Diamond Ring for Charity a Gift or a Goof Up?

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Diamond Ring for Charity a Gift or a Goof Up?

By BARBARA A. SCHMITT | Good Morning America – Mon, Jul 2, 2012 1:21 PM EDT

Diamond Ring for Charity a Gift or a Goof Up?


A little charity could go a long way. Or be a big mistake.

A fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House became a little more exciting when volunteers discovered a diamond ring in a stash of donated shoes.

The find occurred on June 28 when the San Diego Chapter of the children’s charity held a a city-wide fundraiser called the Red Shoe Drive. As part of the drive, volunteers position themselves throughout the city holding a replica of the famous fast-food clown’s red boots as a drop box for donations.

In emptying the boots, a volunteer discovered a gift inside the men’s size 14 red shoe that was possibly too good to be true — a diamond wedding band. The volunteer quickly alerted charity administrators.

“We often find generous items during our donation drives,” said CEO Chuck Day. “So far, we can’t tell if it was a mistake or if someone wanted to donate a ring.”

It’s believed that the ring may have simply fallen off as a donor was dropping money into the boot.

Day says that the charity has received about a dozen calls to claim the ring, but no one has come close to remotely matching the ring’s description. Many of those who called were people who had lost their symbol of everlasting love, but none could be linked to the ring.

If it’s a gift and not a mistake, Day says it wouldn’t be the first time a southern Californian dropped a such generous donation. In 2010, the first year the San Diego Ronald McDonald House held the Red Shoe drive, someone put a pair of diamond earrings in the collection box.

“Last year, someone dropped ten $100 bills,” Day said.

Donors are being urged to phone the charity if they think the ring belongs to them. The charity will hold the ring for at least six months before it is considered a donation.


10 Movements to Secede from the United States

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10 Movements to Secede from the United States

10 Movements to Secede from the United States

This week, the United States celebrates its independence from Great Britain. But throughout the nation’s history there have been plenty of people who have sought their independence from the US, not in it. Some of these rebellions against the US have been mere publicity stunts, while others genuinely threatened to tear the country apart. Still others continue to this day, their members insisting that secession is their naturally given right.

Conch Republic flag from Wikimedia Commons.

Dozens of secessionist movements, self-governing communities, and micronations have existed in the United States. The Middlebury Institute, a secessionist think tank, keeps a list of currently active movements within the US. These ten have particularly interesting histories:

Second Vermont Republic: Several US states have active secession movements: Hawaii, Montana, and Texas (as Rick Perry has reminded us), just to name a few. But the Second Vermont Republic considers itself“perhaps the foremost active secessionist organization in the country” (according to Slate) and was on Time magazine’s list of“Top 10 Aspiring Nations.” This “nonviolent citizens’ network and think tank” seeks not only to secede from the United States, but also to support the dissolution of “meganations” like the US, Russia, and China. Looking to create an independent nation modeled on countries like Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland, the Second Vermont Republic is anti-war and subscribes to principles like political power sharing, economic solidarity, and sustainability. In 2005, the group held an independence convention in Montpelier, which was reported as the first such convention since North Carolina’s secession in 1861. During that convention, the SVR passed the following resolution, “Be it resolved that the state of Vermont peacefully and democratically free itself from the United States of America and return to its natural status as an independent republic as it was between January 15, 1777 and March 4, 1791.” In 2010, nine Vermonters ran for state political office — including for governor and lieutenant governor — on a secessionist platform. The gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial candidates, however, received only 0.8 percent and 4.7 percent of the vote respectively.Second Vermont Republic Flag is from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.

Alaskan Independence Party: Alaska’s independence movement definitely gives Vermont’s a run for its money. With 15,255 registered members, the Alaskan Independence Party is the third largest political party in Alaska (Todd Palin was a registered member until 2002). Although Alaskan independence certainly isn’t the only item on the AIP’s platform (the party takes a heavily libertarian stance on issues), one of its governing beliefs is that the 1958 vote for statehood was illegal because voters were not presented with the entire range of available options — remain a territory, become an independent country, become a US commonwealth, or become a state. They make no secret of their disdain for the United States, however, stating on the party website, “considering the moral, educational, and economic decay of the U.S., Alaskans’ [sic] who hold themselves to a higher standard might very well decide to at least maintain an arm’s length distance from a country in decline.” In 2006, AIP members sought to get a secession initiative on the ballot, but the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that any attempt to secede would be unconstitutional, thereby blocking the initiative.

The Conch Republic: Some secession movements are serious business while others are a bit more tongue-in-cheek. The secession of the Florida Keys’ Conch Republic — which lasted one minute — definitely falls into the latter category. In 1982, the US Border Patrol set up a road block and inspection point between Key West and the Florida mainland, meaning that US citizen were being stopped and searched for narcotics and illegal immigrants while driving within their own state. (It didn’t help tourism much, either.) After the city of Key West failed to get an injunction against the roadblock, Mayor Dennis Wardlow, as an act of protest, declared himself prime minister of the new Conch Republic, which then declared war on the US. The war’s sole casualty was a piece of stale Cuban bread, which Wardlow broke over the head of a man in a US naval uniform. Afterward, Wardlow immediately surrendered to the man and applied for $1 billion in foreign aid. Despite being short-lived, the Conch Republic has become a source of tourism for the Florida Keys. Visitors to the Keys can apply for a Conch Republic passport, purchase Conch Republic dollars, and partake in the independence celebrations each April. The republic also has a particularly excellent motto: “We Seceded Where Others Failed.”

The Conch Republic isn’t the only secessionist movement to jokingly attempt the Mouse that Roared strategy. In the early 1970s, the Forgottonia movement planned to declare the secession of 14 counties in western Illinois and similarly collect foreign aid after declaring war on the US and then surrendering. The idea was to bring attention to the impoverished region. (You can read more about Forgottonia on the Journal Star.) The city of Winneconne, Wisconsin, threatened to secede and form the Sovereign State of Winneconne after being left off the official Wisconsin road map. During a secret committee meeting, they resolved to declare the village president James Coughlin king (or rather “King Kong”) and annex nearby territories, starting with Oshkosh. Similar tactics have also been tried by Minnesota’s “Republic of Kinney” and Missouri’s “McDonald Territory.”

