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Spartan Ideas is a collection of thoughts, ideas, and opinions independently written by members of the MSU community and curated by MSU Libraries

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Minimizing a Median

\( \def\xorder#1{x_{\left(#1\right)}} \def\xset{\mathbb{X}} \def\xvec{\mathbf{x}} \)A somewhat odd (to me) question was asked on a forum recently. Assume that you have continuous variables \(x_{1},\dots,x_{N}\) that are subject to some constraints. For simplicity, I’ll just write \(\xvec=(x_{1},\dots,x_{N})\in\xset\). I’m going to assume that \(\xset\) is compact, and so in particular the \(x_{i}\) are bounded. The questioner wanted to …

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Public data and digital research ethics

The Verge recently posted an article that highlights some of the ethical dilemmas involved in collecting publicly-available data for research purposes. The article begins by describing the work of a researcher working on facial recognition of people before and after hormone replacement therapy: On YouTube, he found a treasure trove. Individuals undergoing HRT often document their progress …

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Varieties of Snowflakes

I was pleasantly surprised that New Yorker editor David Remnick and Berkeley law professor Melissa Murray continue to support the First Amendment, even if some of her students do not. Remnick gives Historian Mark Bray (author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook) a tough time about the role of violence in political movements. After Charlottesville, the Limits …

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How to be an effective acting director, chair or dean — Part II (essay)

Last week, Inside Higher Ed published an essay of mine describing my experience as an interim dean. It covered several practical, task-oriented topics: identifying one’s core mission for the interim period, allaying colleagues’ fears, acquiring reliable information and triaging the issues that land in your inbox. But leading a college that includes a department of theater helped me recognize …

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Using MPlus from R with MPlusAutomation

According to the MPlus website, the R package MPlusAutomation serves three purposes: Creating related groups of models Running batches Extracting and tabulating model parameters and test statistics. Because modeling involves comparing related models, (partially) automating these is compelling. It can make it easier to use model results in subsequent analyses and can cut down on copy and pasting …

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Normies Lament

Ezra Klein talks to Angela Nagle. It’s still normie normative, but Nagle has at least done some homework. Click the link below to hear the podcast. From 4Chan to Charlottesville: where the alt-right came from, and where it’s going Angela Nagle spent the better part of the past decade in the darkest corners of the …

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In Other Words (Week of August 21)

On the Left Lack Of Support With Child Care Costs Leaves Families Struggling(link is external) From the Michigan League for Public Policy blog Factually Speaking, a look at the high costs of child care. U.S. Court Of Appeals Rules To Keep Michigan Wolves On Endangered Species List(link is external) From the blog Up North Progressive, Michigan wolves kept on endangered species …

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Independent Streams (week of August 14)

Problems Are We Thinking About Teacher Pay All Wrong?(link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Joshua Cowen discusses teacher pay. Using Science To Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade(link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Meredith Gore joins scientists in the fight against illegal wildlife trade. Are You Overestimating How Happy Your Customers Are?(link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Tomas Hult co-authors study on customer …

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A Farewell to Arms? Surely You Jest!

As I arrived home last night after a meeting and having been serenaded on the way first, by the end of Mr. Trump’s Afghanistan speech, and then by NPR’s commentators, I realized that I was more disheartened by the phalanx of commentators than by Trump’s final words. An additional irony for me was the reflection that here …

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Lessons from the field

As glamorous and thrilling as fieldwork might sound, no field season is complete without a few tales, typically funnier after the fact. Here’s my attempt to impart some humor and share lessons learned after the emotional trauma subsided. Lesson #1: Try new things but acknowledge your limits The second day of our trip, I was …

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The Bannon Channel

Rumor has it that Bannon will start a Breitbart TV channel to rival Fox News. Given the success of YouTube- / pod-casters like Joe Rogan (5 million downloads per episode), it’s plausible this could be done with very modest capex (the channel could start out as pure streaming and only go to cable later). Billionaire …

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Meanwhile, down on the Farm

The Spring 2017 issue of the Stanford Medical School magazine has a special theme: Sex, Gender, and Medicine. I recommend the article excerpted below to journalists covering the Google Manifesto / James Damore firing. After reading it, they can decide for themselves whether his memo is based on established neuroscience or bro-pseudoscience. Perhaps top Google …

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In the matter of James Damore, ex-Googler

James Damore, Harvard PhD* in Systems Biology, and (until last week) an engineer at Google, was fired for writing this memo: Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber, which dares to display the figure above. Here is Damore’s brief summary of his memo (which contains many citations to original scientific research), and the conclusion: Google’s political bias has …

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What’s in a banana?

Or: A sack of chemicals by any other name would smell as sweet (1). ​ [Andy writes… ] Do you want safe food? Do you eat chemicals? How do you decide what’s natural, and is “natural” a good indicator of safety? What’s a chemical anyway? Is a banana still natural if it contains 2-hydroxy-3-methylethyl? There’s …

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Rolling Horizons

I keep seeing questions posted by people looking for help as they struggle to optimize linear programs (or, worse, integer linear programs) with tens of millions of variables. In my conscious mind, I know that commercial optimizers such as CPLEX allow models that large (at least if you have enough memory) and can often solve …

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A day in the field

3:00 a.m. My alarm goes off. I open my eyes and see the Heilongjiang sun starting to rise. I close my eyes just for a minute more… (Editor’s note – China, while geographically spanning five time zones, follows only one for unity. That means far eastern locales like Heilongjiang see daybreak early.) 3:15 a.m. My …

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In Other Words (Week of July 31)

Inviting you to review our newest regular feature, In Other Words, of biweekly policy-related readings from divergent voices across Michigan. On the Left Why Your Religion Shouldn’t Be My Problem (link is external) From the blog Ramona’s Voices, a discussion on religious freedom. Governor Snyder, Please, It’s Time To Show Leadership In The Debate Over Trumpcare (link …

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Robots taking our jobs

The figures below are from the recent paper Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets, by Acemoglu and Restrepo. VoxEU discussion: … Estimates suggest that an extra robot per 1000 workers reduces the employment to population ratio by 0.18-0.34 percentage points and wages by 0.25-0.5%. This effect is distinct from the impacts of imports, …

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Pan-African Sports Studies

The University of Zambia will host the 12th Sports Africa conference on March 26-28, 2018. The theme of the conference is: “Pan-African Sports Studies: Beyond Physical Education.” The conference in Lusaka will bring together sports scholars and practitioners from African, North American, and European Universities working on a diversity of topics in a wide range …

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Natural Selection and Body Shape in Eurasia

Prior to the modern era of genomics, it was claimed (without good evidence) that divergences between isolated human populations were almost entirely due to founder effects or genetic drift, and not due to differential selection caused by disparate local conditions. There is strong evidence now against this claim. Many of the differences between modern populations …

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A Prohibition Whose Time is Now

On July 7th, the UN passed the Nuclear Prohibition Treaty. A treaty the US will not join any time soon, just as it hasn’t joined many other global agreements including: Convention on Cluster Munitions Ottawa Treaty (Mine ban) International Criminal Court Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (Signed, but withdrew in 2002) As one might expect this UN …

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