In a heartbreaking new study, scientists have discovered that gender stereotypes can start affecting children from as young assix, the age when girls start thinking of traits like intelligence, brilliance, and genius, as distinctly male.
Its no secret that there is an imbalance of women and men working in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In fact, in the US, where this study was conducted, only 30 percent of people employed in STEM positions are women.
Hoping to find out why this is, researchers from New York University, University of Illinois, and Princeton decided to investigate several possible factors, including whether societal gender stereotypes such as associating intellectual talent with males affected girls choices from a young age.
Their study found that girls as young as six believed that exceptional talent was a boys trait, and their male counterparts are more likely to exhibit “brilliance”. Its also the age they began steering themselves away from activities aimed at the really, really smart, choosing ones aimed at children who try really, really hard instead.
“Not only do we see thatgirlsjust starting out in school are absorbing some of society’s stereotyped notions of brilliance, but these younggirlsare also choosing activities based on these stereotypes, said senior author Andrei Cimpian from NYU in a statement. This is heartbreaking.”
The study looked at 400 children, half of whom were girls, between the ages of five and seven years old to evaluate their opinions and attitudes towards the notions of intelligence and ability.
Our society tends to associate brilliance with men more than with women, and this notion pushes women away from jobs that are perceived to require brilliance, said co-author Lin Bian. We wanted to know whether young children also endorse these stereotypes.
Using the phrase really, really smart as a childs way of understanding the adult concept of brilliance, they carried out several tests to probe the influence of gender stereotypes.
In one example the children were read a story about a really, really smart protagonist that was not revealed to be male or female. Afterwards they were then asked to select the most likely protagonist from among pictures of men and women. At age five, most of the children picked their own gender, proving they viewed their own gender positively, however the sixand seven-year olds mostly picked the male.
Another experiment had the children express their preference for two games they played, one described as for children who are really, really smart and the other for children who try really, really hard. Their findings showed that both genders were interested in the hard game but the sixand seven-year old girls shied away from the smart one.
Already by this young age girls are discounting the evidence that is in front of their eyes and basing their ideas about who is really, really smart on other things, said Cimpian.
Overall, their study highlights how even young children can absorb and be influenced by gender stereotypes that still exist in today’s society, such as that of brilliance or giftedness being more common in men, and this is having a detrimental effect on girls futures.
Because these ideas are present at such an early age, they have so much time to affect the educational trajectories of boys and girls, Cimpian explained.
The authors concluded in their paper, published in the journal Science, that women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance (such as physics and philosophy) because societys gender stereotypes harbored from a young age are likely to discourage womens pursuit of many prestigious careers.
The present results suggest a sobering conclusion: many children assimilate the idea that brilliance is a male quality at a young age,” the study states. “This stereotype begins to shape children’s interests as soon as it is acquired and is thus likely to narrow the range of careers they will one day contemplate.”
And then there were five. From an initial 16 teams, five have moved ahead into the final stages of the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a competition to launch and land a rover on the Moon by the end of 2017.
The finalists herald from around the world, in Israel, the US, India, and Japan. All of them have launch contracts on various rockets, in an attempt to scoop the $20 million prize money. The first teams rover to travel 500 meters (1,640 feet) on the lunar surface will scoop the prize, with various other technical bonuses available.
Each of these teams has pushed the boundaries to demonstrate that you dont have to be a government superpower to send a mission to the Moon, while inspiring audiences to pursue the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director of Google Lunar XPRIZE, in a statement.
The competition began in 2007, and the teams that entered had until December 31, 2016, to get a launch contract, which 11 teams did not manage including German team Part-Time Scientists, who were seemingly on the cusp of doing so. Now, those with launch contracts haveuntil December 31, 2017, to actually launch although they can land on the Moon at a later date, as long as they have launched before then.
XPRIZE also announced there would be an additional $1 million Diversity Prize split among the 16 teams to recognize each of their unique approaches and initiatives over the years, said Gonzales-Mowrer.
