Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Germans: 'We've found second solar system'

Photo: DPA. The Germans believe the new solar system is similar to our own.

A team of German scientists claim to have discovered a “second solar system” made up of seven planets orbiting a star similar to our own. 

The astrophysicists at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) said on Monday they had discovered “the most extensive planetary system to date.”
They have found seven planets circling a star called KOI-351 – more than in other known planetary systems.
A statement on the DLR’s website said the planets were arranged in a similar fashion to our solar system with smaller rocky planets near the star and giant gas planets further away.

A Library of Classics, Edited for the Teething Set

The humble board book, with its cardboard-thick pages, gently rounded corners and simple concepts for babies, was once designed to be chewed as much as read.

By Julie Bosman 
William P. O’Donnell/The New York Times

Parents are flocking to the popular BabyLit series, which features works of literary art that have been adapted for babies and toddlers. The board books skip the complicated narratives and instead use the stories as a springboard to explain counting, colors or concepts like opposites.

But today’s babies and toddlers are treated to board books that are miniature works of literary art: classics like “Romeo and Juliet,” “Sense and Sensibility” and “Les Misérables”; luxuriously produced counting primers with complex graphic elements; and even an “Art for Baby” book featuring images by the contemporary artists Damien Hirst and Paul Morrison.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

New species of the Amazon rainforest - in pictures

At least 441 new species of animals and plants have been discovered over the past four years in the vast, underexplored rainforest of the Amazon. The discoveries made from 2010 to 2013, include a flame-patterned lizard, a vegetarian piranha, and a monkey that purrs like a cat

A 'purring' monkey (Callicebus caquetensis) – Colombian Amazon

The new species, named the Caqueta titi monkey or Callicebus caquetensis, is one of about 20 species of titi monkeys, which all live in the Amazon basin. The population size has been estimated at less than 250 individuals, and its habitat has been fragmented by clearing for agricultural land. It is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN. According to scientists, titi monkeys are among the few species of primates that are monogamous. 'All of the babies purr like cats too,' said Thomas Defler, who was part of the team that discovered the species. 'When they feel very content they purr towards each other, and the ones we raised would purr to us'

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

11-year-old designs a better sandbag, named 'America's Top Young Scientist'

"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious."

                                           Albert Einstein

Are teenagers really careless about online privacy?

As Facebook lifts its sharing restrictions on 13-to-17-year-olds, Jon Henley finds that young people know exactly what to do with their privacy settings – especially where Mum is concerned.
Jon Henley
Secure … many teenagers use in-jokes and obscure references to effectively encode what they post. Photograph: David J Green/Alamy

They share, like, everything. How they feel about a song, their maths homework, life (it sucks). Where they'll be next; who they're with now. Photos, of themselves and others, doing stuff they quite probably shouldn't be.

They're the digital natives, fresh-minted citizens of a humming online world. They've grown up – are still growing up – with texting, sexting, MSN, Facebook, Vine, Snapchat. They're the young, and they couldn't care less about privacy.

At least, that's the assumption. But amid a rash of revelations about government surveillance, it seems it's wrong. Young people do care, a lot, about privacy – just not the kind of privacy that exercises their parents.

Overweight children should watch less television, Nice claims

Parents of overweight children should be told to reduce the amount of time they spend watching television and playing computer games, according to new official guidance for health workers. 
Children whose weight is a concern should keep a diary of how much time they spend in front of the television Photo: Getty Images
 By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent

Children over 12 whose weight is a concern should be encouraged to keep a diary of how much time they spend in front of the television or playing computer games each day, the health watchdog said.
Parents of younger children should carefully monitor their behaviour in the same way, according to official guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Babies Are Born With Some Math Skills

   Melissa Libertus

Before and after. Infants' ability to discern between different numbers of dots predicted their mathematical aptitude several years later.

If a 6-month-old can distinguish between 20 dots and 10 dots, she’s more likely to be a good at math in preschool. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which finds that part of our proficiency at addition and subtraction may simply be something we’re born with.

