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Posts Tagged ‘Columbia’

Why Girls Do Better At School

January 4th, 2013 01:39 admin View Comments

Education

An anonymous reader writes “A new study explains why girls do better at school, even when their scores on standardized tests remain low. Researchers from University of Georgia and Columbia University say the variation in school grades between boys and girls may be because girls have a better attitude toward learning than boys. One of the study’s lead authors, Christopher Cornwell, said, ‘The skill that matters the most in regards to how teachers graded their students is what we refer to as “approaches toward learning.” You can think of “approaches to learning” as a rough measure of what a child’s attitude toward school is: It includes six items that rate the child’s attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility and organization. I think that anybody who’s a parent of boys and girls can tell you that girls are more of all of that.’ Cornwell went on about what effect this has had now that education has become more pervasive: ‘We seem to have gotten to a point in the popular consciousness where people are recognizing the story in these data: Men are falling behind relative to women. Economists have looked at this from a number of different angles, but it’s in educational assessments that you make your mark for the labor market. Men’s rate of college going has slowed in recent years whereas women’s has not, but if you roll the story back far enough, to the 60s and 70s, women were going to college in much fewer numbers. It’s at a point now where you’ve got women earning upward of 60 percent of the bachelors’ degrees awarded every year.’”

Source: Why Girls Do Better At School

Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini, Nobel Winner, Dies At 103

December 31st, 2012 12:53 admin View Comments

Science

SternisheFan writes “Nobel winner Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini who discovered chemical tools that the body uses to direct cell growth and build nerves has died. She was 103. From the article: ‘Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini, a Nobel Prize-winning neurologist who discovered critical chemical tools that the body uses to direct cell growth and build nerve networks, opening the way for the study of how those processes can go wrong in diseases like dementia and cancer, died on Sunday at her home in Rome. She was 103. Her death was announced by Mayor Gianni Alemanno of Rome. “I don’t use these words easily, but her work revolutionized the study of neural development, from how we think about it to how we intervene,” said Dr. Gerald D. Fishbach, a neuroscientist and professor emeritus at Columbia. Scientists had virtually no idea how embryo cells built a latticework of intricate connections to other cells when Dr. Levi-Montalcini began studying chicken embryos in the bedroom of her house in Turin, Italy, during World War II. After years of obsessive study, much of it at Washington University in St. Louis with Dr. Viktor Hamburger, she found a protein that, when released by cells, attracted nerve growth from nearby developing cells.’”

Source: Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini, Nobel Winner, Dies At 103

Training Under Way For New Nuclear Plant Operators In S. Carolina

December 20th, 2012 12:48 admin View Comments

Power

“Start thinking about getting your tinfoil hat radiation hardened,” writes an anonymous reader, and excerpts thus from ABC News: “Southern Co. in Georgia and SCANA Corp. in South Carolina are the first to prepare new workers to run a recently approved reactor design never before built in the United States. Training like it will be repeated over the decades-long lifetime of those plants and at other new ones that may share the technology in years to come. Both power companies are building pairs of Westinghouse Electric Corp. AP1000 reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta and SCANA Corp.’s Summer Nuclear Station northwest of Columbia, S.C. While the nuclear industry had earlier proposed a larger building campaign, low natural gas prices coupled with uncertainty after last year’s disaster at a Japanese nuclear plant have scaled back those ambitions.” Getting a new nuclear plant approved is a long haul.