Part-Time Scientists had hoped to revisit the Apollo 17 landing site with their rover (illustrated). PTScientists
Of the five finalists, only three have launch contracts on tried and tested rockets. One of these is SpaceIL from Israel, which plans to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Another, Team Indus from India, is planning to launch on the Indian Space Research Organizations Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). And Hakuto, from Japan, plans to hitch a ride with Team Indus.
The other two have contracts with companies that are yet to launch a rocket perhaps making them relative outsiders to win the competition. One is American team Moon Express, which has a multi-mission contract with Rocket Lab USA to launch three missions by 2020. The final team, an international endeavor called Synergy Moon run by Interorbital Systems, hopes to launch on their own Neptune 8 rocket, which would launch from the sea.
Theres plenty of cause for excitement, though. Its looking more and more likely that some of these teams will actually launch by the years end. Whether they will be successful in landing on the Moon or not remains to be seen none have experience indoing so.
But if they do make it, well, we might very well have an old-fashioned Moon race on our hands before the year is out.
Exam revision workbooks used by GCSE pupils taking Welsh exam board qualifications have been withdrawn after 90 mistakes were found in them.
A team from Cardiff University’s School of Mathematics found about every three in 50 questions contained an inaccuracy, were misleading or supplied a wrong answer.
Publisher Hodder Education is now reprinting the edition and has asked for current copies to be destroyed.
BBC research had led to the discovery.
The One Show commissioned Cardiff University to look at Mastering Mathematics for WJEC GCSE Practice Book: Higher alongside workbooks for five UK exam boards: WJEC, AQA, Pearson/Edexcel, SQA and OCR, some of which had officially endorsed the books.
Hodder Education apologised for the mistakes.
Group managing director Lis Tribe said: “We are human. We do our best. We have made a mistake.
“Where our process fell down, which is a real concern to me and to my team, is that there wasn’t the final quality check that should have taken place. We simply missed a stage because of the pressure of getting the book out on time.
“We are actually very grateful to The One Show for bringing these errors to our attention and enabling us to withdraw the book and put them right.”
A spokesman for the WJEC said: “We have worked with Hodder to produce endorsed material. However, we have not endorsed the revision guide in question.
“As it has not been subjected to our endorsement process, we are not responsible for its content and cannot comment on it.
“Of course, if we are made aware of any errors in non-endorsed publications, we make every effort to ensure that the relevant publisher is informed.”
Dr Matthew Lettington, who oversaw the research, said the level of mistakes was “unacceptable” and some errors would have been “highly confusing” for students.
The WJEC practice book had the highest level of errors by a significant margin, with 90 mistakes out of 1,496 questions.
The others were:
“AQA GCSE Maths Higher Exam Practice Book”, published by Oxford University Press, with three errors in 174 questions
“Mathematics GCSE for OCR Homework Book – Higher”, published by Cambridge University Press and endorsed by OCR, with eight mistakes in 1,200 questions
“Revise Edexcel GCSE (9-1) Mathematics Revision Workbook – Higher”, published by Pearson Education Limited, with eight mistakes in 563 questions
“How to Pass – National 5 Maths”, published by Hodder Gibson and endorsed by SQA, with five errors in 240 questions
The exam boards told the BBC final responsibility for fact checking lay with the publishers.
Pearson/Edexcel said it had already spotted and corrected the eight errors in its workbook and it was being recalled and destroyed.
Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press both said all errors were looked into and corrected in the next reprint.
The Long Read: The ability of statistics to accurately represent the world is declining. In its wake, a new age of big data controlled by private companies is taking over and putting democracy in peril
In theory, statistics should help settle arguments. They ought to provide stable reference points that everyone no matter what their politics can agree on. Yet in recent years, divergent levels of trust in statistics has become one of the key schisms that have opened up in western liberal democracies. Shortly before the November presidential election, a study in the US discovered that 68% of Trump supporters distrusted the economic data published by the federal government. In the UK, a research project by Cambridge University and YouGov looking at conspiracy theories discovered that 55% of the population believes that the government is hiding the truth about the number of immigrants living here.
