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07 Oct 14:23

Maths takes flight

by Rachel

Soon you will be able to step inside a mathematical space and experience the beauty and importance of maths!

The plane exhibit

The design for the new maths gallery

Would you like to step inside an abstract mathematical space? Soon you'll be able to do just that, in the maths gallery at the Science Museum in London, due to open in 2016.

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08 Feb 17:06

Matt Damon: ‘We would never let businessmen design warheads. Why would you cut out educators when you’re designing education policy?’

by Valerie Strauss
Matt Damon just had an online conversation with Reddit users to promote his new movie, “The Monuments Men,” and he touched on a number of topics, including his opposition to standardized test-based school reform and the exclusion of teachers from the shaping of education policy. The actor has been a vocal defender of teachers and […]

14 Feb 20:33

How ‘data walls’ in classrooms humiliate kids

by Valerie Strauss

Interesting discussion thread. One contributor brings up the very real question of legality, citing the law this practice breaks.

A long time ago I had a math teacher at West Miami Junior High School who changed the seating arrangement in my class every week according to how well each of her students did on weekly exams. Given that math was  not one of my better subjects, this weekly exercise generally left me mortified with […]

30 Nov 16:34

A Look At Stephen Wolfram's New, Insanely Ambitious Computational Paradigm

“Mathematica is this perfect precise computation engine, and WolframAlpha is general information about the world,” Wolfram told me. “Now we can combine the two.” And that's just the beginning.
22 Oct 21:26

Desperate for Work? 10 Things to Know If You’re Thinking of Moving to the Jobs Capital of the U.S.

by Evelyn Nieves, AlterNet
North Dakota boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the country, but living in Boomlandia is not for the faint of heart.

Lost in the government shutdown drama over the last few weeks is the dismal U.S. jobs report. The percentage of working-age Americans either holding jobs or looking for work has dropped to 63.2 percent, the lowest rate in 35 years.

The big, bright exception is the oil boom land of North Dakota, which boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the country (3 percent). You’ve heard the stories: it’s raining jobs in them hills. Big, fat-wallet oil jobs.

So maybe after years of looking for work, any work, in your recession-wracked hometown, you’re thinking of joining the black gold rush of western North Dakota’s Bakken oil field, where corporations like Halliburton and BP, not to mention every Tom, Dick and Harry contractor, construction company and commercial driving school, are cashing in on the frenetic fracking transforming the northern plains.

Join the club. Five years into the boom, this land is teeming with recession refugees from New York to California. For the desperate, it’s the answer to utility cut-offs, the repo man and looming foreclosure. The population in the Bakken oil patch has tripled, with newcomers pouring in so fast officials can’t count them fast enough.

But before you leave hearth and home for the ravaged pastures of the North Dakota prairie, be forewarned: Living in Boomlandia is not for the faint of heart. Keep these facts in mind before you make a life-changing trek to almost-Canada.

10. There will be traffic. Not rush-hour traffic of the here now, gone later, variety. You have never seen traffic like this, even if you’re from D.C, Los Angeles or an exit off the Jersey Turnpike. In and around the heart of the Bakken oil patch—once a site of sleepy farm towns like Williston, New Town and Watford City—semis, cement mixers, oil tankers, wide-load trailers, five wheels, F150s and SUVs will come at you from all sides, swarm you, back to back for miles and miles, day and night.

9. There will be lines. At the supermarket, the Williston Walmart, the Subway inside the Williston Walmart, the drive-thru window at McDonalds, you name it. With unemployment in the oil patch at an estimated one percent, retail jobs, even with starting salaries at $17 an hour, are going begging. Stores close early for lack of help. The downtown Williston shops have even cut whole days for lack of help. So, factor in lines everywhere when you make your rounds. That goes double for essential services. If your truck breaks down, better know how to fix it. Auto repair shops are stretched so thin some have closed their weeks-long waiting lists.

8. Women, prepare for stares. Officially, the ratio of males to females in the oil patch is six to one. Unofficially, to the naked eye? More like 10 to one. So this is what awaits you: Men craning their necks at stoplights to get a look at you, men making thin excuses on line (see above) to talk to you, men following you around store aisles, greeting you with “Hi, do you have a boyfriend?” and generally making you dread stepping outside without a burka.

7. Men, see above. If you’re thinking you’ll meet women in the oil patch, think again. If you’ve grand ideas about having any fun, ditto. Moving to the oil patch is like enlisting in the Army. It’s all about long hours, hard labor and dodging dangers to life and limb. Options to blow off steam remain few. Older workers tend to have families; they work their long shifts—two weeks on, one week off, or some variation—and then hightail it back to where they come from to recharge and reconnect. Many younger men are single and not eager to spend part of their paycheck on airfare or gas, so they stay put, but not happily. Step into any bar in the patch (there are only a few, so it’s easy to hit them all) and you’ll hear more whining than a Hank Williams tribute concert. Men from all over, so lonesome they could cry.

6. Accidents will happen. Locals will tell you that back before the oil boom, when North Dakota was the least-visited state in the country, they’d hear of one, maybe two, fatal road accidents a year. This even though western North Dakota is under snow and ice for six or seven months at a time. Now, accidents happen every day. Bad ones, involving bodily injury or worse, happen every week. Not just vehicular mishaps, but on-the-oil-job catastrophes.

5. The locals will hate you. The hardy ranchers and farmers who’ve populated the prairie lands for generations loved their peace and quiet. That was the payoff for enduring subzero winters and complete indifference from the rest of the world. But that’s over. The amber waves of grain and deep blue skies of summer are history. Smog, diesel fumes, dust and open pits of natural gas have turned the sky dusky. Land not being ravaged by oil drilling is being torn up to build, baby, build. Hastily erected hotels, corrugated steel worker housing (man camps) and new rental buildings and roads have sullied the pristine landscape. Not to mention everything else on this list that is no fun at all. The locals gotta blame somebody. Might as well be you.

