Hide Navigation

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

Categories

Contributing Authors

Tags

Perdurance

Is there anything less enduring than a meal? Whether cobbled together from leftovers and scraps in the refrigerator or the result of detailed planning and careful preparation, that last meal you ate, well, it’s gone. And really, folks, is there anything less memorable? I mean sure there are going to be a few exceptions in …

More

The rJava Nightmare

I like R. I like Java. I hate the rJava package, or more precisely I hate installing or updating it. Something (often multiple somethings) always goes wrong. I forget that for some reason I need to invoke root privileges when installing it. It needs a C++ library that I could swear I have, except I …

More

Representing Data with Sound (sonification)

When it’s said a picture is worth a thousand words, it generally is. Data visualization provides information that otherwise might take several paragraphs to explain. Yet, this technique privileges users that have sight. What techniques can be used for users that rely on screen readers to access information? I recently discovered[1] a project by University …

More

Bones Abroad: Boston

Last week, I attended ComSciCon– a three day conference for graduate students to learn about how to communicate science. We had the opportunity to meet representatives from NPR, YouTube, Alan Alda Center; writers for Discovery, Scientific American, NOVA; and scientists working on a diverse range of projects including TV shows, various magazines and societies, and …

More

ComSciCon 2015: Let’s Talk About Death!

For ComSciCon, we had the option of sharing interesting projects or research related to communicating science. I decided to make a poster about how we can use popular media to create interesting discussions about archaeological work- specifically related to death and funerary rituals. You can check out my full size poster here: Let’s Talk About Death! …

More

Selecting the Least Qualifying Index

Something along the following lines cropped up recently, regarding a discrete optimization model. Suppose that we have a collection of binary variables $x_i \in B, \, i \in 1,\dots,N$ in an optimization model, where $B=\{0, 1\}$. The values of the $x_i$ will of course be dictated by the combination of the constraints and objective function. …

More

Some Yeares Travels into Africa and Asia (4th edition, 1677)

   Some Yeares Travels into Africa and Asia (4th edition, 1677) Sir Thomas Herbert’s 17th century travelogue features a number of wondrous illustrations and descriptions of lands far from the author’s native England.  It was an amazingly ambitious work for its time, and undoubtedly inspired many with its fanciful descriptions of strange creatures and exotic locales. …

More

Schwinger meets Rabi

Seventeen year old Julian Schwinger meets Columbia professor I. I. Rabi (Nobel Prize 1944) and explains the EPR paper to him. Climbing the Mountain: The Scientific Biography of Julian Schwinger [p.22-23] … Rabi appeared; he invited Motz into his office to discuss ‘a certain paper by Einstein in the Physical Review’! Motz introduced Julian and …

More

Letter from Rome

In case you missed it, the major food ethics newsflash for last week came out of Rome. Pope Francis issued an encyclical entitled Laudato Si’. At first I thought it was from a crowd chant heard when the Allman Brothers Band played stadium gigs in Italy: Alberino fustigazione, laudato, si! [Tr: Whipping post, louder, yes!], …

More

James Salter, 1925-2015

“Forgive him anything, he writes like an angel.” Remember that the life of this world is but a sport and a pastime.  NYTimes obituary. From a 2011 post: I’ve been a fan of the writer James Salter (see also here) since discovering his masterpiece A Sport and a Pastime. Salter evokes Americans in France as …

More

Alternative Versions of R

Fair warning: most of this post is specific to Linux users, and in fact to users of Debian-based distributions (e.g., Debian, Ubuntu or Mint). The first section, however, may be of interest to R users on any platform. An alternative to “official” R By “official” R, I mean the version of R issued by the …

More

Possibilities – Wholeness is Emergent

I am not the swiftest thinker but seems like an unusual series of things have come into my sight in the past week that might spell the emergence of wholeness of thinking to a degree rarely visible in our culture. Let me share five of those! I just finished reading this morning this piece by …