Rather than diffusing controversy and polarisation, it seems as if statistics are actually stoking them. Antipathy to statistics has become one of the hallmarks of the populist right, with statisticians and economists chief among the various experts that were ostensibly rejected by voters in 2016. Not only are statistics viewed by many as untrustworthy, there appears to be something almost insulting or arrogant about them. Reducing social and economic issues to numerical aggregates and averages seems to violate some peoples sense of political decency.
Nowhere is this more vividly manifest than with immigration. The thinktank British Future has studied how best to win arguments in favour of immigration and multiculturalism. One of its main findings is that people often respond warmly to qualitative evidence, such as the stories of individual migrants and photographs of diverse communities. But statistics especially regarding alleged benefits of migration to Britains economy elicit quite the opposite reaction. People assume that the numbers are manipulated and dislike the elitism of resorting to quantitative evidence. Presented with official estimates of how many immigrants are in the country illegally, a common response is to scoff. Far from increasing support for immigration, British Future found, pointing to its positive effect on GDP can actually make people more hostile to it. GDP itself has come to seem like a Trojan horse for an elitist liberal agenda. Sensing this, politicians have now largely abandoned discussing immigration in economic terms.
All of this presents a serious challenge for liberal democracy. Put bluntly, the British government its officials, experts, advisers and many of its politicians does believe that immigration is on balance good for the economy. The British government did believe that Brexit was the wrong choice. The problem is that the government is now engaged in self-censorship, for fear of provoking people further.
This is an unwelcome dilemma. Either the state continues to make claims that it believes to be valid and is accused by sceptics of propaganda, or else, politicians and officials are confined to saying what feels plausible and intuitively true, but may ultimately be inaccurate. Either way, politics becomes mired in accusations of lies and cover-ups.
The declining authority of statistics and the experts who analyse them is at the heart of the crisis that has become known as post-truth politics. And in this uncertain new world, attitudes towards quantitative expertise have become increasingly divided. From one perspective, grounding politics in statistics is elitist, undemocratic and oblivious to peoples emotional investments in their community and nation. It is just one more way that privileged people in London, Washington DC or Brussels seek to impose their worldview on everybody else. From the opposite perspective, statistics are quite the opposite of elitist. They enable journalists, citizens and politicians to discuss society as a whole, not on the basis of anecdote, sentiment or prejudice, but in ways that can be validated. The alternative to quantitative expertise is less likely to be democracy than an unleashing of tabloid editors and demagogues to provide their own truth of what is going on across society.
Is there a way out of this polarisation? Must we simply choose between a politics of facts and one of emotions, or is there another way of looking at this situation?One way is to view statistics through the lens of their history.We need to try and see them for what they are: neither unquestionable truths nor elite conspiracies, but rather as tools designed to simplify the job of government, for better or worse. Viewed historically, we can see what a crucial role statistics have played in our understanding of nation states and their progress. This raises the alarming question of how if at all we will continue to have common ideas of society and collective progress, should statistics fall by the wayside.
In the second half of the 17th century, in the aftermath of prolonged and bloody conflicts, European rulers adopted an entirely new perspective on the task of government, focused upon demographic trends an approach made possible by the birth of modern statistics. Since ancient times, censuses had been used to track population size, but these were costly and laborious to carry out and focused on citizens who were considered politically important (property-owning men), rather than society as a whole. Statistics offered something quite different, transforming the nature of politics in the process.
Statistics were designed to give an understanding of a population in its entirety,rather than simply to pinpoint strategically valuable sources of power and wealth. In the early days, this didnt always involve producing numbers. In Germany, for example (from where we get the term Statistik) the challenge was to map disparate customs, institutions and laws across an empire of hundreds of micro-states. What characterised this knowledge as statistical was its holistic nature: it aimed to produce a picture of the nation as a whole. Statistics would do for populations what cartography did for territory.
