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Earth

Maps Suggest Marco Polo May Have "Discovered" America 276

An anonymous reader writes in with news about maps attributed to Marco Polo that seem to show the coast of Alaska. "For a guy who claimed to spend 17 years in China as a confidant of Kublai Khan, Marco Polo left a surprisingly skimpy paper trail. No Asian sources mention the footloose Italian. The only record of his 13th-century odyssey through the Far East is the hot air of his own Travels, which was actually an "as told to" penned by a writer of romances. But a set of 14 parchments, now collected and exhaustively studied for the first time, give us a raft of new stories about Polo's journeys and something notably missing from his own account: maps. If genuine, the maps would show that Polo recorded the shape of the Alaskan coast—and the strait separating it from Asia—four centuries before Vitus Bering, the Danish explorer long considered the first European to do so. Perhaps more important, they suggest Polo was aware of the New World two centuries before Columbus."

Comment No, I'm his age and we learnt metric (Score 1) 942

> It couldn't possibly be because he's older... was taught imperial when he was in school... and humans tend to go with what they know?

No.

  I was born the same year as him and we were all taught metric units in England from the beginning of school, imperial units were never used. We were introduced to it in passing when we were aged about 8 or 9 as a funny old system that people used to use so we might come across from our older relatives it but not something we should pay very much attention to . Britain in the late 60s early 70s was still optimistic and looking to a scientific new future, white heat of technology and all that, and metric measurement was seen as part of the scientific new future (remember we had decimalisation of our currency at the same time, 1971, so we'd moved to 100 pennies to the pound from 12 pennies to the shilling, twenty shillings to the pound: imperial units were out of fashion). Metric measurement was pretty well known even by our parents at the time who'd gone to school in Imperial times (literally: pre 1947 when India, Pakistan and Burma were part of the empire, run from London) and taken for granted.

  Of course I should be fair and note that according to wikipedia, DC went to an exclusive private school from the age of seven so perhaps they had rum ideas about education and believe the empire was about to return and taught the kids a dead measurement system... but if it followed the national guidance on curriculum, he would have learnt metric.

We still have a passing knowledge of imperial units in the UK, folk still know a handful, but it's a very partial and incomplete understanding and the majority of people under 50 would look at you as being a bit crazy if you said you wanted them to work in pounds and ounces and feet and inches. Most of them wouldn't know how many pounds were in a hundredweight or feet in a furlong.

DC is trying to out UKIP the UKIP and gain favour with the over 60s Little Englander vote.

Comment Not in school when they are 6 years old (Score 1) 942

The article is in response to David Cameron's opinion that he'd prefer school children to learn Imperial units instead of metric as their first means of measuring the world. It's what he wants 6 year olds to learn.

I'd agree it would be interesting to give people an insight into old measurements for those folk who want to work with equipment that still has legacy imperial hardware around that they might encounter, e.g. 16-20 year olds starting an apprenticeship in some engineering domains. But I don't think working with imperial measurements is the same level of priority as the majority of other subjects that 6-11 year olds should learn. Unless you live in the USA or Liberia (I think these are the only two countries in the world to use imperial measurements as their main system?). And I definitely don't think rocket scientists should learn them, we all know how well that US Mars spacecraft faired when there was a mixup on the US side between imperial and metric measurements ;-)

Comment Imperial Nanking university, China, 258AD (Score 1) 173

Funny that, I work at a European university and this afternoon I attended a presentation on scholarship, part of which included a history of scholarship and the university. The highly regarded senior lecturer flagged up Imperial Nanking University, 258AD, as the first real university, and made a good case for it, as does wikipedia.

I think you're arguing that a university is only a university if it follows a definition of what one is according to Western European medieval law: I'd say most people would go with a definition that explores how it matches against educational criteria. Something on the lines of a gathering together of scientists and educators to share ideas, engage in research, and communicate expertise to students with the goal of enabling them to achieve mastery (and in turn teach others), while reflecting on the practices of teaching and learning. The educational model that medieval European universities operated on definitely has predecessors elsewhere in the world, such as China, and I could believe India as well.

Comment but I'm pleased their media is just as bonkers! (Score 1, Funny) 173

Very true. I am pleased one of the stories gives its readers the handy hint that the rocket "weighed nearly 320 tonnes - almost as much as 50 full-grown elephants". Nice to see the media world-wide goes for those handy public friendly measurement analogies to really mess with people's heads. Not sure how many elephants there are to the Library of Congress or a US football pitch however.

Comment Opens up a new courier option to Mars (Score 1) 173

Agreed- good science by India - congratulations to ISRO for their work. Certainly it may open up interplanetary exploration in the same way SpaceX have been redefining conversations about getting into earth orbit. the NASA Mars Orbiter cost 671 million. I am sure it is more complex, but I am also sure some spaces agencies may be contacting ISRO to ask about using their platform to transport their experiments to Mars as an interesting alternative to NASA's much more expensive option. More options to getting to Mars presumably means it's more likely more spacecraft will be heading that way?

