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The chemist in the kitchen: Rachel Edwards-Stuart cooked up a career from applying lab techniques to modern cuisine

April 4, 2013 5:16 pm

The chemist in the kitchen

By Emma Jacobs

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In her elements: Rachel Edwards-Stuart uses her academic studies to create culinary transformations

Nervy, nerdy Rachel Edwards-Stuart fizzes about the kitchen in her north London higgledy-piggledy flat, pulling out bits of equipment. A water bath, a blow torch, pipettes. Ah, here is the smoking gun. “The tube is over there,” she yanks a foot-long piece of rubber from a shelf. “My cleaning lady hides things in weird places.” She pauses. “I don’t know where you’d normally put a tube from a smoking gun.”

The 30-year-old food scientist is such an enthusiast for the overlapping spheres of science and gastronomy that she interrupts one train of thought with another and another.

Her primary job is to teach the science of cooking and ways of creating gastronomic experiments to chefs – professionals in restaurants as well as amateurs who aspire to make such gourmet confections at home. But she also advises chefs and the food industry. She shares the evangelising passion of a mad professor desperate to communicate their ideas while baffled by their audience’s ignorance. Read more of this post

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There Is A Worrying Sign That The New Bird Flu May Spread Between Humans

There Is A Worrying Sign That The New Bird Flu May Spread Between Humans

Jennifer Welsh | Apr. 4, 2013, 5:49 PM | 7,592 | 8

A person who had been in contact with a patient that died of H7N9 has been quarantined with flu symptoms, Xinhua reports. The person had close contact with one of the five patients that have died from this new bird flu. If this person, who lives in Changhai, does have the H7N9 virus, he could be the 15th case in China. He is the first of the 400 close contacts that the WHO is monitoring for show signs of infection. Science writer Ed Yong said on Twitter that this news is a “potential catastrophe.” We agree. This could mean that the virus has the ability to spread between humans directly, making it much deadlier, especially because humans don’t have a natural immunity to this strain of virus, because it usually can’t infect us.

The Story Of A Failed Startup And A Founder Driven To Suicide

The Story Of A Failed Startup And A Founder Driven To Suicide

Alyson Shontell | Apr. 4, 2013, 8:43 PM | 86,356 | 37

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A few months ago, on Sunday, January 27, an entrepreneur named Jody Sherman had plans to see a movie with a friend.

But that afternoon, the friend received a call from Jody’s wife, Kerri.

Jody had gone missing. Three hours later, Kerri notified the Las Vegas Police Department, fearing something might have happened to her husband.

At 11:12 PM, the police found Sherman’s body.

He was in his car on Witch Mountain Road, near Mount Charleston, Nevada, about 25 miles from Las Vegas. Sherman had been shot in the head.

The Clark County coroner’s office determined that Sherman had killed himself. It was five days before his 48th birthday.

News of Sherman’s suicide ripped through Twitter and the technology blogs. His death left thousands aching and confused. He left no note. His last Facebook message was written by his wife:

“This is Jody’s final post, and it isn’t coming from Jody. He’s gone. This is not a bit of his wonderful twisted humor. This is sad and real and forever. He didn’t say goodbye to anyone because he knew he couldn’t. So I’m saying it for him. If you are reading this it’s because you are connected to Jody in some way. He loved you, respected you, admired you, valued your presence in his life, or felt some combination of any or all of these things. And he would want each and every one of you to know and understand exactly that. Please post anything you have to say to or about Jody here.”

Just a few days after Sherman’s suicide, his company, Ecomom, had a board meeting in which his co-founder and the board found the startup in a startling state.

A couple of weeks later, Ecomom closed its doors. The prosaic reason: The company’s liabilities were greater than its assets.

Put more simply, Ecomom was broke. The 28-person startup — which had just raised $5 million six months earlier and more than $12 million total — ran out of cash. And no one left at the company seemed to know where it had gone. Read more of this post

Feathers Fly as New Rules Loom for Kids’ Apps; Updated federal children’s online privacy rules go into effect in July. Developers of games and other mobile software are still figuring out how to comply

April 4, 2013, 7:43 p.m. ET

Feathers Fly as New Rules Loom for Kids’ Apps

By ANTON TROIANOVSKI

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Kids love Angry Birds, but will Angry Birds love them back?

Updated federal children’s online privacy rules go into effect in July. Developers of games and other mobile software are still figuring out how to comply: They must balance their desire to tap the lucrative kids’ market and the increased regulatory headache of targeting children.

