Weekly Meanderings, 5 October 2019

Weekly Meanderings, 5 October 2019 October 5, 2019

Gotta love this kind of technological development for the benefit of others: exoskeletons:

LONDON (Reuters) – A man paralyzed from the shoulders down has been able to walk using a pioneering four-limb robotic system, or exoskeleton, that is commanded and controlled by signals from his brain.

With a ceiling-mounted harness for balance, the 28-year-old tetraplegic patient used a system of sensors implanted near his brain to send messages to move all four of his paralyzed limbs after a two-year-long trial of the whole-body exoskeleton.

The results, published in The Lancet Neurology journal on Thursday, bring doctors a step closer to one day being able to help paralyzed patients drive computers using brain signals alone, according to researchers who led the work.

But for now the exoskeleton is purely an experimental prototype and is “far from clinical application”, they added.

Good for Lauren Daigle!

When Hillsong UNITED‘s hit “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” reigned on Billboard‘s Hot Christian Songs chart for a record number of weeks, Lauren Daigle saw it and wished she could be a “part of something that shakes the earth like that song.”

Now the 28-year-old Louisiana native is living out that reality with her song “You Say” at No. 1 for 62 weeks now in the Christian category, days after announcing the Lauren Daigle World Tour with Johnnyswim, beginning in Australia next year and ending in Lafayette July 2020.

“I really pondered the journey of the song ‘Oceans,’ and I remember seeing the impact that song made on so many people. It was just so beautiful to me,” Daigle told Billboard after finding out that her song made chart history. “I didn’t know that would ever happen, and I had no idea that ‘You Say’ would be something that would parallel the life of ‘Oceans.'”

The song off her album, “Look Up Child,” is about identity.

In a video about the story behind the song, Daigle said “You Say” was the first song she wrote after her previous album, on the heels of her first Dove Awards Show.

“This song is just a reminder of identity. A reminder that, when I’m weak, He’s strong, so how do I change that and bring that into my everyday life?” she said. “When I feel inadequate, how is it that there’s always these moments where I feel like God just steps in and supersedes my inadequacies.”

Cormac McCarthy’s advice for writers;

The following are more of McCarthy’s words of wisdom, as told by Savage and Yeh.

• Use minimalism to achieve clarity. While you are writing, ask yourself: is it possible to preserve my original message without that punctuation mark, that word, that sentence, that paragraph or that section? Remove extra words or commas whenever you can.

• Decide on your paper’s theme and two or three points you want every reader to remember. This theme and these points form the single thread that runs through your piece. The words, sentences, paragraphs and sections are the needlework that holds it together. If something isn’t needed to help the reader to understand the main theme, omit it.

• Limit each paragraph to a single message. A single sentence can be a paragraph. Each paragraph should explore that message by first asking a question and then progressing to an idea, and sometimes to an answer. It’s also perfectly fine to raise questions in a paragraph and leave them unanswered.

• Keep sentences short, simply constructed and direct. Concise, clear sentences work well for scientific explanations. Minimize clauses, compound sentences and transition words — such as ‘however’ or ‘thus’ — so that the reader can focus on the main message.

• Don’t slow the reader down. Avoid footnotes because they break the flow of thoughts and send your eyes darting back and forth while your hands are turning pages or clicking on links. Try to avoid jargon, buzzwords or overly technical language. And don’t use the same word repeatedly — it’s boring.

• Don’t over-elaborate. Only use an adjective if it’s relevant. Your paper is not a dialogue with the readers’ potential questions, so don’t go overboard anticipating them. Don’t say the same thing in three different ways in any single section. Don’t say both ‘elucidate’ and ‘elaborate’. Just choose one, or you risk that your readers will give up.

• And don’t worry too much about readers who want to find a way to argue about every tangential point and list all possible qualifications for every statement. Just enjoy writing.

• With regard to grammar, spoken language and common sense are generally better guides for a first draft than rule books. It’s more important to be understood than it is to form a grammatically perfect sentence.

• Commas denote a pause in speaking. The phrase “In contrast” at the start of a sentence needs a comma to emphasize that the sentence is distinguished from the previous one, not to distinguish the first two words of the sentence from the rest of the sentence. Speak the sentence aloud to find pauses.

• Dashes should emphasize the clauses you consider most important — without using bold or italics — and not only for defining terms. (Parentheses can present clauses more quietly and gently than commas.) Don’t lean on semicolons as a crutch to join loosely linked ideas. This only encourages bad writing. You can occasionally use contractions such as isn’t, don’t, it’s and shouldn’t. Don’t be overly formal. And don’t use exclamation marks to call attention to the significance of a point. You could say ‘surprisingly’ or ‘intriguingly’ instead, but don’t overdo it. Use these words only once or twice per paper.

• Inject questions and less-formal language to break up tone and maintain a friendly feeling. Colloquial expressions can be good for this, but they shouldn’t be too narrowly tied to a region. Similarly, use a personal tone because it can help to engage a reader. Impersonal, passive text doesn’t fool anyone into thinking you’re being objective: “Earth is the centre of this Solar System” isn’t any more objective or factual than “We are at the centre of our Solar System.”

• Choose concrete language and examples. If you must talk about arbitrary colours of an abstract sphere, it’s more gripping to speak of this sphere as a red balloon or a blue billiard ball.

