Friday, May 20, 2011

Questions To Riddle Before You Start A Business

I'm a 33-year-old man wanting to venture into business. I want to start small with a view to growing big. What advice can you give me starting out as an entrepreneur? —P.S., Lusaka, Zambia

First, revisit your decision to pursue entrepreneurship, with the goal of weighing the opportunity costs realistically. Getting some solid numbers is a good way to clarify the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship, particularly in the startup phase, says Shawn Bercuson, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who was one of Groupon's first employees.

"If you plan to leave your job for a year and go for entrepreneurship, you should spell out exactly what that will cost you. Then you can think about whether the risk is worth the potential for reward," says Bercuson, who is working on, a new startup in San Francisco.

For instance, are you in a financial situation to give up a salary and make a risky move now, or should you wait until your children (if you have them) are older? If you are giving up a stable job to become a business owner, calculate how much you make now, including such benefits as insurance and a pension if you get them, and add it to the amount you will have to contribute to your business startup.

That amount, not counting personal sacrifice and hard work, is the cost of starting a company. Are your business idea and commitment to entrepreneurship strong enough to balance out that cost? And do you have a good chance of achieving a return on that investment within a reasonable time frame? Run your business idea through a feasibility study and write a simple business plan: Both will help you answer these important questions.

When You Can't Sleep at Night

Bercuson says the passion that entrepreneurs bring to the table is also vital: "The minute you cannot sleep anymore because you are dreaming about the upside of this business idea, you should go do it."

But don't let that passion carry you away, says Gopal Vemuri, president and chief executive of and a serial entrepreneur and investor: "Typically, entrepreneurs are very passionate about the product or the problem they are trying to solve, so most of their efforts go toward product development, and they often lose sight of finances."

Remember that finances are the lifeblood of any business. Be vigilant about budgeting, forecasting, and tracking your revenue, cash flow, expenses, and overhead. Vemuri says he organizes his company culture around frugality. He uses free tools, such as Google (GOOG) collaboration apps, Skype, customer relationship management systems, and open source software.

"Keep overhead to a minimum by progressing from a home office to a shared space to an office space," Vemuri writes in an e-mail. "Insist on a free trial of any product before you buy it, and seek out discounts or ask for them if none is indicated. Clearly understand the difference between wants and needs. There is no place for wants in business."

Separating Yourself From the Pack

When it comes to your business itself, make sure you have differentiated your products or services from others already on the market. Getting customers to try something new or work with a new vendor is tougher than it sounds; we're all creatures of habit. "Make sure you know and can demonstrate a significant differentiator to separate yourself from the pack for your startup to succeed," says Shama Kabani, president of Marketing Zen Group in Dallas and author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing.

Keep your external costs low, she says, and forget about fancy offices or full-color marketing materials to start. "Invest in training for yourself and hiring good people who can bring a lot to your clients and get the job done," Kabani says.

Finally, give yourself a deadline to succeed at entrepreneurship. If it's not for you, cut your losses earlier rather than later. Be willing to let go of a bad idea go so a good idea can take its place, Kabani says. "Being an entrepreneur means you will have lots of ideas," she says. "Don't get stuck or proud if it is clear the fantasy about something is better than the reality. Listen to your marketplace, and be willing to try something different." Good luck.

Karen E. Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.

Thanks To Bloomberg L.P. / Bloomberg Businessweek


Develop Your Presentation Skills: Build Your Confidence; Be Charismatic; Give A Polished Performance (Sunday Times Creating Success) By Theo Theobald

Develop Your Presentation Skills: Build Your Confidence; Be Charismatic; Give a Polished Performance (Sunday Times Creating Success)

Develop Your Presentation Skills: Build Your Confidence; Be Charismatic; Give a Polished Performance (Sunday Times Creating Success)
By Theo Theobald

List Price: $14.95
Price: $10.17 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details

Availability: Not yet published
Ships from and sold by

7 new or used available from $10.17

Product Description

This book takes a step-by-step approach to developing a great presentation, from unpacking the original brief, to understanding what an audience wants, to constructing compelling content that will keep their attention.  With anecdotes and expert input, Develop Your Presentation Skills covers the essentials of making a good presentation, including advice on how to build confidence, increase personal competence, use body language, maximize effectiveness of room layout, use technology, and implement disaster recovery methods.

Including key learning points and case studies, this book is for anyone who wants to exude confidence while nailing their presentation.
Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #5165416 in Books
  • Published on: 2011-06-28
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 168 pages
Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Theo Theobald is a writer and business consultant who has worked in senior sales and marketing positions with the BBC.  He is co-author of Shut Up and Listen, also published by Kogan Page.

Leadershift: Reinventing Leadership For The Age Of Mass Collaboration By Emmanuel Gobillot

Leadershift: Reinventing Leadership for the Age of Mass Collaboration

Leadershift: Reinventing Leadership for the Age of Mass Collaboration
By Emmanuel Gobillot

List Price: $17.95
Price: $12.21 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details

Availability: Not yet published
Ships from and sold by

10 new or used available from $12.21

Average customer review:
(3 customer reviews)

Product Description

Leadershift is about adapting and changing traditional models of leadership in response to the influence of mass collaboration, a form of collective action involving large numbers of people working independently on a single project – Wikipedia, for example.  As traditional models of collaboration are radically altered, those in leadership roles need to understand their place in this new hierarchy and how to respond.  Mass collaboration requires a form of leadership that is prepared to let go of the experience, expertise and control it holds precious and be able to see mass participation as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Emmanuel Gobillot describes how to adapt traditional leadership roles, and presents the tools necessary to succeed in this new age.  His model allows leaders to successfully engage with these communities, recognize and develop talent, and win customer loyalty.

Each chapter concludes with a "30 second recap" that summarizes key ideas.

