March 23, 2011

Earth Hour 2011

Earth Hour is a global event organised by WWF and is held on the last Sunday of March annualy. This year on March 26, 2011, from 8:30 p.m to 9:30 p.m. people all over the world turn of their lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change and to let our planet "to rest".

Every year the number of participants of this global event rises. In 2010 it was the biggest with 126 participant countries.
You can also join this movement and make a change. I encourage you to do so.

Just remember to switch off all the appliances and lights on March 26, 2011, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Lets light candles!

March 19, 2011

Hands for Japan

Hands represent peace and hope everywhere in the world. So, lets put our hands together and pray for people in Japan and help them to overcome the tragedy.
Here are some statues with hands:

USA, Oklahoma, "Praying hands", the largest bronze sculpture in the world

Miami, Bogdan Migulski Creative Commons

Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Marriage Proposal

Yerevan, Armenia

Mexico city, "Peace in our hands"

Irland, "Healing hands"

England, Birmingham

Armenia, Yerevan, Victory Park, "Peace Monument"

March 18, 2011

Gender stereotypes about math develop as early as second grade

Source: University of Washington website, by Molly McElroy

Children express the stereotype that mathematics is for boys, not for girls, as early as second grade, according to a new study by University of Washington researchers. And the children applied the stereotype to themselves: boys identified themselves with math whereas girls did not.

The “math is for boys” stereotype has been used as part of the explanation for why so few women pursue science, mathematics and engineering careers. The cultural stereotype may nudge girls to think that “math is not for me,” which can affect what activities they engage in and their career aspirations.

The new study, published in the March/April issue of Child Development, suggests that, for girls, lack of interest in mathematics may come from culturally-communicated messages about math being more appropriate for boys than for girls, the researchers said.

But the stereotype that girls don’t do math was odd to lead author Dario Cvencek, who was born and raised in the former Yugoslavia. “We didn’t have that stereotype where I grew up,” said Cvencek, a postdoctoral fellow at the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. “People there thought that math went with girls just as much as it did with boys.”

Cvencek and his co-authors wanted to examine whether American children have adopted the cultural stereotype that math is for boys during elementary-school years, and if so, whether they apply that stereotype to themselves.

Math self-concept – how much youngsters identify themselves with math, as in “math is for me” – has been left out of previous studies of the math-gender stereotype. Even though other studies using self-report measures show that boys and girls alike make the “math is for boys” linkage, the studies don’t distinguish between whether girls simply know about the math-gender stereotype but aren’t fazed by it, or are instead applying it to themselves so that it affects their identity, interests and actions.

The researchers used a computer-based categorization test, the Implicit Association Test, to assess how school children link math with gender. In adults, the test can predict actual math performance and real-world choices.

The adult test, developed by UW psychology professor Anthony Greenwald, also a co-author of the research, probes implicit self-concepts, stereotypes and attitudes. It captures stereotypes by measuring, for example, how strongly respondents associate various academic subjects with either masculine or feminine connotations. The stronger the stereotype is, the faster the response.

The UW researchers adapted the adult Implicit Association Test for children and used it to examine three concepts:

- Gender identity, or the association of “me” with male or female.

- Math-gender stereotype, or the association of math with male or female.

- Math self-concept, or the association of “me” with math or reading.

The kids, 247 children (126 girls and 121 boys) in grades one through five in Seattle-area schools, sat in front of a large-screen laptop computer and used an adapted keyboard to sort words into categories.

In the math-gender stereotype test, for example, children sorted four kinds of words: boy names, girl names, math words and reading words. Children expressing the math-gender stereotype should be faster to sort words when boy names are paired with math words and girl names are paired with reading words. Similarly, they should be slower to respond when math words are paired with girl names and reading words are paired with boy names.

As early as second grade, the children demonstrated the American cultural stereotype for math: boys associated math with their own gender while girls associated math with boys. In the self-concept test, boys identified themselves with math more than girls did.

The researchers also used self-report tests and on all three concepts found similar responses to the Implicit Association Test.

“Our results show that cultural stereotypes about math are absorbed strikingly early in development, prior to ages at which there are gender differences in math achievement,” said co-author Andrew Meltzoff, a UW psychology professor and co-director of the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. Meltzoff holds the Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair at UW.

Parental and educational practices aimed at enhancing girls’ self-concepts for math might be beneficial as early as elementary school, when the youngsters are already beginning to develop ideas about who does math, the researchers said.

“Children have their antennae up and are assimilating the stereotypes exhibited by parents, educators, peers, games and the media,” Meltzoff said. “Perhaps if we can depict math as being equally for boys and girls, we can help broaden the interests and aspirations of all our children.”

