Welcome to Oxus
Oxus is the ancient name for Amu Dariya, a river originating in the lofty Pamir Plateau in Central Asia and weaving its way through Afghanistan and eventually into the large Aral Sea in Russia. Legend has it that when Alexander the Great was conquering the world, he arrived at the Oxus and thought that he had reached India.
The Oxus River of the Greeks has been known to historical record for literally thousands of years. Its present-day name is the Amu Darya (or Amu river) and its course can be traced in any atlas. Turn to the map of Western Asia and find it: the river springs up in the Pamir mountains, runs west through what was once Baluchistan, and forms part of the border of what is now Afghanistan; here, along its banks, were once lapis-lazuli mines famous throughout the ancient world. It runs, gradually curving northward, between a desert marked Kizil Kum (or, the Red Sands) and another marked Kara Kum (or, the Black Sands). Along the way, it supplies irrigation-water for the ancient oasis kingdoms of Khiva and Khwarism. Eventually it empties itself into the southern tip of the Aral Sea.
Further Research: The Course of the Oxus River
The Oxus treasure is the most important surviving collection of Achaemenid Persian metalwork. It consists of about 170 objects, dating mainly from the fifth and fourth centuries BC. This was the time of the Achaemenid empire, created by Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC), when Persian control stretched from Egypt and the Aegean to Afghanistan and the Indus Valley.
The Oxus Treasure
There are very few facts or certainty attached to the story of the Oxus Treasure. The find spot for the Oxus Treasure is in doubt. There is no catalogue for the original treasure, and the historical facts surrounding the final collection of the treasure are few and far between. The story of the Oxus Treasure is perfect matter for a movie or historical novel. The back drop of the Great Game is a perfect one full of intrigue and political machinations.
The Oxus Treasure consists of 170 gold and silver pieces from Achaemenid Persian culture along the Oxus River. The Achaemenid Empire (c. 550?330 BCE) was founded by Cyrus the Great. At its height the Parsa Empire stretched from Thrace in Macedonia to Egypt to the Indus River. The empire reached its zenith under Darius I. The Empire’s borders waxed and waned until Alexander the Great finally murdered Darius III and declared himself the new leader of the Parsa.
Greek civilization owes much to the older Achaemenid culture. The artifacts of the Oxus Treasure are thus vital in charting the development of civilization in both Persia and Europe.
The story goes that the Oxus Treasure was uncovered in the Nineteenth Century. A group of merchants acquired the treasure. They were travelling on the road between Kabul and Peshawar when they were attacked by bandits who stole the treasure. The merchants later ran into Captain F.C Burton who was a ‘political officer’ in Afghanistan. Captain Burton somehow managed to recover the treasure from the bandits. In their gratitude the merchants sold Burton an item of the treasure which today is on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
This was not the end of the treasure. Burton no doubt alerted his superiors of the importance of the treasure. Most of the pieces now belonging to the Oxus Treasure were bought by the British in the bazaars of Rawalpindi and other cities in India.
Now most of the extant Oxus Treasure is on display in room number 52 of the British Museum.
The Great Game lasted from 1813 to when it dwindled out at the start of World War II. Originally the expansionist ambitions of Russia worried the British. They feared for the security of their ‘jewel in the crown’ namely India. The British sent many spies and pundits north of India to map the regions of Central Asia that were composed of many fiefdoms. The British fought 2 wars in Afghanistan to create a buffer state between British interests in the subcontinent and the rapidly expanding Russian forces.
In the end Russia got to Afghanistan and a shaky agreement set the Oxus River as the border between the two countries spheres of influence. The pact had the effect of shifting the Great Game East and West.
Perhaps the end of the Great Game can be seen as the Soviet Era control of Afghanistan and the American connivance to train the Mujahedeen who bought down the Russians but then morphed into the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
This website is not about the complex politics of Central Asia, the Persian Empire or the Oxus River. Rather this website is concerned with bringing the reader the best available information; it is designed as repository for information. We intend to contextualize and explain in order to let the reader gain a clearer insight of the issues involved. Unlike the Oxus Treasure we intend to bring all the pertinent pieces of the puzzle together. And rather than leaving them in a post colonial museum to share them with all.
