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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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What is medicine’s 5 sigma?

Editorial in the Lancet, reflecting on the Symposium on the Reproducibility and Reliability of Biomedical Research held April 2015 by the Wellcome Trust. Offline: What is medicine’s 5 sigma? … much of the [BIOMEDICAL] scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and …

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Climate Ethics

Are you confused about the climate ethics of your diet? Me, too. I don’t doubt that humans are having a significant impact on global climate systems, but I have some limited sympathy with the climate-change skeptics. It’s going a bit too far when you claim that this is all something that Al Gore (remember him?) …

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Technically Sweet

Regular readers will know that I’ve been interested in the so-called Teller-Ulam mechanism used in thermonuclear bombs. Recently I read Kenneth Ford‘s memoir Building the H Bomb: A Personal History. Ford was a student of John Wheeler, who brought him to Los Alamos to work on the H-bomb project. This led me to look again …

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2015 Weed Tour Success

-E. Hill This year’s Weed Tour may have been one for the record books. There were upwards of 300 participants! When I wasn’t driving tractor or visiting with participants I managed to grab just a few photos to share…please enjoy! Also, if you were at the tour and did not receive a tour book because …

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Productive Bubbles

These slides are from one of the best sessions I attended at scifoo. Bill Janeway’s perspective was both theoretical and historical, but in addition we had Sam Altman of Y Combinator to discuss Airbnb and other examples of 2 way market platforms (Uber, etc.) that may or may not be enjoying speculative bubbles at the …

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New advice to benefit muskies and pike

I was fishing on a northern Wisconsin lake, and had just casted my Mepps spinner too far onto the bank. As I thrashed my lure back out through the sedges in water less than a foot deep, the glassy surface erupted. There was no “hook set” on my first musky, just holding on for dear …

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Enter Title Here

I might as well start out today by just admitting up front that it’s not really proving to be particularly conducive to blogging. I mean, what is this blogging thing, anyway? (Sounds like the start of a Seinfeld monologue, doesn’t it?). There was a particular idea to it back in the stone age years of …

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Magnetism and Mysticism

The Pedvale Open Air Art Museum lies in a magnetic field. The magnetic force lines of this field interact with the large granite and iron sculptures to create some unusual magnetic effects. The lifting ring on my sculpture, Sekimori Ishi attracts the north pole of a magnetic compass. On the other side of the park, …

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MAETEL1: Day 1

Michigan State University’s summer MAET program in East Lansing welcomed 22 students from across the globe today who were ready and eager to learn and play. The instructors were excited — and so was Sparty! After a warm video welcome from Galway by Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf, the #MAETEL1 cohort started our first day by …

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July 4th Library Water Leak

Books that got wet as a result of the leak on July 4th have been fanned out to dry in areas around the basement. Some have been frozen until we can get to them. We estimate that 3,500 to 4,000 books were affected by the flood. Some will be able to return the stacks in …

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I call this progress

The tail of the (green) 2000 curve seems slightly off to me: ~10 million individuals with >$100k annual income? (~ $400k per annum for a family of four; but there are many more than 10 million “one percenters” in the US/Europe/Japan/China/etc.) Via Roger Chen. Tweet

Astrophysical Constraints on Dark Energy v2

This is v2 of a draft we posted earlier in the year. The new version has much more detail on whether rotation curve measurements of an isolated dwarf galaxy might be able to constrain the local dark energy density. As we state in the paper (c is the local dark energy density): In Table V, …

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Ehtookoto: Client-centered and how!

Ehtookoto provides housing and support services to older adults and adults suffering from mental health problems in the municipality of Lempäälä, Finland. It was founded in 1965 and embodies the principles of empowerment and client-centered services that we often talk about, but sometimes struggle to put into practice. It is also situated in a lovely, …

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Not Knockwurst

Topic for an American holiday weekend: How did the Vienna sausage come to be associated with a person who performs dangerous or showy stunts? Or, for that matter, with a general exclamation of excitement or appreciation? The Vienna sausage I’m talking about is, of course, better known as a wiener, which, I’ve explained with extreme …

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Directional dominance on stature and cognition

Interesting results in this recent Nature article. The dominance effect is quite strong: the equivalent of first cousin inbreeding (homozygosity ~ 1/8) results in a decrease in height or cognitive ability of about 1/6 or 1/3 of an SD. That means the effect from alleles which depress the trait increases by significantly more than 2x …

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DH 2015: Coalescing Frames

The main program of DH 2015 has come to a close. My thanks to the organizers for an intellectually challenging conference. My thanks especially to the brave individuals that forcefully problematized DH as community – who is in, who is out? | who is named, who is not named? | global, really? | inclusivity on whose …

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Tabulating Prediction Intervals in R

I just wrapped up (knock on wood!) a coding project using R and Shiny. (Shiny, while way cool, is incidental to this post.) It was a favor for a friend, something she intends to use teaching an online course. Two of the tasks, while fairly mundane, generated code that was just barely obscure enough to …

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Being a guest scientist is weird, but fun

I was recently invited to serve as a guest scientist for ISB202 (Applied Environmental and Organismal Biology), a nonmajors class teaching the basics of science. The modules of this course are set up so that students learn to think and speak like scientists, and to develop critical thinking and logical skills to analyze the validity …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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! …

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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. …

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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. …

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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 …

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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!], …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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. …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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