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #4384615 in Books
  • Published on: 2011-06-28
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 192 pages
Editorial Reviews


"[T]his smart and readable volume was a very pleasant surprise.... I'll be sure to keep track of [Gobillot] henceforth." -- Miami Herald

"If you want to be a leader, you need people who will choose to follow you, to talk about you, to connect over your ideas.  This thoughtful book dives deep into all of these essential ideas." – Seth Godin

"In today's wikinomics world, yesterday's leadership traits can be a liability.  Leadershift shows leaders how to prepare their collaborative minds." - Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics

About the Author

Emmanuel Gobillot is a senior practitioner in the area of leadership and organization effectiveness, and a speaker and commentator on communication, innovation and leadership issues.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
5The Future is Now
By Rod Collins
Emmanuel Gobillot's timely book takes us on a journey into the future of leadership. One of the first surprises we encounter on this journey is that, given the sudden increase in the pace of change brought about by the rapid spread of digital technology and its incredible capacity for mass collaboration, it turns out that the future is now. "Leadershift" makes the case for how the "new now" is rendering our traditional notions of experience, knowledge, effort, and power completely irrelevant. The new age of mass collaboration follows a radically different set of rules that completely redefines the fundamental roles and responsibilities of leaders. If you want to learn the secrets for leading in this "new now," Gobillot's entertaining stories and compelling insights will show you how to take advantage of the new efficiencies of mass collaboration to successfully navigate businesses through the turbulent waters of our unprecedented times.

Rod Collins
Author, "Leadership in a Wiki World: Leveraging Collective Knowledge to Make the Leap to Extraordinary Performance" (June 2010)

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
4Thoughtful report on the changing requirements of leadership
By Rolf Dobelli
Emmanuel Gobillot, a senior leadership consultant, is an author for thoughtful readers. His books are smart, subtle and nuanced. He insists that you look at established truths in new ways. In some cases, Gobillot demolishes old verities and substitutes new realities, as you will see in his examination of leadership. He shows why the old leadership paradigm, based on "experience, expertise and control," is defunct. According to Gobillot, modern leaders must change their mindsets if they wish to stay relevant. getAbstract recommends his provocative book to executives and managers who want their organizations to succeed in the new collaborative work environment.

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
5Does leadership need to SHIFT?
By J. Thomas Hood III
Emmanuel Gobillot thinks so (and I happen to agree). Increasing pace of change, the age of mass collaboration, the age of particpation, the rising millenials, and the wiki-economy will (and are) having profound changes on how business is conducted. This book gives you the roadmap to start figuring out the "shifts" you need to make.

The book ooutlines the four shifts that will get you thinking : Simplicity, Narrative, Tasks, and Love. Go buy this book now!


28 Business Thinkers Who Changed The World: The Management Gurus And Mavericks Who Changed The Way We Think About Business By Rhymer Rigby

28 Business Thinkers Who Changed the World: The Management Gurus and Mavericks Who Changed the Way We Think about Business

28 Business Thinkers Who Changed the World: The Management Gurus and Mavericks Who Changed the Way We Think about Business
By Rhymer Rigby

List Price: $22.50
Price: $15.30 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details

Availability: Not yet published
Ships from and sold by

5 new or used available from $15.29

Product Description

28 Business Thinkers Who Changed the World is a guide to the people who have shaped the way we do business today.  Some are great intellectuals while others are "gut instinct" types.  Some want to change the world while others want money and power.

With energy and wit, Rhymer Rigby takes readers through the top business brains of our time to show the human behind the headlines, highlighting world industry leaders such as Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Sam Walton, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. With discussions on the influential people behind successful companies such as McDonalds, Sony, Southwest Airlines and Starbucks, he describes the oversized impact of their businesses on the world today.

This book offers profiles on the great minds of the modern capitalist world. From Oprah to Mark Zuckerberg, Rhymer Rigby describes how they made it, the risks they took and the legacy they leave behind.
Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #4324831 in Books
  • Published on: 2011-06-28
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 240 pages
Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Rhymer Rigby is an independent journalist.  He writes a weekly slot for The Financial Times and has written for dozens of publications, including The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent, GQ and Arena. He was previously the features editor for Business 2.0 and currently writes for Management Today and Human Resources.

The Back Of The Napkin (Expanded Edition): Solving Problems And Selling Ideas With Pictures By Dan Roam

The Back of the Napkin (Expanded Edition): Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures

The Back of the Napkin (Expanded Edition): Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
By Dan Roam

List Price: $29.95
Price: $19.30 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details

Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours
Ships from and sold by

119 new or used available from $7.15

Average customer review:
(23 customer reviews)

Product Description

The acclaimed bestseller about visual problem solving-now bigger and better

"There is no more powerful way to prove that we know something well than to draw a simple picture of it. And there is no more powerful way to see hidden solutions than to pick up a pen and draw out the pieces of our problem."

So writes Dan Roam in The Back of the Napkin, the international bestseller that proves that a simple drawing on a humble napkin can be more powerful than the slickest PowerPoint presentation. Drawing on twenty years of experience and the latest discoveries in vision science, Roam teaches readers how to clarify any problem or sell any idea using a simple set of tools.

He reveals that everyone is born with a talent for visual thinking, even those who swear they can't draw. And he shows how thinking with pictures can help you discover and develop new ideas, solve problems in unexpected ways, and dramatically improve your ability to share your insights.

Take Herb Kelleher and Rollin King, who figured out how to beat the traditional hub-and-spoke airlines with a bar napkin and a pen. Three dots to represent Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Three arrows to show direct flights. Problem solved, and the picture made it easy to sell Southwest Airlines to investors and customers.

Now with more color, bigger pictures, and additional content, this new edition does an even better job of helping you literally see the world in a new way. Join the teachers, project managers, doctors, engineers, assembly-line workers, pilots, football coaches, marine drill instructors, financial analysts, students, parents, and lawyers who have discovered the power of solving problems with pictures.

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #7326 in Books
  • Published on: 2009-12-31
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 1.10" h x 8.07" w x 8.45" l, 1.32 pounds
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 304 pages


  • ISBN13: 9781591843061
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.
    Tracking provided on most orders. Buy with Confidence! Millions of books sold!
Editorial Reviews

BusinessWeek's best innovation book of the year

A Fast Company best business book of the year

The (London) Times business creativity book of the year

"A must read for younger generation managers."

"Roam shows that even the most analytical right-brainers can work better by thinking visually."