Republic of Lakotah: Technically, members of the Republic of Lakotahmovement don’t consider themselves secessionists because they consider themselves part of an independent sovereignty that never belonged to the United States. Proponents of this movement wish to form a Native American homeland within the borders of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, which would encompass more than 77,000 square miles in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. Headed by Native American activist Russell Means, the Lakota Freedom Delegation traveled to Washington, DC, in 2007 and “withdrew from the constitutionally mandated treaties to become a free and independent country.” In response, the Bureau for Indian Affairs noted that the the Lakotah Freedom Delegation is not a representative elected body (although when Means ran for the presidency of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in 2008, he received 1,918 votes to the victor’s 2,277). The Republic has requested recognition from foreign nations to no avail. In 2010, the group plans to reiterate its position to the United States government, demanding that the US withdraw from its (quite sizable) territory.Map of the Republic of Lakota, based on the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, from the Republic of Lakota website.

Essex Junto: Decades before the Southern Confederacy considered separating from the Union, New England Federalists were contemplating a secession of their own. The Essex Junto, a group of politicians, lawyers, and tradesmen that originated in Essex County, Massachusetts, was a powerful force within the Federalist Party. Discontent with the growing power of the Jeffersonian Democrats and fearing the diminished influence of the North after the Louisiana Purchase, many of the group’s members began to contemplate a Northern secession from the Southern states. Timothy Pickering, who had served as the third US Secretary of State under George Washington and John Adams, was a driving figure of this secessionist movement, envisioning a Northern republic comprised of New England, New York, New Jersey, and Canada. Members of the Essex Junto even approached Alexander Hamilton about heading such a secessionist state, but he was horrified by the plan, feeling it antithetical to his own Federalist notions. Pickering ultimately threw his political weight behind Aaron Burr in 1804, hoping that if Burr was elected governor of New York, that state could lead a secession movement. Burr lost the election by 7,000 votes after Hamilton campaigned heavily against him. Hamilton reportedly agreed to attend a secessionist meeting to be held the following autumn (some writers suppose with the intention of talking his fellow Federalists out of the idea), but the meeting was canceled after Burr killed Hamilton in their famous duel.

The Essex Junto would be associated with another secessionist movement during the War of 1812. In 1813, John Lowell Jr. published a pamphlet advocating the secession of the original 13 states from the rest of the Union (so less of a secession and more of an ejection of the western states), and Federalist newspapers in New England supported the plan. When New England Federalists held the Hartford Convention in 1814-1815, many around the country feared they meant to put such a plan in motion. But by this time, most of the Essex Junto’s remaining members opposed secession and radical secessionists were excluded from the convention, and secession was not among the final proposals. Aaron Burr, however, would go on to lead a conspiracy to conquer Union and Mexican lands, a plot that would lead to his trial for treason and the end of his political career.

The Republic of Cascadia: After Lewis and Clark explored the American Northwest, Thomas Jefferson envisioned the formation of a Republic of the Pacific by American settlers, a republic that would be independent from, but economically linked with, his eastern Union. Today, there are some in the Pacific Northwest who would see Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia (along with perhaps Idaho, western Montana, and Northern California) united as an independent Republic of Cascadia. Although it hasn’t claimed any independence from the US or Canada, the Cascadian Independence Project seeks a gradual transition self-regulation for the Pacific Northwest, asserting that the region is better equipped to govern itself than distant governments in distant governments in Ottawa and Washington, DC, are: 

The goal of the Cascadian Independence Project is to raise awareness of the idea of Cascadia, to increase bioregional independence within our communities socially, politically, economically and environmentally. and to further democratic governing priniciples, civil liberties, digital privacy, human rights and regional sustainability in a respectful and peaceful manner.

A Cascadia-esque nation exists in Ernest Callenbach utopian novel Ecotopia, although the titular nation doesn’t include British Columbia.

Cascadian flag from Wikimedia Commons.

The Great Republic of Rough and Ready: Accounts vary on why the California mining town of Rough and Ready seceded from and then rejoined the Union, but for three months, starting in April in 1850, it held itself out as an independent settlement. The accepted version of the story seems to be that the miners, most of whom had come out from Wisconsin to try their luck digging for gold, were displeased with the Union taxes on their spoils — especially given that the Union wasn’t doing much to uphold law and order in the town — and seceded in protest. Somewhere around Independence Day, the tiny nation dissolved. Some say that the residents were disappointed that wouldn’t be able to participate in the July 4th festivities, but others claim that the real reason is that Nevada City refused to sell liquor to “foreigners.” Whatever the reason, Rough and Ready has two celebrations of regional pride each summer: Independence Day on July 4th and Secession Day on the last Sunday in June.

Christian Exodus: When it was founded in 2003, the Christian Exodus movement called for a mass migration of Christians to South Carolina with the intention of created a self-governing Christian sovereignty within the state. The original plan was for members of the movement to flood the offices of local government, passing and enforcing Biblically rooted laws in defiance of Supreme Court rulings. Cory Burnell, the group’s founder, told the Los Angeles Times in 2005,“If necessary we will secede from the union.” Burnell believed at the time that South Carolina would be an optimal state from which to launch a secession from the US. Since then, however, the group has stepped back from its mission for political secession in the face of potential government opposition, stating on its website, “We have learned, however; that the chains of our slavery and dependence upon godless government have more of a hold on us than can be broken by simply moving to another State.” Instead, the Christian Exodus movement now places its emphasis on “personal secession” from American culture, much like other groups that opt out of the mainstream culture, “with the ultimate goal of forming an independent Christian nation that will survive after the decline and fall of the financially and morally bankrupt American empire.”

