General

VIDEO: Aerial view of M25 'collapse chaos'

BBC test - Fri, 2014-11-14 16:07
Three lanes of the M25 have been closed after a section collapsed and left a large pothole, following roadworks.
Categories: General

VIDEO: 'Young gamblers not seeking help'

BBC test - Fri, 2014-11-14 05:03
NHS figures uncovered by Newsbeat suggest that the average debt for some gamblers under the age of 30 is more than £10,000.
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VIDEO: Photographing unseen London

BBC test - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:03
Peter Dazeley talks to the BBC about the difficulty of photographing London's hidden gems.
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A Victorian Obsession finds a perfect home at Leighton House Museum

24 Hour Museum - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:00
Overblown? Sentimental? Maybe, says Richard Moss, but the Perez Simon collection of Victorian art makes perfect sense at Leighton House Museum.
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Rik Mayall Bottom bench unveiled by fans near original Hammersmith site of BBC sitcom

24 Hour Museum - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:00
In a poignant and colourful ceremony near the Hammersmith site of the original bench from Bottom, Rik Mayall fans have revealed a recreation of the sitcom favourite.
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Artist's Statement: Susie Parr on the Black Country Allotment Society

24 Hour Museum - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:00
Susie Parr teams up with Multistory in Sandwell to produce nine essays about allotments in the Black Country. The writer tells us more.
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VIDEO: Dyke 'can't take report seriously'

BBC test - Thu, 2014-11-13 23:31
English FA chairman Greg Dyke has told Newsnight that he "can't take Fifa's report seriously".
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VIDEO: A century of film at Elstree

BBC test - Thu, 2014-11-13 19:09
It is 100 years since the first films were made at the place known as Britain's Hollywood - Elstree in Hertfordshire.
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VIDEO: New UK trains unveiled in Japan

BBC test - Thu, 2014-11-13 15:31
The high-speed train which will be used on the Great Western Main Line through the Thames Valley has been unveiled in Japan.
Categories: General

New Research Focuses TIGHAR’s Underwater Search for Earhart Plane

Heritage Daily - Thu, 2014-11-13 12:50
Increasing confidence that a piece of aluminum aircraft debris found on a remote, uninhabited South Pacific atoll came from Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra has bolstered speculation that a sonar anomaly detected at a depth of 600 feet off the west end of the island is the lost aircraft.

In June 2015, TIGHAR will return to Nikumaroro to investigate the anomaly with Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) technology supported by Nai’a, the 120-foot Fiji-based vessel that has served five previous TIGHAR explorations. During the twenty-four day expedition, divers will search for other wreckage at shallower depths and an onshore search team will seek to identify objects detected in historical photographs that may be relics of an initial survival camp.

During Amelia Earhart’s stay in Miami at the beginning of her second world flight attempt, a custom-made, special window on her Lockheed Electra aircraft was removed and replaced with an aluminum patch. The patch was an expedient field modification. Its dimensions, proportions, and pattern of rivets were dictated by the hole to be covered and the structure of the aircraft. The patch was as unique to her particular aircraft as a fingerprint is to an individual. Research has now shown that a section of aircraft aluminum TIGHAR found on Nikumaroro in 1991 matches that fingerprint in many respects. For a detailed study of this important new development see The Window, The Patch, and The Artifact, Research Bulletin #73 on the TIGHAR website.

The strong possibility that Artifact 2-2-V-1 is the “Miami Patch” means that the many fractures, tears, dents and gouges evident on the metal may be important clues to the fate – and resting place – of the aircraft itself. Deciphering those clues will be the next phase in TIGHAR’s analysis of this complex and fascinating artifact.