Source: Training Under Way For New Nuclear Plant Operators In S. Carolina

7.7 Magnitude Quake Hits British Columbia

October 28th, 2012 10:40 admin View Comments

Canada

schwit1 writes A magnitude 7.7 earthquake hit Canada’s Pacific coast province of British Columbia on Saturday night, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The quake was centered 123 miles south-southwest of Prince Rupert at a depth of 6.2 miles. ‘Earthquakes Canada said the quake in the Haida Gwaii region has been followed by numerous aftershocks as large as 4.6 and said a small tsunami has been recorded by a deep ocean pressure sensor. “It was felt across much of north-central B.C., including Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Quesnel, and Houston. There have been no reports of damage at this time,” the agency said in a statement on its website’”

Source: 7.7 Magnitude Quake Hits British Columbia

Interviews: Ask Free Software Legal Giant Eben Moglen

October 12th, 2012 10:19 admin View Comments

Privacy

At this summer’s HOPE, Eben Moglen was one of the most incisive and entertaining speakers. But since only a small fraction of the Earth’s population can fit into an aging hotel meeting room, you can watch his HOPE presentation via Archive.org on making the first law of robotics apply to cell phones. Besides being a professor at Columbia Law, former clerk in U.S. federal court as well as to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and a prolific writer, Moglen is founding director of the Software Freedom Law Center as well as the creator of the FreedomBox Foundation, and was for many years general counsel of the Free Software Foundation. Moglen has strong opinions, and a lot to say, about software licensing and freedom, copyright, patents, and (as you can see from the video linked above) about the privacy implications of always-on, always-on-us technology. Next week, I’ll be meeting up with Moglen for a short interview. If you have a question for Eben, please post it below; I can’t guarantee how many reader questions I’ll have a chance to ask him, but the more, the merrier.

Source: Interviews: Ask Free Software Legal Giant Eben Moglen

A Suicide Goes Viral On the Internet

September 29th, 2012 09:36 admin View Comments

The Internet

Hugh Pickens writes “Will Oremus reports that Fox News showed a grisly spectacle Friday afternoon during a live car chase when the suspect got out of his car, stumbled down a hillside, pulled a gun, and shot himself in the head. As the scene unfolded, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith grew increasingly apprehensive, then yelled ‘get off it, get off it!,’ belatedly urging the show’s producers to stop the live feed as it became obvious the man was going to do something rash. Fox News cut awkwardly to a commercial just after showing his death and after Fox aired the on-air suicide, Smith apologized to viewers, saying, ‘We really messed up.’ However BuzzFeed immediately posted the footage on YouTube, where it garnered more than 1,000 ‘likes’ in under an hour, sparking immediate blowback. ‘Who’s worse? @FoxNews for airing the suicide, or @BuzzFeed for re-posting the video just in case you missed it the first time?’ posted the Columbia Journalism Review. Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan called his site’s decision to post the video ‘ethical,’ because ‘it is news’ but research suggests that graphic depictions of suicide in the media can spur copycat suicides, especially among young people, and the World Health Organization’s guidelines warn against sensationalizing it. Virtually everyone who has studied it agrees that, at a minimum, suicides should be covered with a modicum of sensitivity and context (PDF). ‘Of course it’s news that Fox News accidentally aired the video. And you can make a good case that Fox was inviting this type of debacle with its habit of airing live car-chase feeds. But Fox couldn’t have known that it was about to air a suicide. BuzzFeed, by contrast, knew exactly what it was doing,’ writes Oremus. ‘That might be good business for BuzzFeed, but it’s hard to see the benefit for anyone else.’”

Source: A Suicide Goes Viral On the Internet

The Next Billion-Dollar Startup Will Address a Basic Human Need

May 22nd, 2012 05:00 admin View Comments

How do you build the next billion-dollar company? Easy. Think of a basic human need and put it online.

“I had this stupidly simple observation that maybe everyone else under 30 has already had,“ says Steve Blank. “And the big observation is that we talk about social networking and we talk about Facebook and Twitter but we never talk about the big picture. And the big picture is that these billion-dollar companies are doing nothing more than mediating basic human needs and putting them online.”

Blank is a true startup veteran. He’s the author of “Four Steps to the Epiphany” and “The Startup Owner’s Manual.” He’s been around Silicon Valley since it was mostly fruit orchards and has founded or worked with eight tech startups, four of which went public. He now teaches entrepreneurship at Berkeley, Stanford and Columbia. (He’s also been known to write for ReadWriteWeb, and we’ve quoted him before.) So even when he calls an idea simple, it’s worth paying attention to.

