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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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The Future of Cemeteries

If there is anything that we’ve learned from the past, its that there are a myriad of options for dealing with the deceased. The way the deceased are buried or disposed is reflective of the social, cultural, political, and religious views of the living. What one group may consider an appropriate and honorable form of …


Welcome to GradHacker Parenting Week

I am excited to introduce this week’s theme week on being a parent in graduate school. I myself have blogged a few times about the challenges and successes I’ve found in my own single mom PhD journey. To paraphrase a friend of mine, “Grad school is hard. Parenting in grad school is harder. Single parenting …


Evolution, sex, and mixability

Last Friday Christos Papadimitriou gave a seminar at UC Santa Barbara in the Computer Science department. The title of his talk was Computational Insights and the Theory of Evolution [announcement]. Abstract  Covertly computational ideas have influenced the Theory of Evolution from the very start. This talk is about recent work on Evolution that was inspired and …



I met Gyorgy Scrinis in Melbourne a couple of years ago. He was complaining more than a little bit about Michael Pollan’s appropriation of the word “nutritionism” and with it some of Scrinis’s key ideas in Pollan’s book In Defense of Food. At the time I met him, all I knew of Scrinis’s work was …


Wise Souls

I have been privileged to meet many fine folks over my 65 years. Fame doesn’t necessarily wear well on all who achieve some level of it. Which is why many of those I put in this category of fine folks would include the not so famous who are close friends. But while I was sustainability …


Lean in, freeze eggs 2

Facebook and Apple to offer oocyte cryopreservation in benefits package. See also Lean in, freeze eggs. New Yorker: … Earlier this year, Facebook began offering twenty thousand dollars’ worth of oöcyte cryopreservation to female employees as part of its health-insurance plan. Next year, Apple will offer its employees a comparable package. (A single cycle of …


Why lactation rooms matter

An important and timely blog post by Carrie Glenny at the University of Washington was published this week about the necessity of available lactation rooms at workplaces.  New mothers that choose to breastfeed need to pump milk every few hours, and this can be very hard to do in workplaces without private offices.  Take a …


Java Gotchas

I was writing what should have been (and, in the end, was) a very simple Java program yesterday. It wound up taking considerably longer than it should have, due to my tripping over two “gotchas”, which I will document here for my own benefit (the next time I trip over them). Issue 1: Importing from …


Genius (Nautilus Magazine)

The article excerpted below, in the science magazine Nautilus, is an introduction to certain ideas from my paper On the genetic architecture of intelligence and other quantitative traits. Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming (Nautilus, special issue: Genius) Genetic engineering will one day create the smartest humans who have ever lived. Lev Landau, a Nobelist and one of …


Entry #28 Cooperatives matter! Can you name one?

Can you name a cooperative?  A presenter at the 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec Canada (October 5-9, 2014) reported that seventy–eight percent (78%) of those people she surveyed in various countries could not name even one cooperative.   That lack of familiarity is likely to change! I have just returned from that Summit, which …


No Food. No Sex. No (Ecosystem) Service.

Hi All! Sorry for the delay in posting. I have recently started taking a science outreach course through SciFund. Because that and a few guest talks have taken up my time earmarked for ‘outreach’, I’ve been slow to post. But never fear! My colleagues at SciFund have done a great job helping me refine my blogging …


Thank you MSU WIC #ald14

This is my 5th year blogging for Ada Lovelace Day.  It’s a wonderful exercise in celebrating women in science, technology, engineering and maths. This year I would like to celebrate a group of women here on campus at MSU – the MSU Women in Computing (WIC) group.  They are a phenomenal group of young women …


Thank you, Chile!

I spent the past seven days in Chile, six days in Santiago and one in Valpariso. It was absolutely wonderful. My trip was sponsored by the Faculty of Education at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (PUC is one of the nation’s premier universities), as well as support from the Enlaces project of the Ministry of Education and …


New Morbid Terminology: Overburden

As funerary archaeologists, we need to consider the whole range of behavior surrounding death and burial. This includes the ritual surrounding preparation of the body for burial, modes of transportation from the site of death to preparation site to burial, any funerary behavior associated along the way, the inclusion of items with the deceased, the …


Lifelong tenure

Good evening, everyone. Let me add my sincere congratulations to those you’ve already heard tonight. Tenure at a great research university is a milestone in the life of a scholar. I hope you will take some time to reflect and to enjoy. In psychology there is a well-known phenomenon called the Hedonic Treadmill. Individuals who …


Metadata = MetaGold?

If there is one thing that most libraries, archives, and museums have in bulk, it’s collections metadata. It’s the data that describes content in the collections. This stuff is added, updated, and augmented nearly everyday. Overtime and at sufficient scale it can give insight into the contours of a particular field – author gender distribution, co-citation …


Why Make Exploitation Easy?

Whenever either of my regular readers sees that I end the Thornapple blog with a question like I did last week, they halfway expect me to come back and answer the question in the next blog. Or maybe that’s going a little far. It’s not like we ever answer very many questions here. But maybe …


The Reciprocal Normal Distribution

A recent question on OR-Exchange dealt with the reciprocal normal distribution. Specifically, if k is a constant and X is a Gaussian random variable, the distribution of Y=k/X is reciprocal normal. The poster had questions about approximating the distribution of Y with a Gaussian (normal) distribution. This gave me a reason (excuse?) to tackle something …