Clockwise or counter-clockwise?

I don’t follow figure skating closely, but I know a lot of students are huge fans of Yuzuru Hanyu.

“Hanyu still looks good for gold at worlds despite defeat” (from the Japan Times)

But have you ever thought about which direction skaters, ballet dancers, gymnasts and other athletes spin? Is it usually clockwise or counter-clockwise? (I hope past students remember those words, as we used them many times in class! And you may come across the word “anti-clockwise” too.)

See more GIFS here (from the Atlantic)

This article researched the question: “Why do ballet dancers turn clockwise?” (from Ballet Focus)

You can also see which way Michael Jackson spins when he does his moon-walk.  (Spoiler alert) there’s not a very surprising (or satisfying) answer, but it’s fun to watch the videos and it’s a great idea for a research project. Also, this is one article where the comments section doesn’t include a bunch of trolls.

And for people like me who look at the various ice skating jumps and think they mostly look the same (axel? salchow? toe loop? lutz? What’s the difference?), here’s an explainer. Next time you watch Hanyu and Mai Mihara, you can understand what they’re doing better.

What have you learned this year?

It’s that time of year again — time to reflect. Here’s one person’s list of the 52 things he learned this year, and he links to the sources where you can learn about them, too. Some of the ones that interested me:

#11 – Even though iPhones are banned in Iran, there are at least 6 million of them in the country.

#13 – The number of people with dementia in the U.S. has actually decreased since 2000.

#18 – There’s a “halo effect” in restaurants. If you see something unreasonably expensive on a menu ($1000 for a frittata, for example), then $26 for french toast doesn’t sound so expensive.

#28 – Tuareg guitar players from North Africa have been influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and more suprisingly, Dire Straits. Here’s the very interesting (to me) article about that.

Yes, I immediately thought of the guitar in “Setting Me Up” when I heard that. And of course the great “Sultans of Swing” which definitely gets even better with age.  And the beginning beat made me think of Soul II Soul’s “Keep on Moving“, which I listened to a lot in the early 90’s:

I posted his list last year, too … and then promptly forgot about most of it. I’ll try harder to make my own list this year. And I’ll encourage students to use this time to review and reflect on your langauge learning portfolios to find at least 20 or 30 things you’ve learned this academic year.

Being a southpaw

In American English, left-handed people are called southpaws. Find out why here.

This article from the BBC (“The mystery of why left-handers are so much rarer”) tells us about the history of left-handedness, including some rather surprising statistics and the fact that the origin of the word “left” means “weak”.  Statistics are different for people who are “left-eared” and “left-eyed”.

I’ve heard that in the past in Japan, children born left-handed were taught to become right-handed because of a social stigma or some superstition associated with lefthandedness. That doesn’t seem to be true anymore — I know lots of students who are left-handed.

You could also find out more about the symbolism of left/right in politics as a mini-research project.

Number 25, or 24

Japan has just won its 25th Nobel Prize. Or 24th, depending on whether or not you count Shuji Nakamura, a naturalized American citizen born in Japan. Most of the Japanese media seems to be saying 25. Why not, right?

I just saw Professor Osumi explain in a press conference why he has such a big, bushy (by Japanese standards anyway) beard. He said that when he was an exchange student he was told by people that he looked really young, and so he started growing a beard to look older.

Here are three articles from the Nikkei Asian Review where you can find out more about him and his research:

I especially enjoyed the second one, where we learn why he’s stoic (it’s because he’s from Kyushu, says the article) and how he’s not really that competitive; he just loves doing research.

He’ll be on the top page of the Nobel site until the next prize is announced. If you miss it, this is what it looks like. After the next prize is announced, you can find all the information about this medicine prize here.


including this poll and an interview with Professor Osumi.