"[Roam] shows you how to create simple drawings...that are simple but effective tools in breaking down complex notions and letting you share an idea across cultures and levels of expertise with aplomb."
-Fast Company

"As painful as it is for any writer to admit, a picture is worth a thousand words. That's why I learned so much from this book. With style and wit, Dan Roam has provided a smart, practical primer on the power of visual thinking."
-Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

"Inspiring! It teaches you a new way of thinking in a few hours-what more could you ask from a book?"
-Dan Heath, author of Made to Stick

"This book is a must read for managers and business leaders. Visual thinking frees your mind to solve problems in unique and effective ways."
-Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures

"If you observe the way people read or listen to things in the early 21st century, you realize that there aren't many of us left with a linear attention span. Visual information is much more interesting than verbal information. So if you want to make a point, do it with images, pictures or graphics...Dan Roam is the first visual consultant for the customer. And the message sticks."
-Roger Black, Media design leader, author of Websites That Work

"Simplicity. This is Dan Roam's message in The Back of the Napkin. We all dread business meetings with their mountains of documents and the endless bulleted power points. Roam cuts through all that to demonstrate how the use of simple drawings-executed while the audience watches-communicate infinitely better than those complex presentations. Is a picture truly worth a thousand words? Having told us how to communicate with pictures, Roam rounds out his message by explaining that 'We don't show insight-inspiring pictures because it saves a thousand words; we show it because it elicits the thousand words that make the greatest difference.' And that is communication that works."
-Bill Yenne, author of Guinness: The 250 Year Quest for the Perfect Pint

About the Author
As the president of Digital Roam Inc., Dan Roam has helped leaders at Microsoft, Google, Wal-Mart, the Federal Reserve, Boeing, and the U.S. Senate solve complex problems through visual thinking. Dan and his whiteboard have appeared on CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, Fox News, and NPR. He lives in San Francisco.


Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful.
3How ironic
By John Bartelt
Like many books, "Back of the Napkin" seems to have begun with a brilliant very short concept that someone (correctly) thought would sell like hotcakes if padded out into a full-length book. The author really does present significant insights, but the irony is that they would have been best summarized literally on the back of a napkin, rather than dragging them out into full book form. So it reads like a 300-slide PowerPoint presentation advocating brevity.

The sequel, "Unfolding the Napkin" (which I also read) is better thought out, serves more as a method, and contains more visual examples - but it still rehashes pretty much the same material as the first book in order to make its point, so reading both books was redundant in my opinion.

56 of 60 people found the following review helpful.
51st edition still a good deal, but this one is worth considering
By Adelle Frank
If money or portability are your primary considerations, then get a used copy of the first edition, as it communicates the central ideas in an almost identical fashion and is easier to carry around. However, if a few more dollars and a slightly-bigger book don't bother you, consider buying this new edition, as it's subtly-revised diagrams and improved explanation of key brain science concepts make it easier to understand on the first read. For more detail on the differences between this and the previous edition, read on...

Both books are hardcovers and much of the content (including, sadly, the Resources listed in the Appendix) is the same. However, there are a number of important differences between these editions:


At 8.2 x 8 x 1.3 inches, it is bigger than the first edition, which clocked in at 7.1 x 7.1 x 1 inches. While this does allow for the pictures to be bigger and slightly easier to see, it also means a larger, oddly-shaped book to carry around. This only matters if, like me, you like to schlepp your favorite books around and carry them on the bus.


Includes more pages at 304 pages, rather than the previous edition's 278, making it a mere 0.2 pounds heavier. 10 of those additional 26 pages are the new "Appendix A: The Ten (and a Half) Commandments of Visual Thinking." This is a very useful set of 11 rules of thumb to keep in mind when applying Roam's visual thinking technique. Most, if not all, of these rules are mentioned elsewhere in the book, so don't let this appendix be your only reason for purchasing the newest edition. In addition, these 11 rules are summarized nicely in a slideshow elsewhere on the internet ([...]/visual_think_map/the-10-12-commandments-of-visual-thinking-the-lost-chapter-from-the-back-of-the-napkin). Nonetheless, it is helpful to have them laid out, visually, in one place. Another 8 pages are the new Foreword, which explains Roam's experience of visually attempting to sell the idea for this book to the publishers at Penguin. While interesting and a good example, it is also not a reason to buy this edition.


Instead of just black text/pictures, red is now used to highlight chapter headings and subheadings, as well as help readers distinguish between parts of Roam's originally-all-black illustrations and diagrams. This is astonishingly helpful - as it is much easier to understand his diagrams at first glance. Given the table on page 66 (identical to that on page 72 in the first edition), it is no surprise that a small change in color makes it easier for our eyes to distinguish among the parts of his diagrams. In addition, he has added some additional sketches in the book to better visually explain some of his concepts. I was particularly impressed by his improvements to chapters 4 and 5 on how to look better and see sharper. Both his pictures and his text in this section have been revised to provide more clarity for potentially-confusing sections that are partially dependent on communicating a few key brain science concepts. His diagrams illustrating the 6 ways of seeing/showing are also a bit clearer than in the first edition.

For an outline of the major concepts in the book, see my blog post ([...]/blog/review-back-of-the-napkin-solving-problems-and-selling-ideas-with-pictures-expanded-edition-2009) for more details.

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful.
4Reflective pictures or expressive pictures?
By J. Michael Innes
It must be great to be in the audience when Dan Roam gives a presentation and when you in the audience share the same kind of visual sense. On the other hand, if you do not share that sense, that way of structuring the topic under consideration, then you might well want to be beamed somewhere else.

This is a great book, extremely useful and thought provoking. The structuring of problem-solving into a six by five visual codex makes enormous sense; you can literally see the evolution of the thought processes and the development of the insights take shape through the pages. It is not the kind of book that you can dip into. There is a structure and that structure has to unfold and be assimilated by the reader before there can be any translation into action and effect. I think that there is no "quick fix" for someone who wants to animate or rejuvenate their presentations with a rapid read. The art of solving problems has to be developed through the acquisition of the skills protrayed in these pages. And that takes time and effort. And it also needs a sense of congruity between the visual sense of the author and that of the reader. Pictures can convey so much that words cannot evoke. But some pictures and representations succeed and others fail, otherwise there would be no evolution of art and expression.

Be wary of this book on face value. The editorial recommendations of the book do not necessarily reflect the content. Simply to say, as does one commentator, "So if you want to make a point, do it with images, pictures or graphics.", is true only to a point. It is not necessarily the case for all readers, all viewers and certainly not for all people who need to make a presentation. The person who gives the presentation with pictures that reflect their own representation of the topic without engaging the representation or ability of the audience will fail. The presentation must be expressive, not merely reflective.