Further Research: The Oxus treasure
It sounds quite simple and actually just common sense, keeping up to date with all the latest health research particularly with regards longevity and apply to your own life. However it’s actually much easier said than done, much like trying to apply the latest dieting method to lose weight.
You could happily read some piece of health research, apply it rigidly to your life and suddenly find it’s been at best worthless and possibly harmful ten years later. For anyone who follows health research it’s actually quite common to find reports and findings routinely contradicting each other.
The latest to appear in this category is the latest research with tells us that all all our effort in trying to avoid salt to reduce blood pressure has been completely misplaced. A US research team have concluded that it is high sugar levels and not sodium levels which causes your heart rate to increase and blood pressure to rise. Which is of course completely different from the guidance we’ve had for many years urging us to avoid salt at all costs.
They suggest that restricting levels of sugar to between five and seven teaspoons a day is a much more effective strategy to reducing the risk of strokes and heart disease. The research focused on a large group in France, nearly 9000 adults and found no link at all between slat and high blood pressure. Although obviously there are probably lots of other factors in pay here, particularly to the French diet which is traditionally a pretty health one and also the consumption of red wine will hopefully be a factor to us wine drinkers.
The worry is that the diet of a typical French adult is probably very different in many ways than that of the average American. A visit to a typical French restaurant and an American one would instantly highlight the huge difference. Or perhaps spend an afternoon watch American TV for food adverts online using this neat little website for example. There are almost certainly a huge number of external factors affecting this research and although it was published in the American Journal of Cardiology, you would be right to be cautious before shoveling huge amounts of salt onto your food.
You don’t have to look far for an expert to criticize this report, one leading cardiovascular expert in the University of London suggested that the evidence was incredibly weak. He also pointed to decades worth of research and evidence demonstrating that there was a strong link between salt and blood pressure.
Here is the first in a series of reports about women in leadership roles. The first one is in response to some interesting research into the number of women who have high level roles in British Television. It was commissioned by Directors UK and they looked at over 140 of the most popular shows on British Television. I did wonder if this was the best approach, but I guess it depends on what you’re focusing on – if it’s just women working in British Television then perhaps this would skew the results (perhaps men are better directors?).
In any case the study shows that nearly a third of these have never employed a female director. Taking this statistic further, the numbers of women directors has fallen over the last couple of years too. The episodes studied were generally the multi- episode ones and run across a variety of genres. There were only about 20% of these shows which employed an equal number of female and male directors. Directors UK pointed out that this wasn’t due to lack of talent as their membership is about 33% female. This again seems a confusing conclusion to reach after all simply being registered with an organisation does’t necessarily imply talent?
Again more statistics that could be misleading – 28 shows were highlighted that hadn’t used a single female director – Benidorm, The Inbetweeners and Luther to name some of the most famous ones. This could be significant but would need more research – perhaps these were inspired and brought to the market by specific groups (who perhaps happened to be male?). Another finding was that many of the longest running shows had only 5% of episodes directed by women – again is this necessarily deliberate? For many people who watch UK TV abroad, including Asia and Middle East – these figures would probably be spectacular.
Some of the report suggested that women were more likely to be directing shows about health, food or home issues. Is this deliberate gender bias or stereotyping – is it perhaps women applying for these roles out of preference or maybe their background complimenting these subject areas?
The report’s finding were described as ‘disappointing’ by one female director who read an early copy of the report. However we at Oxus Research found the report to be a bit too keen to jump to gender bias and discrimination conclusions. It could well be that these do exists in these areas, but the numbers involved are very small and the roles quite specialised – there are not that many TV directors of either sex.
Most laws, you would expect in a country trying to embrace democracy, would in fact encourage this process. However in Myanmar, there is a real danger that several anti-democracy laws could soon be implemented. The latest one that has been drafted and proposed is the Law Relating to Religious Conversion.