More

Hopfield on physics and biology

Theoretical physicist John Hopfield, inventor of the Hopfield neural network, on the differences between physics and biology. Hopfield migrated into biology after making important contributions in condensed matter theory. At Caltech, Hopfield co-taught a famous course with Carver Mead and Richard Feynman on the physics of computation. Two cultures? Experiences at the physics-biology interface (Phys. …

More

Digitizing Government and the Copyright Hurdle

When it comes to information produced by the government, most people think that since it was produced through taxpayer expense, it should be freely and easily available to all. In regards to information produced by the federal government, U.S. copyright law (17 U.S.C. §105) states that these documents are in the public domain: they are …

More

The awesome things @ Michigan State University

Sometime ago I read about going out and learning about your own surroundings. Sorry, I’m completely blank on the actual resource and whether I read from one of those motivational emails or tweets or websites or image meme. The point is, we should not stay inside our own bubble. How much do we actually know …

More

Using Jurassic World to Teach Variation

If you’re like thousands of other fans, you probably made your way out to see Jurassic World this past weekend. It’s an incredibly lucrative film series, and if you’ve never read the books, they’re worth picking up. One other thing that Jurassic World and indeed the whole franchise does well is teach variation. It may …

More

Book Tour

I spent most of last week on a mini book tour to promote my new book From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone. It was fun and pretty well received at all four of the West Coast locations. In Berkeley, CA a skeptical gentleman asked me to talk a bit about the case for …

More

Cover crops + soil microbes + weed seeds = ?

Recently Karen Renner has begun working with MSU’s soil biologist, Lisa Tieman, to explore how cover crops influence the microbiology of the soil and weed seeds. Last week we put tiny mesh bags of weed seeds into an incubation experiment hoping to gain some preliminary information. It is always exciting when different disciplines come together …

More

Games Are Social/Media(ted)/Technology Too…

Mia Consalvo and I recently published this co-authored “manifesto” piece in the new journal Social Media + Society, edited by Zizi Papacharissi. Abstract: In this manifesto, we argue that social media research needs to take the broader field of game studies in the exploration and understanding of social media. Many of the results, theories, and concepts developed …

More

Keynote: Foundation of Digital Games 2015

Well, I’m going to be keynoting at the Foundation of Digital Games (FDG) Conference in just two weeks. That’s actually just one of the many things I’ll be doing. I’ll be serving on the doctoral colloquium as well as presenting as part of a panel with delightful people on a panel titled: “What Unity Wants/Making …

More

Creative teachers study cited by neaToday

CREATIVITY RESEARCHCITED IN Danah Henriksen and I recently published a paper in TCRecord titled:We teach who we are: Creativity in the lives and practices of accomplished teachers. More details of the paper and link to download it can be found on this page: Creativity & Teaching, new article in TCRecord. We found out today that this research …

More

Prison Football League Transforms Lives in Uganda

Thieves, rapists and murderers in Uganda’s only maximum security prison play for Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, Juventus, and . . . Hanover 96. In a gripping podcast recorded in Luzira, a suburb of Kampala, David Goldblatt tells the story of the Upper Prison Soccer Association (UPSA), “the most elaborate prison football league in the …

More

One Hundred Years of Statistical Developments in Animal Breeding

This nice review gives a history of the last 100 years in statistical genetics as applied to animal breeding (via Andrew Gelman). One Hundred Years of Statistical Developments in Animal Breeding (Annu. Rev. Anim. Biosci. 2015. 3:19–56 DOI:10.1146/annurev-animal-022114-110733) Statistical methodology has played a key role in scientific animal breeding. Approximately one hundred years of statistical …

More

It’s a Brick . . . Outhouse

The summer field season has continued to be busy. Last Monday, while making our routine monitoring rounds of the North Campus Infrastructure Improvements construction site we noticed a concentration of bricks and dark soil near the Museum. As previously mentioned, the first week of the season we located the partial foundation of Williams Hall near …

