Spartan Ideas is a collection of thoughts, ideas, and opinions independently written by members of the MSU community and curated by MSU Libraries

# Independent Streams (Week of June 19)

Our weekly roundup of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research. Problems The American Dream Is Fading Faster In Michigan (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Charles Ballard argues median wages should receive the same attention as unemployment rates. Civic, Business Leaders Emphasize Urban Agenda At Mackinac Policy Conference (link is external) IPPSR Affiliates Josh Sapotichne and Eric …

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# What can the physics of spin crystals tell us about how we cooperate?

In the natural world, cooperation is everywhere. You can see it among people, of course, but not everybody cooperates all the time. Some people, as I’m sure you’ve heard or experienced, don’t really care for cooperation. Indeed, if cooperation were something that everybody does all the time, we wouldn’t even talk about it: we’d take …

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# Comprehensive Exams, Candidacy Exams and the Job Market: More than the Life of the Mind

The article below is a re-post from the Spring 2017 American Sociological Association Sociology of Development newsletter (see the pdf here: https://sociologyofdevelopment.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/spring-2017-socdev-newsletter-4-11.pdf). The newness of the sub-field of sociology of development means it shares some things in common with an interdisciplinary field such as science and technology studies, namely, dispersed resources, disputes about the canonical …

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# Scientific Consensus on Cognitive Ability?

From the web site of the International Society for Intelligence Research (ISIR): a summary of the recent debate involving Charles Murray, Sam Harris, Richard Nisbett, Eric Turkheimer, Paige Harden, Razib Khan, Bo and Ben Winegard, Brian Boutwell, Todd Shackelford, Richard Haier, and a cast of thousands! ISIR is the main scientific society for researchers of …

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# Everything Under the Heavens and China’s Conceptualization of Power

Howard French discusses his new book, Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power, with Orville Schell. The book is primarily focused on the Chinese historical worldview and how it is likely to affect China’s role in geopolitics. French characterizes his book as, in part, … an extended exploration of the …

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# The Michigan Millennial: Urban Legends

Millennials, defined by the Census Bureau as being born between 1982 and 2000,(link is external) are notorious for their love of urban living and all things that go along with it, from easy access to public transit to a wide array of employment opportunities. But does that stereotype hold in Michigan? Being the largest generation …

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# Oliver Stone confronts Idiocracy

See earlier post Trump, Putin, Stephen Cohen, Brawndo, and Electrolytes. Note to morons: Russia’s 2017 GDP is less than that of France, Brazil, Italy, Canada, and just above that of Korea and Australia. (PPP-adjusted they are still only #6 in the world, between Germany and Indonesia: s-s-scary!) Apart from their nuclear arsenal (which they will …

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# Climate Risk and AI Risk for Dummies

The two figures below come from recent posts on climate change and AI. Please read them. The squiggles in the first figure illustrate uncertainty in how climate will change due to CO2 emissions. The squiggles in the second figure illustrate uncertainty in the advent of human-level AI.   Many are worried about climate change because …

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# Some unpopular thoughts on teacher evaluation

I’ve been working on teacher evaluation for most of my career as a teacher, administrator, and teacher educator; first being evaluated, then doing the evaluation as an assistant principal and subject area coordinator, then helping design a state-wide beginning teacher evaluation initiative. After nearly 40 years in education, all I can say is that the …

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# Rise of the Machines: Survey of AI Researchers

These predictions are from a recent survey of AI/ML researchers. See SSC and also here for more discussion of the results. When Will AI Exceed Human Performance? Evidence from AI Experts Katja Grace, John Salvatier, Allan Dafoe, Baobao Zhang, Owain Evans Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will transform modern life by reshaping transportation, health, science, …

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# Independent Streams (Week of June 5)

Our weekly roundup of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research. Problems No Easy Answers But At Least Right Questions At Mackinac Policy Conference (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Charles Ballard reflects on themes discussed at annual Mackinac Policy Conference. How To Attack Africa’s Neonatal Mortality Problem (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Sue Grady leads study on …

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# Complex Trait Adaptation and the Branching History of Mankind

A new paper (94 pages!) investigates signals of recent selection on traits such as height and educational attainment (proxy for cognitive ability). Here’s what I wrote about height a few years ago in Genetic group differences in height and recent human evolution: These recent Nature Genetics papers offer more evidence that group differences in a …