Northwest Angle: Minnesota’s Northwest Angle, population 119, is a bit unusual in that some of its residents once threatened secession largely due to its geography. Thanks to a mistake made during negotiations of the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the area is the only region outside of Alaska to sit north of 49th parallel, where it borders Manitoba and Ontario. In order to reach the rest of Minnesota by car, Northwest Anglers have to pass through Canada. In 1998, Canada had imposed burdensome rules on border crossings, and Ontario forbade US fisherman from keeping any gamefish caught in Ontario waters unless they were staying at a Canadian lodge. Frustrated by the lack of support from the US, the Northwest Angle threatened to secede from the US and join Manitoba. US Representative Collin Peterson introduced a bill to amend the US Constitution to allow the secession to go forward (under US law, it’s illegal to secede from the US). The stunt worked, and the Northwest Angle received more favorable fishing rights, and today, they simply report their border crossings by videophone at an unmanned booth.Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Confederate States of America: This is the big one, the movement that immediately comes to mind when you think of an American secession. The secession of the eleven states of the Confederacy from the United States of America triggered the start of the Civil War. Events that occurred during the Civil War also led to the Texas v. White case, in which the Supreme Court officially held that a state cannot unilaterally secede from the United States. But the Confederacy wasn’t the only potential secessionist movement at the time; several sources report that Southern Confederates tried to drum up an insurrection in some of the Northern states, in the hopes that a Northwestern Confederacy made up of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and, Iowa. (Lost States has a map of the proposed three-nation America.) And the Confederacy was not immune to secession attempts itself. In some regions, such as Alabama’s so-called “Republic of Winston,” opposition to the Confederacy was so profound that legends cropped up that the regions themselves seceded into their own tiny nations. More poignantly, 26 counties in eastern Tennessee petitioned the Tennessee state legislature to approve their bid for secession; Nashville rejected their petition and Confederate troops were sent to the area to prevent a secession, proving that even the seceding entities don’t like to be seceded from.

Further reading:

8 Secessionist Movements in American History [mental_floss]

Wildest Secession Movements in The United States [Neatorama]

How Is America Going To End? [Slate]

Declarations of Independence: Encyclopedia of American Autonomous And Secessionist Movements, by James L. Erwin

List of Current North American Secessionist Movements [The Middlebury Institute]

Two men using metal detectors discover hoard of 50,000 Iron Age Celtic coins

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Two men using metal detectors discover hoard of 50,000 Iron Age Celtic coins

Two men using metal detectors discover hoard of 50,000 Iron Age Celtic coins

Great news for all you hopeful amateur metal detectorists: Two men, who’d been searching the same field for nearly 30 years, have stumbled upon the largest hoard of Iron Age coins ever discovered in northern Europe. Inspired by legends that a local farmer once discovered silver coins on his land, the men unearthed the congealed chunk of 50,000 silver and gold coins after following a trail of pieces — that turned out not to be related to the cache.

Reg Mead and Richard Miles found the clump inside a massive block of soil in a field in Jersey, U.K., and it’s thought that the coins were from Armorica, modern Brittany, and Normandy. The coins, which are in surprisingly good condition, are thought to have been buried at a time when Caesar was campaigning through Gaul. The owner likely buried the coins in an effort to hide them — never to be seen again, until now.

Writing in The Guardian, Maev Kennedy had this to add:


Most of the Jersey coins are still locked inside the soil block, which weighs three quarters of a ton and has been removed in one piece from the ground and taken to a safe place.Excavation continues in the field to make sure the whole story has been revealed. The exact location has not been disclosed, and the island’s environment minister, Rob Duhamel, said it would get official protection to keep it safe from looters. “It is a very exciting piece of news and perhaps harks back to our cultural heritage in terms of finance. It was found under a hedge so perhaps this is an early example of hedge fund trading.”

De Jersey said the find was exceptional, “certainly the largest hoard of Iron Age coins ever found, not just in Jersey but the whole of the Celtic coin-using world … it is difficult to come out with a figure much below 50,000 coins given the volume of the block.”

He believes there may also be Iron Age jewellery in the soil block, as in other Jersey hoards.

The coins, which are estimated to be worth about £10m ($15.8m), may go on display in the island’s main museum should the land owners get their way. But exactly who owns the coins will likely take months to determine. Hmmm, so much for finder’s keepers.

Top image via Telegraph; inset image via Culture 24. All images courtesy Jersey Heritage.

More Evidence that a Common Cat Parasite Could Increase Your Risk of Suicide

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More Evidence that a Common Cat Parasite Could Increase Your Risk of Suicide

More Evidence that a Common Cat Parasite Could Increase Your Risk of Suicide

Toxoplasmosis, a common parasitic disease that’s transmitted through unwashed vegetables and cat feces, has long been suspected of altering human behavior. Though controversial, some scientists have speculated that there’s a correlation between the parasite and such things as schizophrenia and suicide. But now there’s fresh evidence that the disease could help drive women to kill themselves.

Nobody should be too surprised that the Toxoplasma gondii parasite causes an alteration to human psychology. The parasite’s reproductive strategy generally involves an interaction between two other species, namely cats and rodents. It works by first infecting a cat, who passes the parasite on to rats and mice through its infected feces. Infected rodents have their brains subtly rewired by the parasite, making them less scared of cats. They also start to find the smell of cat urine irresistible. These behavioral changes make it easier for cats to catch and eat the rodents, who are in turn infected by the parasite. And the cycle repeats.

More Evidence that a Common Cat Parasite Could Increase Your Risk of SuicideWhile it’s safe to say that we’re nothing like mice, our brains do share many common fixtures. Humans clearly do not react to T. gondii in the same way that mice do — but it does seem that there may be some slight behavioral changes in humans infected with the parasite.

If this is the case, this is no small matter: It’s believed that up to one-third to half of the world’s population is infected by the parasite. It is typically transmitted by handling infected cat feces, but the greater risk of infection comes through the ingestion of infected meat or the handling of unwashed vegetables and fruit.

