News

In Short: Should education be monetizable? Plus, teaching a computer slang

Online-classes

Enjoy a sampling of the stories from around the internet that captured our interest this week:

  • This look at the dramatic rise of MOOCs and other online college offerings points out a basic conundrum: can these courses make money? [The New York Times] Several TED speakers have given talks about online education this year: Peter Norvig described his 100,000 student classroom, Daphne Koller showed how Coursera is collecting data, and Shimon Schocken explained his self-organizing computer course. None of them see making money as a motivator. Should knowledge be a commodity?
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  • Vietnam, which is not known for its liberal civil rights policies, is considering a same sex marriage bill, which would make it the first Asian country to do so. Love this photo collection on LGBT life in Vietnam.  [The New York Times, Lens]
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  • A piece called “How to turn a Julia Fractal” shows how numbers are turn-able. [Acko.net] This reminds us of Benoit Mandelbrot’s TED Talk, “Fractals and the art of roughness.”
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  • A beautiful slideshow of images from photographer Lisa Kristine. [SFGate.com] Watch her TED Talk, “Photos that bear witness to modern slavery.”
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  • A look at the research scientist who tutors the supercomputer Watson, and how his most difficult challenge is … teaching it to understand slang. [Fortune]
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  • One more TED Oscar connection for you: the James Balog documentary “Chasing Ice” has been nominated for Best Song, for “Before My Time,” performed by Joshua Bell and Scarlett Johansson. [Berwick Advertiser] Cool, but we wish “Chasing Ice” were up for Best Documentary.
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  • A bold cover story, titled “Survival of the wrongest.” A look at how personal health journalism glosses over the fact that good science must be replicatable, leading to oversimplified answers to questions that still need a lot of research. [CJR.com]
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  • Former General Stanley McChrystal shares his thoughts on banning assault rifles. [MSNBC] Watch his talk from TED2011 “Listen, learn … then lead.”
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  • An interesting thought: can the social impact of a documentary be measured? [Good]
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  • The University of Cambridge has established a board to consider “existential risk.” [CSER.org] Three of its members are TED speakers: Martin Rees, Stephen Hawking and Nick Bostrom.
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  • The author of the just-published book Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes has written an essay called “Humanities Aren’t a Science. Stop Treating Them Like One.” [Creativity Post]
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  • At TEDYouth, science writer Carl Zimmer made the audience squirm as he shared his favorite insect — the jewel wasp, which makes its nest inside a cockroach. See this gruesome process, in photo and video form, in this piece from Zimmer. [NationalGeographic.com]
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  • Also in roach news, TED Fellow Greg Gage — who gave the TED Talk “The cockroach beat box” — is offering kits online for you to do your own cockroach dissection. [BackyardBrains.com]
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  • Suzanne Moore’s piece in New Statesman is such a good rant and had us thinking for days. However, there has been backlash to the piece, focused on a point Moore was trying to make about female body image; in a sad exercise, the backlash turned into internet abuse, until Moore left Twitter. [Pink News]
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  • The sad reasons why two billion tons of food go to waste every year. [The Independent] This is TED speaker Tristram Stuart’s cause.
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  • Filmmaker Michael Apted made the documentary “7 Up,” about a group of British 7-year-olds, in 1964. He’s been following them ever since and releasing the results every seven years. “56 Up” opens in the US this week. [The New Yorker]