4. A lack of housing. A zillion new hotels, motels, trailer parks and man camps and still housing in the oil patch remains in short, expensive supply. If you haven’t secured a place to sleep before you arrive, oopsie. Going rate for a second-rate hotel is upward of $250 a night. The Williston Walmart parking lot, which became famous in the beginning of the boom for letting oil workers stay in their cars and campers until they could find their footing, is strictly enforcing a 24-hour limit for all campers. It cracked down amid an avalanche of complaints that the growing encampment in the lot had become dirty and dangerous, complete with drunken brawls and assaults. Still, hidden illegal camps have sprouted in parking lots all over Williston. Bring a pillow and blankets.

3. Lots of crime. Crime is a big, big problem in the Bakken. Crime was once unheard of in these parts. But now, shootings, rapes (of men and women), drug trafficking, and organized prostitution have overwhelmed police departments. A new study by the North Dakota State University finds alcohol-related violence is forcing police departments to sacrifice proactive community policing as they scurry from one emergency to the next. Meanwhile, people are arming themselves. In 2012, the state issued more than twice the number of concealed weapons licenses than in 2011 and is on pace to break last year’s record. As if we didn’t have enough reasons to call the oil patch the Wild, Wild West again and again.

2. You might not get that dream six-figure job after all. The coveted jobs in the oil patch require expertise and experience. Oil shale drilling—fracking—is complicated and fraught with pitfalls and perils. Companies want workers who know what they’re doing. The second most sought-after jobs—commercial vehicle driving and construction jobs, which are back-breaking and involve rotating, 12-hour shifts—still require background checks and proof of ability (a license for the former and references for the latter). Many a woeful story heard in the local watering holes revolves around a newcomer waiting weeks and weeks for word that he has passed muster. So bring a pillow and blankets…and a good book.

1. You could be endangering your life and health in the oil patch. Setting aside the many environmental concerns about fracking, there are also known carcinogens in fracking materials. Only a study done well after the fact will be able to tell us how many workers and oil patch residents will be severely affected by daily exposure. But a study done by the University of South Dakota has found that just grappling with the effects of a boom—the stresses and changes—could quite literally make a person sick to death. Oil patch workers will tell you: “Nobody knows for sure if this stuff will kill us,” which may or may not be reassuring.


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17 Sep 16:41

Sasquatch sightings

by Nathan Yau


Sasquatch sightings

Josh Stevens, a PhD candidate at Penn State, mapped 92 years of sasquatch sightings, based on data from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. Before you furiously type that the map is just population density, Stevens addresses that.

Right away you can see that sightings are not evenly distributed. At first glance, it looks a lot like a map of population distribution. After all, you would expect sightings to be the most frequent in areas where there are a lot of people. But a bivariate view of the data shows a very different story. There are distinct regions where sightings are incredibly common, despite a very sparse population. On the other hand, in some of the most densely populated areas sasquatch sightings are exceedingly rare.

The bivariate view he mentions is the county map on the left. Bright purple is high sasquatch sightings and low population density, and light green is high population density and relatively low sassquatch sightings. So it's not all about population. More likely, it's the vegetation level of the terrain, because as we all know, sasquatches prefer dense bushes and trees with grainy overtones.

20 Sep 18:00

Acetaminophen availability around the world

by Nathan Yau

Acetaminophen around the world

Probublica has a detailed piece on the potential overuse of acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol. The photo above, which compares the maximum amount of acetaminophen allowed in a single package, caught my eye. I like the use of jars to provide a second dimension of comparison, versus the formless piles or incongruous containers that we usually see in these photo comparisons.

Of course the next step is to look at dosage restrictions overall for the full comparison. [via @sisiwei]

20 Sep 15:01

12 Impressive Dollar Bill Origami Creations [Photos]

by Alvaris Falcon

How can you make a dollar bill become more valuable than a dollar? Turn it into something else, using origami. And that’s what Won Park does, as a full-time profession (for real). Take a look at his origami koi fish below and you will know why he is dedicating a career to it.

dollar bill origami
(Image Source: Won Park)

Won Park does not just specialize in koi. Give him a dollar bill and he can create just about anything and boggle your mind at the same time. Let’s look at 12 examples that prove the true strength of his origami mastery. Unfold the post to reveal some paper-folding magic!

Recommended Reading: 70 Beautiful Examples of Origami Paper Art

Millennium Falcon. Got a few bucks to spare? You can get the Millenium Falcon, with just a few dollars and Won Park’s crazy skills!

millennium falcon

Koi Fish. This breathtaking origami koi fish once marked the highest achievement in Won Park’s career. He even found the spot on the bill that can be the koi’s eyes and head.

koi fish

Spider. What can you do with two dollar bills these days? With two dollar bills, Won Park can make a spider come to life.

two dollar spider

Butterfly. It’s amazing how he can fold a piece of paper and breathe life into it. Next thing you know this little butterfly is going to fly off your screen.


Ox. It’s… ‘Oxsome’! I want one on my desk!


Bulldog. Wired magazine sent Won Park a 10 pound note and asked him to make something. He did not disappoint, with this English bulldog.


Chinese Dragon. Two one-dollar bills are enough for Won Park to flesh out the details of a Chinese Dragon.

chinese dragon

Camera. Learn to fold this origami camera by getting its diagrams in this Yahoo! group! Patience and skilful manipulation of paper not included.


Phone. An origami phone with number buttons. Now I’ve seen everything.