Recent studies have shown a potential correlation to car accidents — a indication that the parasite might be causing human hosts to engage in risk taking behaviors. Research by Jaroslav Flegr, in particular, claims that the infection might increase the number of car accidents by as much as one million crashes per year, though his conclusions are highly contentious. Less controversial studies, however, have shown links between toxoplasma and schizophrenia.

And now, owing to the work of Teodor T. Postolache at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, there is stronger evidence linking T. gondii and suicide. In a study involving more than 45,000 women in Denmark, Postolache found a higher risk of attemped suicide among women who are infected. It was the largest study of its kind, and a continuation of Postolache’s work which began showing a connection between the two back in 2009.

The results of the study will appear online today, in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Postolache cross-referenced known cases of mothers infected with toxoplasmosis with Danish health registries to determine a link, including cases of violent suicide involving guns, sharp instruments, or jumping from high places. He also made sure to know which of these women may have been diagnosed with mental illness prior to their infections.

What Postolache found was that women infected with the parasite were one and half times more likely to attempt suicide compared to those who were not infected. The risk rose with increasing levels of the T. gondii antibodies. And disturbingly, the relative risk was higher for violent suicide attempts. The researchers also concluded that prior mental illness was not a significant factor.

Unfortunately, while he was able to determine a correlation, the study did not offer any insights into potential causation. It’s not immediately as to how or why there is a connection, though other studies have suggested a link with dopamine dysregulation. Postolache admits that there may be a connection between one’s proclivity for acquiring T. gondii infection and an underlying psychiatric disturbances — though that sounds extremely implausible.

In addition, the study did not include men and women who didn’t have children. Looking into those demographics may offer new clues into the mystery.

Speaking through a press release, Postolache had this to say:

Is the suicide attempt a direct effect of the parasite on the function of the brain or an exaggerated immune response induced by the parasite affecting the brain? We do not know. In fact, we have not excluded reverse causality as there might be risk factors for suicidal behavior that also make people more susceptible to infection with T. gondii. If we can identify a causal relationship, we may be able to predict those at increased risk for attempting suicide and find ways to intervene and offer treatment.

Moving forward, Postolache would like to see future research focusing on molecular and behavioral factors that could better reveal a relationship between T. gondii, suicide risk factors and suicidal behavior.

Image via Shutterstock.com/vetpathologist. Inset image courtesy of E. Prandovszky and University of Leeds.

Stop calling it “The God Particle!”

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Stop calling it “The God Particle!”

Stop calling it

We’ve heard the rumors. Tomorrow is likely to bring news that physics nerds have been waiting for: the “official” discovery of theHiggs Boson. But something is gnawing at me like children on my lawn: this whole “God Particle” business.

Don’t get me wrong. Science — and physics, in particular — is filled with bad naming conventions: The big bang was neither big nor a bang; the “color” of a quark or a gluon has nothing to do with what they actually look like; even “spin” has staggeringly less to do with a gyroscope than you might have at first guessed. And while the Higgs deserves our respect, “God Particle” is just going too far.

Seriously. What’s wrong with you people?

Stop calling it "The God Particle!"First, a bit of history. The Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman coined the phrase “The God Particle” as the title of his otherwise excellent book as a way of underscoring how essential the Higgs is in our Standard Model of Physics. You can get away with that sort of hype when you’re a Nobel prize winner. It also sold roughly 10 gajillion copies. He also got cutesy afterwards, and used to semi-seriously defend the name by saying that the publisher wouldn’t let him call it the goddamn particle.

Meanwhile, National Geographic went one step further, comparing it to “The Force,”from Star Wars — which did at least make for an awesomely adorable graphic at our sister site Gizmodo — but really kind of misses the bigger picture.

Just to be clear, discovering the Higgs will be a huge deal. It is the last remaining particle of our Standard Model of physics, and in a lot of ways it’s very different than any other particle that we’ve ever seen. It’s the first spin-0 particle, which is fairly significant. There’s also the whole “creating mass” thing that it’s so famous for. We should give credit where credit is due.

Stop calling it "The God Particle!"But let’s not go overboard. I can think of at least three good reasons that referring to the “God Particle” should be a wedgieable offense. Knowing the io9 readership, I expect dozens more in the comments section.

1) It makes us sound like those mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes who worshiped a nuclear bomb.

Even if discovering the Higgs answered all of the fundamental questions in physics and gave us a Theory of Everything (it doesn’t), the particle itself is just a particle, like any other. It interacts with other particles, and those interactions take the form of changes in energy.

Seriously, just dial it back a bit.

There have even been contests to rename the damn thing to something a bit less grandiose. The Guardian newspaper apparently came up with, “the champagne bottle boson.” To my mind, though, this is both a bit silly and very unnecessary. The Higgs already has a name: the Higgs. We don’t insist on calling the electron “ol’ current-carrier” (though perhaps we should).

In fact, the Higgs has LOTS of names. While Peter Higgs came up with his version of the mechanism in 1964, about half a dozen other scientists came up with similar solutions at around the same time. This is going to cause the Nobel committee a giant headache when they try to figure out who to award the Prize to. Virtually every combination of names has been used as a descriptor for the particle, so if you want to call it something else, might I suggest the “Englert-Brout-Higgs-Guralnik-Hagen-Kibble Boson”?

2) It’s not the only thing that can make mass.

The Higgs mechanism was developed to address a very specific problem. It was well-known at the time that assuming what are known as “local gauge symmetries” (PROTIP: work that phrase into conversation as often as possible) would give rise almost immediately to various mediator particles. For electromagnetism, we expect 1, the photon. For the weak force, we expect 3, the W^+, W^-, and Z^0.

But there’s a problem — the theory also predicts that all of these mediators should be massless, and the W and Z particles are huge. The W particles are both about 86 times the mass of a proton, and the Z boson is about 97 times as massive as the proton.

Energy and mass are equivalent to one another. Remember, E=mc^2. But this reaction holds in reverse: m=E/c^2. Pour enough energy into a system and you create mass!