Comment bug/feature: depends on where your home is? (Score 1) 322

"One of the things most people see as a bug but I see as a feature with China is their ability to just do things.....they can just tell millions of people to move out of the way of an infrastructure project"

Your opinion might vary depending on whether your home is in the path of a development. For some people, having the ability to halt the development and have the decision whether or not to commence destruction of your property arbitrated by a neutral third party is more important than rapid development of large scale projects.

The Military

Was America's Top Rocketeer a Communist Spy? The FBI Thought So 165

New submitter IMissAlexChilton (3748631) writes Frank Malina masterfully led the World War II effort to build U.S. rockets for jet-assisted takeoff and guided missiles. As described in IEEE Spectrum, Malina's motley crew of engineers and enthusiasts (including occultist Jack Parsons) founded the Jet Propulsion Lab and made critical breakthroughs in solid fuels, hypergolics, and high-altitude sounding rockets, laying the groundwork for NASA's future successes. And yet, under suspicion by the Feds at the war's end, Malina gave up his research career, and his team's efforts sank into obscurity. Taking his place: the former Nazi Wernher von Braun. Read "Frank Malina: America's Forgotten Rocketeer". Includes cool vintage footage of early JPL rocket tests.

Comment Maybe they liked them both (Score 1) 151

Good question, one I guess the paleo environmental folk might be able to shed light on (what species of flora and fauna were in the area). But folk can really like a big steak when they are hungry and equally really enjoy fresh picked fruits on a hot summer's day, there doesn't need to be a conflict on a taste front. From a survival strategy perspective it makes sense to be happy with either hunted or gathered food sources, reduces your risk of starvation. Your tribe's not going to survive that long if you turn your noses up at eating nuts from a nearby grove of hazelnut trees and insist on walking for 8 hours to maybe track down some meat. Enjoying both increases your chances of doing well.

Comment Is this greater in scale than the last Olympics? (Score 1) 90

Is the Brazillian World Cup situation significantly worse than the London Olympics for the cybercrime aspects? I might expect that 'real world face to face crime' (pickpocketing, bag theft, etc. ) might be worse as you'd expect London (as part of a wealthier country) to be better policed than a poorer country with higher levels of local corruption and poverty such as Brazil, but are there big differences between the online crime situations (fake websites, email scams, etc.)? The latter would appear to be more transnational and not so affected by local social/economic/policing conditions.

Crime

Cybercriminals Ramp Up Activity Ahead of 2014 World Cup 90

wiredmikey (1824622) writes With the FIFA World Cup 2014 kicking off this week in Brazil, cybercriminals and scammers are working hard to take advantage of visitors to the World Cup in Brazil and those following the world soccer tournament online. In recent months, several security vendors have published advisories about the various scams, phishing and malware operations that target Internet users interested in the World Cup. While individuals from all over the world have been targeted, many of the malicious campaigns focus on Brazil and neighboring South American countries. While news that cybercriminals are zoning in on a large global event is no surprise, the scale and tactics being used is quite wide in scope, ranging from malware distribution and phishing scams, to fraudulent ticket sales, spam and other promising yet fraudulent schemes.For those visiting Brazil to watch the games in person, the cyber threats also include rogue wireless access points, ATMs rigged with card skimmers and Point-of-Sale malware.

Comment the younger ones focus on keeping in a job (Score 1) 519

Interesting point, but I think the reason for the younger ones focussing on research is not necessarily because they don't like teaching, it is because their chance of attaining job security depends on them focussing on whatever keeps them well regarded and hence likely to get interviewed another short term contract at the end of that teaching year. That something is probably more balanced towards research outputs (regular high quality journal articles being published) than outputs from teaching.

I don't know about the USA but in the UK its not unusual for younger academics to have to pursue consecutive short term contracts for several years, each contract being 1-2 years long, before they have a chance of 'tenure' - a 'permanent' job (something that is open-ended and won't finish in months).

Comment naive question: does this include all waste? (Score 2) 123

Completely naive question here - civilised answers welcomed.

I've heard that the new generation reactors will be able to use 'old waste' for fuel. Does this include all sort of waste, or only some of it? For example, I believe that "nuclear waste" doesn't just mean Homer Simpson like glowing green spent fuel rods, but lots of things that have to get packaged up and safely disposed of like technicians' work wear, equipment, anything that comes into contact with radioactive sources. Am I right that this is also called "nuclear waste" (apologies, I really don't know much about the topic). If so, can this be used in the new reactors (I am guessing not all of it)? Does it represent a lot of volume / long term risk to be disposed of?

I get the impression that the term nuclear waste is used in a pretty homogeneous way but that it represents a wide variety of materials. I suppose in the case of decommissioned reactors this probably means some of the structure of the buildings themselves (tonnes of old concrete etc). I'm guessing that this can't get poured into a new reactor as fuel? Is this the big issue with decommissioning, not just old fuel rods but all the surrounding materials?

cheers for any measured responses on such an emotive issue.

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