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"Most scientific experiments go far beyond seeing. You can touch things, something becomes warm or cold, you can smell and hear things, and in expape nft usageeriments with food, taste them," says Mahnke as he shows the models via video. "In regular teaching, we focus on vision because it means I can demonstrate an experiment within five seconds, and it can be seen by 30 students. It's fast and efficient for the teacher, but not for the pupils."

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You can make everyday purchases and fast transfers, and receive income for betting with it. The DBX token is unique for 4 reasons:Only 0.5 to 2.5 seconds are needed to transfer, exchange and mine coins.Some of the innovations that make Marburg so accessible also exist elsewhere. But the way they are joined up here is unique, Portz and other blind people who have lived in the town say. The clattering sound of guiding canes is ubiquitous in Marburg, as blind people navigate the town aided by beeping traffic lights, pavements and floors with ridges and bumps that act as tactile signals of hazards or barriers. Buildings often have raised maps and floor plans, while detailed miniature bronze models of major sights such as Marburg's castle and town square allow blind visitors to feel the entirety of each landmark.

Other convenient features are a result of the town's natural shape. Marburg is small and hilly, making it easy to orient yourself simply by noting if you are going up- or downhill. A web of accessible leisure facilities spans the city, such as a horse-riding school for the blind, and blind rowing, football, climbing and skiing clubs. The town's university has Germany's highest proportion of blind students, and the widest range of degrees taken by blind people.The Blista and its students have driven many of these innovations, developing everyday aids such as a foldable cane, but also, working with the university to improve accessibility across departments. Law and psychology are among the most popular course choices, as the materials are text-heavy and can be studied easily with aids such as screen readers. Now teachers and pupils from the institute are prising open another field: the natural sciences, which have long been beset by barriers for blind people."I don't feel like a pioneer, but I guess I am one," says Portz, who is studying biochemistry and computer science in Düsseldorf. He is the first blind biochemistry student there, and by his own estimate, one of fewer than a handful of blind chemistry students in all of Germany.Chemistry remains relatively closed to the blind, due to the hazards of laboratory work, and the ubiquity of images, charts and graphs. But chemistry teacher Tobias Mahnke, who taught Portz at the Blista-associated Carl-Strehl-School in Marburg, argues there is no reason why his subject should be so restricted.

"No human being can see molecules, no human being can see atoms, and yet, chemistry education is so visual. Why? There shouldn't be any disadvantage for blind people, given that sighted people can't see all this, either," he says.Mahnke, who is sighted, started working at the school in 2013. At the time, it didn't offer an advanced chemistry class. Since then, he and his colleagues have developed an array of multi-sensory tools and methods for teaching natural sciences, supported by the chemistry faculty at Philipps University in Marburg, as well as funding from the charitable Reinhard-Frank-Foundation. Mahnke has written a master's thesis on developing inclusive materials for teaching chemistry, and published some of his findings.

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Unlike conventional science models used in classrooms, the Blista models are designed to reveal entire processes and wide-ranging relationships. For example, a three-dimensional model of a water molecule, developed by a group of chemists at different universities, can be squashed flat, to encourage students to think about how it is depicted in two dimensions. A 3D-printed plastic model of a curving river bed, developed by Mahnke's colleague Tanja Schapat, is intended to be held under a tap. Students can feel where the water flows faster or slower, and how this shapes its contours. They then learn that where the bed is flatter, the water is shallower and therefore gets warmer in the sun, attracting fish and reeds."Most scientific experiments go far beyond seeing. You can touch things, something becomes warm or cold, you can smell and hear things, and in experiments with food, taste them," says Mahnke as he shows the models via video. "In regular teaching, we focus on vision because it means I can demonstrate an experiment within five seconds, and it can be seen by 30 students. It's fast and efficient for the teacher, but not for the pupils."In 2017, the school offered its first advanced chemistry course, and in 2019, demand was so strong that it offered two classes. The laboratory is adapted to blind pupils' needs, with electric burners in perforated metal cases, instead of bunsen burners with naked flames. Mahnke and his colleague Tanja Schapat have developed a method for teaching pupils about heat and fire, using heat-sensitive swelling paper to allow them to explore the properties of a burning candle. A special sensor, developed at the school in the 1990s, emits a high or low beep when a liquid brightens or darkens during a chemical reaction.During the pandemic, Mahnke taught students about the Covid-19 infection curve using raised charts printed on swelling paper. When the school closed to stop the spread of the virus, teachers posted models to home-schooling students. Each model is tested by pupils at the school, further refined with their input, and produced in the school's in-house workshop.

