If you are sometimes frustrated with misconceptions about science — e.g., “evolution is just a theory” — then this list of Inaccuracies Found In Common Science Illustrations isn’t going to make you any happier.
Top of the hat to Digg.
I stopped listening to RadioLab after a while … it had, to my mind, jumped the shark, or, in public radio terms, gone the way of Ira Glass and become a show infatuated with the sound of its own voice. E.g., the show where Jad spends the entire time telling us breathlessly about the music album that has him just astounded, astounded, every time he listens to it. Good for you, Jad. Some of us listen to you for the science. (The corollary of this is the Malcolm Gladwell effect where the reporter begins to believe that they are scientists and start making shit up and thinking it’s science. It’s not science, no matter how popular you are. Science doesn’t work that way.)
Anyway, RadioLab appears to have righted itself … and I’ve come to think that maybe the real core of the show, and the reporter whom I trust in all of this is Robert Krulwich. Krulwich maintains his own blog on the NPR website, and it’s worth checking it now and then — and, if you don’t, but you read Reddit, don’t worry because his posts regularly turn up there.
In a recent post he points to a video that reveals the math behind the fact that the sum of all natural numbers is -1/12. There’s more in the video, which is embedded in the post, and you really should check out Krulwich for yourself.
Victor Wooten is a talented musician and, it turns out, speaker. What I like about his talk is how he reminds his audience about how we learn to speak English and then wonders how we can apply that to how we can encourage students to learn other things the same way.
I want to make this:
Now I just need a 3D printer…
… and these instructions.
Take another look at the photo. It was originally posted to Reddit, and its topic was the dog, sitting patiently on a bench in what, I believe, was described as an animal shelter. Sure, the dog is sweet, but what really captured me in the photograph was the setting: that bench, the glass partitions, the easy-to-clean tile floor, the cinder block walls that someone has tried to camouflage with some military-gray wainscoting as well as the slip of paper that no one could be bothered to pick up and the glimpse one catches of institutional lobby furniture suggested to me a kind of emergence of a common institutionality.
What is the consistency of that common institutionality? There is, of course, the ever-present rationalization that we are doing what we are supposed to do because the numbers all add up. No one asks larger questions, about meaning and quality, because to do so would be to call attention to oneself. You have a limited set of options: give in and go along, invest and get promoted, or retreat into whatever private world keeps you sane when you have had contact with the institutional world.
Whoa, I surprised myself with just how fast all of that tumbled out. And I wondered: is it just the current moment, the current circumstance? I work at a regional public university which has given up even trying to be better: our dean recently told a fellow faculty member that quantity of publications count, not quality. When asked about getting back some of the 20 to 25 percent in wages we have lost over the past 8 years, his response was simply “Talk to the legislature.” But he isn’t alone in not caring. A number of faculty have begun not to care, and so hallways that were once vibrant with conversation are now deserted. Office doors that were once open are now closed. People used to at least rally around getting and keeping the building clean, which has been a regular struggle for the last decade, but now no one even complains about the stairway handrails that you dare not touch or the dirt accumulating in corners of the computer classrooms. Like that piece of paper lying under the bench in the photo above, it just doesn’t matter enough to anyone anymore.
I hope this is just Louisiana, and not some larger set of trends. I gather from colleagues elsewhere that things have begun to turn around, but here, here I don’t know if they ever will. The budget for higher education might get better, but I’m afraid the organizational changes that have occurred during this period may not be so easily reversed.
An interesting series of dreams over the last few nights, with last night’s dream perhaps getting closer to reality than might be desired. I dreamt that I was in a department that was undergoing a significant transformation — it was being re-formed or something of that nature — and everything was in flux. I have an appointment with the head of the department, but when I go to his office there are two faculty members present. I am, at first, put off by what was supposed to be a private meeting but the dream reality is ambiguous — I am early or maybe this is the way it supposed to be — but I decide to make the best of it.
