List: Sep-20

What did Earth look like X years ago? – Starts at 750 million years ago: “Cryogenian Period. Glaciers may have covered the entire planet during the greatest ice age known on Earth. New types of life such as red and green algae appear during this period.” Includes a Google-Earth-like full-planet view. Seems like a great way to be introduced to Earth’s geological history.

Relaxed pedagogy: Relaxing teaching and learning in the university – “With Uptight Pedagogy (UpPed) we refer to the current predominant pedagogical approach in higher education teaching. When we think of UpPed, we immediately think of the ‘banking system of education’: the system through which knowledge is ‘deposited’ by teachers ‘into’ learners, and which, in doing so, re/produces a hierarchy of teaching and learning. Highlighting pedagogical ‘uptightness’, we specifically draw attention to HET’s often ‘vertical’, linear and disciplining, or even controlling and punitive, orientation. For instance, critical pedagogical approaches, such as developed by Freire and hooks, argue that it is not possible to achieve social transformation by merely teaching about social transformation, i.e. without the teaching itself being socially transformative. Our attention here goes specifically to the intersectionally ableist and in particular neuro-ableist principles and practices of HET’s UpPed, which, in turn, reproduce norms of abledness and neurotypicality and interrelated exclusion mechanisms. These principles and practices create norms of how bodies and minds are supposed to learn, teach, and generally act and interact in higher education. This raises questions about how we – as teachers and students – are expected to be and to behave, to learn and to teach.”

Things come apart – One fellow takes every-day objects apart into their smallest constituent pieces and lays them out on a table. Suddenly, they look so simple and unsophisticated. Some, like the analog telephone, look chaotic, as if manufacturers put them together in a hurry or without forethought about which parts ought to go where. Intimidating things become mundane, seemingly filled with imperfections and awkward secrets like the rest of us.

New ham radio onboard the ISS is on the air – “Ham Radio operators have enjoyed making contact with the ISS for many years. The holy grail has always been talking to ISS astronauts on FM simplex (145.800) — but those can be rare chance encounters. Ham radio operators have also enjoyed slow-scan television (SSTV) broadcasts and APRS packet radio via the ISS digipeater. Now we get to work the world’s most expensive FM repeater thanks to the new InterOperable Radio System (IORS) installed on the ISS. The InterOperable Radio System (IORS) replaces an ancient Ericsson radio system and packet module that were certified for spaceflight over two decades ago. The 5 watt HT that was aboard the ISS was getting worn out after many years of use. The Ericsson radio looks like something from a 1990s episode of Cops.”

The country that doesn’t exist – “Transdniestria is sometimes referred to as a “frozen conflict” because, while fighting ceased in the area 25 years ago, no formal peace treaty has ever been drawn. Today the perimeter of Transdniestria is patrolled by “about 1,200 Russian peacekeepers,” says Deletant, “who enforce an uneasy cease-fire.” And though its residents are patriotic, calling themselves “Transdniestrians,” many pledge allegiance to Russia rather than Moldova. This national identity crisis was what compelled Belgian photographer Thomas Vanden Driessche to travel to Transdniestria and document life there. Starting in the capital of Tiraspol, Vanden Driessche spent two weeks driving around the region with a fixer who spoke Russian, one of the territory’s main languages. For the most part, says Vanden Driessche, people were comfortable with him taking their portraits. But when he was out on the street with his camera, something struck him about the way people reacted. Instead of being either overly friendly or confrontational—the two extremes he typically encounters—Vanden Driessche was met with an unfamiliar indifference. “It was strange,” he says. “Nobody was happy. But nobody was pissed off.””

In Karnataka, many girls leave colleges after being pressured into marriage – “Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many girl students in Karnataka are dropping out of degree programmes after being persuaded by their families to get married. In many cases, efforts by lecturers to convince parents to postpone the wedding till after they complete the courses have failed. The last date to complete college admissions without fine was September 15, and many colleges are reporting that 10% to 20% of the girls did not turn up. “About 150 students are yet to take admission for the second and final year in the current academic year at our college,” said Mahendra Kumar, principal of Government First Grade Arts College in Hassan. While every year there are some students who get married and give up studies, this year the numbers are markedly higher, he said. T.M. Manjunath, president of Karnataka Government College Teachers’ Association, said this was the trend across the State as many parents were stretched thin financially amid the pandemic.”

Three takeaways from the 2020 World Nuclear Industry Status report – “While small modular reactors exist mostly on paper, there are many companies hoping to change that, promising units that are safer, cheaper, and faster to build. Last month, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a small modular reactor design submitted by a company called NuScale Power. Though several hurdles remain, NuScale plans to build its first reactor at the site of the Idaho National Laboratory and supply power to Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems as early as 2029. But other countries’ recent experiences, detailed in the report, point to the difficulties ahead. Russia brought two small reactors online in 2019, but these took over 12 years to build, and at a cost about six times as much as the original estimates. These are the famed floating reactors of the Akademik-Lomonosov—they’re literally installed on a large ship, and that complication almost certainly contributed to the delays and high costs. But there are more comparable examples for NuScale. The CAREM-25, a 25-megawatt prototype small modular reactor in Argentina, was supposed to receive its first fuel load in 2017 but is at least three years behind schedule. Similarly, China’s High Temperature Reactor project is running four years behind schedule and, while China originally planned to build 18 more of these smaller reactors, the report suggests its appetite may be sated after just one.”