It’s supposed to protect religious freedom, but in line with the military government’s earlier laws it actually achieves almost completely the opposite effect. What the laws purports is the establishment of boards at a local level which will analyse any individual’s proposal to change their religion. In fact you need a permit from these boards in order to make any meaningful change to your religion.
In many countries you might think – ‘big deal’ , I’ll just change without the boards. However in this country your religion is very important and is displayed on most personal information – identity documents and such. In fact your religion can play a very important role in some circumstances concerning marriages, employment and even issues involving inheritance. All will look at your religious standing especially with issues traditionally dealt with by religious courts.
Here’s how these boards will be compromised – (taken from the AHRC press release)
Under section 3 of the draft law, the inquisitorial boards will consist, at the township level, of the head of religious affairs (chairperson), the head of the national registration department (deputy chairperson), the deputy administrator of the township and a person of his choice, the chairperson of the women’s affairs federation, and a member of the education department. Under section 7(a) at least four of these persons form a quorum with which to interrogate someone seeking to convert her or his religion. Under section 7(b), the interrogation, to take place within 90 days of an application, will inquire about the extent to which the person wanting to convert has grasped the “essence” of the religion to which she or he wishes to convert; its cultural practices relating to marriage, divorce and the separation of property, and inheritance and child custody. Following this inquisition, the board will either issue or deny a permit with which to convert.
So if you want to change your religion and you’re in Burma, then you’d have to wade through a series of questioning and inquisitions by various government officials. If you live in a Western democratic nation, could you imagine going to the town hall to ask permission from a group of council officials to ask their permission to change your faith!!
Even if implemented in a fair, unbiased and democratic manner, it would of course be completely unacceptable and a serious violation of human rights (to worship freely whatever deity they wish). But in reality this will be used in a very different manner, it will be used to prevent Buddhists converting to any other religion. It’s probably mainly targeted at stopping people switching to Islam more than anything.
It’s almost certain that these boards will be anything like fair, and most Burma watchers are predicting interrogation and intimidation to be built into the process. In truth it will probably be a rubber stamp to anyone wanting to convert from any religion to Buddhism and a way to block anyone wanting to switch the other way. It’s almost certain that this law will be abused greatly and will further erode human rights in Burma. The country is straying away from it’s path which once looked set for a free and democratic society after years of military dictatorship.
Freedoms are still not in place, voting, religion and even the ability to use the internet without resorting to using a fake ip address like this.
All across Ireland it’s potentially an issue, slow internet speeds and saturated networks making streaming movies, TV shows and online media an extremely frustrating experience. But there is hope and the good news is that it might be coming from an Irish research team based in the University College Cork.
The four year project is looking at helping Internet service providers make the absolute most of their capacity and it is expected that this study will make a major improvement. The benefits will hopefully be seen all across Ireland initially with increased speeds and a better online multimedia experience.
At the moment, video accounts for about 50% of all internet traffic, but this is expected to rise significantly during the next few years. Many industry experts predict the figure could well be over 70% by 2018, with current technology and bandwidth that’s going to mean a fall in quality which is unavoidable.
A ‘fall in quality’ usually means a lowering in resolution, so the picture quality will have to fall or the increase in buffering – where the film or video clip needs to keep stopping to catch up. Either situation is far from ideal and doesn’t help the viewing experience.
The obvious solution is of course to increase the speed and capacity of the broadband infrastructure but this is costly and time consuming. Of course the infrastructure upgrades are fairly unavoidable but this project is focusing more on utilising the existing bandwidth more effectively. The key to this is something called software defined networks which control and manage the capacity of network infrastructure in order to deliver video and other data directly to the end user.
In this instance, it is hoped that managing the flow of data more effectively will bring the same sort of benefits that increasing capacity would bring. It is hoped that the project will allow those higher picture qualities needed for higher definition services. These are becoming increasingly common now online through services like RTE Player, BBC iPlayer, ITV, Hulu and Netflix. Although some of these are not directly accessible from Ireland, methods like these enable most global services to be accessible from Ireland fairly easily when using proxies.