In recent years, the Carl-Strehl-School has started accepting a limited number of sighted children, who learn alongside their blind classmates using multisensory materials, which in their case also incorporate sight. Research has shown that children and adults learn better when they can grasp new information with multiple senses, and not just visually. Mahnke says in his own experience, "multi-sensory experiences lead to much deeper and longer-lasting learning".For Portz, it was not just the school that broadened his world. He fondly recalls moving around Marburg with confidence, assisted by beeping traffic lights, talking bus stops, and a sighted population very used to interacting with the blind. Bus drivers in Marburg are trained to stop to give blind passengers easy access, shop assistants routinely deal with blind customers, and many restaurants offer menus in Braille script. He's encountered some of these elements in other cities, but never in the form of such a comprehensive web."In Marburg, all these individual elements are very well-connected, and there are few gaps," he says. "It's also the mentality in Marburg. There's the Blista, and many stay on to study at the university, so there are many blind people, and every institution is confronted with that, sooner or later."Uwe Boysen is a retired blind judge and former president of Germany's association of blind and visually impaired students and professionals, the DVBS, which was founded in Marburg. He attended the Carl-Strehl-School and then studied law in Marburg in the late 1960s. In his opinion, the sense of community and self-help that has evolved in Marburg plays a crucial part in sparking innovation: "It gives you courage, it makes you dare to try out new things."

That self-help spirit shaped Boysen's own educational path. Professional opportunities for blind people were more limited when he was a student, though he estimates there were about the same number of blind judges in Germany as there are today, over 100, also because of the war blind. He and his blind peers invented many aids on the fly, swapping recorded tapes of their textbooks, and later, using their legal skills to campaign for more rights.Bahaddin Batmaz, a blind software developer and accessibility trainer in Marburg, argues that many of its accessible features hold important lessons for innovation as a whole. One is that good design benefits everyone. He gives the example of the talking bus stops, which announce the next bus and its destination when a button is pressed. In his experience, many sighted people find this function convenient, too. Similarly, when he makes a website more accessible to screen readers, its search ranking usually jumps as well, because the underlying technology is the same.

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"Linking together technological innovations, and the human and social factor, is hugely beneficial," he says. "If you're not constantly wondering how to cross the road, you're less stressed. You're not already totally overwhelmed by this stupid road, and then you're also more open for innovation, and more accepting of others."Dago Schelin, a sighted filmmaker and media studies researcher at the Philipps University, comes to a similar conclusion in a case study of Marburg as a model for inclusive innovation. He and his co-authors describe it as a "smart city for the blind", and argue that "Marburg appears to specialise in an alternative mode of smartness". Instead of revolving around digital technologies, this type of smartness is more human-oriented. It centres on supportive interactions between differently abled people, and on accessible institutions. Schelin and his co-authors suggest that Marburg might become "a reference for prospective smart cities", with accessibility perhaps becoming "one of the criteria for a city's smartness status."