The biggest problem: data-collection practices that have become routine in the app industry could run afoul of the new rules when used in kids’ apps.

Japanese mobile games giant Gree Inc.3632.TO +3.02% and the U.K. company behind the popular kids’ website Moshi Monsters are scaling back plans to jointly build apps as they figure out how to adjust to the new rules, according to Moshi Monsters executive Rebecca Newton. Read more of this post

The Practical University: The promise of online education lies in taking care of the technical knowledge so that universities can focus on transmitting practical knowledge

April 4, 2013

The Practical University

By DAVID BROOKS

The best part of the rise of online education is that it forces us to ask: What is a university for?

Are universities mostly sorting devices to separate smart and hard-working high school students from their less-able fellows so that employers can more easily identify them? Are universities factories for the dissemination of job skills? Are universities mostly boot camps for adulthood, where young people learn how to drink moderately, fornicate meaningfully and hand things in on time?

My own stab at an answer would be that universities are places where young people acquire two sorts of knowledge, what the philosopher Michael Oakeshott called technical knowledge and practical knowledge. Technical knowledge is the sort of knowledge you need to understand a task — the statistical knowledge you need to understand what market researchers do, the biological knowledge you need to grasp the basics of what nurses do.

Technical knowledge is like the recipes in a cookbook. It is formulas telling you roughly what is to be done. It is reducible to rules and directions. It’s the sort of knowledge that can be captured in lectures and bullet points and memorized by rote. Read more of this post

Chinese Education: The Truth Behind the Boasts; Parents in China’s big cities sometimes pay donations and steep fees to middlemen to get their children into the best schools

Chinese Education: The Truth Behind the Boasts

By Dexter Roberts on April 04, 2013

In an international survey released just over two years ago, high school students from Shanghai scored at the top in math, science, and reading. Some Americans saw this as a Sputnik moment—a wake-up call for the rest of the world to better educate its young or risk falling behind the Chinese. In March, China’s leadership announced that education spending totaled 7.79 trillion yuan ($1.26 trillion) over the last five years, reaching a target of 4 percent of gross domestic product. “The quality and level of education in China was comprehensively raised,” said outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao on March 5.

The reality is China’s students receive educations of greatly varying quality. Their parents often pay a lot for it, depending on where they live and how ambitious their choice of school—even though China is committed to a system “implemented uniformly by the State,” with “no tuition or miscellaneous fee,” according to the 1986 Compulsory Education Law. Yet some rural families struggle to pay school costs as high as one-half their meager incomes, while up to 130 students crowd country classrooms, according to Yang Dongping, an education expert at the Beijing Institute of Technology and the dean of the 21st Century Education Research Institute. Yang adds that urban parents pay introduction fees of as much as $10,000 to middlemen to win entry into the better schools. Read more of this post

China’s internet: A giant cage; The internet was expected to help democratise China. Instead, it has enabled the authoritarian state to get a firmer grip. But for how long?

China’s internet: A giant cage

The internet was expected to help democratise China. Instead, it has enabled the authoritarian state to get a firmer grip, says Gady Epstein. But for how long?

Apr 6th 2013 |From the print edition

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THIRTEEN YEARS AGO Bill Clinton, then America’s president, said that trying to control the internet in China would be like trying to “nail Jell-O to the wall”. At the time he seemed to be stating the obvious. By its nature the web was widely dispersed, using so many channels that it could not possibly be blocked. Rather, it seemed to have the capacity to open up the world to its users even in shut-in places. Just as earlier communications technologies may have helped topple dictatorships in the past (for example, the telegraph in Russia’s Bolshevik revolutions in 1917 and short-wave radio in the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991), the internet would surely erode China’s authoritarian state. Vastly increased access to information and the ability to communicate easily with like-minded people round the globe would endow its users with asymmetric power, diluting the might of the state and acting as a force for democracy.

Those expectations have been confounded. Not only has Chinese authoritarian rule survived the internet, but the state has shown great skill in bending the technology to its own purposes, enabling it to exercise better control of its own society and setting an example for other repressive regimes. China’s party-state has deployed an army of cyber-police, hardware engineers, software developers, web monitors and paid online propagandists to watch, filter, censor and guide Chinese internet users. Chinese private internet companies, many of them clones of Western ones, have been allowed to flourish so long as they do not deviate from the party line. Read more of this post

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