Equally significant was the inspiration of the natural sciences. Thanks to standardised measures and mathematical techniques, statistical knowledge could be presented as objective, in much the same way as astronomy. Pioneering English demographers such as William Petty and John Graunt adapted mathematical techniques to estimate population changes, for which they were hired by Oliver Cromwell and Charles II.
The emergence in the late 17th century of government advisers claiming scientific authority, rather than political or military acumen, represents the origins of the expert culture now so reviled by populists. These path-breaking individuals were neither pure scholars nor government officials, but hovered somewhere between the two. They were enthusiastic amateurs who offered a new way of thinking about populations that privileged aggregates and objective facts. Thanks to their mathematical prowess, they believed they could calculate what would otherwise require a vast census to discover.
There was initially only one client for this type of expertise, and the clue is in the word statistics. Only centralised nation states had the capacity to collect data across large populations in a standardised fashion and only states had any need for such data in the first place. Over the second half of the 18th century, European states began to collect more statistics of the sort that would appear familiar to us today. Casting an eye over national populations, states became focused upon a range of quantities: births, deaths, baptisms, marriages, harvests, imports, exports, price fluctuations. Things that would previously have been registered locally and variously at parish level became aggregated at a national level.
New techniques were developed to represent these indicators, which exploited both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the page, laying out data in matrices and tables, just as merchants had done with the development of standardised book-keeping techniques in the late 15th century. Organising numbers into rows and columns offered a powerful new way of displaying the attributes of a given society. Large, complex issues could now be surveyed simply by scanning the data laid out geometrically across a single page.
These innovations carried extraordinary potential for governments. By simplifying diverse populations down to specific indicators, and displaying them in suitable tables, governments could circumvent the need to acquire broader detailed local and historical insight. Of course, viewed from a different perspective, this blindness to local cultural variability is precisely what makes statistics vulgar and potentially offensive. Regardless of whether a given nation had any common cultural identity, statisticians would assume some standard uniformity or, some might argue, impose that uniformity upon it.
Not every aspect of a given population can be captured by statistics. There is always an implicit choice in what is included and what is excluded, and this choice can become a political issue in its own right. The fact that GDP only captures the value of paid work, thereby excluding the work traditionally done by women in the domestic sphere, has made it a target of feminist critique since the 1960s. In France, it has been illegal to collect census data on ethnicity since 1978, on the basis that such data could be used for racist political purposes. (This has the side-effect of making systemic racism in the labour market much harder to quantify.)
Despite these criticisms, the aspiration to depict a society in its entirety, and to do so in an objective fashion, has meant that various progressive ideals have been attached to statistics. The image of statistics as a dispassionate science of society is only one part of the story. The other part is about how powerful political ideals became invested in these techniques: ideals of evidence-based policy, rationality, progress and nationhood grounded in facts, rather than in romanticised stories.
Since the high-point of the Enlightenmentin the late 18th century, liberals and republicans have invested great hope that national measurement frameworks could produce a more rational politics, organised around demonstrable improvements in social and economic life. The great theorist of nationalism, Benedict Anderson, famously described nations as imagined communities,but statistics offer the promise of anchoring this imagination in something tangible. Equally, they promise to reveal what historical path the nation is on: what kind of progress is occurring? How rapidly? For Enlightenment liberals, who saw nations as moving in a single historical direction, this question was crucial.
The potential of statistics to reveal the state of the nation was seized in post-revolutionary France. The Jacobin state set about imposing a whole new framework of national measurement and national data collection. The worlds first official bureau of statistics was opened in Paris in 1800. Uniformity of data collection, overseen by a centralised cadre of highly educated experts, was an integral part of the ideal of a centrally governed republic, which sought to establish a unified, egalitarian society.
From the Enlightenment onwards, statistics played an increasingly important role in the public sphere, informing debate in the media, providing social movements with evidence they could use. Over time, the production and analysis of such data became less dominated by the state. Academic social scientists began to analyse data for their own purposes, often entirely unconnected to government policy goals. By the late 19th century, reformers such as Charles Booth in London and WEB Du Bois in Philadelphia were conducting their own surveys to understand urban poverty.
