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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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2014-15 Football Scholars Forum Kicks Off!

With the 2014 World Cup in the history books, theFootball Scholars Forum, an online think tank based at Michigan State University, announced the start of its 2014-15 season. On September 25, 3pm Eastern Time (-5 GMT), historian Roger Kittleson (@rogerkittleson) joins the group to discuss his new book The Country of Football: Soccer and the Making …


A Musical Random Walk

I just read a blog post here at MSU about The Infinite Jukebox, a web tool that will analyze a song (either one you upload or one from their library) and map out links between segments of the song that have approximately the same beat. You then see a visualization of the song as a …


Where the U.S. gets its oil from

Despite the fact that late-year gas prices have risen to the second-highest in recent memory, a new report from the UT Energy Poll shows that most Americans have little clue where their gas even comes from. According to the poll, 3 out of 4 Americans think that the U.S. imports the majority of its oil …


Rabbit genome: domestication via soft sweeps

Domestication — genetic change in response to a drastic change in environment — happened via allele frequency changes at many loci. I expect a similar pattern in humans due to, e.g., agriculture. I don’t know why some researchers find this result surprising — it seemed quite likely to me that “adaptation to domestication” is a …


Presidential Task Force on Seafood Fraud – MSU FFI Public Comments for the “Request for Comments”

We seek opportunities to comment – especially early in the development stages – on government and agency activities. The main way the US government communicates its activities is through Federal Register notices. There was a recent notice of public meetings and a request for comments on Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated …


The Infinite Jukebox

Didn’t get enough “Scatman” in the 90s? Now you can potentially loop those “ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop’s” for-ever with The Infinite Jukebox, “for when your favorite song just isn’t long enough.” This web app uses “the Echo Nest analyzer to break the song into beats…but at every beat there’s a chance that we will jump to a different …


Neural Networks and Deep Learning 2

Inspired by the topics discussed in this earlier post, I’ve been reading Michael Nielsen’s online book on neural nets and deep learning. I particularly liked the subsection quoted below. For people who think deep learning is anything close to a solved problem, or anticipate a near term, quick take-off to the Singularity, I suggest they …


Soham starts college, new ambigram,

We dropped off my eldest at the University of Michigan today. He begins the next stage of his life. We couldn’t be more excited. Here is a new ambigram design to mark this occasion. Soham whichever way you look at it, with UMich colors! Enjoy.   Tweet

Physicists Create Water Tractor Beam

A group of physicists have discovered that they can make objects move against the direction of waves by using a tractor beam on water, which generates waves. This has important real-world applications, including confining oil spills. The physicists do not yet know mathematical theories explaining how it works.  Dr. Horst Punzmann said ” . . …


Art is a lie… that tells the truth

Picasso famously said, “Art is a lie that tells the truth.” This design below is my attempt to represent this quote – at least the first part of the quote. Move your mouse over the image to see a change… You can see the combined image below Of course, as most things go, it is …


The first six years of faculty life

Inspired by Sarah Bisbing’s excellent post on her first year as a faculty member, here are the questions I remember asking myself during my first six years: Year 0: What science do I want to do? Year 1: What the hell am I doing all day and why am I always so exhausted? Year 2: …


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 …