But that aside, if after searching through this book you get a sense of affiliation with the ideas and concepts, then I have no doubt that you will gain enormously in quality of communication with your audiences. This book is a challenge that can lead to greater insight. But the dictum "caveat emptor" applies, as always. But also remember, books such as this always present the ideas as though they were tried and true. There is rarely evidence as to the efficacy of the methods in getting the message across, as against the satisfaction that an audience may gain. Roam does list references in an appendix to other works that are based on empirical evidence (for example Wainer's Graphic discovery and Tufte The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition, but there is nothing about his own evidence. A reading of this excellent book benefits from a parallel reading, and reality check, of Tufte's little monograph on the dangers of Powerpoint (The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within, Second Edition.


Visual Thinking: Tools For Mapping Your Ideas By Nancy Margulies; Christine Valenza

Visual Thinking: Tools for Mapping Your Ideas

Visual Thinking: Tools for Mapping Your Ideas
By Nancy Margulies; Christine Valenza

List Price: $29.95
Price: $28.61 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details

Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours
Ships from and sold by

33 new or used available from $22.99

Average customer review:
(7 customer reviews)

Product Description

Free yourself from the limiting belief that you can't draw and move into the dynamic world of visible thinking for you and your students. The authors have compiled a symbolary of easy- to-draw iconographs that can be used to enrich communica- tion, provoke deeper thought, and make the process of creating Mind Maps and Mindscapes for note taking and review in your classroom a breeze. Visual Thinking breaks down the process of drawing into small steps so that anyone who thinks they cannot draw will find that in fact, they can. Visible thinking templates help students work through challenging problem-solving activities. As their thinking processes are recorded, students become more thorough and skillful in reaching conclusions and making decisions.

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #152047 in Books
  • Published on: 2005-05
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 160 pages
Editorial Reviews

Invaluable in helping students and educators to learn skills that are appropriate for communicating in today's increasingly visual world. --Dee Dickinson, Chief Learning Officer, New Horizons for Learning

A wonderful, inviting workbook that gives you the basic tools for "speaking" visual language--the new international auxiliary language. --Robert E. Horn, author of Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century

About the Author
Nancy Margulies and Christine Valenza, two of the best-known visual facilitators in the business world, bring their expertise to the classroom and share their secrets for conveying complex ideas simply. If one picture is worth a thousand words, this book is worth millions.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

69 of 75 people found the following review helpful.
3Quite disappointed by this new book & with the two authors!
By Lee Say Keng
I am quite disappointed by this new book & with the two authors, whose past work I am most familiar with. Having read (& reviewed with gusto!) the principal author's two earlier pieces of work i.e. Mapping InnerSpace, I find this book to be somewhat of a letdown.

It is natural that I would compare this book with `Mapping InnerSpace.' Much of the material in the new book has apparently been rehashed from the earlier work. The only new stuff I can find is the `symbolary' of easy-to-draw iconographs, which is now been re-organized from A to Z, & a handful of new `Mindscaping' application templates in the last chapter. That's it.

Surprisingly, the authors even continue to make use of the same Foreword, which goes back to the late 80's & which appeared in the first book.

I get this funny feeling that the new book has been based on perfunctory desk research & no attempt has been exerted to conduct some real field research to cover new developments or advancements. Worst of all, & sad to say, the material is still restricted to the authors' own limited field of work.

Based on my own exploration, the field of visual thinking has obviously made tremendous progress in the last few years, in both the educational & business arenas. A quick search & browse across the net will give readers a good appreciation of what has happened/is happening out there.

I actually expect the authors to provide a quick round-up (or snapshot) of developments & happenings with regard to new & exciting visual thinking applications across the educational as well as business realms. There have been abundant application variations as well as radical enhancements in the field of visual thinking for business professionals. I am well aware that field research is no easy task in the light of many proprietary methods, but with a little ingenuity & persistent legwork, it would have been rewarding for both authors to go the extra mile. The new book, taking into consideration the prevailing developments outside their own sphere, would have been great for all the readers, especially the professionals.

For examples, the creative work of heavy weights in the field of visual thinking as applied to business & industry, like Jim Channon (large system imagineering with Advanced Visual Language), David Sibbet (graphical visualisation of organisational change with template-based methodology) & Matt Taylor (creative augmentation, with artful integration of visual space technologies, collaborative environments, & knowledge-intensive work processes), to name a few, have not been captured &/or exemplified. Not even in the Resources page. I am also very intrigued as to why the innovative work of Christine Allen Ewy (Teaching with Visual Frameworks) & Elizabeth H Wig (Map It Out: Visual Tools for Thinking, Organizing & Communicating) is not even captured in the Resources. There are many others.

In today's technology-savvy world, there is no mention of using technology to augment one's visual thinking approach. The Mind-manager software quickly comes to mind. Xplanations is another innovative one. There are many others, too.

In these respects, the book does not stand up to its title, Visual Thinking: Tools for Mapping Your Ideas.

For the beginner, particularly a teacher or a parent or a student, who is currently looking for plain visual thinking approaches, this book still stands as great work. I would attribute this to the wonderful symbolary.

To sum up my review, I reluctantly rate this book a 3 in the light of my foregoing comments, although it deserves a 5 in terms of useful & practical learning for the beginner in the field of visual thinking.

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful.
5Educators: Take a look!
By B. T. Doyle
"I was brought up believing that "I cant draw" and I was hesitant to get this book, but I am so glad that I did! Reading and practicing with "Visual Thinking," I began to feel more confident in my ability to teach others using "pictures" that are worth more than a thousand words! There are so many students these days who have difficulties with language and comprehension when only the written word is used, but who are able to comprehend and express themselves very clearly and in detail when using symbols. So many wonderful templates are provided in the book that students and teachers can use to teach, learn,record information and review. Mapping with symbols as suggested in this book allows us to see connections that we might otherwise overlook. It is a fun text, easy to use and well done in every way! Thanks to the authors!"

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful.
5A Book for Teachers and Students!
By Patt Sheldon
Visual Thinking is a book made for teachers who want to help their students use images and words to record ideas in a creative and memorable way. That is why I, as a middle school teacher, find it so appealing. The "symbolary" gives you hundreds of easy to draw images and there are many templates, too, that encourage visual thinking -- that is using visual metaphors to think through challenges, make plans and more. I think you will find many uses for this book! I certainly did.


Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles And Techniques To Enhance Your Presentations By Garr Reynolds

Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations

Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations
By Garr Reynolds

List Price: $34.99
Price: $20.00 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details

Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours
Ships from and sold by

107 new or used available from $13.64

Average customer review:
(28 customer reviews)

Product Description

In his internationally acclaimed, best-selling book Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery, presentation master Garr Reynolds gave readers the framework for planning, putting together, and delivering successful presentations. Now, he takes us further into the design realm and shows how we can apply time-honored design principles to presentation layouts.

Throughout Presentation Zen Design, Garr shares his lessons on designing effective presentations that contain text, graphs, color, images, and video. After establishing guidelines for each of the various elements, he explains how to achieve an overall harmony and balance using the tenets of Zen simplicity. Not only will you discover how to design your slides for more professional-looking presentations, you'll learn to communicate more clearly and will accomplish the goal of making a stronger, more lasting connection with your audience.

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #6012 in Books
  • Published on: 2009-12-28
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 264 pages


  • ISBN13: 9780321668790
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback.
    Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
Editorial Reviews

"In today's economy, all of useven those of us who aren't trained as designersmust become design thinkers.  But how? At last, Garr Reynolds has unlocked the secrets and presented them in a compelling and useful way. Whether you're a professional preparing a talk, a student tackling an assignment, or anyone trying to craft a richer life, Presentation Zen Design is the most important book you will read this year."
Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind & Drive

"To change the world, you need to pitch. To pitch, you need to design. To design, you need this book."
Guy Kawasaki, Co-founder,, and former chief evangelist of Apple

"Garr has once again visually captivated readers with a book that will inspire millions to communicate effectively. He wove together freshly inspired Zen concepts and displayed them breathtakingly. Read this book, I know it will take your breath away as it did mine."
Nancy Duarte, CEO, Duarte Design, and author of the best-selling book slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

"No visual backdrop will energize a lukewarm, uninspired message. But wrap a clear, powerful, authentic presentation in great design and you get what every speaker aspires to: electrical connection with your audience. Buy this book and learn from the best design educator on the planet. Your audience will thank you."
Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation

About the Author
Garr Reynolds is the author of the best-selling book Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery with over 100,000 copies sold and translated into 17 languages. A leading authority on presentation design and delivery and sought-after speaker and consultant, his clients include many in the Fortune 500. A writer, designer, musician, and long-time student of the zen arts, he is currently Associate Professor of Management at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan and Director of Design Matters Japan. Garr's popular blog on presentation design and delivery is at

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful.
5Practical Insights for Designing Slide Presentations
By Arthur D. Johnson
I pre-ordered this book in October and was delighted to recieve the package from as a delayed Christmas gift to myself. Reynolds has followed-up his best-selling Presentation Zen with this new book covering the design aspects of slide presentations. I stumbled across the Presentation Zen blog a few years ago and have been a devotee of Garr Reynolds ever since. Along with Nancy Duarte from Duarte Design, Garr has been a seminal thought leader in the movement to replace boring and tedious slide decks with interesting and engaging presentations.

A long-time resident of Japan, Reynolds combines his knowledge of Zen with his design expertise to give us a beautiful book with a strong point of view advocating simplicity as a foundation for slide presentations. The book goes well beyond mere advocacy and is chock full of specific techniques and tips that will help you build a winning presentation. Even though I've followed his work for some time, I found several useful new ideas that I'll be able to implement immediately.

Presentationzen Design covers everything from typefaces and color, through negative space (read the book), and harmony. However, Garr doesn't just make a point and move on. I especially appreciated the great research and added content. He sprinkles in supporting articles from subject matter experts such as Nancy Duarte on sketching and planning in analog, David S. Rose "The Pitch Coach" on the importance of design and delivery in high stakes venture capital presentations, and John McWade on the use of photographs to tell your story. If you can only have one design book for building your presentation this is it.

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful.
5Excellent Book for Presentation Creation
By Jason Davis
Presentation Zen Design is an excellent book, geared for people who want to build impactful presentations but lack a deep design background.

Garr's first book, Presentation Zen, did an impressive job at giving an overview of what makes for a great presentation. He covered preparation, crafting the story, basic design principles and delivery strategies along with a nice selection of sample slides.

This book expands significantly on the first book's design section and this is a good thing. Once you've made the decision to move beyond typical PowerPoints it's great to have a book filled with so much practical information and lots of examples. With sections on type, color, images, video, layout and presenting data (an area where so many of the presentations I see fall apart), Presentation Zen Design provides a comprehensive toolkit for creating compelling presentations.

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful.
5Garr leads by example
By V. Lewis
Garr Reynolds is a master of leading by example. His follow-up to PresentationZen, PresentationZen Design has more impact than the first book. It is a joy to look at and absorb the quintessential components of the aesthetics that guide the development of an effective slide deck. The book visually exudes the harmony, style, color and story that the text describes.

Mr. Reynolds' use of photographic images is a bold example for those of us who still think photos are an afterthought. The chapter on the power of the photograph will change your life, especially the tips from Scott Kelby on taking your own photographs to use in your presentations.

Garr Reynolds' presentation techniques did change my life in 2001 when I saw him speak at a computer user group event. Inspired by his refreshing and persuasive techniques, I took a new job in training course development and vowed that I would help as many people as I could escape from presentation prison. I look forward to using this powerful reference to continue to pursue that goal.


Goat Milk Can Be Considered As Functional Food, Spanish Researchers Find

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2011) — Researchers at the University of Granada have found that goat milk has nutritional characteristics beneficial to health. They have determined that goat milk has many nutrients that make it similar to human milk.

The research group AGR 206 at the University of Granada Department of Physiology and Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology "Jose Matáix," coordinated by professor Margarita Sánchez Campos, have proven that goat milk has nutritional characteristics beneficial to health.

The regular consumption of goat milk by individuals with iron deficiency anemia improves their recovery, since it enhances the nutritional use of iron and enhances the regeneration of hemoglobin; this means that this type of milk minimizes calcium and iron interactions. Conversely, this type of milk protects DNA stability, even in cases of iron overload caused by prolonged treatments with this mineral to treat anemia.

