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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Philosopher of The Month: Maurice Merleau-Ponty [slideshow] | OUPblog

Panumas King, marketing executive for philosophy at Oxford University Press reports, "This July, the OUP Philosophy team honors Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-61) as their Philosopher of the Month."  

Photo: The Card Player (5th version) (ca.1894-1895) by Paul Cezanne, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenologist and together with Sartre founded the existential philosophy. His work draws on the empirical psychology, the early phenomenology of Husserl, Saussure’s structuralism as well as Heidegger’s ontology.

His most famous work Phénoménologie de la Perception (1945, Phenomenology of Perception) established Merleau-Ponty as the philosopher of the body. The body is the centre of perceptions and medium of consciousness.  By this, he emphasized the way in which our experience does not form a shut-off private domain, but a way of being-in-the world in which the lived body and the perceptible world coexist internally...

Merleau-Ponty also has profound influence in the field of aesthetics and art theory.  His philosophy of painting rests on the three essays: ‘Cézanne’s Doubt’, ‘Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence’ and ‘Eye and Mind’.
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Source: OUPblog (blog)


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Beware the cult of tech education | Opinion - The Australian Financial Review

We should resist the urge to hero worship leaders of any one profession over another, any one skill over another, as The Australian Financial Review reports.

Google found the best new ideas came from B teams comprised of employees who don't always have to be the smartest in the room.
Photo: techno

In a speech this month dedicated to the critical importance of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education in driving Australia's future economy, Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham invoked the works of Sir Francis Bacon and Alvin Toffler as inspiration.

He topped it with a timely reference to the Thai cave rescue and how the "feats of science, technology and engineering made such a rescue possible".

Birmingham's audience was the Australian Science Teachers Federation, so he may have been preaching to the converted.

Faddish obsession
But I'm sure many knew that Sir Francis, a true enlightenment-era genius, was as gifted in philosophy and law as he was in science; that Toffler, the author of the 1970 best seller Future Shock, was a writer not a scientist; and the Thai cave rescue success had as much to do with the physical skill and resilience of the divers as it did engineering.

And this is the problem with politicians' new-found obsession with STEM education: it comes across as too simplistic and at times, faddish.

There is no argument that Australia needs more and appropriately qualified science and maths teachers and that STEM skills are vital for the new world of work and in solving the myriad wicked problems in an ever more complex and connected world.
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Source: The Australian Financial Review


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What are you reading? – 19 July 2018 | Books - Times Higher Education (THE)

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers by Contributors.

Photo: iStock

Bruce Macfarlane, professor of higher education, University of Bristol, is reading Abraham Flexner’s Universities: American, English, German (Routledge, 1994)...

arina Buckley, instructional design manager, Solent University, is reading Patricia Cornwell’s Depraved Heart (HarperCollins, 2015)...  

Karen McAulay, performing arts librarian and postdoctoral researcher, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, is reading James Raven’s What is the History of the Book? (Polity Press, 2018)... “

Source: Times Higher Education (THE)


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Three Recent Books On Physics And Philosophy | Forbes

"One of the evergreen topics in my social-media circles has to do with the relationship between physics and philosophy, which generally comes up in the form of accusations that physicists are too dismissive of philosophy. This may be an indication that I need to get out more" notes Chad Orzel, physics professor, pop-science author, and blogger. His next book, Breakfast with Einstein: The Exotic Physics of Everyday Objects, will be released in December 2018.

Photo: Cover images of books by Adam Becker, Paul Halpern, and Sabine HossenfelderChad Orzel

The interaction of physics and philosophy is also a recurring topic in pop-science writing, and as it happens, I've recently read three books that touch on this topic to varying degrees (thanks to the publishers who keep sending me review copies of forthcoming physics titles). Together, they pretty much span the full range of my own thinking about the subject, so it probably makes sense to discuss them all together.
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Source: Forbes


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Beach reads: Top books to read this summer | Axios

Photo: Mike Allen
Each Friday in Axios PM this summer, Mike Allen, Co-founder of Axios, sharing a book he just finished, or am excited to start. Check out the books he had read below, and sign up for Axios PM to get my picks for the rest of the season delivered directly to your inbox. 

