The Soul of the Research University

Basic research, whose applications may be decades in the future, is an uncertain investment for any single entity (e.g., corporation), even if it is an essential public good for the long term advancement of civilization. Consequently, basic research is mostly done at universities and government labs. Indeed, the vast majority of research in the US is led …

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Michigan Bill for Tail to Wag the Dog — Prohibition on Federal Food Safety Law Enforcement

Michigan Representatives McMillin, Hooker, and Lund have introduced Michigan House Bill 5336, which would prohibit enforcement of federal law regulating food that was “produced in and remains in” Michigan. Violations of the state law would be punishable by fines or imprisonment or both. Potential law school exam question: “Discuss the errors in understanding of the United …

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The Gap: Developing Taste into Skill

Ira Glass’ advice on creative work has been gaining momentum for months, but even if you’ve read or heard the advice before, these two gorgeous typographical videos are worth a look. Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo. One of the most resonant things that Glass addresses is “The Gap”. Creators usually …

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Reserve and Resiliancy

Indemnity by Cognitive and Physical Activity I remember reading about Bird Flu about a decade ago when an unusual case came to light. The most pathogenic form was sweeping through Asia, and fourteen people came down with the disease that winter in Vietnam. The only person to survive was Nguyen Thanh Hung. Doctors believed that he may …

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Anagnorisis

I have a robot on my phone that buzzes me once a day to deliver a word. I don’t mean that the robot offers an update on happenings around or some message of prospects & aspirations such as one might get from a human being in response to the question “What’s the word?” I do …

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A first science fair

So my daughter just participated in her first science fair, at the age of 6. (“Conclusion: science can be fun! and sticky!”) Over dinner, my wife and I came up with some ideas for her next fair. She was having trouble dissolving sugar in ice water, so we suggested maybe something where we measured the …

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Stay on target!

I’ll gladly go on record as identifying the Battle of Yavin, or what the uninitiated might refer to as the climax of the original Star Wars movie, as my vote for the most iconic science fiction battle of all time. I have a lot of reasons to love this particular scene, and you’d be surprised …

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Hofstra Soccer Conference Round-up

For as long as I can remember, soccer in the United States has been referred to as the “sport of the future.” Last week’s “Soccer as a Beautiful Game” international conference at Hofstra University buried this notion once and for all.  Hofstra history professors Stan Pugliese and Brenda Elsey did a marvelous job organizing the …

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Earth Day and Divestment

I sense a pulse of momentum finally detectable in the information vortex regarding divestment from fossil fuels. Just in the past two weeks we have the following announcements:  Desmond Tutu’s call for divestment      British Medical Journal’s editorial calling for divestment Building on its recent update of the physical science of global warming,1 the …

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What did the Egyptians eat?

There’s something mystical and wonderful about Ancient Egypt. It is one of the first historical eras that really captured my imagination as a child. In many ways, I think this mystique surrounding the era is due more to the fact that there is so many gaps in our understanding and knowledge of this great civilization. …

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Fun Size

This week we take up another food riddle for the ages. I’m sure both of my regular readers have had the occasion to snack on one of those miniature brand-name candy bars once in a while. You know what I’m talking about. I think that they introduced these things back in the 60s especially for …

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Expand the Us to Include the Them

The title of this blog comes from the closing chapter of Douglas Fry’s recent opus, War, Peace and Human Nature. This crucial sentiment is captured magnificently in this short video from the Cleveland Clinic, that me beloved wife shared with me this week, after she viewed it as part of some volunteer training she received. …

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Cognition über alles

Slides for a brief introduction to my panel at the University of Chicago Conference on Genetics and Behavior later this week. See also One hundred thousand brains. Some relevant comments, from an essay by David Deutsch: It is uncontroversial that the human brain has capabilities that are, in some respects, far superior to those of …

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What did Genghis Khan eat?

Everyone knows something about Genghis Khan. His story and empire is part of the basic history of the world we learn growing up. He came into power by uniting disparate tribal groups of Northeastern Asia. His Mongol invasions over the early 13th century AD resulted in the massacre of thousands of people and unification of …

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Help wanted

Last week we held our annual Teacher and Administrator Recruitment Fair at Spartan Stadium, and once again, we hosted over 130 school districts from around the world who came to recruit graduates of the Michigan State University College of Education.  Before our graduates arrived, I visited the fair and talked to recruiters from around the …

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Different is NOT Deficient

The Importance of Culture Elizabeth Redden’s Chinese Students in the Classroom provides an excellent summary of the articles presented by Tang T. Heng at last week’s American Educational Research Association annual meeting. Here are some of the key highlights: • Heng wants us to move beyond the discourse of “deficit” surrounding international students to a …

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How *does* she do it?!