• Avoid placing equations in the middle of sentences. Mathematics is not the same as English, and we shouldn’t pretend it is. To separate equations from text, you can use line breaks, white space, supplementary sections, intuitive notation and clear explanations of how to translate from assumptions to equations and back to results.

• When you think you’re done, read your work aloud to yourself or a friend. Find a good editor you can trust and who will spend real time and thought on your work. Try to make life as easy as possible for your editing friends. Number pages and double space.

• After all this, send your work to the journal editors. Try not to think about the paper until the reviewers and editors come back with their own perspectives. When this happens, it’s often useful to heed Rudyard Kipling’s advice: “Trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too.” Change text where useful, and where not, politely explain why you’re keeping your original formulation.

• And don’t rant to editors about the Oxford comma, the correct usage of ‘significantly’ or the choice of ‘that’ versus ‘which’. Journals set their own rules for style and sections. You won’t get exceptions.

• Finally, try to write the best version of your paper: the one that you like. You can’t please an anonymous reader, but you should be able to please yourself. Your paper — you hope — is for posterity. Remember how you first read the papers that inspired you while you enjoy the process of writing your own.

Students, learning, sleep habits:

By Matthew Reisz
Twitter: @MatthewReiszTHE
Getting your beauty sleep can pay dividends in the examination room
It is widely recognised that lack of sleep can affect academic performance, but new research provides far more detail on the scale and nature of the link.

Jeffrey Grossman, professor of materials science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gave fitbits – wrist-worn devices that can track a person’s activity throughout the day and night – to 100 students in his introductory class on solid-state chemistry over a whole semester. He then tracked the data against their grades, based on nine quizzes, three mid-term examinations and a final examination. The results have now been published in a paper in the Science of Learning journal, written by postdoc Kana Okano, Professor Grossman and three others.

Along with a very striking link between the average amount of sleep a student got and their grades, the paper demonstrated a number of more surprising things. The first is that there was no point in just making an effort to sleep well the day before an exam. “It turns out this does not correlate at all with test performance,” said Professor Grossman. “Instead, it’s the sleep you get during the days when learning is happening that matters most.”

Equally unexpected was the fact that there seemed to be a sort of cut-off point around when students went to bed. For those who got, say, seven hours’ sleep, explained Professor Grossman, it made no difference to their performance whether they “go to bed at 10pm, or at 12am, or at 1am…but if you go to bed after 2am, your performance starts to go down even if you get the same seven hours. So, quantity isn’t everything.”

The research also shed light on something Professor Grossman has long noticed in his classes: women tended to get better grades than men. While earlier studies on gendered differences in academic performance have tended to focus on factors such as “self-discipline”, the new data, he said, showed that “if we correct for sleep, men and women do the same in class. So sleep could be the explanation for the gender difference in our class.” As a result of this finding, the paper suggests that, although sleep is important for everyone, “it may be especially important to encourage better sleep habits in male students”.

Speaking with squirrels:

IVCF at Iowa re-instated:

WASHINGTON – A vice president and other officers at the University of Iowa must pay out of their own pockets for discriminating against a religious student group. In InterVarsity v. University of Iowa, a federal court ruled that the University and its officers violated the law when they kicked InterVarsity off campus for asking its leaders to be Christian. A dozen other religious groups—including Sikhs, Muslims, and Latter-day Saints—were also kicked off campus for requiring their leaders to share their faith. But all secular groups and a few religious groups favored by the University got a pass. In a ruling last Friday, the court held that this discrimination was so egregious that the officers involved would be personally accountable for any money InterVarsity lost fighting to stay on campus. The court left open the possibility that the University’s president, Bruce Harreld, could also be found liable.

InterVarsity has been at the University for over 25 years. It welcomes all students as members, and only requires the students who lead its ministry to affirm its faith. In the past, the University has honored InterVarsity for its contributions to campus life. But in June 2018, the University claimed that, by requiring leaders to affirm their faith, InterVarsity was violating the University’s nondiscrimination policy. The University then limited InterVarsity’s access to campus, froze its bank account, shut down its website, and advertised that it was “defunct” for lack of student interest. As a result, InterVarsity suffered its sharpest membership decline in over twenty years. Friday’s ruling confirmed that the University’s actions violated the Constitution and ordered the University to respect InterVarsity’s right to select religious leaders going forward.

“We must have leaders who share our faith,” said Greg Jao, Director of External Relations at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA. “No group—religious or secular—could survive with leaders who reject its values. We’re grateful the court has stopped the University’s religious discrimination, and we look forward to continuing our ministry on campus for years to come.”

InterVarsity USA is on 772 campuses nationwide. Its University of Iowa chapter hosts weekly Bible studies and monthly meetings for prayer, worship, and religious discussions on current issues. In upholding the group’s right to be on campus, the court noted that, just last January—in the related case of BLinC v. University of Iowa—it already warned the University against enforcing its policy unevenly. The court stated it “would never have expected the University to respond to that order by homing in on religious groups[]” like InterVarsity, while “carving out explicit exemptions for other groups. But here we are.” The court did “not know how a reasonable person could have concluded this was acceptable,” since it “plainly” doubled down on the exact same conduct the court had already held unlawful. In a hearing last week, the court described the University’s conduct as “ludicrous” and “incredibly baffling.”

“It’s too bad it took twice for the University to learn its lesson,” said Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket. “There was no excuse the first time for squashing students’ First Amendment rights. University officials nationwide should now take note that religious discrimination will hit them in the pocketbook.”

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