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# Epistemic Caution and Climate Change

I have not, until recently, invested significant time in trying to understand climate modeling. These notes are primarily for my own use, however I welcome comments from readers who have studied this issue in more depth. I take a dim view of people who express strong opinions about complex phenomena without having understood the underlying …

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# Not Enough Bullets

I am struggling to remember an earlier time in my life when I felt like the world was as surreal as I find it now. We have a person in the drivers seat so self-absorb, most professional mental health experts I know concur  that he suffers from Narcissistic Behavior Disorder (NBD), based upon his public statements …

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# Review of FDA Presentation on Food Fraud and Economically Motivated Adulteration – FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Dr. Stephen Ostroff

FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Stephen Ostroff, presented on Food Fraud at the April 4-5, 2017 Food Fraud Conference, Quebec City. FDA has been consistent in its direction and activities – all types of Food Fraud has been illegal since the adoption of the Food Drug & Cosmetics Act of 1938. …

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# If This and That Then Whatever

I was asked a question that reduced to the following: if $$x$$, $$y$$ and $$z$$ are all binary variables, how do we handle (in an integer programming model) the requirement “if $$x=1$$ and $$y=1$$ then $$z=1$$”? In the absence of any constraints on $$z$$ when the antecedent is not true, this is very easy: add …

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# Update Error: Wrong Architecture

Yesterday I ran into one of those mystifying glitches that, will infrequent, serve as a reminder that Linux is not for the faint of heart. When I booted my desktop system (Linux Mint 18.1 Serena), the system tray icon for the software updater was displaying a red “X” that indicates it tried and failed to …

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# Borges, blogging, and a vast circle of invisible friends

This blog gets about 100k page views per month. My sense is that there are a lot of additional views through RSS feeds and social media (FB, G+, etc.), but those are hard to track. Most of the hits are on the main landing page, with a smaller fraction going to a specific article. I’d …

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# Michigan and Oregon Adopt Pro Hac Vice Court Rules for ICWA Cases

This spring both Michigan and Oregon have changed their court rules to allow out of state attorneys to appear in ICWA cases on behalf of a tribe (Michigan and Oregon) or parent or Indian custodian (Oregon). Both waive the pro hac fees, and do not require the attorneys to associate with local counsel. Michigan’s rule, …

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# AI knows best: AlphaGo “like a God”

Humans are going to have to learn to “trust the AI” without understanding why it is right. I often make an analogous point to my kids — “At your age, if you and Dad disagree, chances are that Dad is right” :-)  Of course, I always try to explain the logic behind my thinking, but …

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# Why Nigerians Love Arsenal . . . and the EPL

The English Premier League is an obsession for millions of African fans. Author and fútbologist David Goldblatt recently traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, to find out what this cultural phenomenon looks like and why there is such deep reverence for Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs, and . . . Bournemouth. In a newly released piece for …

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# Beware the Jabberwocks

Lessons from the Dragon Boat None of us knew quite what to expect on Saturday as we gathered at Hawk Island for our one-hour training session for the Capital City Dragon Boat Race to support the Women’s Resource Center of Greater Lansing. Earlier this year, my wife, Val, suggested that the MSU College of Arts & …

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# Independent Streams (week of May 22)

Problems Books, Pencils, and Billboards: Local School Ad Spending Spikes (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate David Arsen discusses school choice and marketing. Researchers: Fake News Not Swaying Elections (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate William Dutton leads report on the impact of fake news on public opinion. Trump Fires Comey: It Looked Bad Right Away (link …

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# #4T2017 Keynote Recap & Recording: What is it you do again? Discussing the intents, purposes & vocabularies surrounding learning design

Behind the scenes view of the 4T Virtual Keynote   Yesterday I had the honor of presenting at the 2017 4T Virtual Conference. I am a tremendous fan of the conference and was honored that Liz Kolb and the 4T Virtual organizers asked me to be a keynote this year.  I HIGHLY recommend that you …

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# You gotta know when to hold ‘em

I was honored and humbled to speak at the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony last weekend at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I received my Ph.D. there in 1982. It was great to be back in Chapel Hill, seeing some old friends and making many new ones. There was also one of those interesting …

