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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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2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track (PNAS)

The results described below suggest that faculty evaluators of STEM job applicants tend to favor women over men. Certainly, most departments receive strong incentives and signals from above to increase numbers of women and underrepresented minorities among their faculty. Women could still face obstacles at other points in their careers, such as during promotion or …

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Wells Hall #2

I recently began conducting archival research into the second Wells Hall. We have been interested in learning details regarding the building’s construction and subsequent demolition, as well as piecing together what student life was like in the dormitory. During this summer’s CAP field school, we may conduct excavations near the location of the former Wells …

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A Day in the Life of …

Today was a great day – busy and wonderful. Pretty typical, I’m happy to say, though a bit busier than usual but all of it great. Woke up to beautiful Spring day in East Lansing and walked 1.7 miles to work at MSU. Did the usual email stuff. Worked on getting ready for teaching for …

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What’s in a name? What’s in a game?

I find the “game vs. not-a-game” debate to be problematic and unproductive; yet it’s a discussion that crops up time and time again. It has been argued, for example, that stories cannot be games because they lack interaction; and toys cannot be games because they lack player goals (Fullerton, 2008). Immediately a question forms: how do …

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Just Good Enough: Text Data from the Archive

During graduate school I visited my fair share of archives. Living on funds dispensed from the FAFSA gods in combination with whatever part-time job I had, I often found myself hard-pressed to pony up money for photocopies. Somewhere along the line I got smarter and started using a point and shoot camera to gather as much primary …

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Chemistry

Oops! Unless you are one of the two readers who frequent this locus on bi-weekly to monthly basis, it seems that a random web-search may have landed you right in the midst of a long stream of consciousness rant on ethical dietetics. It began with some thoughts on being hospitable, but turned quickly to the …

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IQ prediction from structural MRI

These authors use machine learning techniques to build sparse predictors based on grey/white matter volumes of specific regions. Correlations obtained are ~ 0.7 (see figure). I predict that genomic estimators of this kind will be available once ~ 1 million genomes and cognitive scores are available for analysis. See also Myths, Sisyphus and g. MRI-Based …

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Plaster Creek Sculpture Trail

This is a proposal for a new site for public sculpture in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The proposed sculpture trail will be entirely on land owned by the city of Grand Rapids, bounded on the east by Kalamazoo Avenue, the north by Plaster Creek, the west by Ken-O-Sha Park, and the south by 32nd Street SE. …

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New Morbid Terminology: Corpse Medicine

Earlier this week, researchers at Nottingham University were able to recreate a 9th c Anglo-Saxon medical remedy using garlic, onion and part of a cow’s stomach. When I first heard about this, it sounded like one of those horrible medical remedies discussed on Sawbones that doesn’t actually work. But here’s the crazy part- this Anglo-Saxon …

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Enough Already

How much is enough? What’s sufficient? These are questions not much puzzled over in the media or amongst the policy makers, but are arguably at the heart of the two largest challenges facing the human family – growing income inequality and climate and ecological destabilization. From: Too Much, April  2015 Thanks largely to the Occupy …

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A Broad Abroad: Why International Experiences Help

I was recently asked to serve on a panel for recent alumni from the International Plan (IP) at Georgia Tech. Essentially, the IP is an add-on to your degree that requires more substantial international experience and knowledge that simply going abroad for a bit or taking international affairs courses. I’m in science, and yes, it’s …

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Mathematical paradoxes & ambigrams: New article

I have always loved paradoxes so it is with great pleasure that the fourth article in our series on Art and Math (co-authored with my friend Gaurav Bhatnagar and published by At Right Angles) focuses on paradoxes and visual wordplay. It was great fun coming up with a range of designs on this topic — in fact we had …

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Gunson House / Bayha Home Management House

One of the bigger question surrounding the Hannah Admin building assemblage is, “Where in this area could these high quality ceramics have come from?”. They’re nicer than what would have been found in typical student areas, the site is south of faculty row, and they date to a wide time span. As Kate mentioned in …

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The Monty Hall Evolver

The Monty Hall problem is very famous (Wikipedia, NYT). It is so famous because it so easily fools almost everyone the first time they hear about it, including people with doctorate degrees in various STEM fields. There are three doors. Behind one is a big prize, a car, and behind the two others are goats. …

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The Possibilities of Spring

 ” Our debates, for the most part, are examples unworthy of a playground: name-calling, verbal slaps, gossip, giggles, all while the swings and slides of governance remain empty.” So notes beloved author, Toni Morrison in a recent piece for the 150th anniversary issue of The Nation. This 260+ page collection of current and selected pieces …

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The Fires of Mordor

We’re right in the middle of a multi-week theme here at the Thornapple Blog, so if you are just dropping in you might find it helpful to go all the way back to February if you want to get the full treatment. But the synopsis is that we’re taking a dive into moral dietetics: the …

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Multigenerational mobility: does the Son Also Rise?

The working paper below on multigenerational mobility arrives at smaller intergenerational correlations than Greg Clark obtained (e.g., 0.4 vs 0.7). I found Clark’s results hard to explain, at least in genetic terms, because estimates of assortativity in mating are much lower than required. Related posts here and here. From the second link: Correlations as high …

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Income, wealth, and IQ

I’m occasionally asked about financial returns to cognitive ability. As a rough rule of thumb, judging from the graphs below (obtained here), I would say: On average, an increase of IQ by one SD corresponds to  ~ $30k per annum of additional income. (Somewhat less than 1 SD in income; the distribution is far from …

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Mining for Goals on the Zambian Copperbelt

  Zambia won the African Nations Cup in 2012. It is a recognized regional football powerhouse. As in most African countries, Zambians are fiercely passionate and knowledgeable about the game. Yet to this day no academic history of soccer in Zambia exists. Hikabwa Decius Chipande, a native of Zambia currently completing his PhD in history …

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CAP Detective Work

For the past couple of weeks Lisa Bright and I have been scouring the MSU Archives trying to a) decide on a location for the 2015 Summer Field School, and b) shed light on the mystery assemblage found behind Hannah Admin Building. See Makers Marks from the Admin Assemblage, Sorting the Admin Artifact Assemblage, and …

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Gene drive

IIUC, there is a self-referential (“auto-catalyzing”) aspect to this method which is very interesting. The Cas9 gene (payload) also encodes the guide RNA (target) information, which determines the location of the DNA cut. Needless to say, this is a very powerful and potentially dangerous technology. Enrico Fermi (speaking about atomic weapons): Once basic knowledge is …

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