The discussion begins with one of the other individuals, an aged woman, wondering what folklore is and why what I do is in any way special. I give a dependable, brief defense of the field, seeking to fend off the usual assumptions that it’s fairy tales and a cabinet of curiosities. But she is determined that folklore studies is trivial: her stance is not aggressive or mean-spirited, more a kind of focused indifference and ignorance that represents a kind of entrenched conservatism that isn’t unfamiliar to me in real life.
At first, I decide to push back, defending the discipline in some of the usual ways but also trying to be evocative — “folklore studies is the texts as people actually use them to create their reality” — where I can. But eventually I realize that even I can’t care that much any more: the institutional drift is against it, and I begin to speak more about my interest in narrative, deflecting the defense of folklore studies into a discussion of my own growing interest in, and preference for, narrative studies.
And, this morning when I got up to write down this dream, I saw a notice from Academia.edu about activity on my account there: already the posted paper from MLA on “Using Topic Models and Morphologies to Understand Folk Narrative” has more hits than all of my work on material culture combined.
This is where I should have been all along.
Zachary Ernst left his tenured position at University of Missouri for a job with a Chicago-based company called Narrative Science. (A very intriguing name.) His first post is a nice rant — sometimes one likes the jagged edge — but he also has a follow-up post that considers the gains and losses in moving from an academic job to an industrial job.
Plasteel is almost here. It’s a laser-printed material: as in a laser targets precise points within a drop of liquid and hardens those point. When the structure is complete, the remaining liquid is washed away. Right now, structures are measured in micrometers and millimeters.
The Black Death didn’t just wipe out millions of Europeans during the 14th century. It left a mark on the human genome, favoring those who carried certain immune system genes, according to a new study. Those changes may help explain why Europeans respond differently from other people to some diseases and have different susceptibilities to autoimmune disorders.
More here: Science.
Starring the Computer is a great resource. The link takes you to the appearances sorted by year, but you can also see the list of films and television shows listed by title and, I think, by machine.
*Interestingly, one of the most memorable television episodes in my memory is an episode of Banacek, starring George Peppard, in which a computer disappears. It was probably my first experience of a locked room mystery.
I am most drawn to the early entries, and I am especially curious about the gaps in various moments in the timeline. Click the link at the bottom of the iframe to go to the page itself and see the timeline fill your browser window. (Sorry for the paned version below, but it’s a preview.)
I get what the Chronicle is trying to do with Vitae — i.e., trying to make up for the fact that it’s the community that matters — but I’m less sure about the blogging dimension they’ve added to it. Case in point: What’s the point of academic publishing? Is it the angsty, or angry, essay that draws readers, that generates a conversation?
More importantly, why is Vitae separate from the rest of the Chronicle? If they recognize the importance of community, why not fold everything into the larger whole? (Or maybe it’s too hard to divorce themselves from Disqus?) I think serious commentators would re-apply, if they didn’t already have a Vitae account, and it might reduce the amount of trolling that seems to take up way too much room in the comments of late.
Listen, it’s been 15 years since Locke et al. published The Cluetrain Manifesto, and if you are going to publish articles deriding the old system of publishing, then you better take a look at that rock you got in your hands and check behind you to see what your house is made of…
Follow your bliss = first world privilege: “‘Do what you love’ disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is an unmerited privilege…. If we believe that working as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur [or tech blogger] or a museum publicist or a think-tank acolyte is essential to being true to ourselves – in fact, to loving ourselves – what do we believe about the inner lives and hopes of those who clean hotel rooms and stock shelves at big-box stores? The answer is: nothing.” @Jacobin.
Later in the essay, the author takes on higher education: “The reward for answering this higher calling is an academic employment marketplace in which around 41 percent of American faculty are adjunct professors — contract instructors who usually receive low pay, no benefits, no office, no job security, and no long-term stake in the schools where they work. … There are many factors that keep PhDs providing such high-skilled labor for such extremely low wages, including path dependency and the sunk costs of earning a PhD, but one of the strongest is how pervasively the DWYL doctrine is embedded in academia.”