Community highlights: classrooms and capsaicin

It’s that time of the week again where we sit back, stare at our keyboards and try to remember the comments we’ve posted and the comments we’ve read. To help with the recollection, we’ve assembled a few conversations we’ve found interesting.

Is there any evidence to suggest kids from private school have any more success later in life? AAP

Trying to choose a school for your kids? Jennifer Chesters wrote a story arguing that, in the long-term, private schools have little benefit when compared to public. In the comments, Wanda Hayes shared her experience as a student and teacher in both “low socio-economic demographic government schools” and “elite private schools”.

I can say unequivocally it has been my experience that the overall quality of teaching is far higher in government schools.

Of course there are individual brilliant teachers in all settings - and I thank all of my brilliant teachers, in all my schools. But in schools where you can’t take student engagement for granted, teachers must and do work very hard to make education relevant and accessible for the students, or they (the teachers) will not survive. Because life can be tough in some schools, only the very best teachers can stick it - and the rewards for them are huge.

I have always thought that perhaps the reasons for this difference of teaching quality are similar to the reasons many parents feel comfortable paying for their children’s education at private schools. It is simply this: where families have made that decision, they are more likely to ensure their children take their education seriously. Classroom behaviour is therefore much better, and much easier for teachers to manage. So students are less distracted by other students, and teachers can relax just a little.

With all the furore and confusion around metadata, it can be hard to know what to expect. Reader (and Community Council member) Robert Molyneux posted his explanation of what metadata is and why it’s important.

“Metadata” means “data about data”. That is, data that are useful to understand and manage data. Here are some examples of how modern high speed computers can do extremely useful things that used to be impossible because they would have taken too much time and too much effort, even if data were available.

#1 Reverse telephone directories. The normal telephone directory lists people and businesses in alphabetical order. You want my phone number, you look up my name, and after a few seconds you have it (assuming I am listed). A reverse directory lists the numbers in numerical order. You want to know who called you and did some heavy breathing, you look up the number (assuming it is displayed) and in a few seconds, you know.

The alphabetical listing is the data, and the numbers are metadata.

The beauty of the modern computer is that a policeman can find out with a few keystrokes the name of the holder and address of a fixed-line phone number anywhere in the work in less than a second.

The full post goes on to talk about mobile phones, the associations between phone calls, emails and web addresses. For more information on metadata, see our infographic and this column from David Glance.

‘The Merciless Peppers of Quetzalacatenango … grown deep in the jungle primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum.’ Gracie Films and 20th Century Fox television, CC BY-NC-ND

Alex Russell wrote an Explainer how why chilli burns (and milk soothes the pain). In the comments, he responded to a few questions and explained why capsaicin makes you sweat…

The burn from capsaicin is not just a metaphorical burn - the same receptors that react to capsaicin (vanilloid receptors) also react to heat. Thus your body thinks that it is heating up. Sweating is a natural cooling reaction, whether your body is hot from a workout or from overstimulated nerves.

It’s also part of why eating a curry in a hot environment can be a good idea, even though it seems counterintuitive. Your body’s cooling mechanism kicks in and everything becomes a bit more bearable.

… and why it can kill…

As for how capsaicin can kill, it depends on a few factors. Keep in mind that capsaicin is essentially a harmful substance - a diluted form of the stuff is used in pepper spray and mace. You could consider it a poison in this regard.

Apart from pain, capsaicin can lead to other effects, such as inflammation of tissue. If the capsaicin reaches the lungs (e.g. via the sprays mentioned above or inhalation of ground chilli), there are C fibre receptors there, which react to the capsaicin. The presence of capsaicin in the lungs can cause all sorts of problems - apnea or even asphyxia. This is especially the case for people with existing lung conditions. There are reports of people dying from this, as well as a report of the use of hot peppers as a form of child abuse.

Finally, if you’re thinking about your next meal, head over to the comment section on Outcry over squirrel kicker, yet disrespected animals is the norm. Monika Merkes, Joe Gartner, Buddhika Wickramaratna and more are having a discussion about the morality farming and eating meat as a species that can survive on plant-life alone. Get in there and share your thoughts.

Have we missed anything? Let us know below.