Schelin, who is from Brazil, experienced this innovation-boosting effect himself when he moved to Marburg in 2014. He met blind people interested in filmmaking, and developed multisensory methods for teaching them. "It strengthened my notion that filmmaking is a community effort," he says.Leonore Dreves, a blind software developer in Heppstadt in southern Germany, leads the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sub-group of the DVBS professional association. Most members of the group work in information technology, a comparatively accessible sector. But even there, too many digital barriers remain, according to Dreves. Changing human attitudes is also part of the challenge: "I think the most difficult barriers are the ones in people's heads. In my own case, as a woman and blind person, I had to prove myself for a long time before my colleagues accepted that I can do it just as well as them."Around the world, blind innovators are slowly dismantling some of those barriers. The chemist Mona Minkara is designing an inclusive STEM curriculum, the computer scientist Chieko Asakawa is developing accessible artificial intelligence, and the astronomer Wanda Díaz-Merced is using sound to study space, to name just some.In Düsseldorf, Portz continues to work on making his own environment more accessible. Sighted friends help him with his image-heavy textbooks, describing charts and pictures. During the pandemic-related university closures, he listened to his recorded lectures at double speed, slowing down for the more complex bits. He still discusses new ideas for science materials with his former teacher, Mahnke, and continues to feel inspired by his old school. "It gave me a super strong push," he recalls of his time there. "I realised what was possible, and what can be made possible.""Happiness is the concern of everyone," said His Eminence Khedrupchen Rinpoche. "Whether or not you acknowledge it, this is the purpose of every human being."The Fifth Reincarnate and head of the Sangchen Ogyen Tsuklag Monastery in Trongsa, Bhutan, Rinpoche knows all about the pursuit of happiness. Ascending to his position at the age of 19 in 2009, he was the youngest ever Rinpoche (spiritual master) in Bhutan at the time. Now 31, he has dedicated the last 12 years of his life to teaching the world about Buddhist principles and how they can be applied to make life happier every day, regardless of one's culture or religion.

Sandwiched between the economic and political powerhouses of China and India, with a population of just more than 760,000, the Kingdom of Bhutan is known around the globe for its unconventional measure of national development: Gross National Happiness (GNH). The concept was implemented in 1972 by the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Eschewing traditional economic quantifications, Bhutan assesses its country's overall wellbeing on the basis of sustainable and equitable socio-economic development; environmental conservation; preservation and promotion of culture; and good governance."Gross National Happiness is [a] set of collective conditions; one that [is] generally needed to live a good life," said Rinpoche.

Before the pandemic, Rinpoche journeyed around the world giving lectures and workshops through his Neykor Initiative. He was also working to build the first Buddhist Academy in Bhutan that will be open to anyone interested in learning about Buddhist philosophy, regardless of background or religion."Everything I was doing was put on hold. I decided to see this as an opportunity to deepen my own experience and isolate myself," Rinpoche said. "I went to the mountains and lived there with very little food, in harsh weather conditions, with no shelter but a cave. It gave me the time to truly imbibe my own teachings. What became very clear was that true happiness has nothing to do with external phenomena; it is innate."

Of course, Rinpoche stressed that one does not need to go to such extremes to find peace: "We must stop searching for happiness in experiences outside ourselves. There are, in my opinion, four pillars: loving kindness, compassion, non-attachment and karma, that can be easily embraced by any one at any point in their lives, from anywhere."According to Rinpoche, loving kindness "is the key to generating happiness not just on a personal level, but for others as well." He stressed the importance of being kind to yourself first and how this leads to compassion to others. "You must love yourself and truly know, that no matter the circumstance, you are good enough. From there, you can spread that [compassion] to others."

You may also be interested in:• Bhutan's 350-year-old recipe for wellbeing• Japan's mountain ascetic hermits• Where Buddha was born

Chunjur Dozi, a former tour guide, believes that Bhutan's sense of collective compassion is rooted in religion. "We have a strong communal sense of helping others, which comes from most of the population being Buddhist. I always consider if what I do will benefit the community."After no longer being able to work as a guide during the pandemic, Dozi reevaluated his perspective and returned to his village of Tekizampa in May of 2020. "The most difficult for me was coping with losing a job that I thought was secure," he said, "However, I was not without any alternatives. I was able to go back to my village and return to the earth, farming and selling produce." He has since used his experience as a tour guide to engage his peers in finding ways to promote local culture to tourists now that the Kingdom has reopened its borders. "I encouraged people to elaborate our homegrown recipes with red rice to make it as authentic as possible so people can learn about our local cuisine," he said.