The basic idea (after glossing over LOTS of details of symmetry-breaking and the like) is that there is a Higgs field out there, and the interaction between the Higgs field and the W and Z fields creates energy, and we measure this as mass.

But this isn’t just true of the Higgs, but of every energy of interaction. Just to give you an idea, you are made of protons and neutron, and your protons and neutrons are made of quarks. But the whole is much more than the sum of the parts. The total mass of quarks in a proton is only about 2% the mass of the proton, itself. The rest –- virtually all of your mass -– is made up of the interaction energies between the quarks.

Put another way, even if the mass of the quarks comes from the Higgs somehow — and even if the Higgs exists, we don’t know exactly how it relates to other particles besides the W’s and Z — almost none of your mass comes from the Higgs.

3) There’s still a hell of a lot that remains unanswered.

The biggest problem with all of this “God Particle” nonsense is that it’s a rather short-sighted way of announcing to the world that the particle physics community doesn’t need any more money, thanks.

Besides greed, there’s the simple fact that while discovering the Higgs means that we’re on the right track with this whole Standard Model, it is absolutely not the end of the story. What doesn’t the Higgs tell us?

  • It doesn’t explain how gravity works.
  • For that matter, it doesn’t really tell us much about how the strong force relates to the electroweak force — the combination of electromagnetism and the weak force for which the Higgs is so useful.
  • It doesn’t tell us what dark matter is — roughly 23% of the energy of the universe.
  • It doesn’t tell us what dark energy is — another 72% of the universe.
  • It doesn’t tell us why the electric charge is what it is, or an electron mass is what it is, or really, much at all about a huge number of physical constant.
  • It doesn’t explain why we have certain symmetries in our universe and not others.

I guess what I’m saying is: more money, please.

Dave Goldberg is a Physics Professor at Drexel University. He apologizes for the interruption of your “Ask a Physicist” service, which will be restored once he completes his first draft of “The Universe in the Rearview Mirror,” a new book all about symmetry that will be published by Dutton in 2013. In the meanwhile, follow him on twittersend an email, or get caught up with his first book

Top image: Shutterstock.com. Pulp Fiction meme via TigerDroppings.com

100 Time-Saving Search Engines for Serious Scholars (Revised)

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100 Time-Saving Search Engines for Serious Scholars (Revised)



Back in 2010, we shared with you 100 awesome search engines and research resources in our post: 100 Time-Saving Search Engines for Serious Scholars. It’s been an incredible resource, but now, it’s time for an update. Some services have moved on, others have been created, and we’ve found some new discoveries, too. Many of our original 100 are still going strong, but we’ve updated where necessary and added some of our new favorites, too. Check out our new, up-to-date collection to discover the very best search engine for finding the academic results you’re looking for.




Need to get started with a more broad search? These academic search engines are great resources.

  1. iSEEK Education:iSeek is an excellent targeted search engine, designed especially for students, teachers, administrators, and caregivers. Find authoritative, intelligent, and time-saving resources in a safe, editor-reviewed environment with iSEEK.
  2. RefSeek:With more than 1 billion documents, web pages, books, journals, newspapers, and more, RefSeek offers authoritative resources in just about any subject, without all of the mess of sponsored links and commercial results.
  3. Virtual LRC:The Virtual Learning Resources Center has created a custom Google search, featuring only the best of academic information websites. This search is curated by teachers and library professionals around the world to share great resources for academic projects.
  4. Academic Index:This scholarly search engine and web directory was created just for college students. The websites in this index are selected by librarians, teachers, and educational consortia. Be sure to check out their research guides for history, health, criminal justice, and more.
  5. BUBL LINK:If you love the Dewey Decimal system, this Internet resource catalog is a great resource. Search using your own keywords, or browse subject areas with Dewey subject menus.
  6. Digital Library of the Commons Repository:Check out the DLC to find international literature including free and open access full-text articles, papers, and dissertations.
  7. OAIster:Search the OAIster database to find millions of digital resources from thousands of contributors, especially open access resources.
  8. Internet Public Library:Find resources by subject through the Internet Public Library’s database.
  9. Infomine:The Infomine is an incredible tool for finding scholarly Internet resource collections, especially in the sciences.
  10. Microsoft Academic Search:Microsoft’s academic search engine offers access to more than 38 million different publications, with features including maps, graphing, trends, and paths that show how authors are connected.
  11. Google Correlate:Google’s super cool search tool will allow you to find searches that correlate with real-world data.
  12. Wolfram|Alpha:Using expert-level knowledge, this search engine doesn’t just find links; it answers questions, does analysis, and generates reports.

Meta Search



Want the best of everything? Use these meta search engines that return results from multiple sites all at once.

  1. Dogpile:Find the best of all the major search engines with Dogpile, an engine that returns results from Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, with categories including Web, Images, Video, and even White Pages.
  2. MetaCrawler:MetaCrawler makes it easy to “search the search engines,” returning results from Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.
  3. Mamma:Check out the mother of all search engines to pin down the best resources on the web. Mamma even searches Twitter and job postings!

Databases and Archives



Resources like the Library of Congress have considerable archives and documents available, and many of them have taken their collections online. Use these search tools to get access to these incredible resources.