University of Granada researchers have found that goat milk has many nutrients -as casein- that make it similar to human milk. Goat milk contains less casein alpha 1 -as human milk-, which is responsible for most allergies to cow milk. Therefore, goat milk is hypoallergenic. "For this reason, in some countries it is used as the basis for the development of infant formula in place of cow milk," University of Granada researchers point out.

Additionally, another beneficial aspect of goat milk is that it contains a significant amount of oligosaccharides. Goat milk has more oligosaccharides with a composition similar to that of human milk. These compounds reach the large intestine undigested and act as prebiotics, i.e they help develop probiotic flora that competes with pathogenic bacterial flora, making it disappear.

Less lactose

Similarly, goat milk contains a lower proportion of lactose than cow milk -about 1% less- and, as it is easier to digest, individuals with intolerance to this milk sugar can tolerate goat milk."

The essential difference between the composition of cow and goat milk stems from the nature of their fat content: it is not only the small size of goat milk's blood cells, but rather the profile of its fatty acids. Goat milk contains more essential fatty acids (linoleic and arachidonic) than cow milk. Both belong to omega-6 series. Similarly, goat milk has 30-35% medium-chain fatty acids (C6-C14) MCT, while cow milk has only 15-20%. These fatty acids are a quick source of energy and are not stored as body fat. In addition, goat milk's fat reduces total cholesterol levels and maintains adequate levels of triglycerides and transaminases (GOT and GPT). This makes it a food of choice for the prevention of heart diseases.

As regards their mineral composition, University of Granada researchers point out that goat milk is rich in calcium and phosphorus "it is highly bioavailable and favors their deposition in the organic matrix of bone, leading to an improvement in bone formation parameters." It also has more zinc and selenium, which are essential micronutrients contributing to the antioxidant defense and for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.

For all these reasons, researchers consider that "goat milk can be considered natural functional food, and its regular consumption should be promoted among the population in general, specially among those with allergy or intolerance to cow milk, malabsorption, high cholesterol levels, anemia, osteoporosis or prolonged treatments with iron supplements."

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Granada.


What Makes Your Cereal Go Snap, Crackle, And Pop? Food Chemists Find That Milk Pushes Air To Break Crystallized Sugar

December 1, 2006 — Food scientists have discovered why Rice Krispies make their characteristic sound when soaked in milk. Rice Krispies contain lots of sugar and are cooked at high temperature, which makes the sugar form crystals and creates air-filled cavities. When a Krispie absorbs milk, the capillary forces push the air to shatter the cavities' walls -- and make a noise. With the exception of pop rocks candy, it is the only food that acts this way.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Snap, crackle, pop! Does your cereal talk to you? Rice Krispies -- the breakfast that talks to you -- has been around for nearly 80 years, but scientists have only recently figured out why it makes that noise.

Food scientist Ted Labuza, says there are a few reasons.

"Rice Krispies has sugar in it. It's the sugar that causes it to interact in the different way with the starch, and that makes a big difference," Labuza, who is professor of Food Science and Engineering at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, tells DBIS. In fact, sugar is the second ingredient in the Krispies. It's much lower on the list in other cereals.

Another reason? Rice Krispies are cooked at such a high temperature, the sugar forms crystals that behave almost like glass. If you crush them, they'll break into pieces.

During the cooking process, each piece of rice expands, and tiny air-filled caves form inside. The Krispies' bubbles are about 20-times bigger than those in puffed rice cereal.

Here's what really happens inside: The Krispie absorbs the milk and the air-filled caves become filled with liquid. Air is then pushed around until the walls shatter and make a noise. And that's what you hear!

Labuza says the Krispies probably make different sounds because of the different sizes of the air pockets. They stop making noise after they pick up all the milk they can handle. He says this is the only food that acts this way -- with the exception of Pop Rocks candy. But never mind why it happens. Some of us only care how it tastes!

BACKGROUND: Food scientist Ted Labuza at University of Minnsesota has studied his morning bowl of Rice Krispies cereal, and can explain why it snaps, crackles and pops. It's similar to how popcorn pops, but at the molecular level, Labuza finds that the cereal actually behaves like glass. Rice Krispies feature strong molecular bonds to hold the starch molecules together. Just like glass, if you smashed a rice crisp with a hammer, it would crack and shatter.

WHAT'S GOING ON: Labuza says that the signature snap, crackle and pop of Rice Krispies is the result of the cooking process. Grains of rice are steamed and then oven-popped to give them their unique texture. Heating up the rice grains causes the starch granules inside to expand, creating a network of tiny air-filled pockets and tunnels inside the kernel. Add milk, and the cereal starts to absorb the liquid. This puts pressure on the air inside the pockets, causing the "walls" to shatter with a crackling sound. When the cereal becomes saturated and soggy, the crackling sound stops.

ABOUT GLASS: Glass is an unusual substance that straddles the boundary between a solid and a liquid; scientists call it an "amorphous solid." In a solid, molecules are arranged in a precise lattice structure; in liquids the molecules are more disordered rather than rigidly bound, so the substance can "flow." Glass molecules are rigidly bound, as in a solid, but they are still more disordered than the molecules in a crystal. This unusual state arises from how glass is made: by cooling a liquid below its freezing point, then cooling it some more. Cool the liquid fast enough and the molecules don't have time to arrange into a solid lattice structure. Instead, the liquid becomes more "viscous" – resistant to flow. The molecules gradually move more and more slowly, until they are hardly moving at all, giving glass its solid characteristics.

Note: This story and accompanying video were originally produced for the American Institute of Physics series Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Science by Ivanhoe Broadcast News and are protected by copyright law. All rights reserved.

Extremely Obese Children Have Higher Prevalence Of Psoriasis, Higher Heart Disease Risk

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2011) — Children who are overweight or obese have a significantly higher prevalence of psoriasis, and teens with psoriasis, regardless of their body weight, have higher cholesterol levels, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published online in the Journal of Pediatrics. The study findings suggest that higher heart disease risk for patients with psoriasis starts in childhood in the form of higher cholesterol levels.

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin that often starts early in life and, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, affects more than 7 million Americans.