Rinpoche's third pillar, non-attachment or impermanence, is a Buddhist concept that is at the root of Bhutanese culture. "When something goes wrong, don't become depressed immediately because things will change," Rinpoche said. "If we accept that all things are impermanent, then that means there can be change, and with change there is hope." Rinpoche explained that this also holds true for the positive things in life. "Accepting that things don't last, including success and wealth, allows you to truly appreciate what you have at hand."In addition to embracing self-kindness and living compassionately towards others, the pandemic has also reinforced the importance of welcoming change to Dozi. Since returning to his village, he has learned carpentry and has been helping his neighbours repair their homes while embarking on a big communal project. "We renovated a traditional farmhouse that was abandoned by a family and transformed it into a farm stay. I have been advocating a long time for a more immersive approach to tourism and for people to explore the culture and lifestyle of the more rural areas of Bhutan. At the end of the day, I learned to be happy with what I have and make the best of it."

According to Rinpoche, the fourth pillar, karma, isn't what it seems."Karma is totally misunderstood. Most people think it means that if you do something bad, then something bad will happen to you, like a form of universal revenge or punishment. It isn't that at all. It is about cause, condition and effect. Accepting that your actions and choices have an impact on the world around you. It is like planting a seed of a tree. If we plant a mango seed, we get a mango tree. We can't plant an apple seed and expect a mango tree to grow!" he chuckled. "Believing in karma is an opportunity for you to transform yourself, to shape yourself, to really work on who you want to become and do what you want to achieve."

Though Rinpoche asserts that Bhutan is "incredibly peaceful and has this majestic and pristine natural environment", he also recognises that the Kingdom has its issues, just like everywhere else. Inflation continues to rise, with the overall consumer price index up by almost 9% in the past year. Food insecurity is also a reality (Bhutan imports about 50% of its food) and the country has seen a nearly 15% hike in food costs. The impact of closing its borders from March 2020 through August 2021 also meant that and at least 50,000 individuals working in the tourism industry lost their jobs and livelihoods, like Dozi.Yet, good governance, one of the cornerstones of GNH, has been crucial to Bhutan's survival throughout the pandemic. The government's swift response to coronavirus' socio-economic impact has been lauded by the international community, as it deferred the payment of taxes and issued financial aid to citizens. Parliament members donated one month's salary to the relief efforts. The government also prioritised the vaccination of its citizens and currently 90.2% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated."What is so special about being Bhutanese is that there is always a united sense of gratitude, communal well-being and national identity," added Thinley Choden, a social entrepreneur and consultant.Choden believes that part of the reason why the Bhutanese view happiness differently than other cultures is because of their ability to reconcile past and present. "Bhutanese culture is strongly rooted in our traditions and spiritual values, but we are a very progressive and practical society. Generally, our culture and religion is not prescriptive, and not a black-and-white choice, but rather navigating the middle path in everyday living."

If there was one piece of advice Rinpoche could share with the world it would be this: "Always remember that the most important thing is to live life in the present moment, and that happiness is not a by-product of external factors, but the result of positively conditioning your mind. Happiness is at the grasp of everyone."Inside some of our most magnificent trees, miniature worlds are at risk of extinction. The race is on to accelerate trees' ageing process, so these intricate communities aren't lost forever.

AAt around 1,100 years old, and almost 11m (36ft) in girth, the Big Belly Oak is the oldest tree in Savernake Forest in south-west England. A tiny sapling at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, Big Belly Oak has lived through the War of the Roses, the Black Death, the English Civil War, the Industrial Revolution and two world wars. Now gnarled and knobbly, Big Belly Oak’s trunk is strapped up with a metal girdle to keep it from falling apart.

While an ancient tree like this is impressive at a distance, take a look inside and you will see something even more intriguing.Oak polypore fungi and stag beetle larvae feast on the dead heartwood, adult stag beetles sup the sugary liquid from the "sap runs", the living layers of wood which transport water and minerals throughout the tree. Hover flies lay eggs in water-filled rot holes, rat-tailed maggots devour leaf litter and violet click beetles eat up wood mould that is rich with faeces and other remains, accumulating over a century. Knothole moss and pox lichen cling to the bark in rainwater channels. Barbastelle bats hibernate in crevices and under loose bark. Woodpeckers and nuthatch enlarge holes for nesting, while owls, kestrels, marsh tit and tree-creeper move in to ready-made cavities.

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC#

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster