International Intonation – Jan. 9, 2013

Mark Hendricks, Contributor Ω

Designing higher grades

A recent joint study between the University of Salford and architecture firm Nightingale Associates has found classroom design can improve a student’s learning by up to 25 per cent.

The study rated classroom design on ten factors. Of those ten factors, six had a causal relationship to student performance. These six factors were colour, choice, connection, complexity, flexibility and light.

“This is the first time a holistic assessment has been made that successfully links the overall impact directly to learning rates in schools,” Peter Barrett, an architect and the study’s lead author told Wired magazine. “The impact identified is in fact greater than we imagined.”

According to the study the difference between a well-designed classroom and a poorly-designed one can be equal to a year’s worth of progress a student would normally make.

Where you can find out more: http://www.salford.ac.uk/home-page/news 

Below absolute zero

Physicists from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich have broken the previously thought lower limit of temperature, absolute zero.

Using a potassium gas and a combination of lasers and magnetic fields, the scientists were able to rapidly shift the atoms from a low-energy state to a high-energy state and in the process reduce the temperature of the gas to below absolute zero.

“It’s like walking through a valley, then instantly finding yourself on the mountain peak,” said Ulrich Schneider, a physicist working on the project, to Nature.

Matter begins to act strangely at temperatures below absolute zero. Atoms begin resisting the pull of gravity and float upwards instead of down and the cloud of atoms resist the normal tendency to collapse inwards under the force of attraction.

These characteristics closely resemble dark energy, the as of yet not fully understood force that causes the universe to expand at an increasing rate.

Scientists believe this may lead to the ability to create new forms of matter in labs. Previously unstable states may become stable at temperatures below absolute zero.

Where you can find out more: www.nature.com

Unrest in Africa

Sub_CAR_Rebels_2007As rebels advance on the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), President Francois Bozize makes desperate appeals to the U.S. and France for support.

The rebel group, known as Seleka, have occupied several cities in the northern regions of CAR including the city of Bambari, the third largest in the country and are currently advancing towards the capital of Bangui.

Seleka claims President Bozize is failing to honour a peace treaty from 2007 that was supposed to compensate rebels who laid down their arms during the earlier conflict and have vowed to depose President Bozize unless he negotiates with them.

The CAR government is saying the rebels are refusing to engage in a ceasefire to allow for dialogue.

President Bozize has asked for help from the U.S. and France to halt the rebel advance to allow for talks to begin.

France has denied the request for aid.

Where you can find out more: www.bbc.co.uk