Researchers have long wondered where our math skills come from. Are they innate, or should we credit studying and good teachers—or some combination of the two? “Math ability is a very complex concept, and there are a lot of actors that play into it,” says Ariel Starr, a graduate student in psychology and neuroscience at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Children's internet use survey offers warning to parents

One in five respondents to study of primary pupils claimed to have met someone they had only previously known online.
Maev Kennedy
Almost a fifth of survey respondents said they were regularly awake into the small hours using computers. Photograph: Alamy

Almost one in five primary school age children who responded to a survey on internet use claimed to have met somebody they had only previously known online. Half of those children said they went alone to meetings in parks, cinemas, fast food restaurants, shopping centres and private addresses. For those who did take somebody with them, half of companions were parents.

A sizeable majority of the children who took the survey were aged between nine and 11 and a significant minority were also regularly awake into the small hours on computers in their bedrooms and were never supervised by their parents.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Special report: Coalition in crisis over free schools and academies

Lib Dem leader attacks Conservative policy on educational institutions that don't have to meet core standards.

Free schools and academies must employ qualified teachers, Nick Clegg will demand this week, in the first break with the Conservatives on education policy under the coalition government.

The Deputy Prime Minister will deliver a hard-hitting speech that will put pressure on the Conservatives over the lack of appropriately qualified teachers in free schools, including the crisis-hit Al-Madinah school in Derby.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

What makes rain smell so good?

A mixture of plant oils, bacterial spores and ozone is responsible for the powerful scent of fresh rain. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Juni

Step outside after the first storm after a dry spell and it invariably hits you: the sweet, fresh, powerfully evocative smell of fresh rain.
If you’ve ever noticed this mysterious scent and wondered what’s responsible for it, you’re not alone.
Back in 1964, a pair of Australian scientists (Isabel Joy Bear and R. G. Thomas) began the scientific study of rain’s aroma in earnest with an article in Nature titled “Nature of Agrillaceous Odor.” In it, they coined the term petrichor to help explain the phenomenon, combining a pair of Greek roots: petra (stone) and ichor (the blood of gods in ancient myth).

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Neil Gaiman: Let children read the books they love

Mark Brown

Author says physical books are here to stay during keynote speech on what he sees as future of books, reading and libraries
Neil Gaiman believes well-meaning adults can destroy a child's love of reading by giving them 'worthy-but-dull books'. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Children should be allowed to read whatever they enjoy, the author Neil Gaiman has said as he warned that well-meaning adults could destroy a child's love of reading for ever.
Gaiman was delivering a lecture on Monday night about the future of books, reading and libraries to an audience of arts and literary figures. In a wide-ranging speech he said the rise of ebooks did not mean the end for physical books and made an impassioned plea to stop library closures.

The Landfill Harmonic Orchestra - The Recycled Orchestra

Cateura, Paraguay is a town essentially built on top of a landfill. Garbage collectors browse the trash for sellable goods, and children are often at risk of getting involved with drugs and gangs. When music teacher Fabio set up a music program for the kids of Cateura, they soon have more students than they have instruments.

That changed when Szaran and Fabio were brought something they had never seen before: a violin made out of garbage. Today, there’s an entire orchestra of assembled instruments, now called The Recycled Orchestra.

Our film shows how trash and recycled materials can be transformed into beautiful sounding musical instruments, but more importantly, it brings witness to the transformation of precious human beings.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Forced student labour is central to the Chinese economic miracle

China has an army of student labour making Apple products, Playstation consoles and other gadgets for the west. The teenagers' stories make upsetting reading.
  Aditya Chakrabortty

Employees at a Foxconn factory in China: the company is among the biggest users of student labour in the country. Photograph: Darley Shen/Reuters

You'll hear a lot of pieties about China this week. As George Osborne and Boris Johnson schlep from Shanghai to Shenzhen, they'll give the usual sales spiel about trade and investment and the global race. What they won't talk much about is Zhang Lintong. Yet the 16-year-old's story tells you more about the human collateral in the relationship between China and the west than any number of ministerial platitudes.