Battle Tank. If you are wondering, the cannon and tracks are 2 separate pieces of bank note. That’s why it’s named Two Dollar Battle Tank.

battle tank

F1 Racecar. Normally, I’d joke about how easily the money in my wallet disappears after pay day, but rarely are they in the form of an F1 racecar.

f1 racecar

U.S. Capitol Building. How American can a sculpture get? And without any snipping, glue or tape involved. Amazing!

us capitol building

Impressed with Won Park’s origami? For more, head over to his deviantArt portfolio for more magical origami, or join this Yahoo! group to get your hands dirty folding your own paper creations!

Also don’t hesitate to share your favorite works with us!


14 Sep 21:19

7 Totally Crazy Statements by Right-Wing Lunatics From This Week

by Janet Allon, AlterNet

Ya can't even make this stuff up.

What a week: Ted Cruz wishes America had 100 more senators like Jesse Helms.

1. Ted Cruz: We need 100 more like Jesse Helms in the Senate.

Ted Cruz gave a huge shout-out to North Carolina’s late unrepentant racist senator, Jesse Helms. Granted, it was at the Heritage Foundation’s annual Helms lecture, so he wasn’t the only person in the room who worshipped Helms. But he did give a somewhat strange reason for being so fond of the bigot, and wishing there were “100 more” like him in the U.S. Senate.

Apparently the actor John Wayne had praised Helms for being willing to say “Crazy things,” Cruz told the audience. “The willingness to say all those crazy things is a rare, rare characteristic in this town, and you know what? It’s every bit as true now as it was then.”

For those who don’t remember, here are some of the fun-filled, wacky things Helms said and did:

  • He sang the confederate anthem “Dixie” in an elevator with Carol Moseley-Braun, the African-American senator from Illinois, and told Sen. Orrin Hatch in front of her that he was trying to make her cry.
  • He opposed integration, or “mixing of the races,” and called the University of North Carolina the “University of Negroes and Communists” because it was integrated.
  • He led a one-man, 16-day filibuster opposing the designation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a holiday, and threatened to lead one to save South African apartheid.
  • More comically, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he seemed unable to absorb the fact that the North Korean president’s name was Kim Jong Il, not Kim Jong 2.
  • Unlike other like-minded Southern politicians Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, Helms never disavowed his racist, segregationist views even on his deathbed in 2008.

One hundred more.

2. Glenn Beck: War is a progressive idea so I am now against it.

Does the radio host and one of the far-right’s most hilarious nut-jobs have any core principles? Does he attach real meaning to actual words? Or does he just make it all up as he goes along? Rhetorical questions, yes, but he may have outdone himself this week when he injected some real seriousness into the deadly serious Syria debate. He just up and changed the meaning of the terms. Singlehandedly. He can do that, you know. He’s Glenn Beck.

So war is now a progressive idea, Beck says, because, of course, a Democratic president has proposed it. Apparently, the rest of the progressive community was not informed, since most of them, and most Americans oppose military intervention in Syria, but never mind. In other news, up is down and black is white. And good conservatives, like Beck are anti-war. It’s a sad day for Beck because he used to thoroughly enjoy how the U.S. would topple dictators and “spread democracy” by doing so, but that was before he realized that this is actually a form of the dreaded progressive thinking.

Sometimes, such mental gymnastics can lead to close encounters with shades of truth, as when the former Fox News personality explained he was against a Syrian invasion because it would be about oil, and that Obama is similar to Dick Cheney in this way.

3. Alex Jones: Globalist cyborgs are coming.

If there is anyone who can outweigh Beck on the looniness scale, that distinction would have to go to conspiracy theorist, fringe conservative radio host Alex Jones. His theory? The effort to avoid a U.S. attack on Syria with diplomacy was actually a United Nations plot for the extinction of the human race, which would be replaced by “globalists” like President Barack Obama who would become cyborgs by using “life-extension technologies.”

Hard to argue with that logic, seeing as it is neither logical, nor based in any sort of shared reality. It may be worth noting that Beck seems much more worried about a zombie invasion than one led by cyborgs.

Jones went on to explain that the proposal to bring Syria’s chemical weapons under the control of the international community was a way for the U.N. to “come into any country they want, that has any type of weapons systems—and call them WMDs, and then dismantle that country’s infrastructure.”

That’s because the U.N. is at the very head of the globalist conspiracy, he explains. The globalists are “the biggest, most organized, eugenics-based, scientific dictatorship, trans-humanists at the top that plan the extinction of almost everybody and a new species to rise up or humans merged with machines.”

“That’s their religion, and no one’s discussing that,” Jones added. “Everyone is going to be deindustrialized, everyone is going to be put back into the Stone Age and controlled. And Obama and the globalists and the robber barons, they’re going to fly around in their jetcopters and their Air Forces Ones and their red carpets, like gods above us. And they’re going to get the life-extension technologies.”

Any questions?

4. Stuart Varney and Monica Crowley: EPA is trying to suffocate children.

Fox News’ Monica Crowley and Stuart Varney were appalled, appalled I tell you, when they revealed the shocking news this week that the EPA, the evil government’s evil Environmental Protection Agency, is providing free lesson plans for “teachers looking to educate their students on climate change.”

“The EPA — the EPA,” said Varney. And they're aiming this “propaganda” directly at innocent middle-school children. Of course, these plans have been openly available online for months, but Crowley suspects there is a hidden agenda to this oh-so-sneaky plan. “Are they going to tell these kids to not exhale? Because every time you exhale, that’s carbon dioxide.”

And, carbon dioxide causes global warming, right? So learn to hold your breath, kids.

Well, no, not exactly. The good news is that very soon, kids will know a good deal more than Fox News does about climate change, although that is not saying much. The EPA materials do explain what carbon is and how it plays an important role in sustaining life on the planet. And how the burning of fossil fuels has led to a surplus of life-supporting gases like carbon dioxide, which has made the planet hotter. And other science-type things that no one at Fox News will ever be caught dead, reading or learning, in their indefatigable drive toward making America, hands-down, the dumbest hot country on the planet.

