, or I’ll do it myself ” kind of person. She leads marketing, customer service, and information technology teams for a small airline that operates between islands of the Caribbean. Her work relies heavily on “reservation management system” (RMS) software, which is due for an upgrade. She convenes a Monday morning meeting to discuss an upgrade with the leadership from each of her three teams. The goal of this meeting is to identify key points for a proposal to upgrade the outdated software.

Jane begins by reviewing the new software’s advantages. She then goes around the room, engaging each team’s representatives in an open discussion. They capture how this software should alleviate current pain points; someone from marketing takes notes on a laptop, as is their tradition. The meeting lasts nearly three hours, which is a lot longer than expected, because they frequently loop back to earlier topics as people forget what was said. It concludes with a single follow-up action item: the director of each department will provide her with two lists for the upgrade proposal. First, a list of cost savings, and second, a list of timesaving outcomes. Each list is due back to Jane by the end of the week.

The first team’s list is done early but not organized clearly. The second list provides far too much detail to absorb quickly, so Jane puts their work aside to summarize later. By the end of the following Monday, there’s no list from the third team—it turns out they thought she meant the following Friday. Out of frustration, Jane calls another meeting to address the problems with the work she received, which range from “not quite right” to “not done at all.” Based on this pace, her upgrade proposal is going to be finished two weeks later than planned.

What went wrong? The plan seemed perfectly clear to Jane, but each team remembered their marching orders differently, if they remembered them at all. Jane could have a meeting experience that helps her team form more accurate memories. But for that meeting to happen, she needs to understand where those memories are formed in her team and how to form them more clearly.

Better Meetings Make Better Memories

If people are the one ingredient that all meetings have in common, there is one design constraint they all bring: their capacity to remember the discussion. That capacity lives in the human brain.

The brain shapes everything believed to be true about the world. On the one hand, it is a powerful computer that can be trained to memorize thousands of numbers in random sequences.1 But brains are also easily deceived, swayed by illusions and pre-existing biases. Those things show up in meetings as your instincts. Instincts vary greatly based on differences in the amount and type of previous experience. The paradox of ability and deceive-ability creates a weird mix of unpredictable behavior in meetings. It’s no wonder that they feel awkward.

What is known about how memory works in the brain is constantly evolving. To cover that in even a little detail is beyond the scope of this book, so this chapter is not meant to be an exhaustive look at human memory. However, there are a few interesting theories that will help you be more strategic about how you use meetings to support forming actionable memories.

Your Memory in Meetings

The brain’s job in meetings is to accept inputs (things we see, hear, and touch) and store it as memory, and then to apply those absorbed ideas in discussion (things we say and make). See Figure 2.1.

A drawing of a brain with appendages representing the five senses
FIGURE 2.1 The human brain has a diverse set of inputs that contribute to your memories.

Neuroscience has identified four theoretical stages of memory, which include sensory, working, intermediate, and long-term. Understanding working memory and intermediate memory is relevant to meetings, because these stages represent the most potential to turn thought into action.

Working Memory

You may be familiar with the term short-term memory. Depending on the research you read, the term working memory has replaced short-term memory in the vocabulary of neuro- and cognitive science. I’ll use the term working memory here. Designing meeting experiences to support the working memory of attendees will improve meetings.

Working memory collects around 30 seconds of the things you’ve recently heard and seen. Its storage capacity is limited, and that capacity varies among individuals. This means that not everyone in a meeting has the same capacity to store things in their working memory. You might assume that because you remember an idea mentioned within the last few minutes of a meeting, everyone else probably will as well. That is not necessarily the case.

You can accommodate variations in people’s ability to use working memory by establishing a reasonable pace of information. The pace of information is directly connected to how well aligned attendees’ working memories become. To make sure that everyone is on the same page, you should set a pace that is deliberate, consistent, and slower than your normal pace of thought.

Sometimes, concepts are presented more quickly than people can remember them, simply because the presenter is already familiar with the details. Breaking information into evenly sized, consumable chunks is what separates a great presenter from an average (or bad) one. In a meeting, slower, more broken-up pacing allows a group of people to engage in constructive and critical thinking more effectively. It gets the same ideas in everyone’s head. (For a more detailed dive into the pace of content in meetings, see Chapter 3, “Build Agendas Out of Ideas, People, and Time.”)

Theoretical models that explain working memory are complex, as seen in Figure 2.2.2 This model presumes two distinct processes taking place in your brain to make meaning out of what you see, what you hear, and how much you can keep in your mind. Assuming that your brain creates working memories from what you see and what you hear in different ways, combining listening and seeing in meetings becomes more essential to getting value out of that time.

A chart showing a model of working memory
FIGURE 2.2 Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch’s Model of Working Memory provides context for the interplay between what we see and hear in meetings.

