Just how much of the world's cropland can we really call urban? That's been a big mystery until now.
Now, a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters has an answer: Somewhere around 1.1 billion acres is being cultivated for food in or within about 12 miles (20 kilometers) of cities. Most of that land is on the periphery of cities, but 16.6 percent of these urban farms are in open spaces within the municipal core.
I could say that this article started the day I set foot on Harvard’s campus in the Fall semester of my Freshman year, but that would be a lie — that would be to overlook the generations of linguistic trails already paved for me.
LAST week, Johnson took a look at some of the advantages of bilingualism. These include better performance at tasks involving "executive function" (which involve the brain's ability to plan and prioritise), better defence against dementia in old age and—the obvious—the ability to speak a second language. One purported advantage was not mentioned, though. Many multilinguals report different personalities, or even different worldviews, when they speak their different languages.
It’s an exciting notion, the idea that one’s very self could be broadened by the mastery of two or more languages. In obvious ways (exposure to new friends, literature and so forth) the self really is broadened. Yet it is different to claim—as many people do—to have a different personality when using a different language. A former Economist colleague, for example, reported being ruder in Hebrew than in English. So what is going on here?
"It's perfectly human to grapple with questions, like 'Where do we come from?' and 'How do I live a life of meaning?' These existential questions are central to the five major world religions -- and that's not all that connects these faiths. John Bellaimey explains the intertwined histories and cultures of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam."
McDonald's and Starbucks can be seen as emblematic of the forces of globalization and the 'victors' of process as forcefully displayed in this graphic. The local distinctive menu (not to mention the chef with a flair) typically loses out to the replicable, standardized and the familiar. How come? When is this not the case? How does this change economics or culture? As a counter-point to globalization benefiting the chains, see how 'Yelp!' is reducing chains market share.
"Naif al-Mutawa, creator of comic book series THE 99, spoke with Al-Monitor about the recent death threat by the Islamic State and how US President Barack Obama's enemies became his."
Seven years after the Kuwaiti psychologist and entrepreneur first launched his comic book series based on the 99 attributes of Allah, he's facing a sudden onslaught of death threats, fatwas and lawsuits (his comic books were highlighted in this TED talk on cultural change in the Islamic World). His US distributor, meanwhile, continues to sit on a TV deal, in part because of pressure from conservative bloggers who object to any positive description of Islam.
Tags: Middle East, religion, Islam.
Via Seth Dixon
"Did you know that Swedish has more in common with Hindi than it does with Finnish? Explaining everything within the limits of the world is probably too ambitious a goal for a list like this. But here are 23 maps and charts that can hopefully illuminate small aspects of how we manage to communicate with one another."
Contact: Julie Deardorff email@example.com 847-491-4890 Northwestern University @northwesternu Bilingual brains better equipped to process information
Forget Sudoku: Speaking multiple languages routinely exercises the brain
Speaking more than one language is good for the brain, according to new research that indicates bilingual speakers process information more efficiently and more easily than those who know a single language.
The benefits occur because the bilingual brain is constantly activating both languages and choosing which language to use and which to ignore, said Northwestern University's Viorica Marian, the lead author of the research and a professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders in the School of Communication. When the brain is constantly exercised in this way, it doesn't have to work as hard to perform cognitive tasks, the researchers found.
"It's like a stop light," Marian said. "Bilinguals are always giving the green light to one language and red to another. When you have to do that all the time, you get really good at inhibiting the words you don't need," she said.
The study, which will be published online in the journal Brain and Language on Nov. 12 was one of the first to use fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to test co-activation and inhibition in bilinguals. Co-activation during bilingual spoken language comprehension, a concept Marian pioneered in 1999, means that fluent bilinguals have both languages "active" at the same time, whether they are consciously using them or not. Inhibitory control involves selecting the correct language in the face of a competing other language.
Earlier in her career, Marian recorded eye movements to track co-activation and inhibition. She found that when bilinguals heard words in one language, such as "marker" in English, they often made eye movements to objects whose names sounded similar in another language they knew, such as "marka" which means stamp in Russian.
She is now looking at the brain itself by using MRI imaging, which shows blood flow to certain areas as the volunteers perform a cognitive task. The more oxygen or blood flow to the region, the harder that part of the brain is working.
In her most recent study, volunteers were asked to perform language comprehension tasks. Upon hearing a word, study participants were shown pictures of four objects. For example, after hearing the word " cloud" they would be shown four pictures, including a picture of a cloud and a picture of a similar-sounding word, such as a "clown." The study participants needed to recognize the correct word and ignore the similar-sounding competing word.
The bilingual speakers were better at filtering out the competing words because their brains are used to controlling two languages and inhibiting the irrelevant words, the researchers found.
The fMRI scans showed that "monolinguals had more activation in the inhibitory control regions than bilinguals; they had to work much harder to perform the task," Marian said.
Other research suggests efficient brains can have benefits in everyday life. For example, bilingual children were better at ignoring classroom noise than children who speak one language, according to a study Marian recently coauthored with colleagues in the U.K., which was published last month in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.
"Inhibitory control is a hallmark of cognition," said Marian. "Whether we're driving or performing surgery, it's important to focus on what really matters and ignore what doesn't."
The fact that bilinguals are constantly practicing inhibitory control could also help explain why bilingualism appears to offer a protective advantage against Alzheimer's and dementia, said Marian.
"That's the exciting part," she said. "Using another language provides the brain built-in exercise. You don't have to go out of your way to do a puzzle because the brain is already constantly juggling two languages. "
Marian's team included Northwestern Ph.D candidates Sarah Chabal and James Bartolotti. They collaborated with Kailyn Bradley and Arturo Hernandez of the University of Houston.
Marian grew up speaking Romanian and Russian. English is her third language; she also speaks some basic Spanish, French and Dutch.
"It's never too late to learn another language," she said. "The benefits can be seen even after just one semester of studying."
"Seldom has it been more important for Americans to form a realistic assessment of the world scene. But our current governing, college-educated class suffers one glaring blind spot.
Modern American culture produces highly individualistic career and identity paths for upper- and middle-class males and females. Power couples abound, often sporting different last names. But deeply held religious identities and military loyalties are less common. Few educated Americans have any direct experience with large groups of men gathered in intense prayer or battle. Like other citizens of the globalized corporate/consumer culture, educated Americans are often widely traveled but not deeply rooted in obligation to a particular physical place, a faith or a kinship."
For the first time in its history, the United States does not have a Protestant majority, according to a new study.
Interestingly, this is not due to the rise of a new religious group, but the rise of secularism in the United States. The fastest growing group in the United States is the religiously unaffliliated. Click here for a simplified AP news story on the report.
Questions to ponder: What are some causal factors that might explain why there is an increase in the non-religious population in the United States today? How does this impact American culture and politics?
"The Pew survey sorts people into major groupings--Christians; other religions, including Jewish and Muslim; and 'unaffiliated,' which includes atheist, agnostic and 'nothing in particular.' Roll your cursor over the map to see how faiths and traditions break down by state."