Photo: Axios Visuals

"The Performance Cortex: How Neuroscience Is Redefining Athletic Genius," by Zach Schonbrun, one of the most refreshing bylines in the N.Y. Times sports pages (Dutton):
  • "All my life I had admired athletes, fantasized about being one myself. ... All my life I had focused on the body. I realized now that my attention had been amiss." So the book focuses on "how the motor system produces the performances we watch and adore."
  • Dive in for "Why We Have a Brain" ... "Why Stephen Curry Is a Genius" ... "The Intelligence in Our Skin" ... "How Tom Brady Won Super Bowl LI" (spoiler: "the brain's inherent GPS") ... "A Paralyzed Man Who Moved."
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Source: Axios


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7 New Books We Recommend This Week | Book Review - New York Times

Follow on Twitter as @GregoryCowles
Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times by Gregory Cowles, Senior Editor, Books. 

Fiction edges out nonfiction among our recommended titles this week — especially family stories, with parent-child relationships at the heart of new novels by Katie Williams (“Tell the Machine Goodnight”), Evgenia Citkowitz (“The Shades”) and Rumaan Alam (“That Kind of Mother”). You may recognize Rumaan’s name from the NYT Books briefing he emails every Tuesday — you should subscribe, if you haven’t already! — and I’m happy to vouch that he’s just as charming in person as he is in your inbox. And on the page, too. Here’s how his novel starts: “The book lied. Books lied; she knew that. … What could a book tell you?”

Plenty, we hope, even the ones that lie. Along with another novel (Keith Gessen’s “A Terrible Country,” this time about a grandparent-grandchild relationship), the week’s other suggestions include an urbane and wide-ranging essay collection, an argument for cash handouts from the government and a memoir of life as a stenographer in the Obama White House.
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Source: New York Times


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10 Best Books by Ernest Hemingway, Ranked | Culture - The Manual

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."



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Where did maths mastery come from? | Opinion - Schools Week

The roots of some ‘Asian’ teaching approaches lie closer to home than you might think, observes Mark Boylan, Professor at the Sheffield Institute of Education, Sheffield Hallam University.

Photo: Schools Week

Read or hear the word “maths” in England right now, and you’re likely to see or hear the word “mastery”, too. Teaching for mastery is both the name of the government’s preferred teaching approach in maths and the name for the programme of funds and initiatives to encourage schools to adopt it. Publishers, consultants and websites with maths resources are all adopting the mastery brand.

Given this, a new teacher could be forgiven for thinking that talk of mastery has been around for a long time. However, a quick search in the Schools Week archive reveals that in 2015 there were only passing references, and generally they were not linked to maths.

Teachers who have been around for a little longer probably have some inkling that this talk of mastery has something to do with maths teaching in East Asia, and particularly Singapore and Shanghai.

But teachers in Singapore and Shanghai don’t tend to talk about mastery in maths. They don’t do teaching for mastery – they do teaching maths. So where did this idea of mastery and mathematics come from? Fortunately, the modern adoption of the term is well documented.

The idea of mastery learning goes back to the 1960s, when Benjamin Bloom had a novel idea: if learners don’t get something the first time, then teach them again and in different ways until they do. More recently, the Ark academy chain began to develop a maths curriculum influenced by Singapore.

They got funding from the Education Endowment Foundation for further development and for trials of the new approaches. In 2011 the term “mathematics mastery” was adopted.

Over the next few years, Mathematics Mastery developed as a curriculum and professional development programme that eventually separated from Ark to become an independent not-for-profit organisation. In 2014, Helen Drury, the founder of Mathematics Mastery, published a book explaining the approach...

Singapore’s maths teaching and curriculum was strongly influenced by the 1982 Cockroft Report – a report by an HMI in England. The idea of sequencing material as concrete-pictorial-abstract is a Singaporean version of Jerome Bruner’s ideas about learning.
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Related link

How To Teach Mathematics for Mastery
How To Teach Mathematics for Mastery by Helen Drury, leading educator and founder of the school improvement programme, Mathematics Mastery.

Source: Schools Week 


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Dorothea Rockburne: Painting by the Numbers | Discoveries - Robb Report

An exhibition at Dia:Beacon showcases the pioneering artist’s mathematically grounded work, as Robb Report reports.