Artifact 2-2-V-1 – Credit : Tighar

Abundant evidence suggests that Earhart landed her aircraft safely on the reef at Nikumaroro and sent radio distress calls for at least five nights before the Electra was washed into the ocean by rising tides and surf leaving Earhart and Noonan cast away on the uninhabited atoll. TIGHAR researchers previously speculated that Artifact 2-2-V-1, which was found on shore, apparently washed up by a storm, might be debris from the break-up of the Electra in the surf. According to this hypothesis, the plane was torn apart and there should be other pieces scattered all along the underwater reef slope.

TIGHAR tested that hypothesis during expeditions in 2010 and 2012 but no wreckage was found. Numerous explorations of the reef slope using camera-equipped Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) revealed no shards of aircraft wreckage and all of the sonar “targets” identified by contractor Phoenix International turned out to be coral boulders or shipwreck debris. Something was clearly wrong.

Several months after the 2012 expedition a member of TIGHAR’s online Amelia Earhart Search Forum spotted an unusual feature in the sonar imagery. During the expedition the contractor’s sonar technicians, if they noticed it all, did not alert the TIGHAR team to the anomaly in the underwater topography, so TIGHAR had no opportunity to check it out with the ROV. The object rests at a depth of six hundred feet at the base of a cliff just offshore where TIGHAR believes the Earhart aircraft was washed into the ocean. Seeking to learn more, TIGHAR commissioned an analysis of the anomaly by Ocean Imaging Consultants, Inc. of Honolulu – experts in post-processing sonar data. Their report revealed the anomaly to be the right size and shape to be the fuselage of Earhart’s aircraft. A variety of experts have, not surprisingly, offered a variety of opinions. Some are convinced the anomaly is a man-made object. Other think it is probably a geological feature. All agree that it needs to be visited.

The new research on Artifact 2-2-V-1 may reinforce the possibility that the anomaly is the rest of the aircraft. The artifact is not, as previously suspected, a random fragment from an aircraft shredded by the surf, and its removal from the aircraft appears to have been due, at least in part, to human action. That could only happen if the patch was broken out when the aircraft was on the reef surface – but when and by whom? Somehow the patch/artifact ended up on the island, so it must have either washed or been carried ashore.

If Artifact 2-2-V-1 is from the Earhart aircraft, as it appears to be, it seems to have had a different history from the rest of the aircraft. Did the underwater search for scattered wreckage fail because the wreckage is not scattered? Is the wreck of Earhart’s aircraft far more intact than TIGHAR had assumed? Is the anomaly the aircraft? The only way to now is to go look.

Tighar

Categories: General

What does it mean to be English?

Heritage Daily - Thu, 2014-11-13 12:19
An epic new history of England offers some eye-catching conclusions on Englishness – suggesting, among other things, that a “remarkable” level of cultural unity and a relative openness to other cultures are both key components of English national identity.

It may seem difficult to believe amid continual current debates over immigration, but an aversion to patriotic flag-waving and a relative tolerance of other cultures are both key components of English identity, according to a new history of England, published today.

The conclusions are just two of those reached in The English and Their History, a sweeping survey of the last 13 centuries by the historian Professor Robert Tombs which, by examining the development of the nation and Englishness since Anglo-Saxon times, attempts to answer the enduring and complex question of what it means to be English.

Part of that answer, he suggests, is to be found in a healthy “nonchalance” about national identity that has made the English – while by no means saints – resistant to racism and broadly tolerant of other cultures.

This is, however, only one small piece of the extensive verdict that Tombs, who teaches and researches modern European History at St John’s College, University of Cambridge, reaches in the conclusion of a study that has been six years in the making.

Elsewhere, he perhaps surprisingly argues that the widespread view that England is in a state of post-Imperial political and economic decline is a myth. The book also suggests that political isolationism from larger structures – whether the Empire or Europe – has rarely been a part of English history or nature, and identifies a fascinating history of political polarisation on sectarian lines that has, in the modern age, evolved into the split between “Ambridge and Coronation Street”.

The book, published on Thursday, November 6 by Allen Lane, is the first single-volume history of England to be produced on this scale since the 1930s. Starting in the Anglo-Saxon era and ending in 2014, it aims in part to explore, through the English people’s developing understanding of themselves, what their history means at a time when ties within the United Kingdom appear to be loosening.

