Perdurance

Is there anything less enduring than a meal? Whether cobbled together from leftovers and scraps in the refrigerator or the result of detailed planning and careful preparation, that last meal you ate, well, it’s gone. And really, folks, is there anything less memorable? I mean sure there are going to be a few exceptions in …

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The rJava Nightmare

I like R. I like Java. I hate the rJava package, or more precisely I hate installing or updating it. Something (often multiple somethings) always goes wrong. I forget that for some reason I need to invoke root privileges when installing it. It needs a C++ library that I could swear I have, except I …

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Representing Data with Sound (sonification)

When it’s said a picture is worth a thousand words, it generally is. Data visualization provides information that otherwise might take several paragraphs to explain. Yet, this technique privileges users that have sight. What techniques can be used for users that rely on screen readers to access information? I recently discovered[1] a project by University …

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Bones Abroad: Boston

Last week, I attended ComSciCon– a three day conference for graduate students to learn about how to communicate science. We had the opportunity to meet representatives from NPR, YouTube, Alan Alda Center; writers for Discovery, Scientific American, NOVA; and scientists working on a diverse range of projects including TV shows, various magazines and societies, and …

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Selecting the Least Qualifying Index

Something along the following lines cropped up recently, regarding a discrete optimization model. Suppose that we have a collection of binary variables $x_i \in B, \, i \in 1,\dots,N$ in an optimization model, where $B=\{0, 1\}$. The values of the $x_i$ will of course be dictated by the combination of the constraints and objective function. …

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Schwinger meets Rabi

Seventeen year old Julian Schwinger meets Columbia professor I. I. Rabi (Nobel Prize 1944) and explains the EPR paper to him. Climbing the Mountain: The Scientific Biography of Julian Schwinger [p.22-23] … Rabi appeared; he invited Motz into his office to discuss ‘a certain paper by Einstein in the Physical Review’! Motz introduced Julian and …

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Letter from Rome

In case you missed it, the major food ethics newsflash for last week came out of Rome. Pope Francis issued an encyclical entitled Laudato Si’. At first I thought it was from a crowd chant heard when the Allman Brothers Band played stadium gigs in Italy: Alberino fustigazione, laudato, si! [Tr: Whipping post, louder, yes!], …

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James Salter, 1925-2015

“Forgive him anything, he writes like an angel.” Remember that the life of this world is but a sport and a pastime.  NYTimes obituary. From a 2011 post: I’ve been a fan of the writer James Salter (see also here) since discovering his masterpiece A Sport and a Pastime. Salter evokes Americans in France as …

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Alternative Versions of R

Fair warning: most of this post is specific to Linux users, and in fact to users of Debian-based distributions (e.g., Debian, Ubuntu or Mint). The first section, however, may be of interest to R users on any platform. An alternative to “official” R By “official” R, I mean the version of R issued by the …

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Hopfield on physics and biology

Theoretical physicist John Hopfield, inventor of the Hopfield neural network, on the differences between physics and biology. Hopfield migrated into biology after making important contributions in condensed matter theory. At Caltech, Hopfield co-taught a famous course with Carver Mead and Richard Feynman on the physics of computation. Two cultures? Experiences at the physics-biology interface (Phys. …

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Book Tour

I spent most of last week on a mini book tour to promote my new book From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone. It was fun and pretty well received at all four of the West Coast locations. In Berkeley, CA a skeptical gentleman asked me to talk a bit about the case for …

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Is this 17th century collection of German criminology woodcuts one of the world’s first comic books?

      Is this 17th century collection of German criminology woodcuts one of the world’s first comic books? The book, dated 1686, is made up of 20 or so woodcut illustrations showing the administration of criminal justice, including images of defendants before judges and scenes of punishment and torture.  All of the illustrations have been …

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One Hundred Years of Statistical Developments in Animal Breeding

This nice review gives a history of the last 100 years in statistical genetics as applied to animal breeding (via Andrew Gelman). One Hundred Years of Statistical Developments in Animal Breeding (Annu. Rev. Anim. Biosci. 2015. 3:19–56 DOI:10.1146/annurev-animal-022114-110733) Statistical methodology has played a key role in scientific animal breeding. Approximately one hundred years of statistical …

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It’s a Brick . . . Outhouse

The summer field season has continued to be busy. Last Monday, while making our routine monitoring rounds of the North Campus Infrastructure Improvements construction site we noticed a concentration of bricks and dark soil near the Museum. As previously mentioned, the first week of the season we located the partial foundation of Williams Hall near …

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Put a Lid On It

A good friend and former colleague, Dr. Frank Fear, recently blogged at The Sports Column about the funding of higher education sports programs, where the subsidies are, to put it kindly, crazy. Subsidies are the Name of the Game in D-1 College Sports by Frank Fear June 7, 2015 His analysis shows how important big …

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Sparsity estimates for complex traits

Note the estimate of few to ten thousand causal SNP variants, consistent with my estimates for height and cognitive ability. Sparsity (number of causal variants), along with heritability, determines the amount of data necessary to “solve” a specific trait. See Genetic architecture and predictive modeling of quantitative traits. T1D looks like it could be cracked …

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Awarding financial aid to students earlier

Grants and scholarships are critical for helping many students afford college.  Data from the College Board show that the largest single grant program, the federal government’s Pell Grant program, awarded $33.7 billion to 9.2 million students in the 2013-14 academic year.  Without the support of Pell Grants, millions of students across the country would not …

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Perfecting the Pitch for Research Funding

On Wednesday June 3rd I attended the Michigan State University Academy for Global Engagement Fellowship Program public session (see http://vprgs.msu.edu/event/academy-global-engagement-fellowship-program-0). This public session was open to non-fellows (such as myself), and had two parts. In the first part, panelists discussed “Understanding Federal Funding, Congressional Appropriations, and Agency Priorities”, while in the second part they discussed …

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Whither the World Island?

Alfred W. McCoy, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, writes on global geopolitics. The brief excerpts below do not do the essay justice. Geopolitics of American Global Decline: Washington Versus China in the Twenty-First Century … On a cold London evening in January 1904, Sir Halford Mackinder, the director of the London School …

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After two years of tensions, U.S. signals willingness to expand military cooperation with Nigeria after May 29 inauguration of President Buhari

In spite of the human rights abuses of the Nigerian military that  have bedeviled U.S. military cooperation there, Secretary John Kerry and AFRICOM head Gen. David Rodriguez made a point to attend the May 29 inauguration of newly elected Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to signal that the U.S. is open to new military cooperation. U.S. …

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Elegant Economies

The 19th century author Elizabeth Gaskel advises that “almost everyone has his own individual small economies—careful habits of saving fractions of pennies in some one particular direction—any disturbance of which him more than spending schillings or pounds on some more real extravagance.” She goes on to illustrate the point with examples, one of which falls …

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Amnesty International: Nigerian Military Abuses Rampant in War Against Boko Haram

From a new Amnesty International (AI) study, the New York Times, (6/3/2015) reports: “In the course of Nigeria’s war against the Boko Haram terrorist group, at least 7,000 people have died in government detention because of brutal conditions, an additional 1,200 have been “extrajudicially executed” by Nigerian security forces, and at least 20,000 have been …

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