March 13, 2011

A Travel Experience of Virginie

Once, to be precise in 2010, a girl from France, Virginie Descamps decided to travel to Armenia. Well, when we all plan a journey to another country we have great expectancies and want to experience all the best from the country, culture, people, etc. But when at one point of your journey you find yourself on an unknown highway, in a taxi where the driver doesn’t know any of the languages you know, then the driver locks you in the taxi, nothing good comes to your mind and you start to imagine all the worst scenarios in your mind. But is it always so bad? Discover it by reading further.
© Photo copyright by Virginie

Here is how Virginie describes an episode from her travel to Armenia:

“Well the weirdest experience for was when I was in Armenia, we, a friend and I, took a taxi to go to Goris, in the south. We didn't speak Armenian, a few words in Russian, the taxi driver doesn't speak English or possible communication! On the highway, we meet a truck, the taxi driver seemed to know him, he noded to him...and then he the middle of nowhere! The truck stops too. He gets out of the taxi, close all the door, so we were lock up inside, and goes to see the truck driver... We were frightened, we were thinking "ok, they are going steal all of what we have...they are going to kill us! ... we had a beautiful life ... it's ok". After about fifteen minutes, half an hour, it seemed to be so long! the taxi driver comes back...with apricots! for us, he just saw we were hungry.” :) Virginie Descamps

So, the conclusion is, don’t judge without knowing and let yourself to enjoy all the hospitability of the new country and people.

P.S. Thank you Virginie for letting me to share this story.

March 4, 2011

"Gilgamesh" by Joan London

"Gilgamesh" is the title of a novel by an Australian author Joan London, written in 2001. It has won The Age Book of the Book of the Year Award for Fiction; Australian Premier’s Award and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

The book is very interesting and also contains descriptions of real places, people and events, like Mr. Five Percent, Zaqian Street, Lenin Square (now Republic Square) and State Conservatorium in Yerevan. Joan London also has used words in Armenian which are like spices of the soup. You want to read the continuation of each page of Gilgamesh. I couldn’t wait when I’ll find time again to take that book into my hands and read. It was an incredible feeling.
Cover of the book

Gilgamesh is a story of an Australian woman who falls in love with an Armenian man and comes to Armenia to find her beloved. On a tiny farm in the far south-western Australia, seventeen-year-old Edith lives with her mother and her sister, Frances. One afternoon two man, her English cousin Leopold and his Armenian friend Aram, arrive, taking the long way home from an archeological dig in Iraq. Leopold and Aram captivate Edith with tales of exotic lands and cultures-among them, the story of Gilgamesh, the legendary king of Uruk in ancient Mesopotamia.

Two years later, in 1939, Edith and her and Aram's son, Jim, set off on a journey of their own, to Soviet Armenia, where they are trapped by the outbreak of war. This is the storey of encounters and escapes, of friendship and love, of loss and acceptance. Beautifully marrying the intimate scope of a life with the enormity of war, Gilgamesh
examines what happens when we strike out into the world, and how, like the wandering king, we find our way home.

Other covers of Gilgamesh

Below are some interesting parts from the book.

Parts from the book:

... The girls had never seen men cook before. Leopold was patient, stirring and tasting, his podgy hands strangely delicate. Aram was quick and precise. He made Armenian bread, yeastless loaves flat and round as plates.

...You know where is Armenia, Edith?...It was Soviet Armenia now, ruled by Moscow, but it had a culture of its own that went back thousands of years. It had been the fate of this tiny country in the Caucasus mountains to be overrun by Mongols, Turks, Persians, now by Comunists, but it remained the oldest Christian state in the world. For Armenians, Armenia was the motherland, as perhaps England was for Australians?

... 'How did your parents die?'
That was the question she had been wanting to ask him most of all. The question you never asked. You didn't talk about the dead. He shook a cigarette out of a crumpled pocket. His parents had been killed in the Massacres in Turkey in 1915. They had lived in the town of Diyarbekir, on the Tigris, in eastern Turkey, where generations of his father's family had traded in spices. When he was three years old Turkish gendarmes had come taken his father to the city square and hanged him. He and his mother were marched in a convoy of women and children across the desert to Syria. By the time they reached the Euphrates, his mother, like most of the convoy, was dead. Some Syrian Christians rescued him and took him to Aleppo. ... What you must understand, he said is that more than a million Armenians were slaughtered in Turkish Massacres, and nobody came to their aid.

...'Armenia', she said to Jim in the darkness of their room. 'Armenia'. There was no one else she could say the word to. She liked the symmetry of the word, the way it started as it ended, with an 'a'. She thought it had an optimistic sound.

... 'There's an old man in a private car at the back of the train. I think he must be very rich'.
'Oh yes he is rich! Haven't you heard of him? They call him Mr Five Percent. He makes oil deals for the British and Americans and Russians - maybe the Germans - and he always keeps five per cent for himself.'
'He is Armenian?'
'Yes , the Armenians are very proud of him. They're always hoping for patriotic donation. ... He has his own special car kept for him. They say that during the Armenian massacres in 1896 he escaped from Istanbul on the Express, dressed as a Turkish peasant with his baby son wrapped up in a carpet!'