“It tries to reflect on how we have understood history, what the past means to us today, and what it might mean to us in the future,” Tombs said. “It is an attempt to say, ‘this is the sort of country we are, and this is what our history has made us’. It’s up to the reader to decide how to use that and whether or not they agree.”

While the multicultural character of English history has been well-documented, Tombs argues that a tolerance of other peoples and, historically, of immigration, has become a component of the country’s national identity.

Central to his argument is the fact that England has, for very little of its history, stood alone. Most of the time it has been the core nation in a multinational state, or at one stage in the Empire. Only between King Alfred and King Cnut, and then during the Tudor period (along with Wales), did England operate as an isolated political entity.

Because of this, the book suggests that English identity tends not to be expressed in terms of ethnic purity or cultural distinctiveness, and it has typically made little political sense for England to “beat the nationalist drum”. Instead, Tombs argues that England has historically propagated its values through interaction with others – spreading Christianity in Medieval times, as a force for European civilisation and free trade more recently, and as an Empire. The result, he says, is that Englishness is not founded on ideas of opposition and exclusion, but on inclusion and expansion.

One effect of this is a general “nonchalance” about national identity. “We don’t normally go in for a lot of flag-waving, we find that fairly un-English,” Tombs said. “That nonchalance has made us pretty resistant to racism. That is not to deny that racism has played a part in English history, but it has not been a defining character of our history. And thanks to our memory of resistance to Hitler in the Second World War there is no nostalgia for Fascism in England as we are now seeing in several other countries.”

While some agonise over the lack of a clear patriotic identity or devotion to the national flag, Tombs argues that “there is something to be said for national nonchalance”.

“In recent decades, the English have largely accommodated the shifts brought by changing moralities and multi-ethnicity, incorporating them into new varieties of Englishness,” he writes. “Who could be more English today than Rita Ora and Dizzee Rascal, Jessica Ennis and Rio Ferdinand?”

Another eye-catching argument within Tombs’ extensive survey is that “declinism” – the suggestion that England and Britain as a whole have lost economic and political standing on the world stage since the end of Empire – is a myth.

Key to this is one of the book’s central propositions – that the history of England shows the nation to have been relatively rich, secure and orderly for most of its history. Notwithstanding periods of upheaval, such as the Wars of the Roses, Peasants’ Revolt or even the Civil War (a small-scale affair compared with the prolonged and bloody experiences going on in France and Germany at the same time, Tombs says), Britain has been relatively immune to transformative catastrophes such as invasion, war and revolution.

The result is the survival of ancient buildings, cultural treasures, and national institutions such as the Crown, Parliament, shires, boroughs, the Church, universities, schools, charitable foundations, voluntary associations and more. This is reinforced by long-term cultural consistencies, in particular the use of English itself as a mainstream spoken and written language dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. “The nation changes, but it has certain structures that continue,” Tombs argues. “England has an ancient structural unity in a way that in Italy, Germany or France do not.”

Taking the same long view reveals that Britain’s power, wealth and global status has been remarkably stable, even though all are typically seen to have failed following the end of the Empire, and decolonisation. When Britain emerged as a significant force in the early 18th century, it was the smallest, and yet the most global, of the world’s half dozen most powerful states. Three centuries later it remains so, outdistanced – like all other states – only by the USA.

Other measures also raise questions about the “declinist” view that British international power has fallen, and its political and social organisation have failed. Britain in the mid-20th century was, for instance, stronger militarily than in the mid-19th, the study observes. In the 1960s it was richer than ever; by 2008 England was second only to the USA among large countries in gross per capita income.

The book is also critical of the highly centralised nature of Britain’s administration which, it points out, is a relatively recently development – “a seventy year habit that we cannot, or will not, break,” Tombs says. He argues that it leaves British governments having to handle “a neverending conveyor belt of everyday problems”, relating to transport, education, and health, for example, which other countries deliver through local government.