More

Climbing back onto the yoga mat

I love yoga.  I feel calmer, taller, more limber, and happy after a good yoga session.  I particularly love Iyengar yoga which I have studied off and on with Lynlee Sky at the Yoga Practice Center for almost ten years.  Lately that has been more off than on.  Despite how good it makes me feel.  …

More

Put a Lid On It

A good friend and former colleague, Dr. Frank Fear, recently blogged at The Sports Column about the funding of higher education sports programs, where the subsidies are, to put it kindly, crazy. Subsidies are the Name of the Game in D-1 College Sports by Frank Fear June 7, 2015 His analysis shows how important big …

More

Sparsity estimates for complex traits

Note the estimate of few to ten thousand causal SNP variants, consistent with my estimates for height and cognitive ability. Sparsity (number of causal variants), along with heritability, determines the amount of data necessary to “solve” a specific trait. See Genetic architecture and predictive modeling of quantitative traits. T1D looks like it could be cracked …

More

More GWAS hits on cognitive ability: ESHG 2015

This is a talk from ESHG 2015, which just happened in Glasgow. The abstract is old; at the talk the author reportedly described something like 70 genome wide significant hits (from an even larger combined sample) which are most likely associated with cognitive ability. This is SSGAC … stay tuned! Title: C15.1 – Genome-wide association …

More

Awarding financial aid to students earlier

Grants and scholarships are critical for helping many students afford college.  Data from the College Board show that the largest single grant program, the federal government’s Pell Grant program, awarded $33.7 billion to 9.2 million students in the 2013-14 academic year.  Without the support of Pell Grants, millions of students across the country would not …

More

Perfecting the Pitch for Research Funding

On Wednesday June 3rd I attended the Michigan State University Academy for Global Engagement Fellowship Program public session (see http://vprgs.msu.edu/event/academy-global-engagement-fellowship-program-0). This public session was open to non-fellows (such as myself), and had two parts. In the first part, panelists discussed “Understanding Federal Funding, Congressional Appropriations, and Agency Priorities”, while in the second part they discussed …

More

Whither the World Island?

Alfred W. McCoy, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, writes on global geopolitics. The brief excerpts below do not do the essay justice. Geopolitics of American Global Decline: Washington Versus China in the Twenty-First Century … On a cold London evening in January 1904, Sir Halford Mackinder, the director of the London School …

More

After two years of tensions, U.S. signals willingness to expand military cooperation with Nigeria after May 29 inauguration of President Buhari

In spite of the human rights abuses of the Nigerian military that  have bedeviled U.S. military cooperation there, Secretary John Kerry and AFRICOM head Gen. David Rodriguez made a point to attend the May 29 inauguration of newly elected Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to signal that the U.S. is open to new military cooperation. U.S. …

More

Elegant Economies

The 19th century author Elizabeth Gaskel advises that “almost everyone has his own individual small economies—careful habits of saving fractions of pennies in some one particular direction—any disturbance of which him more than spending schillings or pounds on some more real extravagance.” She goes on to illustrate the point with examples, one of which falls …

More

Three Books of Occult Philosophy

Did you know that your belly button is the center of a perfect circle formed by your extended arms and legs? No? It’s true! Well….at least, according to Three Books of Occult Philosophy, which Bexx was working on again this morning. The pages are getting a second round of paper repairs before she begins reassembling …

More

Nineteenth century text messaging

    Nineteenth century text messaging:Two pupils use a blank leaf in their Latin textbook to pass notes about school, girls.  The messages are dated Oct. 22, 1877, and offer some insight into the concerns of students nearly 140 years ago (note: they were much the same as they are today). A: What do you think …

More

Learning about elder care in Finland

When I first got here I envisioned frequent posts about my experiences here. And then suddenly it is June! This week Masters of Social Work students from Michigan State University were in Tampere with my colleague Karen Newman as part of our MSU – Tampere of University of Applied Sciences exchange. They visited a variety …

More