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About Spartan Ideas

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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Funding the LTEE—past, present, and future: Questions from Jeremy Fox about the LTEE, part 4

This is the 4th installment in my responses to Jeremy Fox’s questions about the long-term evolution experiment (LTEE) with E. coli. This response addresses his 5th and 6th questions, which are copied below.  ~~~~~ How have you maintained funding for the LTEE over the years, and how hard has it been? The difficulty of sustaining funding for long term work …


Women in Weed Science article

-E. Hill Today the Weed Science Society of America released an article about women in weed science, which is particularly relevant since there are two women professors in weed science here at Michigan State University along with two staff members and several graduate students trained in the discipline. Please take time to read the article at …


Food Fix Podcast

I’m involved in a new podcast called Food Fix that’s launching today. It features interviews with researchers who are figuring out how to better feed the world. It’s funded by Michigan State University’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovations. Give it a try! It should be in iTunes soon. Tweet

Partitioning with Binary Variables

Armed with the contents of my last two posts (“The Geometry of a Linear Program“, “Branching Partitions the Feasible Region“), I think I’m ready to get to the question that motivated all this. Let me quickly enumerate a few key take-aways from those posts: The branch and bound method for solving an integer linear program …


Back to the deep

The Chronicle has a nice profile of Geoffrey Hinton, which details some of the history behind neural nets and deep learning. See also Neural networks and deep learning and its sequel. The recent flourishing of deep neural nets is not primarily due to theoretical advances, but rather the appearance of GPUs and large training data …


Communicating Science and ComSciCon2015

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in the push for graduate students to be able to share their research in a variety of formats. You can enter competitions to Dance Your PhD or share your research in 3-Minute Thesis Challenges. We’ve seen challenges to summarize your dissertation in 140 characters on Twitter, …


Dark Roll

Here I am blogging from the KLM Crown lounge at Schiphol again. The robots in Cupertino think it’s still Saturday night, but here in Holland we are well on our way to Sunday morning. So it’s time to think about the Thornapple blog. The night before last I checked in at Chino Latino in Nottingham …


Branching Partitions the Feasible Region

Yesterday’s post got me started on the subject of the geometry of a linear program (LP). Today I want to review another well-known geometric aspect, this time of integer linear programs (ILPs) and mixed integer linear programs (MILPs), that perhaps slips some people’s minds when they are wrestling with their models. Most solvers use some …


Coding for kids

I’ve been trying to get my kids interested in coding. I found this nice game called Lightbot, in which one writes simple programs that control the discrete movements of a bot. It’s very intuitive and in just one morning my kids learned quite a bit about the idea of an algorithm and the notion of …


The Geometry of a Linear Program

I frequently see questions on forums, in blog comments, or in my in-box that suggest the person asking the question is either unfamiliar with the geometry of a linear program, unsure of the significance of it, or just not connecting their question to the geometry. This post is just the starting point for addressing some …


STEM, Gender, and Leaky Pipelines

Some interesting longitudinal results on female persistence through graduate school in STEM. Post-PhD there could still be a problem, but apparently this varies strongly by discipline. These results suggest that, overall, it is undergraduate representation that will determine the future gender ratio of the STEM professoriate. The bachelor’s to Ph.D. STEM pipeline no longer leaks …


Bones Abroad: What Lies Beneath the Surface of Mexico’s Cenotes

If you’ve heard anything about the Ancient Maya, you’ve probably heard that they sacrificed humans. More specifically, that they sacrificed humans by dropping them into cenotes. A cenote is . The term comes from the Yucatec Mayan word dzonot or ts’onot, meaning ‘well’. Cenotes are natural sinkholes that result from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes the groundwater underneath it. Cenotes …


Crows are smart… like, really smart

This week in Animal Behavior, we’re talking about learning and cognition. One of my favorite things at this point is to shatter the misconceptions about what ‘smart’ is, and let students compete in similar tasks to test species. This helps to point out many species are incredibly good at solving puzzles– sometimes even better than …


Put Down the Guns

If “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a definition of insanity,” it seems, to this observer, that nowhere is this more evident than in the use of violence to end violence. I attended an impassioned and respectful discussion at a community meeting last night  over the best response …


Award winning graduate student posters at 2015 WSSA

Last week the majority of our weed science research team attended the annual Weed Science Society of America meeting in Lexington, KY. We are pleased to report that in the first ever graduate student competition both of our graduate students placed. Jonathan Kohrt tool 1st place amongst the Ph.D. candidate posters and Amanda Goffnett placed …


Thunar Slow-down Fixed

My laptop is not exactly a screamer, but it’s adequate for my purposes. I run Linux Mint 17 on it (Xfce desktop), which uses Thunar as its file manager. Not too long ago, I installed the RabbitVCS version control tools, including several plugins for Thunar needed to integrate the two. Lately, Thunar has been incredibly …


Scholars Discuss New Book on Fútbol in Latin America

How does football shape national narratives in Latin America? Why is the game so closely tied to masculinity and femininity? How can studying fútbol advance our understanding of Latin American history? These and other questions were part of the Football Scholars Forum recent discussion of Joshua Nadel’s Fútbol!: Why Soccer Matters in Latin America. The …


Digital Humanities Research: The 80/20 Rule

Post follows workshop delivered on Data Preparation for Digital Humanities Research. Slides & Companion OpenRefine Guide linked below. It is often said that 80% of data analysis is spent on the process of cleaning and preparing the data (Dasu and Johnson 2003). Data preparation is not just a first step, but must be repeated many times over …


CBO Against Piketty?

This report using CBO  (Congressional Budget Office) data claims that income inequality did not widen during the Great Recession (table above compares 2007 to 2011). After government transfer payments (taxes, entitlements, etc.) are taken into account, one finds that low income groups were cushioned, while high earners saw significant declines in income. … The CBO on …


From Sanka to Sushi

“From Hank to Hendrix, I’ve always been with you,” Neil Young once sang. This would have been some time ago, and by “some time” I mean about the same amount of time from today as the “Hank to Hendrix” interval Neil was singing about back then. I wonder, can we use food to mark time …


Hierarchies in faculty hiring networks

Short summary: top academic departments produce a disproportionate fraction of all faculty. The paper below finds that only 9 to 14% of faculty are placed at institutions more prestigious than their doctorate … the top 10 units produce 1.6 to 3.0 times more faculty than the second 10, and 2.3 to 5.6 times more than the third …


Publication – Selection of Strategic Authentication and Tracing Programs

Authentication is a key to Food Fraud prevention and a critical part of the “detect-deter-prevent” continuum. Selecting authentication countermeasures that contribute to prevention is often complex and challenging. This challenge was the subject of my chapter on “The Selection of Strategic Authentication and Tracing Programs ” in the book Counterfeit Medicines : Volume I. Policy, Economics, and …