Hidden Figures, the hit film that tells the story of three black women who helped NASA send a man into orbit, has been praised for putting women of color in the spotlight.
Thats why people across the country teens, teachers and community leaders are raising money through GoFundMe to ensure young girls can see the movie.
One of those people is Taylor Richardson, a 13-year-old aspiring astronaut from Florida, who wants to send 100 girls to see Hidden Figures at a theater in Jacksonville, Florida. She also wants to raise money on GoFundMe for the girls to have snacks and get a copy of the Hidden Figures book.
Richardson first saw the movie at a screening at the White House and has since seen it three more times. She said the film was amazing.
I cried, I laughed, I got angry and then got determined to not let others impressions of me because of the color of my skin impact how my life will be, she told The Huffington Post. These black women did something I never knew about, and its not in any history books that Ive studied thus far.
As of Friday, Richardson has raised $2,540 of her $2,600 goal. She found the girls she plans to take to see the film from organizations that have impacted her life like the YMCA, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, See The Girl and Journey Into Womanhood. She wants them to go home after the movie feeling as inspired as she did.
This movie instills that us girls can dream big and make it even when odds are against us, she said. Most importantly I want girls to know that, like boys, they too can excel in STEM with hard work.
Several teachers across the country have also started GoFundMe campaigns to help send their students to see the influential film. After reaching his goal of $1,000, Peter Modlin will be taking girls in second, third, fourth and fifth grade who attend the Baltimore elementary school where he teaches. Modlin told HuffPost he hopes the students learn to dream big after watching the movie.
I want the girls to see this movie in hopes that a lightbulb might go off, he said. A lightbulb that signifies a belief in the opportunity to do or be anything they want to be, if they work hard to achieve that goal.
Like Richardson and Modlin, Phyllis Marshall raised money on GoFundMe so local girls could see Hidden Figures, and has since taken them to see it.
On Jan. 7, she took 50 girls from Roberts Family Development Center in Sacramento, California, to the theater.Shes worked with the center, which is in a low-income community and provides after-school care, for years.Through GoFundMe she raised more than her $1,500 goal, which provided transportation, snacks and tickets to the movie. Marshall said they loved it.
Marshall was glad to be able to show the girls that women can succeed in science, technology and mathematics. She was especially thrilled to show them that women of color and their success deserve a place on the big screen.
I certainly hope as many young girls get to see that movie as possible.
Other teachers and community leaders are raising money for kids to see Hidden Figures, too.Check out their campaigns below.
If you visit the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) exhibition, now at the Queensland Museum, youll see the recreation of a moment when the scientist who saw the first results indicating discovery of the Higgs boson laments she cant yet tell anyone.
Its a transitory problem for her, lasting as long as it takes for the result to be thoroughly cross-checked. But it illustrates a key concept in science: its not enough to do it; it must be communicated.
Thats what is behind one of the lesser known initiatives of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research): an ambitious plan to make all its research in particle physics available to everyone, with a big global collaboration inspired by the way scientists came together to make discoveries at the LHC.
This initiative is called SCOAP, the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access in Particle Physics Publishing, and is now about to enter its fourth year of operation. Its a worldwide collaboration of more than 3,000 libraries (including six in Australia), key funding agencies and research centres in 44 countries, together with three intergovernmental organisations.
It aims to make work previously only available to paying subscribers of academic journals freely and immediately available to everyone. In its first three years it has made more than 13,000 articles available.
Not only are these articles free for anyone to read, but because they are published under a Creative Commons attribution license (CCBY), they are also available for anyone to use in anyway they wish, such as to illustrate a talk, pass onto a class of school children, or feed to an artificial intelligence program to extract information from. And these usage rights are enshrined forever.