The Big Fundamental

If you’re creating a startup and you want it to go big, the first test to apply is: Does it address a fundamental human need? “Ask yourself, does this feel like something I would have done, or maybe better than I would have done, face-to-face or without a computer? Is it a basic human thing? That’s the filter. It can’t tell you how to write the next Twitter. But it is a very valuable test after you’ve come up with the idea and built the prototype.”

Think about it. Everything we used to do without computers, from chatting to sex to entertainment – things that people are hardwired to do – we used to do without computers. The very successful startups of past years have taken those human needs and made them easier to do with computers. And the hugely successful startups have gone a step further. They’ve identified human problems and turned them into needs.

“That’s how Apple approached the iPod and iPhone,” Blank says. “Jobs turned a problem – how to communicate and be entertained portably – into a need. Ask Nokia and RIM what the [heck] happened. They built the world’s best communication devices, but Jobs turned it into a need. That’s an experiment that every entrepreneur should run: What do you do yourself that is not yet done online? I think this idea of mediating basic human needs started even before the Internet. I think video games were the first example of this. And then porn.”

“But,” you say, “all of the good needs are taken.” Perhaps so. But there are ways to do Twitter or Facebook better. You just have to invent them. Or do what Jobs did – identify a problem and turn it into a need.

Is Accounts Payable a Basic Human Need?

Consider, for example, accounts payable. “If you’re a really great visionary, is there a way to turn accounts payable into a basic human need?” Blank asks. “Don’t laugh. Great visionaries have turned products and problems into basic human needs.”

It all starts with a stupidly simple question. “Can you predict that next billion-dollar idea with certainty? Maybe not,” Blank says. “But you can at least ask the question.”

Source: The Next Billion-Dollar Startup Will Address a Basic Human Need

The Pivot: The Moment Where Startups Change or Die

May 7th, 2012 05:00 admin View Comments

The software venture that switched to a dog-walking service. The dating site that morphed to data storage. The e-commerce play that transformed itself to make board games. We’ve seen them all.

Actually, we’re lying. We just made them up. But you get the picture: There are times in the life of a startup – especially in its early life – when change is necessary.

“A startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a scalable and repeatable business model,” explains Steve Blank. “It’s the search for product-market fit. You don’t have a company until you can figure these things out.”

Blank is the author of “Four Steps to the Epiphany” and “The Startup Owner’s Manual.” He’s been around Silicon Valley since 1978 and has founded or worked with eight tech startups, four of which went public. He currently teaches entrepreneurship at Berkeley, Stanford and Columbia. (He’s also been known to write for ReadWriteWeb.)

In the wake of Instragram’s billion-dollar pivot, Blank talks about why the concept is crucial to the success of so many startups.

You can’t possibly be right

“A pivot is a substantive change to one or more business model components,” he says. “You start with all these guesses about your company: Who are the customers? What is the product? What is the channel? What is the revenue model? Etc. But there’s no way all your guesses are going to be right. Figuring out all these things on day one is computationally impossible. So if your guesses [cannot all be] right, how do startups succeed?”

By evolving. Guess, test and adjust. And the vast majority of entrepreneurs who are not Steve Jobs adhere to it. “In a few cases, you might be right to stick to your guns if you see something that others don’t,” Blank says. “In that case, you’re a visionary. But in most cases, you’re just hallucinating.”

For example, you build a Web app, you love it and assume other people will love it. But don’t go from there to production. First, find out if other people actually do love it.

“Translate your passion into hard numbers,” Blank says. Send emails to 100 friends and see how many like your product. If nobody likes it, the next question is, do you need to pivot?

“The answer for me is that a pivot is required when you’ve exhausted all your possibilities for minor changes. ‘We tried it in pink, we tried it in yellow… holy shit! They might just hate the product.’”