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# NYTimes: In ‘Enormous Success,’ Scientists Tie 52 Genes to Human Intelligence

The Nature Genetics paper below made a big splash in today’s NYTimes: In ‘Enormous Success,’ Scientists Tie 52 Genes to Human Intelligence. The picture above is of a UK Biobank storage facility for blood (DNA) samples. The results are not especially surprising to people who have been following the subject, but this is the largest …

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# Contingency, History, and the Atomic Bomb

How Alexander Sachs, acting on behalf of Szilard and Einstein, narrowly convinced FDR to initiate the atomic bomb project. History sometimes hangs on a fragile thread: had the project been delayed a year, atomic weapons might not have been used in WWII. Had the project completed a year earlier, the bombs might have been used …

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# Comey under oath: no obstruction of justice

Almost everything we hear from the media these days is simply motivated reasoning — i.e., partisan nonsense. Wikipedia: …When people form and cling to false beliefs despite overwhelming evidence, the phenomenon is labeled “motivated reasoning”. In other words, “rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information …

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# prcr update

The R package for person-oriented analysis (prcr) is updated (it’s now version 0.1.4). In particular, it was not clear how to use the profile assignments (i.e., what cluster each response is in) in subsequent analyses. So, the update now returns two different representations of the profile assignments, or which profile is associated with each observation: …

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# Fletcher on Law360: “A Look At The Impact Of Lewis V. Clarke Thus Far”

Here: In Lewis v. Clarke, the U.S. Supreme Court held that individual capacity suits against tribal employees are not cloaked by an Indian tribe’s sovereign immunity. As most Indian tribes have already acquired general liability insurance to cover the tortious actions of their employees, the ruling might have little impact. But the breadth of the court’s opinion should …

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# New Scholarship Arguing, “Presidents Lack the Authority to Abolish or Diminish National Monuments”

Mark Squillace, Eric Biber, Nicholas S. Bryner, and Sean B. Hecht have posted “Presidents Lack the Authority to Abolish or Diminish National Monuments” on SSRN. Here is the abstract: By any measure, the Antiquities Act of 1906 has a remarkable legacy. Under the Act, 16 presidents have proclaimed 157 national monuments, protecting a diverse range …

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# Walter Pitts and Neural Nets

Pitts is one of the least studied geniuses of the early information age. See also Wikipedia, Nautil.us. Cabinet Magazine: There are no biographies of Walter Pitts, and any honest discussion of him resists conventional biography. Pitts was among the original participants in the mid-century cybernetics conferences, though he began his association with that group of …

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# When in Doubt, Go to the Library”: Relearning what I thought I already knew

“Because that’s what Hermione does,’ said Ron, shrugging. ‘When in doubt, go to the library.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Like many in my generation, I am a Harry Potter fan, and I’ve long identified with the character Hermione Granger (the series’ bookish and know-it-all heroine). Hermione was a role model for …

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# How I Listened: The Working Bibliography (Learning in Complex Domains)

I have tried to pinpoint the person or thing that made me Google while listening, but, I can’t quite put my finger on it. In the fall of 1997 (after quickly giving up on dreams of becoming a DJ) I started my career as “Technician I” at the International Academy. Google and the Internet as …

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# Influence of Political Ideology on State Policies Combating the Opioid Crisis

The Opioid Crisis has been a major development in American public health alongside the recent proliferation of pain medication prescriptions. Indeed, there has been a gradual proliferation in drug overdose deaths.  As a result, state governments across the United States including Michigan have designed policy programs like limiting the initial prescription of opioids for acute …

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# 20 years of GATTACA (1997)

A 20 year lag between science fiction and reality… not bad! Embryo selection, but no additional engineering: Geneticist (Blair Underwood): Keep in mind, this child is still you — simply the best of you. You could conceive naturally a thousand times and never get such a result … According to this discussion, an offer of …

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# Independent Streams (Week of May 8)

Our weekly roundup of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research. Problems Fake News And Filters Aren’t Fooling Internet Users (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate William Dutton conducts international survey on internet users and fake news. Climate Change, Tornadoes And Mobile Homes: A Dangerous Mix (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Mark Skidmore co-authors study on climate change …