The concept of sharing research is not new in physics. Open access to research is now a growing worldwide initiative, including in Australasia. CERN, which runs the LHC, was also where the world wide web was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist at CERN.
The main purpose of the web was to enable researchers contributing to CERN from all over the world share documents, including scientific drafts, no matter what computer systems they were using.
Before the web, physicists had been sharing paper drafts by post for decades, so they were one of the first groups to really embrace the new online opportunities for sharing early research. Today, the pre-press site arxiv.org has more than a million free article drafts covering physics, mathematics, astronomy and more.
But, with such a specialised field, do these open access papers really matter? The short answer is yes. Downloads have doubled to journals participating in SCOAP.
With millions of open access articles now being downloaded across all specialities, there is enormous opportunity for new ideas and collaborations to spring from chance readership. This is an important trend: the concept of serendipity enabled by open access was explored in 2015 in an episode of ABC RNs Future Tense program.
Greater than the sum of the parts
Theres also a bigger picture to SCOAPs open access model. Not long ago, the research literature was fragmented. Individual papers and the connections between them were only as good as the physical library, with its paper journals, that academics had access to.
Now we can do searches in much less time than we spend thinking of the search question, and the results we are presented with are crucially dependent on how easily available the findings themselves are. And availability is not just a function of whether an article is free or not but whether it is truly open, i.e. connected and reusable.
One concept is whether research is FAIR, or Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. In short, can anyone find, read, use and reuse the work?
The principle is most advanced for data, but in Australia work is ongoing to apply it to all research outputs. This approach was also proposed at the November 2016 meeting of the G20 Science, Technology and Innovation Ministers Meeting. Research findings that are not FAIR can, effectively, be invisible. Its a huge waste of millions of taxpayer dollars to fund research that wont be seen.
There is an even bigger picture that research and research publications have to fit into: that of science in society.
Across the world we see politicians challenging accepted scientific norms. Is the fact that most academic research remains available only to those who can pay to see it contributing to an acceptance of such misinformed views?
If one role for science is to inform public debate, then restricting access to that science will necessarily hinder any informed public debate. Although no one suggests that most readers of news sites will regularly want to delve into the details of papers in high energy physics, open access papers are 47% more likely to end up being cited in Wikipedia, which is a source that many non-scientists do turn to.
Even worse, work that is not available openly now may not even be available in perpetuity, something that is being discussed by scientists in the USA.
So in the same way that CERN itself is an example of the power of international collaboration to ask some of the fundamental scientific questions of our time, SCOAP provides a way to ensure that the answers, whatever they are, are available to everyone, forever.
Apparently 2017 will be my year indeed, it is a good year for everyone born between November 22 and December 21 under the sign of Sagittarius half man, half horse, all myth.
Modern astrology as we know it in the form of a yearly, monthly or daily horoscope is based on a celestial coordinate system known as the zodiac, a Greek word that means the circle of life. And, although astrology has been dated to the third millennium BC, it has been argued that it began as soon as humans made a conscious attempt to measure, record and predict seasonal changes.
But, unlike modern times where the idea of star signs and horoscopes is often scoffed at, until the 17th century astrology was seen as a scholarly tradition. And it is credited as influencing the development of astronomy because back then its concepts were used in alchemy, mathematics, meteorology and medicine. And it was even accepted in political and cultural circles.
But by the end of the 17th century, emerging scientific concepts in astronomy undermined the theoretical basis of astrology, which as a result fell out of favour.
The ancient mathematici
Medieval astrologers who were known as mathematici wove stories in an attempt to say something true about the world. And, much like modern mathematicians, they made predictions which they hoped could be verified.
One of the earliest Christian authors, Origen, hinted at the presence and desire for knowledge about the future, given by mathematici. Origen, who had a somewhat uneasy relationship with Christian orthodoxy, speaks of mans insatiable desire to know about the future.
Astrologer-astronomer Richard of Wallingford is shown measuring an equatorium with a pair of compasses in this 14th-century work.