Middle-class young 'will fare worse than their parents'

David Cameron's social mobility and child poverty inquiry to issue grim warning as debt and job fears create 'perfect storm'
 Daniel Boffey
Children growing up will struggle to achieve the same living standards as their parents. Photograph:

Today's middle-class children are on track to be the first in more than a century to be materially less well off in adulthood than their parents, a government commission is expected to warn this week.
Leaked findings reveal the existence of a national trend not experienced since the early 20th century, with children from families with above-average incomes, as well as the most deprived, set to enjoy a worse standard of living when they grow up than their mothers and fathers.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Nobel Prize winner Peter Higgs admits being poor at physics at school

Peter Higgs, the Nobel Prize winning physicist, has admitted that he did “not perform well” at physics while at school.
Peter Higgs smiles after being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics at a press conference at the University of 
Edinburgh Photo: GETTY 

By , Science correspondent

Peter Higgs, who has won the Nobel Prize in Physics, has admitted he did “not perform well” at physics while at school, winning prizes in chemistry and languages instead.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Malala Yousafzai's supporters dismayed by failure to land Nobel peace prize

But many within Pakistan believe schoolgirl campaigner for education, tolerance and women's rights is western stooge

 Jon Boone

Malala Yousafzai in New York: liberals hoped a Nobel victory would prove symbolic in a country where extremism and militancy are on the rise. Photograph: Barcroft Media

Supporters of Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan reacted with disappointment to the decision by the Nobel committee not to award her the peace prize on Friday, although many in the country remain hostile to the 16-year-old education campaigner who they regard as a stooge of the west.

"You can't shake hands with a clenched fist."

                                      Indira Gandhi

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The problem with education? Children aren't feral enough

The 10-year-old Londoners I took to Wales were proof that a week in the countryside is worth three months in a classroom

George Monbiot

belle outdoors View larger picture'
"Instead of being encouraged to observe and explore and think and develop, children are 
being treated like geese in a foie gras farm" Illustration by Belle Meller.

What is the best way to knacker a child's education? Force him or her to spend too long in the classroom. An overview of research into outdoor education by King's College London found that children who spend time learning in natural environments "perform better in reading, mathematics, science and social studies". Exploring the natural world "makes other school subjects rich and relevant and gets apathetic students excited about learning".

Friday, 4 October 2013

Derby Muslim faith school closes on first day of Ofsted inspection

Al-Madinah school shuts its doors to pupils over 'health and safety issue' just hours after inspectors arrive.
Richard Adams

Ofsted headquarters

Ofsted is currently undertaking a two-day inspection of the Al-Madinah school. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

A controversial Islamic faith school in Derby – under fire for forcing female staff to wear headscarves – abruptly shut its doors on Wednesday hours after the arrival of inspectors from Ofsted, citing unspecified "health and safety" as the reason.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Do examinations get in the way of learning?

The national obsession with measuring progress places a premium on cognitive development but does not consider the whole child, says Tricia Kelleher

Labourers work at the production line at a toy factory in Panyu Is the development of students as individuals getting lost in the exam conveyor belt? Photograph: Aly Song/REUTERS

Watch out for the sharks! The plank is for the bad pirates."

This snatch of conversation between two, three year-old children in our pre-prep captures brilliantly their learning experience. Adults tend to equate learning to the amount of time children sit behind desks. But the children I observed were outside, creating a world of buccaneers, princesses and sword wielding heroes. I was even given a lesson in ballroom dancing by two little girls keen to share their skills with me.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Children should be taught how to 'lose graciously', says independent schools leader

Children should be taught how to “lose graciously” to prepare them for life after school, an independent schools leader said today.

Stock Photo: Opponents shaking hands

Eddy Newton, president of the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools, said pupils should be shown the etiquette of shaking hands with their opponent after a game and telling them: “Well done - you were better on the day.”