5. Minnesota archbishop: Satan is behind gay marriage.

Satan has been a very busy guy lately. No, that wasn’t him sawing heads off Syrian rebels in the public square or visiting plagues upon the beleaguered New Jersey shore. He had nothing to do with that creep who brands women’s vaginas to show he owns them. Mostly, he’s been concerning himself with spreading love, same-sex love. Love so strong it wants to get married. Apparently, Satan has not fully read his job description.

Lately, Lucifer has been spending time in Minnesota, where the archbishop of Minneapolis and St. Paul has announced that the devil is responsible for the legalization of marriage equality.

“Sodomy, abortion, contraception, pornography, the redefinition of marriage, and the denial of objective truth are just some of the forces threatening the stability of our civilisation,” Rev. John Nienstedt said in a recent speech to the Napa Institute Conference, and posted to the conference’s website Tuesday. “The source of these machinations is none other than the Father of Lies. Satan knows all too well the value that the family contributes to the fabric of a good solid society, as well as the future of God’s work on earth.”

Despite Nienstedt’s efforts, and because of Satan’s, Minnesota has been issuing same-sex marriage licenses since August.

Mwah hah ha ha ha. Isn’t that how the devil laughs?

6. Texas GOP gov. candidate tweets that Wendy Davis is “too stupid to be governor.”

From the totally ridiculous to the merely very offensive, the top political advisor to Texas Attorney General/would-be successor to Rick Perry, Greg Abbott has attacked Democratic opponent Wendy Davis’ intelligence in a tweet. This follows on the heels of Abbott’s tweeting thanks to a supporter for a sexist attack on Davis, which referred to her as “Retard Barbie” so, clearly a very nuanced, high-minded Republican campaign is evolving in the Lone Star state.

Dave Carney is the enlightened strategist in question, and he took the opportunity not just to call Davis stupid, but also to cheer the results of Tuesday’s Colorado recall elections. His tweet linked to an article in a conservative Texas blog slamming Davis' gun views, calling her “Abortion Barbie,” and dismissing her as “even dumber than her fake blonde hair would imply,” Think Progress reported.

7. Internet advice from a nobody who wants to ruin perfect strangers’ lives: Dads, don’t educate your daughters!

A Louisiana-based certified public accountant cares deeply about the purity of America’s young women, and he has figured out a solution to it. Keep them ignorant. In his spare time, the guy generously makes Internet videos filled with unwanted, unasked for and basically awful advice on how to raise your daughters.

First step in saving the family: Don’t send your daughters to college. Why? Because she is very likely to have sex there. “This is no small matter we’re dealing with here,” he implores fathers. “Is a degree worth the loss of your daughter’s purity, dignity, and soul?”

If they really want to learn, girls can go to the library or use the Internet, since neither of those can lead to genital contact, he allows.

But why bother getting educated, anyway? Jobs for women are not important, this wise sage continues: “My personal impression is that the day-to-day grind of a job is below the dignity of women. In a way, it is like being a hired hand, as a result of the fall and the penalty for original sin.”


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30 Aug 22:19

Why Syria Intervention Plan Is Being Pushed by Oil Interests, Not Concern About Chemical Weapons

by Nafeez Ahmed, The Guardian

It does beg the question. So will the question be answered before - or after - a military response?

Massacres of civilians are being exploited for narrow geopolitical competition to control Mideast oil, gas pipelines

On 21 August, hundreds - perhaps over a thousand - people were killed in a chemical weapon attack in Ghouta, Damascus, prompting the US, UK, Israel and France to raise the spectre of military strikes against Bashir al Assad's forces.

The latest episode is merely one more horrific event in a conflict that has increasingly taken on genocidal characteristics. The case for action at first glance is indisputable. The UN now confirms a death toll over 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom have been killed by Assad's troops. An estimated 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. International observers have overwhelmingly confirmed Assad's complicity in the preponderance of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people. The illegitimacy of his regime, and the legitimacy of the uprising, is clear.

Experts are unanimous that the shocking footage of civilians, including children, suffering the effects of some sort of chemical attack, is real - but remain divided on whether it involved military-grade chemical weapons associated with Assad's arsenal, or were a more amateur concoction potentially linked to the rebels.

Whatever the case, few recall that US agitation against Syria began long before recent atrocities, in the context of wider operations targeting Iranian influence across the Middle East.

In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorised CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. A range of US government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had "cooperated with Saudi Arabia's government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations" intended to weaken the Shi'ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. "The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria," wrote Hersh, "a byproduct" of which is "the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups" hostile to the United States and "sympathetic to al-Qaeda." He noted that "the Saudi government, with Washington's approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria," with a view to pressure him to be "more conciliatory and open to negotiations" with Israel. One faction receiving covert US "political and financial support" through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: "I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business", he told French television:

"I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria."

The 2011 uprisings, it would seem - triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes - came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting "collapse" of Assad's regime "from within."

So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to "attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years", starting with Iraq and moving on to "Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran." In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of theregion's vast oil and gas resources.

Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War(pdf). The report noted that "the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource." As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has "motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states":

"The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized... For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources... The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war."

In this context, the report identified several potential trajectories for regional policy focused on protecting access to Gulf oil supplies, among which the following are most salient:

"Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces... the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace... US leaders could also choose to capitalize on the 'Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict' trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world.... possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran."