He complained about the situation of the Old Testament Israelites who were forbidden from heathen divination techniques, including astrology and argued that in the Israelites desperation to know more about their future they turned to their prophets and the stories they told. Though, this was convenient for Origen because he argues that they foretold the coming of Christ.
Several centuries after Origens death, bishops at the Christian council of Braga in 561 condemned these mathematici and their stories because of their implicit assumption that the future could be told by looking at the stars which raised questions about free will.
Throughout history, astrology and the stories told by mathematici were repeatedly condemned and the frequent criticism of the practice only makes sense in the context of astrologys prevalence in the everyday life of the early Middle Ages. After all, you can only disprove what is practised.
Part of the problem was that the stories astrologers and their horoscopes elicited could be dangerous, wielded by kings and emperors like monarchical manifestos that described the tone of their rule, violent or peaceful, long or short. But like beauty, the meaning of a story lies in the eye of the beholder.
Astrology in the Middle Ages held an ambiguous position, disparaged but common, reviled but satiating an innate desire. It told stories about the world and the lives of the people in it, stories that hinted at their true desires and motivations.
Such desires are no more apparent and perhaps surprising that in the case of the bishop and amateur astrologer Pierre dAilly around the year 1400. At the time, the church faced a division which threatened to rip the institution in two. The Great Schism was a result of a desire for a Roman pope after years of the pope having a base in Avignon, France and a series of popes and antipopes brought turmoil to the Church and across Europe.
Plus, historically speaking, the beginnings of centuries and millennia have tended to encourage people to reflect on the stability of the world and its possible end and the schism brought that sharply into focus.
DAilly examined the night sky, but did not predict fire and damnation, instead, he suggested that the end of the world was far in the future, something for other generations to worry about. DAilly confounded expectations by reading the stars and telling whoever would listen to him a convenient truth: the stars tell us to press on and to make something more of this world and who could argue with that?
Reading the future
For DAilly, the prospect of an imminent apocalypse called only for man to repent and pray and possibly abandon the institutions that kept the world ticking over. Whereas D’Ailly hoped that, by facing the fact that the world would continue, the church would heal its recent division and carry on with what it was good at saving souls.
Like D’Ailly, these messages from ancient star gazers tapped into an innate human desire: to gain a sense of control in a world of disorder. Something to hold on to when doubts formed about the road ahead.
Of course, human history is filled with foreboding about the future and 2016 has shown us that the world is still full of surprises. So while these days were not all looking to the skies for an explanation of worldly happenings like our ancestors did perhaps we can look to the past to understand peoples desire to make reason out of the unreasonable.
And while astrology has a somewhat problematic relationship with modern science, my own prediction is that the year 2017 looks set to be as turbulent as any. So perhaps D’Ailly was on to something when he suggested we just try to do our best.
Wowza! At this time of year, many mathematically curious folk spend time looking for satisfying number patterns like this one involving the new date. (Please add your favourites in the comments below.)
Just so you are not left out the fun, todays puzzle is to fill the blanks in the following equation, so that it makes arithmetical sense:
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 = 2017
You can use any of the basic mathematical operations, +, , x, , and as many brackets as you like. So, an answer might look something like (10 + 9 + 8) x (7 6 5)/(4 + 3 + 2 + 1) = 2017, although not this one since this is incorrect.
I do this countdown equation every year. Because 2017 is prime, it is a little bit more difficult that last years equation where the numbers had to equal 2016. In fact, there are only 652 solutions this year, compared with 890 solutions for last year, according to my computer programmer pal Zefram. (Many of these solutions are similar).
Got that? Now lets raise the stakes. Can you do the same to this equation, which is the same as above but with the 10 deleted:
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 = 2017
There are only 107 solutions to this one.
Now you have a taste for this puzzle, fill in the equation with the 9 deleted too:
8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 = 2017.
This one only has 13 solutions. Its interesting that each time we remove a number the solution space shrinks by a factor of about seven.
We have to end there, since there are no solutions when only seven digits are left.