  1. Library of Congress:In this incredible library, you’ll get access to searchable source documents, historical photos, and amazing digital collections.
  2. Archives Hub:Find the best of what Britain has to offer in the Archives Hub. You’ll be able to search archives from almost 200 institutions from England, Scotland, and Wales.
  3. National Archives:Check out this resource for access to the National Archives. Find online, public access to find historic documents, research, government information, and more in a single search.
  4. arXiv e-Print Archive:Cornell University’s arXiv.org offers open access to a wealth of e-prints in math, science, and related subjects. Search this resource to find what you need among 756,133 documents and counting.
  5. Archivenet:An initiative of the Historical Centre Overijssel, Archivenet makes it easy to find Dutch archives and more.
  6. NASA Historical Archive:Explore the history of space in this historical archive from NASA, highlighting space history and manned missions.
  7. National Agricultural Library:A service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you can find global information for agriculture in the National Agricultural Library.
  8. Smithsonian Institution Research Information System:Get access to the considerable resources of the Smithsonian Institution through the Research Information System, a great way to search more than 7.4 million records from the Smithsonian’s museums, archives, and libraries.
  9. The British Library Catalogues & Collections:Explore the British Library catalogues, printed materials, digital collections, and even collection blogs for a wealth of resources.
  10. CIA World Factbook:As the center of intelligence, the CIA has certainly done its job with The World Factbook, offering information on major reference information around the world. History, people, government, economy, and more are all covered in this online publication.
  11. State Legislative Websites Directory:Use this database to find information from the legislatures of all 50 U.S. states, DC, and the Territories. You can look up bills, statutes, legislators, and more with this excellent tool.
  12. OpenDOAR:In the Directory of Open Access Repositories, you can search through freely academic research information with more directly useful resources.
  13. Catalog of U.S. Government Publications:Search through the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications to find descriptive records for historical and current publications, with direct links where available.

Books & Journals



Instead of heading to the library to bury your face in the stacks, use these search engines to find out which libraries have the books you need, and maybe even find them available online.

  1. WorldCat:Find items from 10,000 libraries worldwide, with books, DVDs, CDs, and articles up for grabs. You can even find your closest library with WorldCat’s tools.
  2. Google Books:Supercharge your research by searching this index of the world’s books. You’ll find millions for free and others you can preview to find out if they’re what you’re looking for.
  3. Scirus:For scientific information only, Scirus is a comprehensive research tool with more than 460 million scientific items including journal content, courseware, patents, educational websites, and more.
  4. HighBeam Research:Research articles and published sources with HighBeam Research’s tools. You’ll not only be able to search for what you’re looking for, you can also choose from featured research topics and articles. Note: HighBeam is a paid service.
  5. Vadlo:Vadlo is a life sciences search engine offering protocols, tools, and powerpoints for scientific research and discovery. Find what you’re looking for, and then stick around to check out the forums.
  6. Open Library:Find the world’s classic literature, open e-books, and other excellent open and free resources in the Open Library. You can even contribute to the library with information, corrections to the catalog, and curated lists.
  7. Online Journals Search Engine:In this free, powerful scientific search engine, you can discover journals, articles, research reports, and books in scientific publications.
  8. Google Scholar:Check out Google Scholar to find only scholarly resources on Google. The search specializes in articles, patents, and legal documents, and even has a resource for gathering your citations.
  9. Bioline International:Search Bioline International to get connected with a variety of scientific journals. The search is managed by scientists and librarians as a collaborative initiative between Bioline Toronto and and the Reference Center on Environmental Information.
  10. SpringerLink:Search through SpringerLink for electronic journals, protocols, and books in just about every subject possible. You can also browse publications by collection and content type.
  11. Directory of Open Access Journals:When you need top-quality journal writings for free, the Directory of Open Access Journals is a great place to check out. You’ll get access to a searchable journal of full-text quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals.
  12. Jurn:In this curated academic search engine, you’ll get results from over 4,000 free scholarly e-journals in the arts and humanities.




With a focus on science, these academic search engines return all-science, all the time.

  1. SciSeek:In this science search engine and directory, you’ll find the best of what the science web has to offer. Browse by category, search by keyword, and even add new sites to the listings.
  2. Chem BioFinder:Register with PerkinElmer to check out the Chem BioFinder and look up information about chemicals, including their properties and reactions.
  3. Biology Browser:Biology Browser is a great resource for finding research, resources, and information in the field of biology. You can also check out their Zoological Record and BIOSIS Previews.
  4. Athenus:Athenus is an authority on science and engineering on the Web, sharing a directory and full-featured web search.
  5. SciCentral:Use SciCentral as your gateway to the best sources in science. This site has a literature search, journals, databases, and other great tools for finding what you need.
  6. Strategian:Strategian is a great place to find quality information in all fields of science. Featured resources include free full-text books, patents, and reports, as well as full-text journal and magazine articles, plus a special collection of Vintage Biology with important articles and books in biology.
  7. Science.gov:In this government science portal, you can search more than 50 databases and 2,100 selected websites from 12 federal agencies. This is an incredible resource for millions of pages of U.S. government science information.
  8. CERN Document Server:This organization for nuclear research serves up a great search and directory for experiments, archives, articles, books, presentations, and so much more within their documents.
  9. Analytical Sciences Digital Library:Through the Analytical Sciences Digital Library, you’ll find peer-reviewed, web-based educational resources in analytical sciences, featuring a variety of formats for techniques and applications.
  10. WorldWideScience:Use WorldWideScience.org as a global science gateway, offering excellent search results in the sciences, and even the option to select specific databases and find resources in your own language.

Math & Technology



Keep your results limited to only the best math and technology resources by using these search engines.

  1. MathGuide:Check out the MathGuide subject gateway to find online information sources in mathematics. The catalog offers not just a search, but a database of high quality Internet resources in math.
  2. ZMATH Online Database:Zentralblatt MATH’s online database has millions of entries from thousands of serials and journals dating back as far as 1826. Nearly 35,000 items were added in 2012 alone.
  3. Math WebSearch:This semantic search engine allows users to search with numbers and formulas instead of text.
  4. Current Index to Statistics:In this bibliographic index, you’ll find publications in statistics, probability, and related fields. There are more than 160 preferred journals, plus selected articles from 1,200 more and 11,000 statistics books to draw from in this search.
  5. Inspec:This database was made for scientists and engineers by the Institution of Engineering and Technology. You’ll find nearly 13 million abstracts and research literature, primarily in the fields of physics and engineering.
  6. CiteSeerX:Get searchable access to the Scientific Research Digital Library by using the CiteSeerX website.
  7. The Collection of Computer Science Bibliographies:Find more than 3 million references to journal articles, conference papers, and technical reports in computer science with this bibliography collection.
  8. Citebase:Still in experimental demonstration, Citebase Search is a resource for searching abstracts in math, technology, and more.

