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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


Contributing Authors


Homo Sapiens 2.0? (Jamie Metzl, TechCrunch)

Jamie Metzl writes in TechCrunch. Homo Sapiens 2.0? We need a species-wide conversation about the future of human genetic enhancement: After 4 billion years of evolution by one set of rules, our species is about to begin evolving by another. Overlapping and mutually reinforcing revolutions in genetics, information technology, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and …


Independent Streams (Week of May 2nd)

Our weekly round-up of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research. Problems: On-the-job deaths in agriculture rise (link is external). An annual Michigan State University report revealed this week that reveals a decline in on-the-job deaths for the year, but an increase in fatalities related to the use of tractors. Community, multi-university campus partnership to address public health …


May Day

I wake up and sit by the gas fire with a book. Eventually I go into the kitchen hoping that the oatmeal Diane cooked still has enough heat left in it to melt a pat of butter in the bottom of my bowl. I’ll eventually add a little bit of sugar and some milk. It’s …


Gell-Mann on quantum foundations

Google knows enough about me that my YouTube feed now routinely suggests content of real interest. A creepy but positive development ;-) Today YouTube suggested this video of Murray Gell-Mann talking about Everett, decoherence, and quantum mechanics. I had seen this video on another web site years ago and blogged about it (post reproduced below), …


A Farewell to Trowels

Katie Scharra (right) and I working the CAP crew in 2013 I’ve been a member of Campus Archaeology Program since I started working on my Ph.D. in 2010. Next month, I graduate. The experience and knowledge I’ve gained as a member of CAP has been invaluable, and it has shaped my professional trajectory in many …


Open datasets for educational use

I’ve been interested in compiling open datasets for educational use. I’m especially interesting in datasets that may be appropriate for K-12 use, so I think it is important the data are a) cleaned and b) possibly relevant / interesting. Here are those I have come across after an initial search: Quandl Data Shop at Carnegie …


Independent Streams (Week of April 25th)

Our weekly round-up of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research (inspired by John Kingdon (link is external)). Problems: Why the charter school debate has moved beyond ‘better’ or ‘worse.’ (link is external) (link is external)Josh Cowen, IPPSR Affiliate, authored this article at The Conversation. The power of a name: MSU economist examines names of black men …


Project Verified?

One of the regular readers of the Thornapple Blog posted a photo of the Non-GMO Project Verified label on Facebook this week. This occasions a deep philosophical quandary: What’s the difference between “project verified” and “process verified”? Now I’ll start right out by admitting that this quandary is so deep that it probably never occurred …


The Role of Courts in Shaping Educational Policy

Last week a California appeals court reversed the initial ruling in the prominent Vergara v. California case, finding teacher job protection laws do not violate California’s equal protection clause. The three appeals judges unanimously agreed that while certain statutes such as teacher tenure and district dismissal policies may protect ineffective teachers, the plaintiffs failed to show …


Black Holes of Federal Spending

The elephant in the room that most seem blind to is our utter acceptance of a bloated and constantly expanding and UNAUDITED military budget. Even our Nobel Peace laureate President is not beyond offering up another increase in the current budget for our supposed ”defense.” The Project on Government Oversight called his budget a “Mardi …


Independent Streams (Week of April 18th)

Our weekly round-up of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research (inspired by John Kingdon (link is external)). Problems: In an improving economy, Michigan workers’ part-time blues (link is external). State of the State Survey Director Charles Ballard comments on mismatch between worker skills and employer needs. Immigrant talent pool can fill the needs of metro Detroit …


How We Speak Sports

  Image: Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C. Cross-posted from The Allrounder [First published on November 13, 2014] We don’t just watch sports – we speak and hear sports. To find out how language shapes our lives as fans, we asked some of our writers to tell us about the …


Publication – Book on Food Safety in China: Past, Present, and Future – Chapter on Food Fraud [published in China in Chinese]

Dr. Spink with book editors Dr. Junshi Chen and Dr. Joseph Jwu-shan Jen This book was created by two of the top handful of Chinese food safety government advisors. Editor Dr. Joseph Jwu-shan Jen stated that this is a landmark publication that will establish the foundation for the state-of-the-art-of the science. They stated “It is …


Metabolic Rift

I spent most of the beautiful afternoon weather we had yesterday sitting within four walls at the Kellogg Center listening to Brett Clark talk about “the metabolic rift.” Like most academic outings and too many Thornapple Blogs, the conversation drifted into overly fine attempts at correction and counter-correction. But I think I’ll resist the temptation …


Senators Tester and Franken Introduce Legislation to Expand Tribal Jurisdiction

Senators Tester and Franken have introduced legislation to expand tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians for drug related crimes, domestic violence against children, and crimes committed against tribal law enforcement officers.  The proposed bill comes on the heels of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which allows Indian tribes to prosecute non-Indians in certain instances. …


The story of the Monte Carlo Algorithm

George Dyson is Freeman’s son. I believe this talk was given at SciFoo or Foo Camp. More Ulam (neither he nor von Neumann were really logicians, at least not primarily). Wikipedia on Monte Carlo Methods. I first learned these in Caltech’s Physics 129: Mathematical Methods, which used the textbook by Mathews and Walker. This book was …


Do Non-Traditional Incentive Structures Hold the Key to Increasing Student Achievement?

In recent years, a number of attempts have been made to understand how financial incentives can be used to improve student achievement. Researchers have studied the effects of school wide bonuses, small group incentives, and individual teacher rewards on student achievement, but to date, the research is inconclusive. Loss Aversion May Motivate Teachers to Produce …


Independent Streams (Week of April 11th)

Our weekly round-up of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research (inspired by John Kingdon (link is external)). Problems: Flint, Detroit school crises stir fight over EM law (link is external). IPPSR addressed these issues in two recent forums, both available on video: Detroit Schools (link is external), Flint Water (link is external). Michigan’s Brand is Grit …