Pivot, but don’t flail

But keep in mind that a pivot takes a lot of thought and planning. “One thing young entrepreneurs do is confuse ‘I changed my mind today’ with the pivot,” Blank says. “If you’re doing a pivot a week, that just means you’re flailing.”

So follow these steps to startup success. Launch your company, pivot toward the mass market, get acquired and go shopping for a tropical island…Not so fast.

“When to pivot is still an art and will always be an art,” Blank says. “We can tell you the process and how to run tests. But it’s like teaching you how to paint. We can tell you about perspective, how to mix colors, but we can’t teach you how to paint The Last Supper.”

Source: The Pivot: The Moment Where Startups Change or Die

A National Paywall That Works

February 14th, 2012 02:02 admin View Comments

piano-150.jpgWhile the paywall experiment of the New York Times has received a lot of play in various online forums, one place where a working paywall – meaning that it is both making money for publishers and attracting traffic – is less well known, in the eastern European country of Slovakia. There an independent tech vendor called Piano Media has been successfully experimenting with its own paywall-based system of online publishing. Launched in Bratislava last spring, it gives subscribers online access to content from all nine of Slovakia’s leading news sites. What’s more, it does so for a single flat fee (less than US $4 per month, which is going up in March by 25%) that is paid after visitors have had a chance to sample a certain number of articles for free. Users can pay for their subscriptions by SMS messages, typical of what many can pay for in Europe.

Slovakia is a country with less than six million total population, and the paywall story is covered this week in the Columbia Journalism Review by William Baker here. It is a lesson that others should study carefully. Indeed, the model has worked so well that they have expanded into neighboring Slovenia (and often the two countries are confused by outsiders) earlier this year.

Here are some lessons learned from the experience:

  • Be a small fish in an even smaller pond. “Slovakia’s biggest news publishers are much smaller than key players in other countries. They did not have billion dollar annual revenues to protect. This meant less institutional inertia keeping them from putting their trust in a small, untried company. It also meant that they did not have the time and spare cash necessary to create paywalls of their own,” writes Baker. Slovakia doesn’t have its own native language version of Google news, and there are few other news sources in the language either.
  • Spend a lot of time hand-holding skittish publishers. “Apple or Microsoft or Google are not getting into the business of spending two months meeting with the publisher and advising them how to do business. That’s what we’re doing,” says Tomas Bella, the CEO of Piano.
  • Limit the number of total monthly comments. Yes, you have to subscribe to comment, that isn’t all that special. But what is unusual is that your overall comments are capped each month. This has resulted in troll-free forums, and the publishers have thought that the level of Slovakia’s Internet discourse has risen since after the paywall.
  • Challenge some long-held beliefs of publishers. Bella has had a chance to see that many assumptions about paywalls, or online publishing, weren’t accurate. Many of his content providers have changed the way they post articles based on his actual observations, which has helped to boost traffic too.

Whether Piano’s national model can work in countries with larger publishing ventures remains to be seen. But in eastern Europe, it appears to be working.

Source: A National Paywall That Works

Robert Boisjoly Dies At 73, the Engineer Who Tried To Stop the Challenger Launch

February 8th, 2012 02:15 admin View Comments

NASA

demachina writes Robert Boisjoly has died at the age of 73. Boisjoly, Allan J. McDonald and three others argued through the night of 27 January, 1986 to stop the following day’s Challenger launch, but Joseph Kilminster, their boss at Morton Thiokol, overruled them. NASA managers didn’t listen to the engineers. Both Boisjoly and McDonald were blackballed for speaking out. NASA’s mismanagement ‘is not going to stop until somebody gets sent to hard rock hotel,’ Boisjoly said after the 2003 Columbia disaster. ‘I don’t care how many commissions you have. These guys have a way of numbing their brains. They have destroyed $5 billion worth of hardware and 14 lives because of their nonsense.’”

Source: Robert Boisjoly Dies At 73, the Engineer Who Tried To Stop the Challenger Launch

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