Exploring different scenarios for this trajectory, the report speculated that the US may concentrate "on shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf." Noting that this could actually empower al-Qaeda jihadists, the report concluded that doing so might work in western interests by bogging down jihadi activity with internal sectarian rivalry rather than targeting the US:

"One of the oddities of this long war trajectory is that it may actually reduce the al-Qaeda threat to US interests in the short term. The upsurge in Shia identity and confidence seen here would certainly cause serious concern in the Salafi-jihadist community in the Muslim world, including the senior leadership of al-Qaeda. As a result, it is very likely that al-Qaeda might focus its efforts on targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations."

The RAND document contextualised this disturbing strategy with surprisingly prescient recognition of the increasing vulnerability of the US's key allies and enemies - Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Syria, Iran - to a range of converging crises: rapidly rising populations, a 'youth bulge', internal economic inequalities, political frustrations, sectarian tensions, and environmentally-linked water shortages, all of which could destabilise these countries from within or exacerbate inter-state conflicts.

The report noted especially that Syria is among several "downstream countries that are becoming increasingly water scarce as their populations grow", increasing a risk of conflict. Thus, although the RAND document fell far short of recognising the prospect of an 'Arab Spring', it illustrates that three years before the 2011 uprisings, US defence officials were alive to the region's growing instabilities, and concerned by the potential consequences for stability of Gulf oil.

These strategic concerns, motivated by fear of expanding Iranian influence, impacted Syria primarily in relation to pipeline geopolitics. In 2009 - the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria - Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter's North field, contiguous with Iran's South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets - albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad's rationale was "to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe's top supplier of natural gas."

Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July 2012 - just as Syria's civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo - and earlier this year Iraq signed aframework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines

The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a "direct slap in the face" to Qatar's plans. No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladmir Putin that "whatever regime comes after" Assad, it will be "completely" in Saudi Arabia's hands and will "not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports", according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action.

It would seem that contradictory self-serving Saudi and Qatari oil interests are pulling the strings of an equally self-serving oil-focused US policy in Syria, if not the wider region. It is this - the problem of establishing a pliable opposition which the US and its oil allies feel confident will play ball, pipeline-style, in a post-Assad Syria - that will determine the nature of any prospective intervention: not concern for Syrian life.

What is beyond doubt is that Assad is a war criminal whose government deserves to be overthrown. The question is by whom, and for what interests?


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30 Aug 22:24

Dave Chappelle Didn't Melt Down

I’m writing this to be fair: it needs to be written, it needs to be read. It needs to be understood. Dave Chappelle walked off stage tonight and Black people understand why.
24 Jul 17:21

Physics of love

by Nathan Yau

Link to parts 1 - 6 all-in-one

Louise Ma, along with Chris Parker and Lola Kalman, started a six-part short video series on what love looks like. Above is the first one. This is part of an ongoing project that Ma started last year, and it's still going strong.

14 Jul 11:21

Why you should set soft goals for your classroom this year

by (Victoria A Davis, Cool Cat Teacher)

When you set your goals for the fall, don't forget your soft goals.

There are hard and fast things you must do in the classroom. There are tasks, standards, and objectives that must be met. However, it is easy to be so busy as a human doing and forget that you're teaching human beings.

This is why I like the Classroom Habitudes so much. (Read the book by Angela Maiers) It gives us a "to be" list before you hit the to do list. Students need to know what we want them to BE as we reach to do the things that they need to do. They need to see the purpose behind the plan.

Make a list of the things you want your students "to be"

Even more so, we, as teachers, need to be intentional about what we want to help our students be. Thankful. Passionate. Curious. Ethical. Perseverant. Creative... and the list goes on.

Intentionally think about your soft goals because these give you a canvas upon which you will paint your class activities. They should influence the posters you select, the projects you design, and the lessons you plan. You can teach math in a way that harnesses the power of passion. You can weave lessons in that will allow students to show thankfulness to others. You can have projects that foster curiosity.

Purposefully determine what these "to be's" are. Know them. Use the language. Discuss them.

These are things you can do, but important things never do themselves. They start with you.

I think it is best to look at these soft goals in the summer. Take some time and write down the important things you want to help students be.

Activity to get you started

Try this activity.

1. At the top of a page write... "this year, I want my students to be more..." then, answer the question. This will help you get started on your soft goals.

2. Brainstorm the books, music, projects, movies, and creative ways you can redesign the lessons you have to incorporate these to be's. Write these things next to each of the items you wrote in step 1.

TIP: State your "to be" in the positive

When you pick them be careful to state your "to be" in the positive. Instead of "don't bully" select "speak up when injustice happens." We inadvertently remove the negative - so when you say "don't bully" - you're really hearing "bully." (This is why most of us teachers are taught to say "be quiet" instead of "don't talk." "Don't talk" will typically have the opposite influence of what we desire.)

Do this now.

School is right around the corner. Educators, we have a huge responsibility to educate a generation. If we forget the human beings in our classrooms we will one day have those humans be so busy doing that they might just forget about being kind, respectful, helpful, and understanding towards our generation. Things have a way of going around. You will reap the results of the soft goals you set now as will society, so choose well.

Schools can set soft goals for their year.

You can also be assured, that schools who are intentional about the "to be's" they select will reap the benefits of emphasizing those to be's. Principals can do the activity above. This is part of having vision and when it starts with the principal and superintendent - it becomes unstoppable. You are casting vision for what you want to be. Just prepare to work hard to be that yourself. If you say you want everyone to be something and you glaringly don't try to be that yourself. (For example, if you emphasize work ethic but find a way to leave early every day, you'll cause a morale problem.)

Please share

What are the "to be's" you want to emphasize this year? I am using Angela's Classroom Habitudes book for mine and adding "Integrity" as one of the to-be's.

What are yours? Please feel free to share them or the links in the comments. Do you create "soft goals?" Why or why not?