"This study suggests a link between obesity and psoriasis in children," said study lead author Corinna Koebnick, PhD, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif. "But our study findings also suggest that the higher heart disease risk for patients with psoriasis starts in childhood in the form of higher cholesterol levels. We may need to monitor youth with psoriasis more closely for cardiovascular risk factors, especially if they are obese."

Researchers used electronic health records to study 710,949 racially and ethnically diverse children and found that obese children were almost 40 percent more likely to have psoriasis than normal weight children. Extremely obese children were almost 80 percent more likely to have psoriasis than normal weight children. Additionally, among youth with psoriasis, it was four times more likely that the psoriasis would be severe or more widespread in obese youth than what was seen in normal weight children. Additionally, teens with psoriasis had 4 to16 percent higher cholesterol levels and liver enzymes, regardless of their weight, than youth without this condition.

"Very little is known about psoriasis in children where the disease is mostly viewed and treated as a burdensome skin condition and less considered a metabolic disease," adds Dr. Koebnick.

"Psoriasis may also put children at risk for metabolic disease, as seen in adults, so studies such as these are extremely important in helping primary care providers learn the best way to care for these children," notes co-author Amy Porter, MD, Southern California Permanente Medical Group's regional physician lead for weight management, and pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente's Baldwin Park Medical Center.

Epidemiologic studies in adults have shown that patients with psoriasis are at a higher risk of developing metabolic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart attack and stroke. In adults, obesity has also been linked to a higher risk of developing psoriasis, and obesity, like psoriasis, is also associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

"Both conditions are characterized by a chronic low-level inflammation," notes Dr. Koebnick. "Yet, we know little to nothing about the metabolic risk of psoriasis, especially when combined with obesity in children." Psoriasis in children may increase blood cholesterol levels, and this may additionally be triggered by the presence of obesity. While the present study has limitations due to its cross-sectional design where both body weight and information on psoriasis were assessed at the same time, future studies based on this cohort will address these issues.

"It has been well described that adults with psoriasis have increased cardiovascular risk factors, but we have now examined these issues in children. As we follow these patients over 30-40 years, we will be able to determine if these increased cardiovascular risk factors in turn increase the risk for major adverse cardiac events," said study senior author, Jashin J. Wu, M.D., director of clinical research and the associate residency program, and director for the department of dermatology at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.

This study is part of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Children's Health Study, Kaiser Permanente's ongoing work to identify and treat childhood obesity through research and community programs.

Other study authors included: Mary Helen Black, MS, PhD, Ning Smith, MS, and Steven J. Jacobsen, MD, PhD, from the Kaiser Permanente Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif.; Amy H. Porter, MD, from the Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center; and Jack K. Der-Sarkissian, MD, and Jashin J Wu, MD from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Los Angeles.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Kaiser Permanente, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.


Learn To Read Through Sound - Cognitive Neuroscientists Use Sound Training To Help Dyslexic Children Read

May 1, 2008 — Cognitive neuroscientists monitoring brain activity with fMRI found that children with dyslexia are often unable to process the fast-changing sounds used in spoken language. Sound training dedicated to teaching children to better process these sounds improves their ability to manipulate words and their phonetic components, which translates into better reading.

Dyslexia can be a frustrating condition, making it difficult for children to read. Many think it is a visual issue, but a new study using a computer game reveals the problem may not only be with sight, but also sound.

Jake Lo Giudice is dyslexic and some words can be tough to identify. "I felt like I was different," Jake recalls. I felt like I was outside of the group." Jake's mother Karen uses clay models to help her son visualize non-sight words. "It's because they are picture thinkers and those words do not have a picture," Karen explained. But researchers believe the problem could also be with how the brain "hears" sounds. "We believe that these children -- from being toddlers or even earlier as infants -- have problems with processing these changes in sounds," Nadine Gaab, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital in Boston, Mass., told Ivanhoe.

Cognitive neuroscientists believe dyslexic children's brains have problems interpreting fast-changing syllables like "ba" and "da" because their brains are wired differently. This makes reading more of a challenge. Dr. Gaab is using "sound training" through computer exercises to monitor how dyslexics process fast and slow-changing sounds. While children play the game, Dr. Gaab monitors their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). But after eight weeks of intensive training, a dyslexic child's fMRI image shows more activity. "The brain is very plastic and so the brain learns and reconnected and built a new network," Dr. Gaab explained.

That possible reconnection could hold the key to helping dyslexics read. Researchers hope as children are diagnosed with dyslexia earlier, they can start sound training sooner and possibly reduce the severity of their condition.

LANGUAGE PROCESSING IS THE KEY: It is worth noting that dyslexia is not clinically identified by seeing letters backward or out of order. When dyslexics hear speech, they are not necessarily able to hear the sound accurately. Recent research showed that the brains of children with dyslexia are not able to process fast-changing sounds. Based on data obtained via fMRI, the findings suggest new ways to treat dyslexia and may help doctors to diagnose the disability earlier in life, before reading begins. This causes problems later when kids attempt to sound out words while reading.

THE EXPERIMENT: Researchers agree that dyslexics have problems manipulating words and sounds – that the primary problem is processing the sounds that make up words. Using a computer program that plays fast-changing and slow-changing sounds, Dr. Gaab used fMRI to monitor how children's brains respond to the sounds. Children with dyslexia use the same brain areas to process both fast and slow changing sounds, as opposed to other readers, who use a certain array of 11 areas more extensively when processing fast-changing sounds.

WHAT IS fMRI? Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field rather than X-rays to take clear and detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues. fMRI uses this technology to identify regions of the brain where blood vessels are expanding, chemical changes are taking place, or extra oxygen is being delivered. These are indications that a particular part of the brain is processing information and giving commands to the body. As a patient performs a particular task, the metabolism will increase in the brain area responsible for that task, changing the signal in the image. Analyzing the images to understand how responses are similar or different for different tasks allows scientists to better understand the patient as an individual, and also to learn more about the human brain in general.

Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Note: This story and accompanying video were originally produced for the American Institute of Physics series Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Science by Ivanhoe Broadcast News and are protected by copyright law. All rights reserved.

Reading The Fine Print Of Perception: Human Brain Learns By Interpreting Details, Study Shows

Region in the prefrontal cortex important for perceptual learning. (Credit: Image courtesy of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin)

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2011) — Wine connoisseurs recognize the vintage at the first sip, artists see subtle color variations and the blind distinguish the finest surface structures. Why are they considered superior to non-specialists in their field?