Make fun of me all you want, but my little black book (a.k.a, my agenda—don’t get too excited now) is my best friend. In the age of technology, I’m still attached to paper and prefer the tactile sense of writing my to-do lists. Nothing feels quite as good to me as physically striking off a …

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Imagine…

Links, software, thoughts — all solicited! Send ’em to me, t@idyll.org. — Imagine… a rolling 48 hour hackathon, internationally teleconferenced, on reproducing analyses in preprints and papers. Each room of contributors could hack on things collaboratively while awake, then pass it on to others in overlapping timezones and go to sleep. The next day, they …

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The Killing Must Stop

“As we put out resources and energy into war we lose out in other areas: education, parks, vacations, retirements. We have the best military, and the best prisons, but trail far behind in everything from schools to healthcare to internet and phone systems.” (p.105) So reads, War No More: The Case for Abolition by David …

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Writing exercise

Terribleminds shares a writing exercise that can improve your writing, which is to take one thing and describe it ten different ways. Try it out. Pick a thing. Here are the rules: Focus on it and describe it multiple ways. Ten, as noted. Each no more than a sentence of description. (Feel free to choose a real …

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The Great Unraveling and an Antidote

(CNN) — When Congressman Paul Ryan opined recently that there was a “real culture problem” in poor communities, “in our inner cities in particular,” and that this culture was behind some of the country’s economic troubles, he didn’t realize how half right he was. People are continuing to debate fiercely what Ryan said and whether …

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Pragmatic definitions in biology

Biology is littered with concepts that biologists cannot always agree on how to define or where there are special cases where the common definition have to be amended. Species. Complexity. Modularity. Evolvability. Evolution. Genes. Community. Robustness. Open-ended evolution. Fitness. Life. Take species. The current state of affairs is that there are many different definitions, and …

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Best of Twitter 2013

I could start this by stating that Twitter is an incredible micro-blogging site that has revolutionized social networks and connected the world in a global conversation like never before – but I’d be stating the obvious. The truth is, Twitter is one weird place. Sure, it’s just one of the more popular corners of the …

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Hack, a new programming language by Facebook

Hacklang.org Last Thursday, Facebook revealed its latest achievement, Hack, a new programming language. When Facebook was created ten years ago, it was coded entirely in PHP. However, as Facebook became bigger, the language became harder to manage and developers were more susceptible to making mistakes. The manager of Facebook’s Hack team, Bryan O’Sullivan, helped eliminate …

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Cable News and Climate Science

This week the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report, “Science or Spin?” on the accuracy of reporting on climate change by the three major cable news networks. It found a lot of error. The study categorized the coverage of climate science as ‘accurate’ or ‘inaccurate’, depending on whether it was or was not …

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A ’64 quake still reverberates

In 1964, when the Good Friday quake occurred in Alaska at a magnitude of 9.2 (the most powerful earthquake recorded in North America), scientists didn’t know that earthquakes were caused by plate tectonics.  This seems crazy now, since it doesn’t seem like very long ago, but earthquake science is very new. A geologist named George Plafker had …

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The Inventor of the Hashtag

Chris Messina, a former Google designer, first proposed the hashtag idea on Twitter back in 2007. However, he wanted to use the ‘#’ symbol as a way to create “groups”. Here’s his first tweet proposing the idea: Much to his chagrin, Twitter rejected his idea then but took it up years later as a news …

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GRAS: Generally Recognized As Secret?

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a report that raises more questions about the US regulatory system for food additive. The report says the GRAS exemption from food additive review by FDA — “generally recognized as safe” — that intended for common food ingredients “has been stretched so most new chemicals pass through it: …

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If For No Other Reason

Maybe it was the recent mailing that shows Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes, or maybe it was a the gift of a little book, War No More: The Case for Abolition at last week’s Peace Education Center board meeting, or maybe it was reading a short piece on the Israeli prime minister’s recent …

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