18 Jul 18:36

What works for high-need students

by Joanne

Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond talked about educational equity and what works for disadvantaged students with as part of Education Sector’s Redefining Equity Up series.

18 Jul 23:36

Bloom’s Taxonomy Paint Palette

by admin

An article I read this week had me thinking about Bloom’s Taxonomy and what learning really is.  It led to me coming up with a new graphic for Bloom’s Taxonomy, this one a Paint Palette.  I like thinking about Bloom’s in the form of an artist paint palette because each color has equal importance.  For an artist, the greatest beauty comes in the mixing of colors.  Using a multitude of shades and blends on a canvas.  I think the same can be said of learning.  Learning that tells you that you can only use one color is rather uninspired.  But learning that encourages you to use all of the colors can create something really meaningful and beautiful.

At Anastasis, we encourage our students to look at learning through a variety of lenses and outcomes.  Bloom’s Taxonomy helps us do that by showing students that there are different ways to approach learning.  Now our biggest problem is that students will find that they really enjoy one way of showing what they know (iMovie) and proceed to use it for EVERYTHING.  I created the Bloom’s Taxonomy Paint Palette with verbs that help describe the different ways of learning.  I created a painting using the same colors from the palette to give students ideas for different outcomes and evidences of learning.  I’m in the midst of working on an app and website catalog organized by the same colors so that students can be introduced to the many options they have for the different types of learning and producing.  I’ll share that when it is finished!  For now, I’ve included screen shots of the Bloom’s Taxonomy Paint Palette, the Bloom’s Taxonomy Painting and a sample page from the catalog.

Bloom's Taxonomy Paint Palette- Kelly Tenkely iLearn Technology



Bloom's Taxonomy Painting- Kelly Tenkely iLearn Technology



Bloom's Taxonomy apps- Kelly Tenkely iLearn Technology

19 Jul 18:33

by Joanne
25 Jul 21:12

Common Core Could Be Disrupted As States Drop Out Of PARCC

In addition to Georgia, a handful of other states — Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Alabama — have dropped out of or scaled back their participation in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness in College and Career (PARCC) consortium. Florida's education commissioner is mulling a similar decision. We discuss what it could mean for the success of the standards.

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16 Jul 19:23

Shopping for online courses and other educational content

by Joyce Valenza

For the growing numbers of us searching for online courses, as well as online educational resources, the portals are quickly growing in both number and size.

Finding the best or most relevant content may be a challenge.  Sites like Kayak take care of of the would-be traveler with a cross-portal search, but what’s the would-be online learner to do?

redhoop 300x105 Shopping for online courses and other educational content

Redhoop is one answer.  The educational search reaches across 4947 courses (1411 of them, free courses) offered by a growing list of portals, including:

Users may search Redhoop by keyword or category and filter their results by price, category or school.  They may also sign up for new course alerts.

Here’s my search for art history courses:

arthistory 294x300 Shopping for online courses and other educational content

And then there’s all the open educational content (not necessarily courses) that I wish was easier for teachers to discover. At the end of the school year I visited the various departments to share some of the resources and portals I was most excited about.  Because I also wanted to demonstrate a few curation tools, I shared my master list visually in an EdCanvas. I am still working on organizing this to make more sense and I am working on breaking it down to create a few more subject- and media-specific lists. (Please let me know what’s missing!)  As for searching across the portals, I created a Google Custom Search, located in the last tile.  (Unfortunately, I am unable to embed the search in this blog.)

printfriendly Shopping for online courses and other educational contentemail Shopping for online courses and other educational contenttwitter Shopping for online courses and other educational contentfacebook Shopping for online courses and other educational contentgoogle plus Shopping for online courses and other educational contenttumblr Shopping for online courses and other educational contentreddit Shopping for online courses and other educational contentshare save 171 16 Shopping for online courses and other educational content

10 Jul 04:00


This is roughly equivalent to 'number of times I've picked up a seashell at the ocean' / 'number of times I've picked up a seashell', which in my case is pretty close to 1, and gets much closer if we're considering only times I didn't put it to my ear.
17 Jul 17:06

Boundaries, people.

by Jessica Hagy

Directly positive correlation


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18 Jul 18:37

Minding what store?

by Jessica Hagy

Wild kids FTW

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22 Jul 07:08

I Used to be a Washing Machine

by Troy Turner

At the end of a clothes washing machine’s lifespan, we have no problem leaving the old thing out on the curb. What’s it good for anyway, right? Wrong! Did you know that inside your old washer is a chair…or 2… or 3??!!  Taking repurposed material to a whole new level, Tony Grigorian shares his “I Used to be a Washing Machine” project with us and shows YOU how to DIY your own chairs from washing machine scrap. Check out the vid to see how it’s done!

Designer: Tony Grigorian

Yanko Design
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(I Used to be a Washing Machine was originally posted on Yanko Design)

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23 Jul 19:55

Media Warning Signs For The Grand Old White Republican Tea Party

by Mark

The Nielsen ratings for July are coming out soon and there are developing trends in television viewing that portend problems for Republicans. Variety is reporting that…

“Univision is on pace to end the July sweeps in the numero uno spot, a milestone for the U.S. Hispanic network. Market leader expects to dominate July sweeps primetime among both Adults 18-49 and Adults 18-34 demos, in broadcast or cable.”

To be clear, this is not a ratings win among Hispanic networks or a particular genre of programming. It is the top spot for all television programming in the most important audience demographics. They beat ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX.

