The Plastic Brain

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Largest single-celled organisms found 6 miles under the sea

Researchers have found new examples of the strange singled-celled creatures called xenophyophores more than six miles beneath the surface of the Pacific in the Mariana Trench. At more than four inches in length, they are perhaps the largest single-celled organism on Earth. These protists make a living by sifting through sediments and can accumulate high levels of toxic metals like uranium, lead, and mercury.

Go protists!

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Last night I thought I might check out the Orionid meteor shower. I was a bit late, and a bit early.

Late, because the best views occurred a couple of days ago, and early, because Orion had not yet risen. While waiting, I thought I’d turn my “toy” telescope (D=50mm, F=600mm) to a bright object near by. I had previously used it to check out the Moon, but didn’t think it would be any good with a planet or star. I assumed that the bright blurry dot would simply become a larger bright blurry dot. So I was astonished to not only see a focussed orb, but it had features and moons! I couldn’t believe it, but I was pretty sure it was Jupiter. I did a quick word-art sketch (pictured) and confirmed Jupiter’s position using SolarSystemScope. Finally, this morning I searched Jovian System on Google Image and found the final photo in the series, which looked a bit like my sketch.

So, all confirmed. I saw Jupiter and three of its moons. Amazing. Now, how do I get my hands on a bigger telescope?

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My final column for On Dit. It’s been a blast writing for the uni paper, and I will now have to find new ways to flatter my illustratin’ ego.

[Click through for a zoomable version]

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Treasure trove of old mathematics exams!

My old maths teacher has retired, and is passing on some of his old resources to me, including a set of old exam papers from as far back as 1965.

For the record, question 1 on the Mathematics II paper starts with:

“Find the derivative, with respect to x, of:

(a) x/e^x (b) arctan(1/x) (c) lnlnx”


I’m hoping to use them as a source of test questions, but fear they may be too hard for the current generation.

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“In her own research, Dweck has shown that these mindsets have important practical implications. Her most famous study, conducted in twelve different New York City schools along with Claudia Mueller, involved giving more than 400 fifth graders a relatively easy test consisting of nonverbal puzzles. After the children finished the test, the researchers told the students their score, and provided them with a single line of praise. Half of the kids were praised for their intelligence. “You must be smart at this,” the researcher said. The other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”

The students were then allowed to choose between two different subsequent tests. The first choice was described as a more difficult set of puzzles, but the kids were told that they’d learn a lot from attempting it. The other option was an easy test, similar to the test they’d just taken.

When Dweck was designing the experiment, she expected the different forms of praise to have a rather modest effect. After all, it was just one sentence. But it soon became clear that the type of compliment given to the fifth graders dramatically affected their choice of tests. When kids were praised for their effort, nearly 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. However, when kids were praised for their intelligence, most of them went for the easier test. What explains this difference? According to Dweck, praising kids for intelligence encourages them to “look” smart, which means that they shouldn’t risk making a mistake.”

Via brainscience

Why Praising Effort is Better than Praising Intelligence.

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Good grief.

Via dreitoledo

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Pareidolia – so hot right now.

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Maths puzzle

I came across a version of this puzzle in a book (yes, I read maths books) that was so poorly adapted to a “real-life” situation, that I had to try rewriting it.

Hope it is better now…


Adam, Belinda, Callum, Dorothy, Edward and Felicity are friends. They have been learning to SCUBA dive, and need to complete their  training before heading off on holiday tomorrow.

The dive school is open today from 10am until 4pm, and each of them needs four more hours of dive time to complete the training course.

Unfortunately, the dive school only has four spare tanks that they can use.

Everyone was meant to be ready to go at 10am, but unfortunately Callum is late, and arrives at 11:15am

Edward and Dorothy need to leave early at 2:30pm.

Nonetheless, everyone manages to do their required four hours. How do they do it?