... -'I'm on my way home, to Armenia.'
-That's where I'm going! Are you Armenian?'
He was smiling at her. 'I was born in Yerevan.'
-'How are you traveling there?'
-'I take a boat across the Black Sea to Georgia. Train to Tiflis. Then the train over the mountains in Armenia.' Ronnie's route.
His name was Hagop Essayan. He suggested they travel together.
-'You speak very good English.'
-'I learnt it in my studies in Yerevan and on my travels. But Armenians are quick with languages.'

... Hagop lifted his head to listen, his hand beating gently on the rail.
'The doudek. Listen. The long single note to hold that note is very hard. There must be an Armenian abroad.'
'Do you play doudek?'
'I used to. I played many instruments. I was a student of music once at the State Conservatorium in Yerevan.'

... Zakian street was short and quiet, lined on one side by five storey apartment blocks and on the other by a grove of slender yellowing poplars, the Twenty-Six Commissars Park. At night so still you could here the clock strike a few blocks away in Lenin Square. ... The facade of the apartment block on Zakian Street was genteel, built like most of the buildings in Yerevan from blocks of pink tufa, the local volcanic stone.

... Of course it was known she was
odar, a stranger, but Hagop had set off a rumour in the block that she was Tati's granddaughter. Tati meant grandmother and everyone called her that. ... Little Nora Gasparyan had befriended Jim, she lived in the apartment beneath Tati's, with her parents who both worked in Yerevan wine factory.

... The car wheezed up the Yerevan hills onto a plateau, surrounded in every direction by giant snow-capped mountains. The popular-lined road passed settlements of wooden houses, State farms, with ragged sheep grazing beneath cables and pylons, and, in the valleys, the smoking chimneys of factories. Nevart pointed out the looming peak of Mt Ara, named for Ara the Beautiful, an ancient Armenian king. An Assyrian queen fell in love with him but when he wouldn't marry her she went to war with him. He died, and she had his body carried to the top of this mountain, where she believed he would come to life again. But he didn't. His was an eternal sleep.

... Bedros had arranged everything. A woman from the village served them youghurt (matsun) and dolmas and lavash bread made fresh in a pit down the street. They drank tea on the porch sitting in a line up of old chairs. Here in the clear cold air they could see beyond the orchard to a valley folded between great bare rocky hills. Far away you could just make out the cone-shaped roof of a little stone church. Behind it were mountain picks lost in drifting cloud.

... August 12th, 1942
Dear Leopold,
Do you remember the hot day that was like summer when we went swimming, and the sea was smooth as a lake, as far as the eye could see?
In summer here the sun is a little high with fire-ball. There's a haze of heat over Yerevan which covers the hills. Ararat rises above it like a giant cone with an icecream tip. There is an icecream seller in Lenin Square, ringing his bell. But Yerevanis aren't in an icecream mood these days. In the evenings all that people do in parks and squares is talk of invasion. The Germans panzers have nearly reached Rostov. That's about five hundred miles north of Yerevan as the crow flies.
All that I would like to do is to go swimming and forget everything.
There's Lake Sevan in the North, it's a famous summer resort for families, but who would go north now? And only party members could afford it. Besides, most families are only half families now. All the men, apart from the old or the lame, have gone to fight the Germans. Three hundred thousand Armenians are fighting in Russia's great patriotic war. Stalin says there is to be no retreat. Anyone running back will be shot.
The avenues and the cafe's are empty of men. Women queue for buses to the factories. Women drive buses. Women distribute the ration cards and serve behind counters in the government stores. It was a woman who come to show our apartment block how to tape our windows against explosions, and to explain the importance of the blackout. Women rush along the dusty streets in overalls and headscarfs. There is no one to look at them any more. Anyway they are too tired and worried to think about being looked at.
In the evenings it's so hot in the apartments that the women gather in the courtyard. They turn kebabs over little outdoor fires . There's the smell of charred peppers and eggplant. There's no meat any more. Children play evening games and the sparrows go mad in the trees. It's so light that women hang out washing, or water the vegetables. All along the back steps, women sit calling out to one another as they soak their feet or dry their hair. Then at nine o'clock they all rush inside to the corridor outside the apartment with wireless, to listen to the news.
. .

Discover what will happen in the end yourself by reading the book ....

The Most Typical Face on the Planet

National Geographic Magazine released a video clip, below, showing the most "typical" human face on the planet as part of its series on the human race called "Population 7 billion."
The researchers conclude that a male, 28-year-old Han Chinese man is the most typical person on the planet. There are 9 million of them.

The image above is a composite of nearly 200,000 photos of men who fit that description (the image is a screen shot from the video of National Geographic below).
Don't get used to the results, however. Within 20 years, the most typical person will reside in India.

You can check out the National Geographic video below: