Efficient Learning

The group who studied, slept, then restudied showed better initial test performance in the relearning session, and their relearning of forgotten items at this session was quicker, as compared with the group who’d studied in the morning then had their relearning session in the evening. Moreover, the study/sleep/relearn group outperformed the study/awake/relearn group both at the one-week retest and the six-month re-test.

See the Research Digest of the British Psychological Society

The Cultural Revolution (and Aliens)

This year sees the 50th anniversary of the commencement of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Image result for the three body problemBy coincidence, this year also saw the publication of the English translation of the last novel in the science-fiction trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past by Cixin Liu. Relatively few novels become successful in English translation, but his The Three-Body Problem (2008) won the 2015 Hugo Award for best novel in its English translation (2014). The Three-Body Problem opens with a section that some readers may have found disorienting. It went back in time, rather than forward, and the alienness was the psychology of the Cultural Revolution rather than that of a culture from another galaxy. Its central character is an astrophysicist who witnesses the death of her beloved father, a professor who is killed while he is being ritually humiliated for his views of physics. The action of the novel does eventually encompass an extra-terrestrial civilisation and it traces its chronological way from 1960s China through to the present and into the future. Alongside its narrative is an account of changing politicised views of science in a milieu where the speculations of contemporary physics are actively scrutinised for their compatibility with party policy. It brought home to me that in an academic system that is strictly controlled by the government, mathematics and the physical sciences can be as ideologically charged as humanities subjects such as history, philosophy and literature.

See my related article on China and censorship in UK on November 1st (English Edition)

Washington DC: A black woman becomes a world leader

from The Library of Congress

In September, one of the world’s most important library positions was assumed by Dr Carla Hayden who became the 14th Librarian of Congress. In an interview with Time she identified the significance of her appointment as ‘Being the first female and the first African American means that the legacy of the 14 Librarians of Congress will include diversity–and also a female in a female-dominated profession.’ She is a former president of the American Library Association who has not been shy of conflict: she kept her library open during the Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore in 2015 and opposed the government’s collection of readers’ records.

Article in The Guardian.

Robert Darnton discusses the challenges that Hayden faces as well as the future of libraries in The New York Review of Books.


British Library: Online Literary Manuscripts

Online exhibitions include:

  • Literary manuscripts (this online exhibition displays important literary manuscripts from medieval times to the work of Austen, Blake, Wilde and Lewis Carroll);
  • Historical texts from ancient China to works by Elizabeth I and The Communist Manifesto.
  • Key documents related to Henry VIII (with videos and interactive texts).

Image result for british library creative commons

The British Library

Picture credit: Nic McPhee on Flickr / Creative Commons