Researchers at Charité -- Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the Bernstein Center Berlin, the Excellence Center NeuroCure and the Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg, have determined which areas of the brain are particularly active when perceptual skills are trained. In the current issue of the journal Neuron, they show how one becomes an expert: not by the increasing the resolution with which our brain encodes our environment. Instead we learn by improving our ability to distinguish subtle details better.

The researchers from the research group of Prof. John-Dylan Haynes, Director of the Berlin Center for Advanced Neuroimaging at the Charité, have examined, together with colleagues from Magdeburg, how brain activity changes across the course of a learning process. For this, they measured changes in nerve cell activity in the brain with the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while participants learned to tell differences between visual images. Their reasoning was: if the learning effect is primarily based on an increasingly detailed representation of the stimuli, then the visual center should be involved in learning. However, if progress is due to an improved interpretation of the stimuli in the brain, then learning should involve brain areas for decision making.

"The fMRI measurements clearly showed that the activity in the visual center remained the same during the entire learning process," said Prof. Haynes. "However, a region in the prefrontal cortex, which plays an important role in the interpretation of stimuli, was becoming more and more involved." Hence, the researchers concluded that the learning process takes place at the level of decision making. "If our perception sharpens in learning, then this is not so much due to the fact that more information reaches the brain, "concluded Professor Haynes. "Instead we learn more and more to correctly interpret the given information. We see details in pictures that we were not aware of at the beginning."

The researchers investigated the learning processes using simple geometric images. In the experiment, the twenty subjects looked at a small stripe pattern on a screen for a short time. They should decide in which direction the stripes pointed. Over time they could recognize details better and better. „Now it would be possible to use our approach to investigate whether similar effects also holds true say for wine connoisseurs or top chefs," said Prof. Haynes.

Thorsten Kahn, PhD student at the Bernstein Center for Computational Science developed a mathematical model for this study that predicts the learning processes in the brain very precisely. "Such models are very important to systematically analyse the data," said the young researcher. "The collaboration between modeling and data collection works particularly well in the Bernstein Center where psychologists, physicians, physicists and mathematicians work together."

FMRI is a method that allows to brain activity non-invasively using strong magnetic fields. Over the last few years the research group of Prof. Haynes has been involved in developing approaches that improve the readout of information from such brain signals.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, via AlphaGalileo.


Sun Protects Against Childhood Asthma

Exposure to sunlight is essential for the synthesis of vitamin D, a compound important in preventing diseases such as asthma. (Credit: SINC)

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2011) — Vitamin D, which is primarily absorbed from the sun, plays a role in protection against childhood asthma. Now, a new study led by Valencian researchers has shown that children who live in colder, wetter cities are at greater risk of suffering from this respiratory problem, since there are fewer hours of sunlight in such places.

"Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause cancer, but it's also dangerous to avoid it. There has to be a balance between the pros and cons," says Alberto Arnedo-Pena, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Centre in Castellón and lead author of the research, which is part of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), led by Luis García Marcos of the University of Murcia.

In fact, 90% of our vitamin D is synthesised through exposure to the sun. This vitamin, which can be found in various cell receptors, is usually found at lower levels in people with asthma. The study results show that there is a higher prevalence of this illness among children in wetter places with less sun (northern Spain).

The research, carried out on more than 45,000 children and teenagers from nine Spanish cities and published in the International Journal of Biometeorology, shows that climatic conditions, above all solar radiation, can in many cases explain the high geographical variation in the prevalence of asthma in Spain.

"Although we need more studies on this issue -- this hypothesis is not even five years old -- it is clear that an average level of sun exposure is important for the assimilation of vitamin D, a compound that is extremely important in preventing illnesses such as asthma, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases," stresses Arnedo-Pena.

The solar vitamin

In northern countries (where there are fewer hours of sunshine than in the Mediterranean), the advice is to spend 20 to 30 minutes' in the sun each day, although not at times within the highest risk period (from noon to 4pm). For now, no similar advice exists in Spain.

Once the benefits of sun exposure are understood, it can be seen that there is a problem in countries at latitudes higher than 40º north, where it is not possible to absorb enough vitamin D during the winter months. "People in these countries should take supplements to ensure they are not at risk," the researcher concludes.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Plataforma SINC, via AlphaGalileo.


Octopuses Make Some Pretty Good Moves

This is the octopus at the Hebrew University who proved not only smart but agile in receiving rewards. (Credit: Hebrew University photo)

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2011) — In case you thought that octopuses were smart only in guessing the outcome of soccer matches (remember the late Paul the octopus in Germany who picked all the right winners in last year's world cup matches in Johannesburg?), scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have now shown that not only are they smart, they can make some pretty good moves as well.

Octopuses are among the most developed invertebrates. They have large brains and are fast learners. With eight arms and no rigid skeleton, they perform many tasks like crawling, swimming, mating and hunting. And unlike most animals such as humans -- who are restricted in their movements by a rigid skeleton which helps in determining the position of their limbs -- octopuses have limitless flexibility.

But because they have no such rigid structure, it was believed that the octopuses have only limited control over their eight flexible limbs. However, the Hebrew University researchers have shown otherwise. They developed a three-choice, transparent, plexiglass maze that required the octopus to use a single arm and direct it to a visually marked compartment outside of its tank of water that contained a food reward.

The octopuses in the experiment learned to insert a single arm through a central tube, out of the water, and into the correct marked goal compartment to retrieve the food reward. This success was dependent on visual information, which the octopuses were able to translate into a series of coordinated movements made by a single arm and retrieve the food. They were also able to repeat this process.

The completion of this task shows for the first time that an octopus can direct a single arm in a complex movement to a target location. Motor control issues, such as this, are the basis of an ongoing European Union research project aimed at building a "robot octopus." To understand how the octopus controls its movements, and to what extent it controls them, is therefore an important base for the design of the control architecture of a robot devoid of a rigid skeleton.

The research was reported on in a recent edition of Current Biology, and was authored by Tamar Gutnick, Prof. Binyamin Hochner and Dr. Michael Kuba of the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University, and Dr. Ruth A. Byrne of the Medical University of Vienna, Austria.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.