The benefits won’t simply be seen by the consumer only, the Internet service providers should benefit in other ways too. Making better and more efficient use of their current infrastructure will reduce costs and increase the profitability of such businesses. For a country like Ireland having a thriving and profitable telecom and internet sector is extremely important in the country’s economic success.
We all probably agree that research into some of mankind’s major problems is essential. Furthermore, the growing obesity epidemic is probably one of the most pressing problems facing the Western world. Indeed the problem is now spreading to countries that have never faced this issue before including China and India.
But research costs money, lots of money, and the better and more in depth the research – the more that it costs. So who will fund these costs?
It’s a question that is often raised and a recent paper from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has raised it again. In this paper, an article has been published reviewing the relationship between obesity and heart disease – their case is that a decline in physical activity is the primary cause of the increase in obesity.
Now this sounds fine on an initial reading, but when you dig deeper you start to worry about this report. For instance I personally have read several reports and extensive studies which have found that in fact there has been very little decline in physical activity in our lives. One study particularly focused on children actually found that they were at least as active as children from three decades ago. The evidence sometimes doesn’t always fit into what we expect to see.
But there is more of a worry from a research point of view with this paper. Obviously there will always be the case where some research points one way and others in the opposite direction. It’s the nature of research and the reality is that finance limits important factors like sample space. Even when you use the internet to increase coverage, there are many difficulties. For instance restricting your respondents based on certain factors is rather complicated online – many people lie, make up answers, hide their locations – like this. Any of these could seriously skew your results.
This is more about logistics though, in the case of this particular paper, the worry is about who the authors were. Three of the five authors reported a financial relationship with the drinks company – Coca Cola.
It’s a perfectly valid conclusion that the current obesity issues are due to falling levels of activity. But there is an equally valid (and many would say much more) opinion that the issue is due to fast food and the increase of sugar in people’s diets. The problem is when you read a report where 60% of the authors have a financial link to a global purveyor of sugar filled drinks, it’s difficult not to be suspicious of the results.
Of course the read the report yourself, and make your own judgement. There is an important debate though about the value of such research. What is the value of commercially sponsored research like this, with the best will in the world – any expert involved who is being paid is going to struggle to be completely impartial. In some areas the conclusions might not be that important but with health issues like this, they could be crucial.
There has been some interesting research in how humans can identify whether someone is lying. The results have suggested that our initial responses are often much more accurate than when we spend some time analysing a situation or statement.
However we are basically a trusting species and overall most people are actually very poor at spotting liars. In fact if we are given time to assess then our results are little better than just random chance. The success rate rises though if people just use instinct and rely on initial impressions without being given a chance to think about it.
This of course suggests that there is something operating in our subconscious mind which is far better at spotting a lie than we are when we actually think about it. If we start thinking hard about something our success rate drops significantly to the level of just random choice.
So how do people look for the evidence of lies? Well the majority of people are looking for small physical cues like eye movements, body language or stuttering in voice perhaps. The reality is though that although this makes perfect sense, we are really not very good at using this information to decide on whether someone is actually lying or not. Some research by psychologists in the University of California have found that we are unlikely to get over 50% success rate, the expected probability of just choosing at random.
However when the research team used some tests designed to use the unconscious mind based on word association the results were much better. There seems to be some sort of intuitive sense that can detect a lie much better than when we actually try and work out the truth. It fits in with other research which suggests that our intuitive mind is often more powerful than our conscious one. In the UK there is a very funny game in which contestants try and deduce who is lying or not – you can see how people struggle to determine the truth even in such contrived conditions – you can watch it on BBC iPlayer – here’s how to access Truth or Lie outside UK – on YouTube.
The research may seem quite trivial but it’s actually quite important, being able to spot deception is an important skill in evolutionary terms, successful species usually are quite successful at this sort of determination. It has been detected in other species such as chimpanzees for example who are able to detect falsehoods or deceptions with remarkable success.