In a meeting, absorbing something seen and absorbing something heard require different parts of the brain. Those two parts can work together to improve retention (the quantity and accuracy of information in our brain) or compete to reduce retention. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the research of Richard E. Meyer, where he has found that “people learn better from words and pictures than from words alone, but not all graphics are created equal(ly).”3 When what you hear and what you see compete, it creates cognitive dissonance. Listening to someone speaking while reading the same words on a screen actually decreases the ability to commit something to memory. People who are subjected to presentation slides filled with speaking points face this challenge. But listening to someone while looking at a complementary photograph or drawing increases the likelihood of committing something to working memory.

Intermediate-Term Memory

Your memory should transform ideas absorbed in meetings into taking an action of some kind afterward. Triggering intermediate-term memories is the secret to making that happen. Intermediate-term memories last between two and three hours, and are characterized by processes taking place in the brain called biochemical translation and transcription. Translation can be considered as a process by which the brain makes new meaning. Transcription is where that meaning is replicated (see Figures 2.3a and 2.3b). In both processes, the cells in your brain are creating new proteins using existing ones: making some “new stuff” from “existing stuff.”4

Two illustrations, showing a woman describing a hat to a man, and then a man showing an actual hat to a few people
FIGURE 2.3 Biochemical translation (a) and transcription (b), loosely in the form of understanding a hat.

Here’s an example: instead of having someone take notes on a laptop, imagine if Jane sketched a diagram that helped her make sense out of the discussion, using what was stored in her working memory. The creation of that diagram is an act of translation, and theoretically Jane should be able to recall the primary details of that diagram easily for two to three hours, because it’s moving into her intermediate memory.

If Jane made copies of that diagram, and the diagram was so compelling that those copies ended up on everyone’s wall around the office that would be transcription. Transcription is the (theoretical) process that leads us into longer-term stages of memory. Transcription connects understanding something within a meeting to acting on it later, well after the meeting has ended.

Most of the time simple meetings last from 10 minutes to an hour, while workshops and working sessions can last anywhere from 90 minutes to a few days. Consider the duration of various stages of memory against different meeting lengths (see Figure 2.4). A well-designed meeting experience moves the right information from working to intermediate memory. Ideas generated and decisions made should materialize into actions that take place outside the meeting. Any session without breaks that lasts longer than 90 minutes makes the job of your memories moving thought into action fuzzier, and therefore more difficult.

A chart showing how the different types of memory work over a 90-minute meeting
FIGURE 2.4 The time duration of common meetings against the varying durations for different stages of memory. Sessions longer than 90 minutes can impede memories from doing their job.

Jane’s meeting with her three teams lasted nearly three hours. That length of time spent on a single task or topic taxes people’s ability to form intermediate (actionable) memories. Action items become muddled, which leads to liberal interpretations of what each team is supposed to accomplish.

But just getting agreement about a shared task in the first place is a difficult design challenge. All stages of memory are happening simultaneously, with multiple translation and transcription processes being applied to different sounds and sights. A fertile meeting environment that accommodates multiple modes of input allows memories to form amidst the cognitive chaos.

Brain Input Modes

During a meeting, each attendee’s brain in a meeting is either in a state of input or output. By choosing to assemble in a group, the assumption is implicit that information needs to be moved out of one place, or one brain, into another (or several others).

Some meetings, like presentations, move information in one direction. The goal is for a presenting party to move information from their brain to the brains in the audience. When you are presenting an idea, your brain is in output mode. You use words and visuals to give form to ideas in the hopes that they will become memories in your audience. Your audience’s brains are receiving information; if the presentation is well designed and well executed, their ears and their eyes will do a decent job of absorbing that information accurately.

In a live presentation, the output/input processes are happening synchronously. This is not like reading a written report or an email message, where the author (presenting party) has output information in absence of an audience, and the audience is absorbing information in absence of the author’s presence; that is moving information asynchronously.

Footnotes

  • 1. Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein (New York: Penguin Books, 2011).
  • 2. A. D. Baddeley and G. Hitch, “Working Memory,” in The Psychology of Learning and Motivation: Advances in Research and Theory, ed. G. H. Bower (New York: Academic Press, 1974), 8:47–89.
  • 3. Richard E. Meyer, “Principles for Multimedia Learning with Richard E. Mayer,” Harvard Initiative for Learning & Teaching (blog), July 8, 2014, http://hilt.harvard.edu/blog/ principles-multimedia-learning-richard-e-mayer
  • 4. M. A. Sutton and T. J. Carew, “Behavioral, Cellular, and Molecular Analysis of Memory in Aplysia I: Intermediate-Term Memory,” Integrative and Comparative Biology 42, no. 4 (2002): 725–735.
26 Mar 08:03

Cambridge Analytica-linked firm 'boasted of poll interference'

BBC sees papers suggesting Cambridge Analytica's parent company boasted of election interference.
23 Mar 06:47

Гледайте новия видеоклип на ROYAL HUNT "Fistful of Misery"

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   Датската прогресив рок/метъл група ROYAL HUNT издаде 14-ия си студиен албум, озаглавен "Cast in Stone", на 21 февруари. Творбата се ...