Archive for 'Arts and science'

Computer games: Should they be taken seriously or unseriously?

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

That can depend, to quite a degree, upon whom you ask.

“A serious game is a name given to computer software that tries to achieve just that. While some people think that serious games and games for learning are synonymous, digital games can be used for ‘serious’ purposes other than learning. Serious games can be used for motivating people to exercise more. Serious games can be used for medical treatment. Serious games can be used as a marketing tool. These are just a few examples, and we will illustrate various application areas with many actual serious games in this book.”

The book in question is ‘Serious Games : Foundations, Concepts and Practice’ – Eds. Ralf Dörner, Stefan Göbel, Wolfgang Effelsberg, Josef Wiemeyer, Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.

On the other hand, explains Professor Bart Simon [pictured right] of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada,

prof_bart_simonThis article initiates a provocation for a collective discussion of what we might call an unserious epistemology for the study and design of games. How can we find ways of taking the unseriousness of games seriously? Starting with the idea that most players take their games much less seriously than game studies scholars, I reflect on the importance of the idea of unseriousness for the theorization of gameplay as a sociocultural activity of last resort in a contemporary world defined by the grave seriousness of life.”

See: ‘Unserious’ in the ludological journal Games and Culture, September, 2016.

NEXT POST: Is there anything wrong with romantic dating?

Can’t not eat money, maybe

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

The saying “We can’t eat money” begs disagreement from British vegans and vegetarians. A report in The Guardian says:

Bank of England urged to make new £5 note vegan-friendly

More than 50,000 sign petition to cease use of tallow in production process, saying it is unacceptable to vegans and vegetarians…

Winston Churchill on next £5 bank note

NEXT POST: Did those kids drool way too much?

Earliest reported human flight in Britain (some time near the year 1000)

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

The earliest reported human flight in Britain happened, if it happened, long. long ago. Alison Hudson reports, in the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts blog:

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a… Monk?

…did you know that the first recorded pioneer of man-powered flight in the British Isles was an Anglo-Saxon monk from Malmesbury Abbey called Eilmer (or in Old English, Æthelmaer) who lived between about 980 and 1070?

6a00d8341c464853ef01b8d23cc63b970c-500wiEilmer’s life is recounted in the Deeds of the Kings of England [pictured here] by William of Malmesbury; indeed, William may have met him when Eilmer was an old man. According to William, many years earlier Eilmer had attached wings to his hands and his feet and jumped from a tower, travelling at least a ‘stadium’ (possibly 200 metres or 600 feet), before being caught by turbulence and breaking both his legs. Eilmer later claimed his error was not fitting a tail to himself, as well as wings. For comparison, the Wright Brothers’ first flight covered about 120 feet.

Eilmer was probably born in the 980s and died after 1066, so his flight probably took place in the 1000s or 1010s. We can guess Eilmer’s lifespan because William of Malmesbury claimed Eilmer had seen Halley’s Comet twice, in 1066 and presumably in 989….

The text, which you can read translated into modern English at, says:

He was a man of good learning for those times, of mature age, and in his early youth had hazarded an attempt of singular temerity. He had by some contrivance fastened wings to his hands and feet, in order that, looking upon the fable as true, he might fly like Daedalus, and collecting the air on the summit of a tower, had flown for more than the distance of a furlong; but, agitated by the violence of the wind and the current of air, as well as by the consciousness of his rash attempt, he fell and broke his legs, and was lame ever after. He used to relate as the cause of his failure, his forgetting to provide himself a tail.

NEXT POST: Why do they fear British money is made of meat?

A blockade on embargoes, to loose the flood of hidden science news?

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

“If journalists stopped believing they had to publish a story or post a blog the minute a new study came out…”

You will never hear about most of the flood of research that’s done, worldwide. Partly, that’s because there is so very, very much of it. embargoedBut partly, it’s because the custom of “embargoing” a small number of studies ends up focusing most press attention — and so most public attention — on a teeny tiny, itsy bitsy fraction of what’s out there.

Ivan Oransky tells how this works, and how it came to be, in an article in Vox: “Why science news embargoes are bad for the public“. Here’s part of that:

… But it’s clear that a lot of the power of embargoes would go away if journalists stopped believing they had to publish a story or post a blog the minute a new study came out. Sure, I get the value of a news peg. I used to run a wire service, Reuters Health, that covers health. But it warps the public’s understanding of how science works.

One new study can’t overturn the consensus in the field. And in many cases, the newest study is just the one most likely to be disproven in the future. Readers can often learn more from the history of a scientific question than they can from just the latest stab at answering that question.

But because reporters feel the need to make every finding sound important, embargoes are responsible in some large part, for example, for the weekly seesaw of “coffee is good for you, coffee is bad for you” news coverage with which we’ve all become too familiar….

BONUS: If you want to see some research that’s way outside the it-must-be-important-because-it’s-embargoed research, dip into the Annals of Improbable Research from time to time.

NEXT POST: Did a British monk flap his wings 1000 years ago?

Relative Finger Lengths and Russian Wages

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

The famous “invisible hand” of economics is made visible in part — that part being the relative lengths of some of the fingers of laborers in Russia — in a newly published study.

The study is: “The Effects of Prenatal Testosterone on Wages: Evidence from Russia,” John V.C. Nye, Maksym Bryukhanov, Ekaterina Kochergina, Ekaterina Orel, Sergiy Polyachenko, Maria Yudkevich, Economics and Human Biology, vol. 24, 2017, pp. 43-60.

The authors, at George Mason University, USA, and National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, explain:

“the relative length of the second to the fourth finger (2D:4D)… Though we do not yet understand the exact biological mechanisms… This paper uses a sample of working-age respondents from Moscow and the Moscow region to establish that [lower 2D:4D ratios] is clearly correlated with higher earnings for both women and men once controlling for factors such as age, education, and occupation.”

Here’s further detail from the study:


Next time you run into a professional economist, ask about this discovery. If you yourself are a professional economist, we would enjoy hearing how this discovery will change the way you understand the world economy.

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