For further information on technical input :
The Titan super computer is a magnificent machine, capable of performing 20,000 trillion calculations every second. It lives at the Oak Ridge Computer Facility and is estimated to be the world’s most powerful supercomputer in existence. Imagine the computing power, it is the equivalent of every member of the human race carrying out 3 million calculations every second – that’s some serious number crunching power.
Up to now though this computing power has been out of reach of most of academia unless you happened to be working for the Department of Energy in the US. However this year sees the computer being opened up for research development projects who can use the facility for benefit.
It is hoped that this computing power, can be used to help tackle some of the world’s most crucial issues – healthcare, climate, energy and how we feed our planet are some of the problems it will look at. The criteria for use is that science and research projects which have a ‘high potential for accelerating discovery and innovation’ will be able to use the facility.
There are several target areas but some of the most important from a purely human perspective are climate change, biofuels, Nuclear energy and the study of combustion. Each area could potentially provide real world benefits and each one can benefit from the computing power of Titan.
So what powers this beast of a computer? Well it’s amazingly ten times more powerful than the last system at Oak Ridge – Jaguar. Yet the system takes up about the same space and uses pretty much the same amount of electricity. Power requirements and physical space are two of the constraining factors in the creation of supercomputers. Which is why, you simply can’t keep adding CPUs to an existing system. What they did with Titan was instead to use Graphic chips instead to work alongside the existing CPUs. They worked with the company Nvidia to implement the GPUs drastically increasing computing power without the corresponding power and space requirements that would normally be required.
The top ten lists of supercomputers rarely stays the same for very long, in fact it’s updated every year or so. It’s encouraging to see one of the leaders being opened up to all sorts of research though, especially with the target areas of this research.
It’s the kind of cooperation that the internet initially promoted and in some ways still does. However in this area we are seeing increases in restrictions, blocks and filters in internet access through out the world. Many people already have to invest in software and subscriptions to access web sites depending on their location like this software – here.
For more information on internet filters: see this site.
It probably comes as no surprise to many of us, but a recent report has shown that just under a third of all online time is spent on social networking sites. The countries covered included Australia, US and the UK who probably represent some of the world heaviest internet users. So to put that into time, for every hour spent online a UK internet surfer will spend nearly 13 minutes of it on social sites like Facebook. The US users actually spend a little more time on these sites up to 16 minutes out of each hour.
Compare this with other online tasks and you see how socialising dominates our online world. We spend only a few minutes an hour shoppping and the report didn’t really register the amount we spent on education and research. You can perhaps see some justification behind the huge price assigned to the recent Facebook share issue in the context of these figures.
However the research also importantly highlighted that although the figures were high, the trend is not up. In fact there is quite a large fall from the previous years with a surprising rise in the number of people who are using email. This may be well fueled by technological changes – most smartphones are easily able to access email systems where as in previous years this was more complicated.
The boost in power of mobile devices will definitely have some effect on our online useage patterns. For example online media such as films and videos would only be accessible from a small minority of mobile devices in previous years. Nowadays however even an entry level smartphone is more than capable of streaming video of a watchable quality. There are still restrictions on these however – some based on geography although many sites illustrate how to avoid these – like this site. The other issue is obviously the quality of internet connection available. Phone networks are more extensive but until 4G becomes more available streaming video across such a network can be a frustrating experience if a wireless network is not available.
Now having seen my eldest son in action in a variety of online games, I’m not quite sure about this latest research. But apparently a study at the University of Victoria, British Columbia has just published the results of a 5 year study that suggests games can boost many positive traits in children.
What many of us see watching our kids play games, is I suspect pretty much a huge waste of time. But the study found that there was a lot of learning and character development going on. Many games have high levels of interation and problem solving, there are also huge elements of strategy involved in succeeding in many games.
Of course today’s online games involve loads more interaction and decision making than the solo computer based games of a decade ago. To succeed you normally have to interact to some extent and in role playing games like Guildwars and World of Warcraft this is essential. All the characters in these games are continually confronted with ethical and moral decisions. Many games offer tracks of good or evil with the results of each track being very different.