In a complex way this clashes with a long-standing division in the nation’s politics that, unusually, was brought about by the legal recognition given to two religious cultures in England following the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. Unlike other countries, where a single religious denomination tends to have been dominant, England has since the 17th century held Anglicanism on the one hand, and Nonconformism on the other, in tension.

The study suggests that this unusual situation, of rival religious parties, then evolved new layers. Whig, Liberal and Labour politics were built on foundations of religious Dissent, then took on social and geographical characteristics as the country became divided between the working-class north and wealthier south.

One result of this religious point of origin, Tombs says, is that English politics has a distinctly moral and ideological tone. As a result, the commonplace details handled by a heavily-centralised Government have become the subjects of heated ideological debate – health and education are now disputed in the same terms as slavery or suffrage were in centuries past, when in most other countries they arouse far less emotion.

The over-arching message of the book is, however, a positive one, suggesting that structural and cultural unity are at the heart of what it means to be English. “We should be fairly optimistic about the future of England, as part of the UK and as a country that will want to reassess itself and will probably gain more autonomy in the coming years,” Tombs added. “The history of England shows that we have, in the long term, been very stable. We are not a nation in decline – and we never really have been.”

University of Cambridge

Categories: General

VIDEO: Cumming: Writing about abuse cathartic

BBC test - Thu, 2014-11-13 12:14
Alan Cumming says writing about his childhood physical abuse was a "cathartic" experience for his family.
Categories: General

Tools and primates: Opportunity, not necessity, is the mother of invention

Heritage Daily - Thu, 2014-11-13 12:01
Whether you are a human being or an orang-utan, tools can be a big help in getting what you need to survive.

However, a review of current research into the use of tools by non-human primates suggests that ecological opportunity, rather than necessity, is the main driver behind primates such as chimpanzees picking up a stone to crack open nuts.

An opinion piece by Dr Kathelijne Koops of the University of Cambridge and others, published today (12 November 2014) in Biology Letters, challenges the assumption that necessity is the mother of invention. She and her colleagues argue that research into tool use by primates should look at the opportunities for tool use provided by the local environment.

Koops and colleagues reviewed studies on tool use among the three habitual tool-using primates – chimpanzees, orangutans and bearded capuchins.

Chimpanzees use a variety of tools in a range of contexts, including stones to crack open nuts, and sticks to harvest aggressive army ants. Orang-utans also use stick tools to prey on insects, as well as to extract seeds from fruits. Bearded capuchin monkeys living in savannah like environments also use a variety of tools, including stones to crack open nuts and sticks to dig for tubers.

The researchers’ review of the published literature, including their own studies, revealed that, against expectations, tool use did not increase in times when food was scarce. Instead, tool use appears to be determined by ecological opportunity – with calorie-rich but hard-to-reach foodstuffs appearing to act as an incentive for an ingenious use of materials.

“By ecological opportunity, we mean the likelihood of encountering tool materials and resources whose exploitation requires the use of tools. We showed that these ecological opportunities influence the occurrence of tool use. The resources extracted using tools, such as nuts and honey, are among the richest in primate habitats. Hence, extraction pays off, and not just during times of food scarcity,” said Koops.

Tool use – and transmission of tool-making and tool-using skills between individuals – is seen as an important marker in the development of culture. “Given our close genetic links to our primate cousins, their tool use may provide valuable insights into how humans developed their extraordinary material culture and technology,” said Koops.

It has been argued that culture is present among wild primates because simple ecological and genetic differences alone cannot account for the variation of behaviour – such as tool use – observed across populations of the same species.

Koops and co-researchers argue that this ‘method of exclusion’ may present a misleading picture when applied to the material aspects of culture.

