The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

28th March 2019

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Month

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.  Skloot spent ten years unearthing the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor—and consequently poorly educated—black woman who had pieces of her cervical cancer tumor taken without her consent.  Those cells lived on, and on, and on, spawning a multi-billion dollar industry. The cells’ insidious ability to contaminate wreaked havoc on thousands of seemingly impeccable studies, even as they also helped spur fantastic new scientific insights. The real story involves Henrietta Lacks herself—how she lived, how she died, and what effect the seemingly immortal life of her cells has had on her family. The value of a good education—and what happens when such an education is not available, is an underlying theme of Skloot’s magnificent book. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a #1 New York Times best-seller, has an amazing near 15,000 5-star reviews on Amazon. It has become one of our all-time favorite books of science.

How the Poor Are Left to Struggle at Elite Universities

You have probably heard of the recent Justice Department charges involving 50 people who used elaborate schemes to purchase spots in some of the country’s top universities. This insightful article in The Atlantic goes behind the scenes to give a more general sense of the problems that the disadvantaged experience at these high-brow institutions: “Elite Colleges Constantly Tell Low-Income Students That They Do Not Belong: Unwritten rules underlie all of elite-university life—and students who don’t come from a wealthy background have a hard time navigating them.”

A Great Video Review of Our Book Learning How to Learn

Here’s a wonderful and insightful video review by memory maven Anthony Metivier of our book Learning How to Learn. We agree with Anthony—the book is helpful for anyone, not just youngsters, who wants to learn more efficiently. (And Anthony’s right in that the “memory palace” for language study was sparked by Anthony’s own work—subscribe to his great memory YouTube channel, here.)

Barb in Valencia Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Toronto, and San Diego (ASU-GSV)

  • Barb will be back  in Valencia, Spain speaking for ESIC at the IMAT conference on Monday, April 1st at the extraordinarily beautiful Hotel Balneario Las Arenas in Valencia. She’d love to meet you there!
  • Toronto, April 7 at the American Educational Research Association Conference. Ken-Zen Chen will be presenting on his and Barb’s work in “Redeveloping a MOOC to Be More Culturally Relevant: A Design-Based Approach.” Ken-Zen will be covering how the Learning How to Learn MOOC was creatively expanded into a new Chinese syncretic MOOC, “The Tao of Learning.” If you’re interested in developing a version of Learning How to Learn (or other courses) in your own native language, this presentation will give you lots of ideas.  Barb will be watching happily from the audience, so if you are at AERA, feel free to attend and sit beside her!
  • Barb will be in New Zealand in latter April, visiting Akaroa, where she and her hero husband Phil were married 35 years ago, when they got off the ice of Antarctica.  She’ll also be keynoting in May at the Queensland Secondary School Principal’s Association Conference in Brisbane, and giving talks at UTS and Macquarie in Sydney, and the University of Western Australia in Perth. Keep an eye out for details!

Don’t forget, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda (who Barb very much admires), and Barb will be having a fireside chat together at ASU-GSV in San Diego from 10:45AM-11:25 AM on April 10th.

A Cool New Use for Artificial Intelligence—Proving Hipsters are Different in the Same Way

We couldn’t help but get a kick out of this article on research results from artificial intelligence, which starts out: “You can spot a nonconformist a mile away. Because they all look alike. Just ask mathematician Jonathan Touboul, an associate professor at Brandeis University…”

In fact, one hipster accused Brandeis of using a picture of him without his permission to describe the research work. This just proved Touboul’s point that hipsters can look so much alike that even they can’t tell themselves apart.

Reading vs. Listening: Does It Matter?

This insightful television interview with Barb’s colleague, researcher Beth Rogowsky, relates whether reading or listening is better if you want to retain the material.

How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math

Barb’s article on rewiring her brain to become successful at math and analytical topics has become one of the most saved, read, shared articles on Pocket.

Math FormulasShould You Memorize Them?

Here’s a wonderful, timeless article by Murray Bourne on understanding math formulas. Should you memorize them? Read the article and you’ll find out!


That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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