The study seems to have been heavily focussed on the online world games citing many examples from games like Guild Wars 2. On child in the research project seemed to be able to apply leadership skills in the classroom he had learnt in the game. The boy had managed to rise up the ranks to be a clan leader and was responsible in the game for leading and organising a large group of players. It’s easy to see how this could have a beneficial effect on someone’s confidence and indeed leadership skills.
Whether there can be any beneficial effect on their ethics and morals from playing these games seems somewhat more suspect. The reality is that although you can simulate such situations in a game, the repercussions of stealing, lying and killing are obviously much greater in the real world. Can we really assume that the games developers are able to produce an environment that really teaches our kids about these values. I suspect not, however appealing the idea may be for parents.
What I think this research does highlight is the very different environments our children are growing up in even compared to a few years ago. certainly our childrens are experiencing things in their childhood that we parents have very little idea about. The rise of the internet is certainly at the heart of this – where information and communication is at their fingertips.
This article was written by Gale Strandston who writes on technology and entertainment blogs. She specialises in solving technical and computer problems like – this site – http://www.uktv-online.com/online-british-tv-abroad/, which is focused on allowing people access to specialist proxy servers to watch British TV overseas.
There’s a fascinating new story doing the rounds at the moment about the huge scientific research centre – Heimholtz Research, which has withdrawn from a project due to political pressure. In many ways this sounds quite controversial in itself, a research body being pressurised into not researching something! However many might believe this is understandable due to the topic concerned.
The research in question was focussed on developing technologies to help reduce the environmental damage caused by exploiting the vast oil sand reserves in Canada. If you’ve not heard of these it refers to the loose sand or shale that are saturated with a dense and very thick form of petrol (also known as tar or bitumen). These are found in huge quantities in Canada and contain a substantial amount of oil.
These deposits have been known about for many years, however the extraction was always too expensive to be viable commercially. Now rising oil costs and the introduction of new technologies have made the extraction commercially viable but not ethical in many peoples opinion.
Protestors claim that tar sands cause numerous environmental problems including vast amounts of deforestation to clear the areas and access to the deposits. They also point out that the mining of tar sands releases over three times as much CO2 as normal oil production. Many estimates point towards mining of these tar sand deposits becoming the biggest single contributor in North America to climate change.
Scary stuff, it i sthis sort of press that has led Helmholtz to withdraw from the research project. The argument is of course does the withdrawing of technical expertise help in any way, should researchers be drawn into political and environmental battles. their role after all was to help minimize the environmental impact of a the project. It may be the problems for Helmholtz may be due to the upcoming EU designations of companies involved in producing high pollution oil reserves.
At the very best scenario it was seen as a huge risk to the companies reputation. On numerous TV documentaries the involvement was highlighted – check out the online versions of ARD and ZDF. If you’re outside the country you’ll need a German proxy to access these shows (and of course speaking German would help), try here for help.
It’s a very stark example of how research companies need to be careful about what projects they get involved with especially highly commercial and controversial ones.
One of the biggest attractions of the several top diet companies that provide a diet meal delivery service is the sheer convenience of losing weight through a diet that you really have very little to do in order to make it work. It is probably why they have grown on popularity by leaps and bounds as greater numbers of people work longer hours to make ends meet in an economically uncertain world. Let’s take a look at why this way of dieting has grown in stature and what makes it such a compelling way to lose weight for its many customers.
Diets For Lazy Dieters!
If you take the Nutrisystem diet as a prime example of the way in which this type of easy and convenient dieting system works, you will see that when you take all the hard work out of a diet, the dieter who has almost nothing to do other than to eat the food and watch their weight drop tends to be more successful than many people on more complex, hands on diets.
