Popweekly: Digest for 05.10.10

Beichuan
A relative browses through a name list of high school students in Beichuan who survived the powerful earthquake, at a coliseum housing the homeless in the city of Mianyang, north of Chengdu in Sichuan Province – Oengna source

China’s Arranged Remarriages

Two years later, Beichuan is a ghost town encircled by razor wire and Chinese soldiers. Most survivors still live in temporary housing, the blue-roofed aluminum cities that dot the earthquake zone. Some, like Yang and Xue, moved to Anchang, which is serving as the county seat until construction is completed on a new one, which will be known as Yongchang, or Eternal Prosperity. This replacement city, rising on the flood plain 15 miles south of Beichuan, is a small part of the $440 billion that China has reportedly spent on relief and reconstruction. Sichuan, whose armies of poor migrant workers helped fuel the economic boom in eastern China, is now receiving government largess, from housing, roads and infrastructure to the creation of a new industry: “earthquake tourism.”
Looming over the physical reconstruction, however, has been another question: How can society rebuild? In China, one answer has been to pair grieving men and women to create instant families that will help ensure social and economic stability. For Westerners, marriage choices tend to be based on individual notions of love or romance, or at least that is how we see it. But in Sichuan, marriage is, first and foremost, about family and community. Families shattered by the earthquake are not just personal tragedies; they are a fissure in the foundation of society.

Volcanic ash flight misery continues

Last month, ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano shut down airspace across Europe for five days. Recent images have shown activity in the volcano increasing and emitting ash up to 20,000ft (6,000m). The current wave of disruption could carry on into next week if northerly winds bring ash over western Scotland and Ireland. Passengers are urged to check details of their flights before travelling to the airport. Frances Tuke from Abta – which represents travel agents and tour operators – said the majority of airspace will be open and although some flights have been delayed, people were still able to fly. Eurocontrol said that approximately 24,500 flights were expected to take place within Europe “which is about 500 below average for a Sunday at this time of year”.

Rising sea levels threaten Taiwan

Mountains cover two thirds of Taiwan, but the heart of the island’s economy is concentrated in the remaining third, which stretches down the west coast and consists mostly of flat land near sea level.
This part of Taiwan is home to a string of populous cities, several industry zones, three nuclear power plants — and a petrochemical complex, built in the 1990s by Formosa Plastics Group for over 20 billion US dollars.
“If the sea levels keep rising, part of Taiwan’s low-lying western part could be submerged,” said Wang Chung-ho, an earth scientist at Taiwan’s top academic body Academia Sinica.

Coroner rules messages contributed to schoolboy’s death

“Young teenagers especially should not be texting each other late at night,” he said. “Not only is this disruptive to their sleep patterns, but it is also conducive to causing emotions to run wild.”
Ryan said texting was different from other forms of communication because people could not read body language or interpret a tone of voice.
“These clues to a person’s emotional state are not available to someone who simply receives a text message,” he said. “For that reason, people who send text messages should carefully consider the effect on the recipient.”
Heather Powell said teenagers should be allowed phones only if they were mature enough to understand the consequences of using them and called on parents to take more control. Via textually.

Charting Creativity: Signposts of a Hazy Territory

As for Dr. Jung, his research has produced some surprising results. One study of 65 subjects suggests that creativity prefers to take a slower, more meandering path than intelligence.
“The brain appears to be an efficient superhighway that gets you from Point A to Point B” when it comes to intelligence, Dr. Jung explained. “But in the regions of the brain related to creativity, there appears to be lots of little side roads with interesting detours, and meandering little byways.”
Although intelligence and skill are generally associated with the fast and efficient firing of neurons, subjects who tested high in creativity had thinner white matter and connecting axons that have the effect of slowing nerve traffic in the brain. This slowdown in the left frontal cortex, a region where emotional and cognitive abilities are integrated, Dr. Jung suggested, “might allow for the linkage of more disparate ideas, more novelty and more creativity.”