Dorothea Rockburne; installation view. 
Photo: Dorothea Rockburne/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Dorothea Rockburne Studio. Bill Jacobson Studio.
“Although I am a painter, I also have a doctorate in mathematics and so the structure of my work is mathematical,” says Dorothea Rockburne, in describing her oeuvre. “When you get into higher math, it’s thrilling. It’s living in another world. The way that mathematics always uses the elegant solution, my work has an elegant solution aspect to it. But explain it, I can’t. That’s why I do it, because it’s not explainable in language.”

With their myriad folds and recognizable ratios, her torn paper and rough metal assemblages, particularly those from the 1960s and early 1970, reflect her numerical grounding—the Montreal-born artist, now 85, having tutored under noted German mathematician Max Dehn during her years at Black Mountain College, near Asheville, N.C. A half-dozen of Rockburne’s seminal works are now on view at Dia:Beacon in Beacon, N.Y., where they are to be joined by a suite of more recent works in 2019.

“At Black Mountain College, Rockburne began to pursue a new language born from the understanding of the presence of geometry in nature as well as human-made surroundings,” says curator Courtney Martin, adding that the exhibition includes the artist’s first “topological painting,” Tropical Tan (1967–68). The work consists of four sheets of pig iron that have been creased along the diagonal axes and partially coated with a wrinkle-finish paint. Rockburne, she says, has referred to this body of work as “visual equations,” underscoring its aesthetic and analytical aspects. In time, her painting practice would come to draw on ancient systems of proportion as well as astronomical phenomena.
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Source: Robb Report


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Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Peculiar Math That Could Underlie the Laws of Nature | Mathematics - Quanta Magazine

"New findings are fueling an old suspicion that fundamental particles and forces spring from strange eight-part numbers called “octonions.”" argues Natalie Wolchover, senior writer and editor at Quanta Magazine covering the physical sciences.

Cohl Furey, a mathematical physicist at the University of Cambridge, is finding links between the Standard Model of particle physics and the octonions, numbers whose multiplication rules are encoded in a triangular diagram called the Fano plane.
Photo: Susannah Ireland for Quanta Magazine

In 2014, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo, Canada, named Cohl Furey rented a car and drove six hours south to Pennsylvania State University, eager to talk to a physics professor there named Murat Günaydin. Furey had figured out how to build on a finding of Günaydin’s from 40 years earlier — a largely forgotten result that supported a powerful suspicion about fundamental physics and its relationship to pure math.
The suspicion, harbored by many physicists and mathematicians over the decades but rarely actively pursued, is that the peculiar panoply of forces and particles that comprise reality spring logically from the properties of eight-dimensional numbers called “octonions.”
As numbers go, the familiar real numbers — those found on the number line, like 1, π and -83.777 — just get things started. Real numbers can be paired up in a particular way to form “complex numbers,” first studied in 16th-century Italy, that behave like coordinates on a 2-D plane. Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing is like translating and rotating positions around the plane. Complex numbers, suitably paired, form 4-D “quaternions,” discovered in 1843 by the Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton, who on the spot ecstatically chiseled the formula into Dublin’s Broome Bridge. John Graves, a lawyer friend of Hamilton’s, subsequently showed that pairs of quaternions make octonions: numbers that define coordinates in an abstract 8-D space.

There the game stops. Proof surfaced in 1898 that the reals, complex numbers, quaternions and octonions are the only kinds of numbers that can be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided. The first three of these “division algebras” would soon lay the mathematical foundation for 20th-century physics, with real numbers appearing ubiquitously, complex numbers providing the math of quantum mechanics, and quaternions underlying Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity. This has led many researchers to wonder about the last and least-understood division algebra. Might the octonions hold secrets of the universe?...

Peculiar Numbers
I met Furey in June, in the porter’s lodge through which one enters Trinity Hall on the bank of the River Cam. Petite, muscular, and wearing a sleeveless black T-shirt (that revealed bruises from mixed martial arts), rolled-up jeans, socks with cartoon aliens on them and Vegetarian Shoes–brand sneakers, in person she was more Vancouverite than the otherworldly figure in her lecture videos. We ambled around the college lawns, ducking through medieval doorways in and out of the hot sun. On a different day I might have seen her doing physics on a purple yoga mat on the grass. 

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Recommended Reading

Photo: James O’Brien for Quanta Magazine

Quantum Questions Inspire New Math by Robbert Dijkgraaf, director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
"In order to fully understand the quantum world, we may have to develop a new realm of mathematics."

Source: Quanta Magazine


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