They make it easy for the dieter in every sense by making sure there is virtually nothing to do except take each meal as it is required, take it out of its packaging and either heating it up for a hot meal, or eating it as is in the case of cold meals or breakfasts. All the meals are delivered to your home, meaning you don’t have to go to the store to buy any stuff. You don’t need to prepare, measure or weigh food portions or count calories. You don’t have to cook any meals! How convenient is that!
Reviews by the Boat Load!
It doesn’t take a lot of figuring out that the great number of reviews of Nutrisystem that can be found online are a gauge of how popular this particular brand actually is. And they are not alone in a multi-million dollar industry that is continually growing as the numbers of overweight people carries on growing in proportion.
Even taking into consideration the meals and their size, which is smaller than what most people are used to, it is still a great way to diet and lose weight. It teaches the body to get used to eating less, which is what it has to do in order to reverse the weight gain trend and turn it into a net loss.
Losing weight ought never to be a chore. It should be as simple and enjoyable as possible for the person to stick to the program. This kind of dieting does exactly that.
There can’t be many people whether scientists, academics or just causal researchers who don’t turn first to the internet for looking up information. Of course the internet is definitely packed with excellent well researched and documented infomration, unfortunately there’s a lot more that is merely opinioniated, innaccurate or simply gibberish. The good stuff is out there but there are two mainn challenges about using the internet for research –
1) How to find the good stuff.
2) How to ignore the bad stuff.
Now this might sound quite simplistic and in some ways it is, but these two issues stand before anyone who is about to pop their search query into Google. THey do encapsulate more specific problems such as everyone’s tendency to naturally find, believe and gravitate towards opinions that agree with our own. Reserachers call this behaviour confirmation bias and it’s a problem for everyone from the school child to the world reknowned scientist.
It’s more than just spotting a link that seems to justify your position. It’s actually a tendency to ignore information that may be accurate purely because of your preconceived beliefs. In essence you are merely researching a position you want to prove and ignoring everything else, and that isn’t research.
Be careful where your internet searches lead you, there is nothing worse in online research than ending up referencing questionable sources of information. Poorly document and cited articles that make jumps in logic or citing evidence that doesn’t even support an assertation. Needless to say there’s an awful lot of this sort of information online, and I mean a LOT!
Think carefully about how your online research proceeds, it’s often quite a linear process which depends on where you start your searches. For instance if I was to start using Google in the UK, I’d probably follow a different path than if I’d started from the USA. If you don’t believe me, fire up a US VPN or proxy service and complete two research threads – there’s information about how to get a different IP address here – http://www.iplayerabroad.com/bbciplayer-in-spain-uk-proxy/. What you’ll find is that the geographic element that search engines introduce tends to put you on a slightly alternate trail, you might end up looking at the same sites but you might well be on completely different ones. This is an area that is worth considering.
One of the most difficult aspects of research I always think is when your conclusion is completely the wrong one. Of course I don’t mean factually ’wrong’ but rather when you arrive at an answer that nobody believes could be right. I thought about this after reading about a survey published in the Journal of American Medical Association – which looks at BMI and life expectancy.
Of course it’s one of those studies where we know the answer before they begin – being obese will lower your life expectancy. However this is not what they found, in fact the survey announced that peope who were overweight were even likely to live longer. This conclusion is bound to be unpopular and various groups have already been criticising as ’a load of rubbish’ or a ’horrific message’ to put out.
It has to be said that if you read the study properly there are lots of caveats – firstly being severely obese did cut life expectancy. Also of course it was only measuring deaths so you could spend those extra years alive with all sorts of miserable conditions caused by being overweight. But it does illustrate the pressure that reseearchers are under to ’come up with the right conclusion’. Any researcher knows that expecting a certain conclusion can seriously flaw any piece of research before you start.
At the moment the researchers are now trying to defend their conclusions from people who have decided it must be wrong. There are of course lots of likely explanations, but again we shouldn’t look at findings and specifically look for reasons why it doesn’t match exactly what we expected. This atttitude will seriously skew any research.
Here’s a quote from the National Obesity forum for example –
“It’s a horrific message to put out at this particular time. “We shouldn’t take it for granted that we can cancel the gym, that we can eat ourselves to death with black forest gateaux.”
