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


Contributing Authors

Recent Posts



Citizenfour and Sisu

NYBooks: … In an interview about Citizenfour with the New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, Snowden has said that his action seemed to him necessary because the American officials charged with the relevant oversight had abdicated their responsibility. He meant that President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and the intelligence committees in the House of Representatives …


Oh, Behave! Experiences at NABT 2014

(Austin Powers Movie, Photo from Deviant Art) I just got back from presenting at the National Association of Biology Teacher’s annual meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. Despite the mountains of snow, I had a really fun time and met plenty of outstanding teachers in biology and biology education. I was lucky enough to be able to …


RFC: The khmer project: what are we, and what are our goals?

As we think about the next few years of khmer development, it is helpful to explore what khmer is, and what our goals for khmer development are. This can provide guiding principles for development, refactoring, extension, funding requests, and collaborations. Comments solicited! Links: khmer github repo: https://github.com/ged-lab/khmer/ khmer docs: http://khmer.readthedocs.org/ Definition khmer is an open …


20 years @15 percent: does Harvard discriminate against Asian-Americans?

  This is the brief filed yesterday against Harvard, alleging discrimination against Asian-American applicants. A related suit was filed against UNC, with perhaps another to come against Wisconsin. Re: the graph above, note that Caltech has race-blind admissions. … Harvard is engaging in racial balancing. Over an extended period, Harvard’s admission and enrollment figures for …


Embarassing Behavior

I made one of my contributions to the food movement this week stopping by McDonald’s for my once-a-year Big Mac. This observation could provoke a tangent on the “once-a-year” theme and whether or not my need to point that out reflects some sort of guilt feelings about frequenting such an icon of the industrial food …


“Easy A’s” gets an F

I have written in the past about problems with reports on the teacher preparation industry issued by the National Council on Teacher Quality (see here and here, for example).  In order to keep its name in front of the media in-between the releases of its annual major report on teacher preparation, NCTQ has released a …


Petrodollars to the Rescue! Equatorial Guinea to Host 2015 African Nations Cup

The Confederation of African Football has announced that Equatorial Guinea will replace Morocco as host nation for the 2015 African Nations Cup, the continent’s oldest and most prestigious international tournament. The decision followed “fraternal and fruitful discussions” between CAF and Equatorial Guinea’s President Obiang, according to CAF’s official statement. Matches will be played in Malabo, …


If MLK and RFK Had Lived To Retirement

The trinity of having finished reading Tavis Smiley’s recently released Death of a King, on the final year of of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s shortened life; seeing actress and playwright Anna Demeare Smith address racism via theater; and reaching the Medicare age all within the same week has me wondering how the world might be …


de novo mutations and autism

These results suggest that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in high functioning males may be a different condition than ASD in low-IQ males and females. They also suggest many gene targets in which small “nicks” could result in lower IQ. I believe that at least part of “normal” population variation in IQ is due to effects …


MMORPG Popularity, 1998-2013

Back in my teenage years, I was absolutely addicted to MMORPGs. As soon as I got home from school, I was plugged into whatever virtual world I was currently bent on conquering with my comrades-in-arms. Suffice to say that when I ran across a data set of MMORPG subscriptions over time, I was quite keen …


On The Road: Mobility of Romans in Britains

The remains of the Roman Empire are found throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East- aqueducts, stadiums, roads, temples, and cemeteries dot the modern landscapes of many European countries. Their grasp on this continent is astounding, especially when you consider that much of their movement was done on foot and by horse. Not only were …


Pollen diet helps honeybees fend off pesticides

People have been worried about the decline in honeybees over the past few years, and one factor that has not helped their situation has been their sometimes-constant exposure to pesticides.  Pesticides are sprayed by gardeners on their flowers, by farmers on their flowering crops, and beekeepers use certain pesticides in beehives to keep harmful mites …


Wandering physicists

This is funny, and does capture the tendency of physicists (not just old ones) to wander into other fields. But the cartoon avoids the hard question (perhaps best addressed by historians of science) as to the actual value brought to other fields by physicists. See, for example, Physicists can do stuff, Prometheus in the basement, …


The Movement

Last week I watched an old BBC documentary about Jacques-Louis David’s famous painting “The Death of Marat.” (Since this puts us in late 18th century France, it will help if you silently pronounce David as Dah-VEED and Marat as Mah-RAH throughout the rest of this blog.) Simon Schama was prattling on about how Marat was …


Virunga, Congo

Oil companies are circling Virunga National Park in the Congo, home to several endangered wildlife species such as mountain gorillas.  The oil company thugs stoop to bribery and murder.  The Government is silent saying they must support anything that will lift their people out of poverty.  One could be more impressed if they were putting …


Japan’s Folly

Japan’s economy has been in the doldrums for years.  So what are they doing? Their central bank is buying government debt just like the US Fed was doing.  Supposedly, these purchases keep interest rates low and stimulate borrowing and growth.  But the evidence is to the contrary in  a country with zero interest rates and …