Social Science



Researchers working in the fields of psychology, anthropology, and related subjects will find great results using these search engines.

  1. Behavioral Brain Science Archive:Check out this searchable archive to find extensive psychology and brain science articles.
  2. Social Science Research Network:In this research network, you can find a wide variety of social science research from a number of specialized networks including cognitive science, leadership, management, and social insurance.
  3. Psycline:Find a journal with Psycline’s journal and article locator, a tool that offers access to more than 2,000 psychology and social science journals online.
  4. Social Sciences Citation Index:The Thomson Reuters Social Sciences Citation Index is a paid tool, but well worth its cost for the wealth of relevant articles, search tools, and thorough resources available.
  5. Ethnologue:Search the languages of the world with Ethnologue, offering an encyclopedic reference of all the world’s known living languages. You’ll also be able to find more than 28,000 citations in the Ethnologue’s language research bibliography.
  6. SocioSite:Use this site from the University of Amsterdam to browse sociological subjects including activism, culture, peace, and racism.
  7. The SocioWeb:Check out this guide to find all of the sociological resources you’ll need on the internet. The SocioWeb offers links to articles, essays, journals, blogs, and even a marketplace.
  8. WikiArt:With this custom Google search engine, you can find open access articles about archaeology.
  9. Encyclopedia of Psychology:Search or browse the Encyclopedia of Psychology to find basic information, and even translations for information about psychology careers, organizations, publications, people, and history.
  10. Anthropology Review Database:Through this database, you can get access to anthropology reviews, look up publishers, and find resources available for review.
  11. Anthropological Index Online:This anthropological online search includes both general search of 4,000 periodicals held in The British Museum Anthropology Library as well as Royal Anthropological Institute films.
  12. Political Information:Political Information is a search engine for politics, policy, and political news with more than 5,000 carefully selected websites for political information.




Find awesome resources for history through these search engines that index original documents, sources, and archives.

  1. David Rumsey Historical Map Collection:Use the LUNA Browser to check out David Rumsey’s Map Collection with more than 30,000 images, searchable by keyword.
  2. Genesis:Find excellent sources for women’s history with the Genesis dataset and extensive list of web resources.
  3. Fold3:Get access to historical military records through Fold3, the web’s premier collection of original military records and memorials.
  4. Internet Modern History Sourcebook:Use the Internet Modern History Sourcebook to find thousands of sources in modern history. Browse and search to find full texts, multimedia, and more.
  5. Library of Anglo-American Culture and History:Use the history guide from the Library of Anglo-American Culture and History for a subject catalog of recommended websites for historians, with about 11,000 to choose from.
  6. HistoryBuff:History Buff offers an online newspaper archive, reference library, and even a historical panoramas section in their free primary source material collection.
  7. Digital History:University of Houston’s Digital History database offers a wealth of links to textbook, primary sources, and educational materials in digital history. The database has multimedia, an interactive timeline, active learning, and resources for teachers.
  8. Internet Ancient History Sourcebook:The Internet Ancient History Sourcebook is a great place to study human origins, with full text and search on topics including Mesopotamia, Rome, the Hellenistic world, Late Antiquity, and Christian origins.
  9. History and Politics Out Loud:History and Politics Out Loud offers a searchable archive of important recordings through history, particularly politically significant audio materials.
  10. History Engine:In this tool for collaborative education and research, students can learn history by researching, writing, and publishing, creating a collection of historical articles in U.S. history that can be searched for here by scholars, teachers, and the general public.
  11. American History Online:Through American History Online, you can find and use primary sources from historical digital collections.

Business and Economics



Using these search engines, you’ll get access to business publications, journal articles, and more.

  1. BPubs:Search the Business Publications Search Engine for access to business and trade publications in a tool that offers not just excellent browsing, but a focused search as well.
  2. Virtual Library Labour History:Maintained by the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, this library offers historians excellent content for learning about economics, business, and more.
  3. EconLit:Visit EconLit to access more than 120 years of economics literature from around the world in an easily searchable format. Find journal articles, books, book reviews, articles, working papers, and dissertations, as well as historic journal articles from 1886 to 1968.
  4. National Bureau of Economic Research:On this site, you can learn about and find access to great resources in economic research.
  5. Research Papers in Economics:Find research in economics and related sciences through the RePEc, a volunteer-maintained bibliographic database of working papers, articles, books, and even software components with more than 1.2 million research pieces.
  6. Corporate Information:Perfect for researching companies, Corporate Information offers an easy way to find corporate financial records.
  7. Inomics:Economists will enjoy this excellent site for finding economics resources, including jobs, courses, and even conferences.
  8. DailyStocks:Easily look up stocks with this search engine to monitor the stock market and your portfolio.
  9. EDGAR Search:The SEC requires certain disclosures that can be helpful to investors, and you can find them all here in this helpful, next-generation system for searching electronic investment documents.

Other Niches



Find even more specialized information in these niche search engines.

  1. PubMed:From the U.S. National Library of Medicine, PubMed is a great place to find full-text medical journal articles, with more than 19 million available.
  2. Lexis:Find reliable, authoritative information for legal search with the Lexis site.
  3. Circumpolar Health Bibliographic Database:Visit this database to find more than 6,300 records relating to human health in the circumpolar region.
  4. Education Resources Information Center:In the ERIC Collection, you’ll find bibliographic records of education literature, as well as a growing collection of full-text resources.
  5. MedlinePlus:A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus offers a powerful search tool and even a dictionary for finding trusted, carefully chosen health information.
  6. Artcyclopedia:Search Artcyclopedia to find everything there is to know about fine art, with 160,000 links, 9,000 artists listed, and 2,900 art sites indexed.




Get connected with great reference material through these search tools.