Which seems to imply that the researchers should stop actually looking at the results if it doesn’t match some accepted world view. When any piece of research like this is posted you’ll notice different attitudes in various countries too. It’s interesting to see how nationality effects how you react to controversial information too. I use a inexpensive proxy server (see reference below) to allow me to check how the News headlines in different countries react – watch these headlines on the BBC, NBC, ABC and perhaps a Canadian or French channel to see the contrast in reporting.
If you ever study journalism at a decent college or University, there’s one simple rule you are told about using the internet. Never trust a single website for your information and most certainly not the first one you read. Unfortunately the internet has become synonymous with the expression ’lazy journalism’ and people are happily copying and pasting innaccuracies that naturally appear over the internet.
A rather embarrassing example of this has just been illustrated in a report completed by the Lord Justice Leveson in his high profile report on the press. If you have never heard about this – it’s an inquiry into the press and it’s culture, practices and ethics. The report cost millions to complete and has been critical of the press and it’s frequent innacurate reporting. Unfortunately Mr Leveson looks like he’s been rather careless himself.
In the section regarding the History of the Press, he details the founding members of the British Newspaper – The Independent. He manages to get two of the correct however, the third founder is stated as Brett Straub who is nothing to do with the paper. Funnily enough, Wikipedia also has a similar mistake with the real founders name – Matthew Symonds being replaced by Brett Straub.
The article was modified by a user located in Pomona, California last year. A quick look at social networking profiles finds one Brett Straub from Pomona who describes himself as ’a lazy bum’. Whether the two are the same we’re not entirely sure, but the Wiki article has now been corrected. Unfortunately it wasn’t corrected quick enough as it’s now been pasted into one of the UKs most high profile reports of the decade. The irony is not lost on the journalists slated in the report I’m sure.
It is a vital lesson on using the internet as your sole source of research. It’s difficult to sort out what’s right and what’s wrong online, appearing on a web siite is no guarantee of accuracy. Wikipedia attempts to track and block IP addresses from people who deliberately edit articles innaccurately. However even this is difficult as many people can use proxies to create a completely false IP address – http://www.theninjaproxy.org/tv/a-fake-uk-ip-address/.
The internet is probably the biggest development in the world of research ever, but it’s still simply another source. Unless you can verify that information is correct from another source then you should treat it with caution – particularly sites like Wikipedia which can potnetially be edited by anyone.
Due no doubt partly to the media people are apt to think of scientists as busy trying to push the boundaries of our knowledge by doing such things as accelerating sub-atomic particles around a big tunnel in Switzerland or searching for microbes in the Arctic Circle. When the average person imagines a scientific genius he or she normally thinks of Einstein. Often we think the great minds are mavericks like Tesla that were misunderstood and ridiculed during their lives.
This is all partly true. However, the majority of research in engineering and science is not about radical new paradigms and ways of doing things. Rather it is about improving on existing systems; on finding new sources for resources; of making resources go farther.
One such example is the case of the electrical motor. With Edison’s DC current it was found that a drive shaft would not do a 360 degree rotation because current had to be turned on and off around the casing of the shaft to create the right electromagentic conditions for movement. The solution was braided copper brushes that made contact as the drive shaft rotated thus transferring current.
It was found that the solution could be greatly improved by using carbon blocks instead. Graphite has a higher electrical resistance and allows for a more regular transference of power as the shaft rotates. Although not brush like anymore these pieces of carbon were still called ’brushes’.
Much work has been done using different compositions of graphite in carbon brushes. Also in adding metalic elements to the carbon brushes. These varying compositions all affect the performance of different types of engine. Thus, today we are able to manufacture carbon brushes that fit a multitude of engines. Research is now underway to make liquid metal brushes.
It is important that scientists and engineers work on improving our exisiting technologies as well as trying to build completely new types of technology. Perhaps, the media needs to do more in changing stereotypes to address this dual need.
Further research: types of carbon brush