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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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Reinvigorating Democracy – The Next Idea

This was originally written for Michigan Radio’s “The Next Idea” which included an interview with Zoe Clark that aired yesterday on their program “Stateside” and that can be listened to here. (scroll to the bottom of the page to see the audio link)   ===============================================   The Next Idea In the recent elections last November, …


Putting GMOs on a Tight Leash

Two papers appeared in the latest issue of Nature—one from Farren Isaacs’ group and the other from George Church and colleagues—that presented, developed, and demonstrated a strategy for limiting the spread of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in the event that they are accidentally released or deliberately applied to the environment. My Involvement with GMO Discussions in …


Seasons and Veritas

Harvard graduates explain why we have seasons. If only their understanding matched their confidence. See also Why is it dark at night?  ,  Inside HBS: “kill, f^^k or marry”  ,  Frauds!  and High V, Low M: … high verbal ability is useful for appearing to be smart, or for winning arguments and impressing other people, …


Changes in Climate – Not What You Think

One of the most senior figures in the UK’s environmental movement of recent decades, Jonathon Porritt, recently made the statement that it is now impossible for the large fossil fuel companies of today to adapt in “a timely and intelligent way to the imperative of radical decarbonization.”   So begins a recent article in Clean …


Venture capital in the 1980s

Via Dominic Cummings (@odysseanproject), this long discussion of the history of venture capital, which emphasizes the now largely forgotten 1980s. VC in most parts of the developed world, even large parts of the US, resembles the distant past of the above chart. There is a big gap between Silicon Valley and the rest. Heat Death: …



On Wednesday I asked the students in my class to describe what they’d been doing earlier in the day, before our afternoon session began. While they scribbled I wrote alongside them, producing a dull summary of actions and toil—until I came to waiting … There is always waiting. It begins in the still-dark morning when …


Oral History and Digital Humanities

All fields in the humanities have been transformed by digital technology, but none more so than oral history.  The new book, Oral History and Digital Humanities: Voice, Access, and Engagement, published by Palgrave Macmillan, explores the impact that new technologies have had on the field.  Edited by Doug Boyd and Mary Larson, the essays in the …


Curbing the Athletic Arms Race

The New York Times covered the NCAA convention this past week discussing some of the turbulence around the organization and the big business of college sports. In Friday’s article by Ben Strauss, one of the suggestions thrown out by Prof. Andrew Zimbalist, economics professor at Smith College, was “to cap head coaches’ salaries at $500,000… …


Measuring college learning outcomes: psychometry 101

Pressure is growing for outcomes testing in higher education. Already hundreds of schools allow graduating seniors to take the CLA+ (Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus) as evidence of important job skills. I doubt that the CLA+ adds much information concerning an applicant’s abilities beyond what can be obtained from existing cognitive tests such as SAT, ACT, …


Paul and Anne Ehrlich

The theme for ‘food ethics icons’ month is the world hunger/population growth tangle. Our thinking has been bracketed by two opposing nostrums: On the one hand, agriculture is in a race with population growth, on the other hand, the problem is not agriculture but the distribution of food we already have. Both of these are …


FFI Presentations at Shenzhen International Innovation Auditorium Conference and Chinese National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment

This is an advance copy of my January 19 and January 22 presentations at the Shenzhen International Innovation Auditorium Conference (hosted by the Shenzhen Municipal Government) and to the Chinese National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA, Beijing). I will be using the same presentation for both groups. For the CFSA I will review …


Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent

Michael Tietelbaum’s new book on STEM labor markets and human capital is reviewed by John McGowan. John and I attended Caltech together many years ago. Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent by Michael S. Teitelbaum Princeton University Press March 30, 2014 Introduction Falling Behind? is a recent (March 2014) book …


Infectiously Fun Science

Science is sometimes frustrating. The work is often repetitive and even tedious. It can be hard to explain to our friends and families—and sometimes even to peers—what we’re doing and why we think it’s important and interesting. The current state of the academic job market is terrible. But science is also often fun. There’s the joy …


Analogies between Analogies

As reported by Stan Ulam in Adventures of a Mathematician: “A mathematician is a person who can find analogies between theorems; a better mathematician is one who can see analogies between proofs and the best mathematician can notice analogies between theories. One can imagine that the ultimate mathematician is one who can see analogies between …


Locality and Nonlinear Quantum Mechanics v2

The paper below will appear in Int.J.Mod.Phys.A. We went through a strange series of referees during the last year, with reactions ranging from this result is correct but trivial  to this result is highly nontrivial but possibly correct to, finally, this is a nice result and should be published.  I would like to lock the first …