GOP Rebranding
Be Sure To “LIKE” News Corpse On Facebook

The political significance of this victory is that it affirms the growth of the Latino market, which has already been recognized as the fastest growing segment of the electorate. After the GOP’s dismal showing among Latinos in last November’s election (Romney drew only 27%), the party made a very public case for examining what went wrong, producing a thick document they called an “autopsy.” They concluded that the party “must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

Fast forward to July 2013. The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill with the votes of every Democrat, but only 14 Republicans. And now the bill sits dormant in the House where the Republican leadership refuses to bring it up for a vote. Many Republicans are openly hostile to immigration reform and have vowed to obstruct any attempt to advance it. Additionally, Republicans back voter suppression schemes that negatively impact Hispanic citizens. They also oppose the Dream Act that allows certain undocumented residents to remain in the country if they were brought here as children, have no criminal record, and are enrolled in either school or the military.

So despite recognition that the Republican Party’s viability in the future depends on broadening their base and appealing to Hispanics, they are doing virtually everything they can think of to alienate and insult the Latino community.

Another segment of the electorate that the GOP has had problems with are young voters. President Obama got a whopping 67% of the youth vote last November. Some of the issues that are important to this demographic include marriage equality, gun safety, tax fairness, health care, student loan interest rates, ballot access, and reproductive rights. These are all issues that the GOP polls poorly on among young constituents. Their autopsy noted that many respondents viewed the GOP as the party of “stuffy old men,” and acknowledged that “If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out.”

Back to the present, we see that Republicans have done virtually nothing to avert the catastrophes they themselves predicted. And another signal in the media illustrates just how far afield they are in addressing the concerns of young citizens. The New York Times reports that Fox News, the PR arm of the GOP, is increasingly an island of far-right, senior citizens:

“[F]or six of the last eight years, Fox News has had a median age of 65-plus and the number of viewers in the 25-54 year old group has been falling consistently, down five years in a row in prime time.”

This represents the highest median age of any television network. Hence all the ads for Cialis, reverse mortgages, and the Scooter Store. Fox also has the widest disparity between viewers 18-34 and those 25-54. MSNBC, which has been slumping lately, still manages to grab the top spot for for viewers 18-34 in primetime.

Republicans, and their preferred media, are bleeding supporters in key groups that they have already conceded are essential for future victories. Hispanics, youth, African-Americans, and women, are all growing constituencies. But they are being left behind by an increasingly extremist and narrow Republican Party that is only responsive to older, white, Tea Partiers.

While this trend surely portends trouble for the GOP, it is an opportunity for Democrats to show some real leadership and embrace the diversity for which the party is known. Democrats have an uphill battle in 2014 due to gerrymandered redistricting by the GOP. They have to outperform Republicans by 7% just to stay competitive. Consequently, now would be the time to start shoring up support for the faster growing and more populous voter groups that show the most promise for electoral gains. Let the GOP have have the white, senior wingnuts. After all, it’s all they have left.

22 Jul 23:04

Image of the Day: A View of Spaceship Earth from Saturn





In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. It is only one footprint in a mosaic of 33 footprints covering the entire Saturn ring system (including Saturn itself). This is only the third time ever that Earth has been imaged from the outer solar system. The acquisition of this image, along with the accompanying composite narrow- and wide-angle image of Earth and the moon and the full mosaic from which both are taken, marked the first time that inhabitants of Earth knew in advance that their planet was being imaged. That opportunity allowed people around the world to join together in social events to celebrate the occasion.

At each footprint, images were taken in different spectral filters for a total of 323 images: some were taken for scientific purposes and some to produce a natural color mosaic. This is the only wide-angle footprint that has the Earth-moon system in it.

The dark side of Saturn, its bright limb, the main rings, the F ring, and the G and E rings are clearly seen; the limb of Saturn and the F ring are overexposed. The "breaks" in the brightness of Saturn's limb are due to the shadows of the rings on the globe of Saturn, preventing sunlight from shining through the atmosphere in those regions. The E and G rings have been brightened for better visibility.

Earth, which is 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away in this image, appears as a blue dot at center right; the moon can be seen as a fainter protrusion off its right side. An arrow indicates their location in the annotated version. (The two are clearly seen as separate objects in the accompanying narrow angle frame: PIA14949.) The other bright dots nearby are stars.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA/Cassini

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25 Jul 08:36

"Our Star-Trek Future" --NASA Scientists Engineering a Warp-Drive Solution for Faster-Than-Light Space Travel (Today's Most Popular)






Move over Star Trek! According to state-of-the art theory, a warp drive could cut the travel time between stars from tens of thousands of years to weeks or months. Harold G. White, a physicist and advanced propulsion engineer at NASA and other NASA engineers are trying to determine whether faster-than-light travel — warp drive — might someday be possible. The team has attempting to slightly warp the trajectory of a photon, changing the distance it travels in a certain area, and then observing the change with a device called an interferometer.

“Space has been expanding since the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago,” said Dr. White, 43, who runs the research project told the New York Times. “And we know that when you look at some of the cosmology models, there were early periods of the universe where there was explosive inflation, where two points would’ve went receding away from each other at very rapid speeds. Nature can do it,” he added. “So the question is, can we do it?”

In 1994, a Mexican physicist, Miguel Alcubierre, theorized that faster-than-light speeds were possible in a way that did not contradict Einstein by harnessing the expansion and contraction of space itself. Under Dr. Alcubierre’s hypothesis, a ship still couldn’t exceed light speed in a local region of space. But a theoretical propulsion system he sketched out manipulated space-time by generating a so-called “warp bubble” that would expand space on one side of a spacecraft and contract it on another.


          Alcubierre-warp-drive-overview (1)


An Alcubierre Warp Drive stretches spacetime in a wave causing the fabric of space ahead of a spacecraft to contract and the space behind it to expand. The ship can ride the wave to accelerate to high speeds and time travel. The Alcubierre drive, also known as the Alcubierre metric or Warp Drive, is a mathematical model of a spacetime exhibiting features reminiscent of the fictional "warp drive" from Star Trek, which can travel "faster than light/"

Alcubierre-warp-drive-manifold“In this way, the spaceship will be pushed away from the Earth and pulled towards a distant star by space-time itself,” Dr. Alcubierre wrote. Dr. White, the NYT reports, has likened it to stepping onto a moving walkway at an airport.