I stipulated above that you must use only the four basic mathematical operations. But of course, if you want to show off, you can use whatever arcane or complicated mathematical operations you want.
I will send a copy of my puzzle book Can You Solve My Problems? to the person who comes up with the solution to any of the three above puzzles that I consider to be the most beautiful, creative or wacky. This could be one with, say, the least number of brackets required, or with the most ambitious use of mathematical symbology. My decision is final!
To enter either tweet your answer with the hashtag #MondayPuzzle or email me. Ill be back with answers and results at the end of the day.
James Dyson is excited about the SafetyNet invention, Jim Al-Khalili cant wait to study Saturn up close and Amanda Levete looks to a resurgence of civic space
Mass production of driverless cars By Jimmy Wales
The human brain is an amazing machine. It can make an unperceivable number of calculations a second. This outstanding ability is widely implemented during one of the most neurologically challenging actions people are engaged with on a daily basis: driving.
Several areas of the brain act in collaboration in order to receive, process, prioritise and implement real-time data perceived during driving. These complex processes may pass unnoticed by the driver, but their uninterrupted functioning is crucial.
The difference between life and death might be determined by a delay of only 100 milliseconds in response time. At high speeds, this micro timeframe can translate into several feet, which may in turn be the difference between avoiding danger and a fatal crash. Such a minor delay may be caused by any minimal distraction: a sudden noise, a quick glance at the phone or a random thought.
So what I am most excited about for 2017 is the groundbreaking invention that has the ability to minimise these dangers and potentially save millions of lives on the road: driverless cars.
We are getting closer than we thought, faster than we imagined, to having mass production of safe and reliable driverless cars. Many people have heard about this innovation, but not many realise how fast it is coming and how dramatically it is going to change society.
In 2016, it is estimated that worldwide automobile accidents claimed the lives of more than 1.1 million people, while more than 31 million people were injured. Once this technology is commonplace and driverless cars are ubiquitous, those numbers will shrink to a tiny fraction of what they are today.
The social impact will be even greater, to an extent that is very hard to fully imagine right now. Driverless cars will make car-sharing so much easier and more efficient that we could make do with 80% fewer cars. That would translate into less environmental pollution by decreased fuel consumption, less traffic congestion, fewer hours wasted on the roads and less need for car parks. Roads could be laid out very differently, making traffic more efficient and safer for passengers and pedestrians.
Modern technology excels in saving us precious time and making our daily lives easier. The next technological innovation will also make our roads much safer.
Jimmy Wales is an American internet entrepreneur and the co-founder of Wikipedia and Wikia.
Food goes back to basics By Thomasina Miers
The past few years has been all about fad diets, cutting out food groups, and buying expensive ingredients to chase superfoods and super health. None of this is realistic. And after a year in which our foundations have been rocked, I feel that dieting adds an unhealthy uncertainty to our lives that we really dont need.
Food should not be about denial, guilt or killing ourselves. It is about nurturing, comfort and spending time with people who are important to us. It is about comradeship and community and breaking down barriers. We need that more than ever.
Next year will be about simplifying and going back to basics in the kitchen. The healthiest way to eat is to go as close to the source as possible. Lots of vegetables, which are cheap; lots of grains and beans. Meat only occasionally, and when it has been well looked after. My point isnt that we spend hours or a fortune in the kitchen, just that we adopt an old-fashioned approach where we avoid processed food. I have three children and zero spare time, but we eat well. Dinner is often just kale sauteed in garlic and olive oil on toast with a fried egg on top.
I think well see this in restaurants, too. When was the last time you heard anyone raving about a 20-course tasting menu? It feels as though that is from the last decade. Now its all short menus and home cooking and milk from cows who might actually have eaten some grass in their lives. There is a comfort in that, and I think it plays into deeper insecurities many of us are experiencing.
Thomasina Miers is a cook, food writer and broadcaster, and the founder of the Wahaca chain of Mexican restaurants.
The Cassini missons grand finale from Saturn By Jim Al-Khalili