Learning R

I have recently dedicated myself to learning R, a programming language and environment for focusing largely on statistical analysis and computing. The benefit of using R over other statistical computing packages is that it is free, open-source, and has a hugely active community around its use.  R can be used cross-platform  (PCs, Macs, and Linux) …

More

More analysis on the Nigerian crisis and Boko Haram

In his excellent AfricaFocus Bulletin website, William Minter offers us on June 9, 2014 Nigeria: Beyond the Hashtag Debates containing more analyses from six sources plus the important Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s 5 June 2014 Briefing Paper, “Nigeria: Fleeing Boko Haram’s relentless terror.” Minter notes, “The debates on #BringBackOurGirls, a hashtag initiated by Nigerian protesters and …

More

Brazil 2014: World Cup Politics

The day before the magic kingdom opens in São Paulo, WKAR’s “Current State” host Mark Bashore interviewed me about the politics of the World Cup. We discussed FIFA profits and institutional reform, special World Cup laws and extraterritoriality, nation-building, development, civic protests, and what the future holds for Brazil, on and off the pitch. Originally …

More

Look Up!

The next time you’re out hanging with your friends—pause—look up and look around. What do you notice? You might notice that the majority of people around you are interacting on some type of electronic device. Technology is a great invention and has changed the world in many positive ways, but has caused people to be less social …

More

5 Apps for a Healthy Life

Sometimes I wonder what the athletes of yesterday would think about the exercise enthusiasts of today. Heart rate monitors, P90x, treadmills with personal television screens in high definition — today’s technology has certainly taken a prominent role in our approach to health and fitness. Trying to figure out what equipment or technology is best for you …

More

Spring review in photos 2014

With a camera constantly at my fingertips I thought a spring review in photos would display what we have been up to lately. The cold winter was hard on wheat stands around Michigan Planting soybeans on campus Staking out the soybean plots Glyphosate resistant marestail in Gratiot county. At this location we are conducting research …

More

Nibbling at the Edge of Speech

It is always difficult to gauge whether you are in the midst a cultural movement from media reports, but there appears to be a trend on college campus involving Left groups calling for limitations on freedom of speech or regulations that are likely to reduce students’ exposure to alternative points of view. This trend has …

More

When All Else Fails

In one of the worst academic job markets in history, many of us have been compelled to rethink our plans for the next year. Instead of starting that shiny new job, we are facing yet another year of being a grad student. If you’re in this position, know that you are not alone. There are …

More

World Cup Music: “Afri Can”

An antidote to Shakira and Pitbull! “Afri Can” is a charity single by Replay GH, a Ghana-based group featuring Zed Ay Kay (Replay GH), Fuji, Farid, and Gustav. It brings together influence from the five African countries that have qualified for the Brazil 2014 World Cup: Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria, and Ivory Coast. According to the artists, “the …

More

What’s Next for Movie Theaters?

>In this article from The Next Web, Paul Sawers takes a look at “The Future of Cinemas” from a global perspective, investigating the question of just how much an impact streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon are having on their brick and mortar counterpart, the movie theater. He compares the introduction of VHS and DVDs …

More

One Thing or Another

Diane and I have spent a chunk of the morning trying figure out where we can get a new Garden Bandit™. This can only mean one thing. The weeds are coming up and something needs to be done about them. We bought our current Garden Bandit™ in Stratford, Ontario a few years back when we were …

More

Food Fraud Prevention Insights for Technology Innovation – Presentation at UK/FERA and EU/DG-SANCO Meetings

This is a copy of my presentation for June 11 at 11am at the FERA/JIFSAN symposium in York, UK: http://foodfraud.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/MSU-FFI-FERA-JIFSAN-2014.pdf.   Neil Marshall, Global Director of Quality & Food Safety for Coca-Cola and Vice-Chair of GFSI, is scheduled right after me and will present on “Food Fraud and the Industry Response.”  Markus Lipp of the US …

More

Large-Scale Psychological Differences Within China

The study below discusses a psychological/cognitive/personality gradient between N and S China, possibly driven by a history of wheat vs rice cultivation. Large-Scale Psychological Differences Within China Explained by Rice Versus Wheat Agriculture (Science) Cross-cultural psychologists have mostly contrasted East Asia with the West. However, this study shows that there are major psychological differences within China. …

More

New York City Phone Lines, 1887

We herald the invention of the telephone as a significant moment in human history, but consider the infrastructure that needed to come along with this. Gizmodo featured a group of photos from the Library of Congress showing the mass of telephone wires around New York City before folks figured out that burying them was probably a better …

More

Valuing Nature

Carl Zimmer has written an excellent piece in the New York Times about a very important study by Robert Costanza et al. on “Changes in the global value of ecosystem services” – in other words, how to place economic value on some of the critical functions that nature provides us for free, and how to quantify the …

More

Rare mutations and severe intellectual disability

The paper below describes rare de novo mutations which cause severe intellectual disability. See also Structural genomic variants (CNVs) affect cognition. By the principle of continuity, I suspect that rare variants of smaller negative effect on cognitive ability also exist. These alleles, although harder to detect, would account for part of the observed population variation in …

More

Reproducibility and Java Collections

I’ve been immersed in Java coding for a research project, and I keep tripping over unintentional randomness in the execution of my code. Coincidentally, I happened to read a blog post today titled “Some myths of reproducible computational research“, by C. Titus Brown, a faculty member (one of those hybrid species: Computer Science and Biology) atMichigan …

More

The Monarchs are in Michigan!