  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus:Use this online dictionary and thesaurus to quickly find definitions and synonyms.
  2. References.net:Through References.net, you can get connected with just about every reference tool available, from patents to almanacs.
  3. Quotes.net:Need the right thing to say? Check out Quotes.net to reference famous words from famous people.
  4. Literary Encyclopedia:Check out the Literary Encyclopedia to get access to reference materials in literature, history, and culture.

10 Real-Life Open Education Success Stories

Post 2946


10 Real-Life Open Education Success Stories

July 2nd, 2012 by Staff Writers



It’s been more than a decade since MIT shook the education world to its core by announcing it would publish most of its course materials to the Internet for free usage by anyone and everyone in the world. Today there is almost no limit to what a person with an Internet connection can learn. Although hard data is scarce because the environment is still developing, there are many personal stories surfacing of people whose lives have been changed for the better thanks to open education.

  1. Mark Halberstadt, USA:

    What began as the brainchild of one educator has become a worldwide phenomenon, providing more than 150 million free educational lessons to date to people like Mark Halberstadt. Having earned a music degree in 2007, Halberstadt later decided he wanted to become an electrical engineer. The problem was he had “never gotten above a B+ in math.” So over the course of three years, he used the materials posted on the Khan Academy website to learn trigonometry, calculus, and basic math principles he needed to brush up on. After his first year at Temple in 2010, he had a 4.0 GPA, which he credits entirely to the unique and instructive format of Khan Academy.

  2. Jean-Ronel Noel and Alex Georges, Haiti:

    Entrepreneurs Jean-Ronel Noel and Alex Georges “wanted to create a small revolution in the way of conducting business in Haiti.” Their idea was to outfit the country with solar-powered streetlights. When they discovered a need for some training in electrical engineering, Noel turned to MIT’s OCW website. The knowledge he gained there helped them launch their small business and ultimately bring light to streets in all 10 provinces of Haiti, some of which had never before been artificially lit. In the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake, the business is back to work, providing much-needed employment to 18 technicians and light to thousands of citizens.

  3. Jonne, Finland:

    Finland high school senior Jonne says that he loves math from the bottom of his “cold, Finnish, Arctic heart,” but he was never good at exams. Using Khan Academy math and physics videos, he has been able to supplement and sometimes even substitute material given to him in class by his teacher who is “sometimes not that good.” The result was grades good enough to get him into the Harvard Class of 2016. During the summer, he plans to study through the algebra, pre-cal, and calculus courses on the Khan site to prepare for his freshman year.

  4. Delft University of Technology OCW Initiative, Netherlands:

    The World Health Organization hopes to cut the percentage of the world’s citizens without sustainable access to clean water in half by 2015. To contribute to this goal, the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands stepped up around 2010 and began publishing its water management course materials for free on the Web. Since that time, universities in South Africa, Pretoria, Curacao, Singapore, Indonesia, and other developing countries have accessed the material and enhanced them for utilization in their respective geographic areas. The result is a collective resource of the world’s top water management knowledge that has the potential to improve millions of lives around the world.

  5. Juan Eduardo Leal Lara, Mexico:

    After his father instilled in him a love of engineering at the tender age of 8, Juan Eduardo Leal Lara found himself surfing the Internet for help with his college courses. After finding MIT OpenCourseWare, he kept coming back to study the materials posted there to enhance what he was learning in class at Tecnologico de Monterrey. Ultimately, first-year students at Lara’s university have also benefited from the open education material. Lara helped start a program for students to create projects and practice what they’ve learned, and he based all the material on MIT OCW knowledge.

  6. Robin Neal and Darren Kuropatwa, USA:

    In 2006, Canadian calculus teacher Darren Kuropatwa posted on his blog about having students build a wiki solution manual together. He found that the collaborative nature of wikis appealed to girls, while the element of a race to solve certain problems interested the boys. At a conference three years later, English teacher Robin Neal of Beaver Country Day School in Massachusetts ran into Kuropatwa and explained to him that Kuropatwa’s informative blog post had inspired him to create his own wiki to educate his students on the poetry of Keats.

  7. Tim Lauer, USA:

    Open education success stories are not always grand in scope, or even from recent years, for that matter. In this video, elementary school teacher Tim Lauer of Portland shares a story from 1995 about a young student stung on the foot by a bee. After viewing the bee under a microscope, the students put the pictures on their class webpage. One of the emails they received was from a doctor in Arizona who was a bee expert. He told the class what they had was actually a yellow jacket wasp, not a bee. His email reignited the kids’ desire to know more about bees and wasps, so Mr. Lauer led them through a two-week study on the subject.

  8. Kunle Adejumo, Nigeria:

    At the time Kunle Adejumo was attending Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, the computer lab did not even have Internet access. What computers it did have were so in demand by the school’s 35,000 students, they could only be secured for 20 minutes a week by students signing up for them. Luckily, Adejumo was able to reach MIT’s OpenCourseWare site from his home computer. Because a metallurgical class he was taking had no notes, he found some review questions online from an MIT course and had his teacher answer them, helping him better understand the material.

  9. Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun, USA:

    In 2011, a course taught by Norvig and Thrun called “Online Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” was made freely available. More than 160,000 students in 40 languages took advantage of the course, with 23,000 graduating in 190 countries. Many of them left feedback describing how much the course helped them. Lynda says she joined with her daughter to build the daughter’s resume, and ended up studying for hours each week and loving the material. Home-schooled student Jack learned he could handle a collegiate-level course by taking the class. Pedro says he now wants to have a career in the AI field after he graduates as a result of the free class.

  10. Sam, USA:

    The beauty of open education is that the instruction moves as slow as the student desires, or in the case of Sam the second-grader, as fast. His father says that Sam is exceptionally bright and was testing at junior high levels, but all his school could do was offer to move him up to third grade. Even a charter school was ill-equipped to handle his needs. Sam’s dad tried teaching him at nights, but it wasn’t a long-term solution. Now that they’ve found Khan Academy, Sam can challenge himself — soon he’ll finish the calculus class.