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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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Embroidery Stop Motion Music Video. Say What?

Throne, a London-based metal band, recent video for their song, “Tharsis Sleeps,” is a visually stunning stop motion masterpiece created entirely with embroidery. ::insert sound of record scratch:: Come again? Metal band…stop motion music video…embroidery. Yes, indeed! Here’s some of the mindblowing stats: “3,000 hand-drawn frames, 250 square metres of denim, 12 million stitches, 40 …


The myth of the smarter Atheist

Ever since I published my previous article on the average IQ of students by college major, I’ve received several requests to analyze the correlation between IQ and religiosity. Below, I’ve written up an analysis of the existing published literature on the topic. I hope this serves as a springboard for future conversation on the topic …


Going to Mexico

Is there a robot out there who can help me with one of my more importunate research problems? Some time ago—maybe four or five years back—there was a particular aphorism that was circulating in sustainability studies. I wouldn’t say that it had gone viral, but I must have heard a half dozen different speakers recite …


Presentation: Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment Foundation at the GFSI China Focus Day, Beijing & Korean Society for Food Science and Technology, Gwangju Korea

This is an advance copy of my Food Fraud Overview presentation  at the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) China Focus Day, Beijing which is being held August 26-27, 2014. This includes our latest research on how incident clustering fits into the evaluation of the fraud opportunity, which is the theoretical foundation for a Food Fraud …


Guts! Finding out what Largemouth eat

What’s it eating? In the fishing world, whenever a fish is cleaned for the frying pan, inevitably the curious fisherman will take a few seconds to remove the stomach and see what the fish was eating. Minnows were dinner last night? Time to get out the Rapala. Damselflies and mayflies? Break out the flyrod tomorrow …


Napping Bumblebees in My Garden

These are the cup plants (Silphium perfoliatum) in my front yard.  (If recent downpours didn’t weigh them down so much, they would all be upright and about eight feet tall).  They are a native prairie plant in Michigan, and are called cup plant because their opposite leaves fuse at the base around the stem and …


On Balinese Cockfights: Deeply Extending Play

Home / Journal Publications / On Balinese Cockfights: Deeply Extending Play On Balinese Cockfights: Deeply Extending Play Posted by: Casey O’Donnell on August 22, 2014 in Journal Publications Leave a comment 75 views 0 Hot off the press over at Games and Culture is my essay, “On Balinese Cockfights: Deeply Extending Play.” This essay is …


Why math ed sucks (not just in India)

My friend Hartosh Bal (author of A Certain Ambiguity, a mathematical novel) has a piece in Caravan Magazine titled “Why Fields medalists are unlikely to emerge from the Indian educational system.” He mentions the fact that of the three winners of the Field’s medal (the highest accolade in mathematics) are Brazilian, Iranian and Canadian respectively. The …


Two reflections on SCI FOO 2014

Two excellent blog posts on SCI FOO by Jacob Vanderplas (Astronomer and Data Scientist at the University of Washington) and Dominic Cummings (former director of strategy for the conservative party in the UK). Hacking Academia: Data Science and the University (Vanderplas) Almost a year ago, I wrote a post I called the Big Data Brain Drain, lamenting the …


Citizenship, Higher Education and Inequality

If educators are agreed on anything, it is that the fundamental purpose of education is to prepare young people to be good citizens. These words from John Hannah are etched on his statue that stands in front of the MSU Administration Building, that bears his name. Hannah was the longest serving president of MSU serving …


Pikas’ amazing ability to survive wildfires

Pikas are adorable little relatives of rabbits that live on high, rocky mountaintops, where they eat grasses, forbs (other non-woody flowering plants), moss and lichen.  A graduate student was studying pikas on Mt. Hood in Oregon and did not realize a wildfire had raged through her study site until she returned to it the next …


Introducing the Food Fraud Reference Sheet

Use the link below to access our new Food Fraud Reference Sheet. Over the years we have been asked for a single resource that covers definitions, articles, and videos, as well as educational opportunities. The content will be regularly updated with the latest information: http ://foodfraud.msu.edu/food-fraud-reference-sheet/ From the Food Fraud Reference Sheet: “FOOD FRAUD: The simple …


PTSD could be prevented with a pill

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been getting a lot of press the past few years, especially regarding the number of active military personnel that are coming home from deployments with PTSD.  Scientists recently discovered how certain people can be susceptible to PTSD after experiencing severe trauma while others are not susceptible.  Scientists introduced a trauma …


Higher Education and Rising Inequality

In an intriguing article last month on Huffington Post, Harry Boyte, director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College and a Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs,   talks about how the norms of higher education have shifted. In noting a recent report Unseen Disadvantage, Boyte …


Vijay Iyer, polymath & a fantastic example of trans-disciplinary creativity

Vijay Iyer,  (http://vijay-iyer.com/) is an Indian-American jazz pianist and composer. He is a MacArthur Genius grant winner and is currently Franklin and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts at Harvard University and is widely regarded as being one of the most innovative composers and musicians today. His music transcends national boundaries through creatively bringing together traditional …


The Blue Food

The late comedian George Carlin used to do a routine in which he feigned deep puzzlement in asking his audience “Where’s the blue food?” Of course folks in Michigan know blue food, and I’m here to tell you that even if they are “late” and even if, as some are saying, it isn’t a particularly …


Neural Networks and Deep Learning

One of the SCI FOO sessions I enjoyed the most this year was a discussion of deep learning by AI researcher Juergen Schmidhuber. For an overview of recent progress, see this recent paper. Also of interest: Michael Nielsen’s pedagogical book project. An application which especially caught my attention is described by Schmidhuber here: Many traditional methods …


Scheduling Instability

Fellow OR blogger Laura McLay recently wrote a post “in defense of model simplicity“, which is definitely worth the read. It contains a slew of links to related material. As I read it, though, my contrarian nature had me thinking “yes … as long as the model is not too simple”. A recent piece in …


Y Combinator: “fund for the pivot”

I’m catching up on podcasts a bit now that I’m back in Michigan. I had an iTunes problem and was waiting for the next version release while on the road. Econtalk did a nice interview with Y Combinator President Sam Altman. Y Combinator has always been entrepreneur-centric, to the point that the quality of the …


Announcement – £500,000 EU Food Fraud Grant for Queen’s University Belfast and MSU’s Food Fraud Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Dr. John Spink, Director & Assistant Professor, Food Fraud Initiative, Michigan State University, spinkj@msu.edu , www.FoodFraud.msu.edu , Phone: (517) 381-4491 MSU’s Food Fraud Initiative Director Dr. John Spink is pleased to announce being included as a Co-Investigator on a research team that was awarded a £500,000 grant to tackle global Food …


Mythbuntu: The Upgrade from Hell

I foolishly let Mythbuntu update to version 14.04 overnight a few days ago. The installer ran into problems (which I could not decipher) regarding updating the MythTV database. I let it upload two separate bug reports and did my best to soldier on. When the installation was finally over, the back end would not load, …