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# Oldies But Goodies

There is probably a built in mechanism in our culture’s brain that the newest ideas and thoughts are better than older ones. Today’s thinkers have the chance to stand on the shoulders of those who came before. I know I’m always looking for fresh new ideas in the books recently published, thus my almost weekly …

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# Grupo de Investigación en Tecnología Educativa 2017 – #EHTC1617

I had a wonderful opportunity to make a (virtual) visit to Universidad de Murcia last week to speak with the students in #EHTC1617 . This was my second visit and it was wonderful to connect with Dr. Paz Prendes and her students again! I will be continuing the conversation over the next few weeks in …

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# More Shock and Awe: James Lee and SSGAC in Oslo

To quote James Lee, the first author listed below: “Shock and Awe” for those who doubt that cognitive ability is influenced by genetic variants. See work from a year ago: ~100 hits from 300k individuals. Now ~600 hits from 750k. (SNPs associated with EA are likely to also be associated with cognitive ability — see …

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It’s graduation weekend at my university and this morning we had our School of Social Work recognition ceremony. It’s a happy day. Faculty parade around in funny robes and hats. Family and friends come to applaud and honor the hard work their graduate has done. There’s no parking anywhere, but the usual campus hot spots …

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# Review – CODEX CCFICS23 Meeting Summary – Action to Define Food Fraud and Related Terms

USA Delegation: on the far left is Dr. Spink, and the group includes Head of Delegation Mary Stanley (USDA), Alternate Delegate Ms. Caroline Smith Dewaal (FDA), Alternate Delegate Ms. Camille Brewer (FDA), and Mr. Kenneth Lowery International Issues Analyst (US CODEX Office) Friday, May 5    Earlier today, Codex Alimentarius (CODEX, the world food code) …

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# School Voucher Programs

An introduction to school voucher programs: School voucher systems are one of the leading topics of debate in education policy. A school voucher system offers state funds for financial assistance to parents who want to send their child to another school district or a private school. Oftentimes, legislatures will set parameters on who is able …

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# MSU Campus Archaeology Receives 2017 Michigan Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation

On Tuesday, May 2nd, MSU’s Department of Anthropology, Department of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, and the Office of the President received the Michigan Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation and a special tribute from the State of Michigan Legislature on behalf of MSU Campus Archaeology. The award was given for their combined efforts to preserve the …

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# SubAltern Homesick Blues

New York Magazine seems to have dedicated an entire issue to the Alt-Right. If you don’t recognize any of this subterranean internet stuff you should probably have a look. Somehow they left out the Illuminati, though. See The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Subaltern Postcolonial Gramsci Homi Bhabha Babble. BEYOND ALT: THE EXTREMELY REACTIONARY, …

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# Taking a Lesson from Teachers to Avoid Summer Learning Loss

While the Green & Write blog will soon be taking a break until the fall, teachers will be hard at work this summer. A common myth about the teaching profession is that teachers spend the summer months relaxing, but this is rarely the case. About half of teachers report working during the summer months, often …

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# The Truest Meaning of College for All

If you think about a period in your life when you grew the most as an individual, discovered your independence, and started to become who you are today, it is likely to have happened during your young adult years. For many, this time occurs during, and is facilitated by, time away at college. These …

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# Replication and the “Crises of Confidence” in Science

One of the authors pointed me to the interesting paper below, which contains a proposal meant to improve the reliability of scientific research (specifically in some areas such as social science or biomedicine). Could this proposal work if, say, it were strongly supported by scholarly associations and funding agencies? Note the authors’ use of “Crises …

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# Term Limits: What Do They Do?

15 states legislatures have term limits, but what does this mean? What are term limits supposed to do, and what observable effects do they have on government? This is the subject of the research I presented at the 2017 Michigan State University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum. Term limits place a limit on the amount …

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# New Divisions In Indian Country Over Energy Justice

Here: The new administration’s undoing of the Obama administration’s clean environment rules, especially hydraulic fracking regulations and the Clean Power Plan, portend great division in Indian country as the few dozen energy tribes, whether they like it or not, stand apart from the remaining tribes. Energy tribes, such as the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, had sued the government to undo the …

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