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What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

When I used a Windows XP Tablet computer a few years ago, I got more interested in handwriting, so that Windows could better recognize my scrawled text. I’m a traditionalist in many ways, but truthfully I’m not all that worked up about the loss of handwriting. (Having said that, I felt like a very bad parent when my daughter received a congratulations note that she couldn’t read because it was…

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What Causes the Smell of New & Old Books?

Generally, it is the chemical breakdown of compounds within paper that leads to the production of ‘old book smell’. Paper contains, amongst other chemicals, cellulose, and smaller amounts of lignin. Both of these originate from the trees the paper is made from; finer papers will contain less lignin than, for example, newsprint. In trees, lignin helps bind cellulose fibres together, keeping the wood stiff; it’s also responsible for paper yellowing…

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DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER)

Live in the DC area? June 19 I’ll be speaking about the play Rossum’s Universal Robots for a panel on “robots and theater,” sponsored by Cultural Programs of National Academy of Sciences. (The event will also be webcast.) D.C. Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER) is a monthly discussion forum on art science projects providing a snapshot of the cultural environment of the region and fostering interdisciplinary networking. This month, DASER explores…

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Effects of Internet use on the adolescent brain: despite popular claims, experimental evidence remains scarce

Big difference between the clickbaity verson on BoingBoing (“Everything you know about teenage brains is bullshit“) and the dry, academic version on cell.com: [C]urrent evidence suggests that typical Internet activities do not impair social development during adolescence. | Both adolescents and adults are now using the Internet more than ever. Evidence increasingly suggests that time spent online does not displace time spent doing other activities associated with health and well-being.…

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Melissa Terras’ Blog: Male, Mad and Muddleheaded: Academics in Children’s Picture Books

Labcoats, suits (but not if you are female!) or safari suits (but not if you are female!) are the academic uniform du jour. The names given to the academics are telling, with the majority being less than complimentary: Professor Dinglebat, Professor P. Brain, Professor Blabbermouth, Professor Bumblebrain, Professor Muddlehead, Professor Hogwash, Professor Bumble, Professor Dumkopf, Professor Nutter, and two different Professor Potts. There is the odd professor with a name…

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Alice in Quantumland: A Charming Illustrated Allegory of Quantum Mechanics by a CERN Physicist

Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics is absolutely fantastic in its entirety, certain to engage the simultaneous states of entertainment and education with unequaled grace. Complement it with scientists’ answers to little kids’ questions about how the world works, then bend your mind by considering what it’s like to live in a universe of ten dimensions. For a look at how physicists’ understanding of the field has evolved…

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No Black Holes Exist, Says Stephen Hawking—At Least Not Like We Think

Black holes do not exist—at least, not as we know them, says renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, potentially provoking a rethink of one of space’s most mysterious objects. A new study from Hawking also says that black holes may not possess “firewalls,” destructive belts of radiation that some researchers have proposed would incinerate anything that passes through them but others scientists deem an impossibility. The conventional view of black holes posits…