Yesterday I was very excited to see my first monarch caterpillars of the year on Michigan State University’s campus, in the 4-H Children’s Garden.  The first monarch butterflies were only sighted in Michigan in mid-May, but the vast majority were sighted the past two weeks, as seen on the Journey North maps created by reports …

More

How to Lead as a Follower

  I know there’s always a lot of talk about leadership. But I’ve always been enamored with people who seem to be great followers. And I’m not talking about the folks who just say “Yes, sir” and “Yes, m’am” to their boss at every turn. I’m talking about the middle-management employees, young professionals, and the …

More

Strategic War (with cards)

War is a simple card game played by children. The most common version does not require decisions, so it’s totally deterministic (outcome is determined) once the card order in each deck is fixed. Nevertheless it can be entertaining to watch/play: there are enough fluctuations to engage observers, mainly due to the treatment of ties. The …

More

USP’s Comments to FDA on ‘Intentional Adulteration’ and ‘Economically Motivated Adulteration’

US Pharmacopeia (USP) recommends the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adopt a ‘hybrid’ framework to address combating Economically Motivated Adulteration (EMA) – a sub-category of Food Fraud – separate from preventative controls (Food Safety) or catastrophic events (Food Defense). USP, and their Food Chemicals Codex, is an important stakeholder in protecting the global food …

More

Our Fixation on Measurement

To measure the unmeasurable is absurd and constitutes but an elaborate method of moving   from preconceived notions to foregone conclusions. The logical absurdity, however, is not the greatest fault of the undertaking: what is worse, and destructive of civilization, is the pretence that everything has a price or, in other words, that money is the …

More

A Documentary on Michel Foucault

Open Culture recently dug up a 1993 documentary on Foucault, titled Michel Foucault: Beyond Good and Evil. As described by Josh Jones, the documentary “explores the philosopher and his complex and controversial life through interviews with colleagues and biographers and re-enactments of Foucault’s storied exploits in the American counterculture.” Given how often Foucault appears on syllabi in …

More

Mitochondrial Replacement Therapies: between Abortion and Genetic Engineering?

Today a panel of experts approved the use of Mitochondrial Replacement Therapies (MRTs) in the UK as treatments to prevent the transmission of mitochondrial diseases (MDs) and to increase the fertility of older women in the UK. According to the Daily Mail the panel described MRTs as potentially useful for a specific and defined group of patients: those wishing …

More

Creating Space for Empathy in the Classroom

In a blog post on Edutopia, Joe Hirsch asks, “can empathy feel its way back into the classroom?” To begin to answer this question Hirsch suggests considering cooperative learning in tomorrow’s lesson plan. Yes, tomorrow, like right now. Yet, instead of just throwing students in groups and hoping for cooperation, Hirsch recommends the jigsaw method, …

More

The simulations behind the fitness landscape visualizations

We now have two videos out featuring evolving populations in two-dimensional fitness landscapes.Using fitness landscapes to visualize evolution in action Youtube Vimeo Visualizing coevolution in dynamic fitness landscapes Youtube Vimeo (Best to watch the first one first for some background information about fitness landscapes.) These movies are based on simulations of organisms evolving by reproduction, …

More

Wonderful Life Times Two

No, I’m not talking about the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart, and the eponymous book Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould that presented the case for the role of contingency in the evolution of life. Rather, I’m celebrating a wonderful end to the week and a wonderful weekend, too. Last week, we submitted …

More

An Introduction to Linked Open Data

If you’ve done any digital work—and who isn’t doing digital these days—then you’ve probably heard the term “linked open data” tossed around. “Open data,” as defined by Open Data Institute, is primary data that is freely available for others to use and share that is structured in a standard format that plays well with other file …

More

Financial Crisis Redux

A new book says the government should have focused more on homeowner debt and less on banks. But, what would you expect of a former banker like former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner? Sure, the banks were frozen and their balance sheets needed to be restored so they could loan or the economy would have been …

More

Question Authority?

So here is one of those occasions where I couldn’t get everything off my chest last week so I just have to follow up with another blog entry on food sovereignty. We’ve raised this subject at least once some time back in the Thornapple blog, but maybe it’s time to come around again and think …

More