Recommended reads #70


In 1951, The Explorers Club in Manhattan had a big fancy dinner, with a main course of mammoth, which was found frozen in Alaska. Some claimed it might have been giant ground sloth. Well, some of that meat was saved in a museum, and was just sequenced, so we found out which one it was. It turns out it was neither an extinct mammoth nor an extinct ground sloth. But it was an endangered species.

I’ve found the toy I want to print for myself with a 3D printer.

Nalini Nadkarni reflects on surviving a fifty foot fall from the forest canopy.

The National Academies produced a report saying that doing genuine research in undergraduate classes is a good thing.

The mystery of the expanding tropics.

An academic expert on genuine fascism weighs in on how Trump is and isn’t a fascist. Folks are saying it’s reminiscent of 1930s Germany. In which ways is this true and which ways is it different?

Applying the Story Circle to academic writing.

The Zika conspiracies have begun.

Infinite Jest is twenty years old. Here are four theories for why “it still feels so transcendentally electrically alive.” By the way, has anybody seen that movie with the muppet guy as Wallace?

In the last rec reads, I pointed to the president of Mount St. Mary’s college in Maryland, who cooked up this brilliant scheme to increase student retention rates by convincing low-performing students to drop out of college in the first few weeks. It turns out that he’s even more brillianter than I had thought. He got into a bit of PR hot water for this plan, but no worries for him — he’s fixing this problem by firing some tenured faculty members because they spoke out against his scheme to game the retention numbers. There’s a recurring theme that academic freedom at religious institutions isn’t really a thing.

Science published a detailed account of a sexual misconduct case involving a prominent paleoanthropologist from the American Museum of Natural History, Brian Richmond. A powerful companion piece to to this story was published in Tenure, She Wrote by Rebecca Rogers Ackermann.

Simon Fraser University produced a remarkably sexist video in which a male student objectifies his female professor, all in an effort to promote energy conservation.

Male undergraduate biology students underestimate the smarts of their female peers.

What to do about the widespread existence of sexual misconduct in academia. Show Me The Money.

You are worthy. This link is a salve for all of the hideousness in the previous several links. Thank you, Dr. Sayres.

A tiger in your back yard? Another great piece of natural history from The Boreal Beetle.

In praise of backwards thinking:

What is science? This is a favourite opening gambit of some external examiners in viva voce examinations. PhD students, be warned! Imagine yourself in that position, caught off-guard, expected to produce some pithy epithet that somehow encompasses exactly what it is that we do.

It’s likely that in such a situation most of us would jabber something regarding the standard narrative progression from observation to hypothesis then testing through experimentation. We may even mumble about the need for statistical analysis of data to test whether the outcome differs from a reasonable null hypothesis. This is, after all, the sine qua non of scientific enquiry, and we’re all aware of such pronouncements on the correct way to do science, or at least some garbled approximation of them. It’s the model followed by multiple textbooks aimed at biology students.

Pause and think about this in a little more depth. How many great advances in ecology, or how many publications on your own CV, have come through that route?

This is super cool: “There is compelling evidence that at least two raptor species – the Brown Falcon and the Black Kite – act as propagators of fire within the Australian savanna woodlands.”

It’s typically dopey when your institution assigns a mentor to you.

Here is some serious GATTACA going on in California.

“Talented minority faculty are not unicorns,” he said. “It just depends on where you’re looking.”

As the US election is rolling around in earnest, do you know about the classic practice of push polling? If not, then this is an entertaining and enlightening story about an electoral dirty trick.

Biodiversity and pizza – an extended analogy leading to a call for a more multidimensional treatment of nature

How to recruit and retain underrepresented minorities. This is a straightforward and useful piece with reliable data and good ideas. It’s wonderful to see American Scientist publish it.

If you’re curious about the sociology (or the consistently declining stock value) of Twitter and why things are they way they are, and how they got to be that way, this is informative.

Humanities the shit out of this.

Meet the rented white coats who defend toxic chemicals. From the Center for Public Integrity. which despite the suspicious name actually stands for integrity. Hey, they won a Pulitzer. It says so at the top of their website.

The new Carnegie Classifications are out. Who’s a new R1? Who isn’t anymore? The status-conscious have something new to feed on.

We need to examine why, exactly, it is taken for granted that teaching work is less valued and less prestigious than research.”

“Today’s students are regular people. The privileged people are ‘nontraditional!’ Those fortunate few who get to attend amazing high schools with great college preparation and who can afford college easily — they are in the minority. But colleges have long focused on catering to that elite group’s whims and desires, never referring to their ‘challenges with, for example, conspicuous consumption.”

Have a nice weekend.

One thought on “Recommended reads #70

  1. Terry, thanks for sharing the story circle piece. I read it, loved it, and made this comment on the original site:

    Hi Tom, I came to your fabulous post here via Terry McGlynn’s Small Pond Science here on WordPress. I am an English teacher (20 years) and have a Master’s in Environmental Written Communication, so professionally and as a writer, I smiled all the way through your piece. I have a few responses to share: 1.I’ve found in my own blog writing that the human and personal must be in a piece to get readers. 2. Also, in Campbell’s Hero Cycle, the end-point is that the hero returns to state a new truth–isn’t that part of the scientific method? 3. And, the academic model for literary criticism, New Criticism, was developed and became the standard to compete with higher education admissions towards science, as a way to keep humanities competitive. New Criticism is set very much like the scientific method, just with different names for the steps. 4. The professor for the first Sustainable Natural Resources class I took in grad school, Dr. David Perry at Oregon State University, had the class write narratives for the final paper; he said to me, “scientists and English teachers might not be so different after all,” a notion I’ve kept in my back pocket since. 5. I actually took my MS at Green Mountain College; there, I worked with Laird Christensen who researches and writes about Narrative Scholarship, a model in environmental circles that leaves the researcher in the writing.

    I also reblogged it here:

    Best, Neva.

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