“The local environment may exert a powerful influence on culture and may, in fact, be critical for understanding the occurrence and distribution of material culture. In forests with plenty of nut trees, we are more likely to find chimpanzees cracking nuts, which is the textbook example of chimpanzee material culture,” said Koops.

“Our study suggests that published research on primate cultures, which depend on the ‘method of exclusion’, may well underestimate the cultural repertoires of primates in the wild, perhaps by a wide margin. We propose a model in which the environment is explicitly recognised as a possible influence on material culture.”

Categories: General

Did men evolve navigation skills to find mates?

Heritage Daily - Thu, 2014-11-13 11:58
A University of Utah study of two African tribes found evidence that men evolved better navigation ability than women because men with better spatial skills – the ability to mentally manipulate objects – can roam farther and have children with more mates.

By testing and interviewing dozens of members of the Twe and Tjimba tribes in northwest Namibia, the anthropologists showed that men who did better on a spatial task not only traveled farther than other men but also had children with more women, according to the study published this week in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

“It’s the first time anybody has tried to draw a line between spatial ability, navigation, range size and reproductive success. Most of this chain has been assumed in the scientific literature,” says Layne Vashro, the study’s first author and a postdoctoral researcher in anthropology.

Anthropology professor Elizabeth Cashdan, the study’s senior author, says, “Some of the links have been demonstrated, but this study looks at the whole chain and that’s what is novel about it.”

“Among the most consistent sex differences found in the psychological literature are spatial ability and navigation ability, with men better at both,” Vashro says. “In the anthropological literature, one of the most consistent behavioral differences between men and women is the distance they travel. This difference in traveling is assumed to explain the observed differences in spatial ability and navigation ability. Now, we’ve drawn a link between spatial ability and range size.”

There is a demonstrated relationship between sex differences in how far some mammals – including voles and deer mice – range or travel, and sex differences in their spatial and navigation abilities. But until now, little has been known about this relationship in humans, Vashro adds.

Funding for the study came in part from a dissertation improvement grant to Vashro from the National Science Foundation.

Male-Female Differences in Spatial Ability and Range Size

Cashdan says spatial skills include “being able to visualize spatial relationships and manipulate that image in your mind.” Vashro says an example is to “visualize how you fit a bunch of things into the back of a truck, and how you could rotate them most efficiently to fit.”

Cashdan notes that relative to other cognitive differences between the sexes, such as cultural differences in math skills, the difference in spatial skills is large, and it is found across cultures and in some other species. “That’s why we think it may have evolutionary roots,” she says.

“The argument in the literature is that you need good spatial ability to navigate successfully, and you need to navigate effectively to travel long distances in unfamiliar environments,” Cashdan says. “That is the hypothesized link.”

The new study connected links in that chain.

“These findings offer strong support for the relationship between sex differences in spatial ability and ranging behavior, and identify male mating competition as a possible selective pressure shaping this pattern,” the researchers conclude in their paper.

The study involved members of the Twe (pronounced tway) and Tjimba (pronounced chim-bah) tribes, which live in a mountainous, semiarid desert area. They have some goats and cows, and they collect berries, tubers and honey, and tend gardens with maize and some melons and pumpkin, Vashro says.

They have dry season camps in the mountains, where they forage, and wet season camps near their gardens.

The Twe and Tjimba were good subjects for the study because they travel over distances of 120 miles during a year, “navigating on foot in a wide-open natural environment like many of our ancestors,” Vashro says.

The tribes “have a comparatively open sexual culture,” Vashro says. Cashdan adds, “They have a lot of affairs with people they’re not married to, and this is accepted in the culture.” Many men have children by women other than their wives.

That also made the tribes good for the study, because “in a culture where you don’t have mates outside of marriage, we’re not going to expect as tight a relationship between range size and reproductive success,” Cashdan says.

How does mating pressure favor navigation skills?

“Navigation ability facilitates traveling longer distances and exploring new environments,” Vashro says. “And the farther you travel, the more likely you are to encounter new mating opportunities.”