Alcubierre’s theory, however, depended on large amounts of a little understood or observed type of “exotic matter” that violates typical physical laws.

In general relativity, one often first specifies a plausible distribution of matter and energy, and then finds the geometry of the spacetime associated with it; but it is also possible to run the Einstein field equations in the other direction, first specifying a metric and then finding the energy-momentum tensor associated with it, and this is what Alcubierre did in building his metric. This practice means that the solution can violate various energy conditions and require exotic matter. The need for exotic matter leads to questions about whether it is actually possible to find a way to distribute the matter in an initial spacetime which lacks a "warp bubble" in such a way that the bubble will be created at a later time.

Yet another problem according to Serguei Krasnikov is that it would be impossible to generate the bubble without being able to force the exotic matter to move at locally FTL speeds, which would require the existence of tachyons. Some methods have been suggested which would avoid the problem of tachyonic motion, but would probably generate a naked singularity at the front of the bubble.

Dr. White believes that advances he and others have made render warp speed less implausible. Among other things, he has redesigned the theoretical warp-traveling spacecraft — and in particular a ring around it that is key to its propulsion system — in a way that he believes will greatly reduce the energy requirements. But ”We’re not bolting this to a spacecraft,” he said of the technology.

Richard Obousy, a physicist who is president of Icarus Interstellar, a nonprofit group composed of volunteers collaborating on starship design, said “it is not airy-fairy, pie in the sky. We tend to overestimate what we can do on short time scales, but I think we massively underestimate what we can do on longer time scales.”

Dr. White likened his experiments to the early stages of the WW11 Manhattan Project, which were aimed at creating a very small nuclear reaction merely as proof that it could be done.

“Routine travel among the stars is impossible without new discoveries regarding the fabric of space and time, or capability to manipulate it for our needs,” says Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, said “By my read, the idea of a functioning warp drive remains far-fetched, but the real take-away is that people are thinking about it — reminding us all that the urge to explore continues to run deep in our species.”


            Alcubierre-warp-drive (1)


Still, one of the most dubious is Dr. Alcubierre himself. He listed a number of concerns, starting with the vast amounts of exotic matter that would be needed. “The warp drive on this ground alone is impossible,” he said. “At speeds larger than the speed of light, the front of the warp bubble cannot be reached by any signal from within the ship,” he said. “This does not just mean we can’t turn it off; it is much worse. It means we can’t even turn it on in the first place.”

The Daily Galaxy via New York Times and Dr. David Lewis Anderson/Anderson Institute

Image credit: With thanks to


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26 Jul 08:40

What a turn-off: why your phone must be powered down on flights

It's a fact of life for anyone boarding a plane: all electronic devices need to be turned off during take-off and landing.
06 Jul 18:41

Marion Bartoli faces barrage of misogynist abuse after Wimbledon win

by Philippa Willitts


[Content note: misogynist and abusive language]

Marion Bartoli won the Wimbledon women's singles trophy today, and the French woman's performance has been highly praised by commentators and fans. However, to many viewers her skill and talent was frankly unimportant due to her perceived lack of attractiveness.

Bartoli, despite an impressive performance, was judged by one man on Twitter to be a "fat slob", and another as an "ugly bitch". Others saw fit to describe her as "too ugly to be raped" and the rageful hatred went on and on and on.

Those who thought she was not pleasing enough to look at to deserve to win are symptomatic of the wider problem of women always being expected to not just look good, but to look good in a way that men approve of. And, of course, when different men have different tastes and preferences we get to a point where we can never win, even if we do bother to try. Bartoli's performance should be enough, and I daresay the winner of the men's single won't be subject to a barrage of abuse about his appearance.

Everyday Sexism took screenshots of just a sample of the abusive tweets: to get a closer look, click on the image below.

Just a tiny selection of the #Bartoli comments #EverydaySexism

— EverydaySexism (@EverydaySexism) July 6, 2013

[The image is a photograph of Marion Bartoli playing tennis in 2011. It was taken by Carine06 and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

04 Jul 10:45

Holy Smoke!

by Radhika Seth

C-Thru is a helmet that is designed to help firefighter walk through dense smoke during smoke diving search and rescue missions. Time constrains of six minutes per mission, makes it imperative that the gear is optimal. C-thru gives them the edge thanks to the wire-frame vision of the interior geometry, surrounding the smoke diver. Using technological enhancements, the helmet provides a visual map of the interiors so that it becomes easy for the firefighter to locate the victims.

This is how it works:

  • C-Thru’s vision system integrates many technologies to aid firefighters, such as a head-mounted projection display, optical thermal camera, cloud computing, selective active noise cancellation and target acquisition.
  • The optical thermal camera captures the imaging of the surrounding area and sends the data to the smoke diver leader’s handheld device.
  • The data is calculated there and sent back to the helmet.
  • Newly generated 3D wire-frame data is projected by the head-mounted projectors through the retro-reflective front visor of the helmet.
  • This wire-frame outline of their surroundings helps firefighters find a path through the building and locate victims.

Designer: Omer Haciomeroglu

Yanko Design
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(Holy Smoke! was originally posted on Yanko Design)

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05 Jul 17:37

You are how you eat.

by Jessica Hagy

What's for lunch?

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04 Jul 12:14

All young people should do maths to age 18 yo prepare for today's workplace

All young people should continue to study maths at least until they are 18, even if they have already gained a good GCSE in the subject, the Sutton Trust said today, because the GCSE curriculum fails to give them the practical skills they need in the modern workplace.