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Showing posts from January, 2015

Monkeys, selfies and copyright (and the back of Rod Stewart’s head)

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: man meets monkey, monkey steals man’s camera, monkey takes photo of herself, monkey causes international copyright storm that rumbles on for years. Back in 2011, nature photographer David Slater went to Indonesia to photograph - among other things - the native Crested Black Macaques that live on the island of Celebes. He certainly got some good pictures: one of the mischievous monkeys pinched his camera and seemed to enjoy the sound the shutter made. Several hundred photos later, Slater retrieved his expensive equipment (undamaged but with a pretty full memory card) and found one or two really quite startling and lovely images.



The best of them was a selfie of a grinning female, taken in perfect focus. The encounter made the news, the image went viral…and it’s been at the centre of a copyright controversy ever since. You may indeed stop me because you probably have heard this one before. But why does any of this matter?
Well, I think it’s because…

The Social Conquest of Earth

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The next donation in his 'My Nightshelf' series, Stephen Town continues his journey through evolutionary concepts with a scientific look at the history of animal and human evolution.


O.Wilson, E., The Social Conquest of Earth, in the University Library at XP 6 WIL

Who and what we are seems to have become a theme of these blogs, and it is probably time to let the scientists in to the debate. In 1975, when I was a student of biology and in particular animal behaviour, Edward Wilson published his work on Sociobiology (also in the University of York Library at XL6). This work became one of the most debated and misinterpreted scientific books of its time, and created some notoriety for its author. Wilson’s own rhetorical style also did not always have the positive effect on debate that he probably intended.

The core of the issue is the extent to which human behaviour, culture and society is defined and controlled by genes, and this work shifted the common understanding.  Unfortunat…

The Evidence for God

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Stephen Town questions the case for and against religion with the latest donation in his 'My Nightshelf' series.


Ward, K., The Evidence for God, in the University Library at C 11 WAR.

In the week that the first woman Bishop (as far as we know) was consecrated in our City, Keith Ward, the Emeritus Professor of Divinity at Oxford University came to speak at St Peter’s School in the lecture series which I have mentioned in previous posts.

Professor Ward is a very accomplished and elegant speaker, who in his talk managed to refer to almost every reputable philosopher of the past two thousand years as well as most populist scientists of contemporary times. Within the first few minutes he constructed a reasonably convincing opposition between materialism and idealism in the minds of his largely non-academic audience, went on to associate these with different evidential assumptions identifying materialism as weak, and, with some reference to aesthetics, justified transcendental belie…

ScienceDirect

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Academic Liaison Librarian for Chemistry, Computer Science, Electronics and Physics, Clare Ackerley, provides some tips on how to get the most out of this resource.

ScienceDirect is a full-text database that provides access to over 2,500 journals and over 30,000 books. In addition to Physical Sciences, Life Sciences and Health Sciences, ScienceDirect has coverage of Social Sciences and Humanities, including History, Education and Linguistics and Language.

Here are some tips on using the ScienceDirect database:

1. Register online
Registering online, allows you to save your searches, set up alerts and view your search history. Simply follow the 'Sign in' option on the top right-hand side of the screen.

Tip: If you have already registered with Scopus, you can use the same login.

2. Select Advanced Search
Using the Advanced Search option will ensure you get relevant, rich results.


There are different search forms for different resources, including journals, books and images. You co…

The weather outside is frightful...

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The snow may be patchy so far, but it's cold out there. If you're staying home, Joanne Casey tells you how to access IT resources wherever you are.
Did you look out of the window this morning, and want nothing more than the chance to stay under the duvet for a few more minutes? Did your car refuse to start in the cold? We have the perfect solution...

Whether you're working or studying from home, you can access a host of IT resources from the comfort of your very own sofa.

Virtual Desktop Service
Staff and students can access their University desktop from their own PC, Mac, Linux or mobile device. Connecting is quick and easy, and lets you access your filestore, and a range of applications. To keep the desktop in line with PCs in our IT classrooms and study areas, we've recently added Google Chrome to the list of available software.

Virtual Private Network
The VPN provides a secure connection allowing your computer to access the University network when you are off campus.…

Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence

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In a tribute to those affected by the recent attacks in Paris, Stephen Town donates another thought provoking book in his Nightshelf series.

Armstrong, K., Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, in the University Library at C91.17 ARM.

The appalling violence of last week calls for an educated response from those in institutions of learning. The best I can do is to donate a book this week that thoughtfully and articulately lays out the history of violence and its relationship to religion.

The author of this title, Karen Armstrong, is noted as a wise and intelligent commentator, and her ‘The Battle for God’ was the most compelling and insightful explanation of fundamentalism I have read. The often perceived connections between religion and violence are well documented in the media. But ‘Fields of Blood’ may serve as a corrective to those looking to lay easy blame.

The English and their history

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Continuing his Night Shelf series with another book donation, Stephen Town discusses the history of a nation and the cultural impact on the definition of ‘being British’.

Tombs, R., The English and their history, in the University Library at Q42 TOM

It is traditional in our family to give books at Christmas, and the first donation of the New Year is a copy of the title my son selected for me, The English and their History.

Hefty tomes encompassing the whole of this country’s history are said not to appear very often, but when they do they tend to be freighted with contemporary assumptions. My favourite is Norman Davies’ The Isles from fifteen years ago - arriving following a time when ‘Britannia’ was cool, this title delves into the history of the British Isles as a whole, and highlights the importance of each nation within it. Both being influenced by, and having an influence on future cultural ideals, five years ago our then Prime Minister encouraged a debate on what being ‘British’…

Weren’t we promised flying cars by now?

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It may come as a shock to readers of a more mature vintage to learn that the classic futuristic film Blade Runner was set in 2019. Tom Grady wonders how close we are today to travelling by flying car.
The film was made in 1982 but only 3 years earlier, the Usborne Book of the Future was predicting all kinds of interesting developments (not seen any gold mines in the sky yet, but artificial intelligence and 'space-based superscopes' weren't so wide of the mark).

And Marty McFly may have been using his hoverboard in 2015 but it doesn't look like we’re going to see them in Currys any time soon (though you canbuy them on Amazon where a prominent disclaimer warns the unwary buyer: "this product does not fly"). But we might not be so far away from seeing Ridley Scott's replicants working in your Library.

Westport Public Library in the US recently unveiled a pair of humanoid robots whose job will be "to teach the kind of coding and computer-programming ski…

Virginia Woolf, Bloomsbury, and the art of making exceedingly good cakes

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Ilka Heale peruses the Library's cookery books.
"A good dinner is of great importance to good talk," Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One's Own. "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
On the top floor of the Morrell Library, you'll find the Library's small cookery section at Z 41.5. But you won't find any books by Delia or Jamie there, rather facsimile editions of 18th and 19th century cookbooks amongst other books on cooking and food, including Curries and other Indian dishes by the Indian novelist Mulk Raj Anand, and Beans: a history by Ken Albala (a history of beans from around the world, which includes a few recipes. Check out the recipe on page 185 for 'Pinto bean fruit cake' and yes, the first ingredient is two cups of well-cooked pinto beans!).

Then there's this gem about the Bloomsbury Group: The Bloomsbury cookbook : recipes for life, love and art [London: Thames & Hudson 2014]. Part …