Studying Foraging People in Namibia

During visits to Namibia’s Kunene region during 2009-2011, Vashro had Twe and Tjimba participants perform different tasks. He looked for male-female differences and correlations among those differences:

  • To test the ability to rotate objects mentally, a computer screen displayed a series of hands palm up or palm down and oriented in different directions. After a trial period, 68 men and 52 women were shown a series of hands for up to 7.5 seconds per image and were asked to identify whether the pictured hand was a left hand or right hand. After excluding participants who didn’t understand the task, the Utah researchers found males did better.
  • Another test of spatial perception involved a picture of a clear plastic cup with a horizontal water line in the middle. It was shown to 67 men and 55 women. Then they were shown a single page with four images of the cup tipped and the water line at varying angles. They were asked to identify the correct image, which showed the water line in the tipped cup parallel to the ground. This task also has been shown to be easier for men and also may be related to certain navigation skills. In the new study, the men also were significantly better at it than the women.
  • In another test, 37 men and 36 women were asked to point to nine different locations in the Kunene region, ranging from about 8 to 80 miles away. Vashro used a GPS compass to measure their accuracy. Men scored significantly better than women.
  • The researchers also measured the range size of Twe and Tjimba people by interviewing them and asking how many places they visited during the past year and the distance they covered to get to each location.

“Men traveled father than women and to more places than women,” with both findings statistically significant, Cashdan says. On average, Vashro says, “men reported visiting 3.4 unique locations across 30 miles per location on average in a year, while women reported visiting only two locations across 20 miles.”

And in the key finding, men who did better on the mental rotation task reported traveling farther both during their lifetime and the past year, compared with men who didn’t do as well on the mental rotation task. There was no difference in range size between women who did better and worse on the mental rotation task

“It looks like men who travel more in the past year also have children from more women – what you would expect if mating was the payoff for travel,” Vashro says.

“Why men should be better at mentally rotating objects is a weird thing,” Cashdan says. “Some people think it is culturally constructed, but that doesn’t explain why the pattern is shared so broadly across human societies and even in some other species. The question is why should men get better benefits from spatial ability than women? One hypothesis, which our data support, is that males, more than females, benefit reproductively from getting more mates, and ranging farther is one way they do this.”

University of Utah

Categories: General

VIDEO: Inside the world's biggest blood bank

BBC test - Thu, 2014-11-13 09:55
The NHS Blood and Transplant centre in Bristol is working hard to ensure it has enough to get through the festive period.
Categories: General

VIDEO: How to make a ten-year-old cash savvy

BBC test - Thu, 2014-11-13 08:17
Children as young as four could have the chance to join savings clubs in an attempt to prevent them getting into debt later in life.
Categories: General

A weak comet and a sandblasted spacecraft: NASA expert on the Philae Rosetta mission

24 Hour Museum - Thu, 2014-11-13 00:00
Professor Stanley Cowley, who was part of the team which spent 15 years planning the Philae's mission to discover space secrets, says Comet67P is an "old" and "very weak" comet.
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In Pictures: European Space Agency's Philae Rosetta comet probe thrills scientists

24 Hour Museum - Thu, 2014-11-13 00:00
Pictures from the landing as the Philae probe, named after an obelisk, inspired by the British Museum's Rosetta Stone and launched by archaeologists, astronomers and scientists, reaches its comet.
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Petition opposing closure of Imperial War Museum library receives more than 5,500 signatures

24 Hour Museum - Thu, 2014-11-13 00:00
Trade Union members say plans have been made to close the IWM's popular library, claiming they could cause the loss of up to 80 jobs after a £4 million cut in government funding.
Categories: General

Artist's Statement: Louise Marchal on punk rock, the King's Road and her maternal muse

24 Hour Museum - Thu, 2014-11-13 00:00
After seeing a statuette of a saint on her mother's dressing table, artist Louise Marchal became "massively influenced" by her great aunt, Frances Darlington. She explains more.
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