Did you know you’ve been part of a huge online project?
What does this have to do with chia seed jam? Hang on, and I’ll get to that soon.
You know that little box that pops up with words that look kind of wavy and you have to type in what you think those words are? It’s called a CAPTCHA. Its purpose is to make sure that the entity filling out the form is actually human and not a computer program that was written to submit the form millions of times.
CAPTCHAS are designed to prevent spam and things like automated computer programs buying up a whole bunch of concert tickets. Programs like those cannot read those squiggly lines like humans can.
Today almost 200 million CAPTCHAS are typed in every day. Yes, it’s annoying, but next time you type one, just know that you are helping with a highly beneficial large-scale project. These take about 10 seconds of your time to type. Their inventor Luis va Ahn, calculated that humanity is wasting about 500 000 hours every day typing these. He felt a little guilty that so much time was being wasted around the world every day. He wondered if this time and effort could be used for something that is good for humanity. What problem did we need to solve that could be solved in tiny 10 second chunks? Bingo! His project reCAPTCHA was born.
When you type in one of those little boxes, you are authenticating yourself as a human, but what you may not know is that you are also helping to digitize books that were written before the computer age. Scanning a book takes a picture, but the computer needs to be able to decipher all the words in that picture. Sometimes the ink in older books has faded, so a computer is unable to read the words accurately. It’s like taking a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. It gets distorted.
Taking all those word images that a computer cannot recognize in books, and using them in CAPTCHAS, people decipher them as they type them. These words are then automatically sent back to the system that is digitizing that book, helping to complete one more piece of the puzzle.
Isn’t that an ingenious way to recycle human energy and make more information accessible to us all?
You can learn more about the reCAPTCHA project here.
When I’m out for my morning run, I often listen to podcasts. My favourites are foodie-related or TEDtalks. Today’s edition was a fascinating talk on the Chaos and the Power of Collaboration. It got me thinking about the brilliant minds in our world, and that made me think about how I can often spot those brilliant minds in my Grade 1 classes. That, in turn, made me think about my plans for next year and cooking projects I like to do with my students, and that thought led to THIS recipe idea. Every year in Grade 1, I read Bread and Jam for Frances and the kids each make a little loaf of bread. With this super-easy recipe, they can make a tiny jar of jam too! So, finally, here’s the simple recipe.
Chia Seed Jam
This jam needs no pectin to set. Chia seeds can absorb up to 10 times their weight in water. They create a gel-like consistency that seems to mimic the action of pectin.
Here’s the basic formula.
Mix one cup fresh or thawed berries with 1 tsp.lemon juice. Stir in 1 Tbsp. chia seeds and 1 Tbsp. honey. Pour into a jar and allow to set for about an hour.
Try different berries with different flavourings and sweeteners, like blackberry with vanilla and maple syrup, strawberry with orange juice and honey, blueberry with lemon juice and maple syrup. This jam will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.