Recommended reads #86


The physics crackpot index.

More people should take geology in college.

A cafe in Adelaide is selling a cup of coffee that has 5 grams of caffeine. Which is what you’d find in about 32 cups of normal coffee. They have a health warning associated with it, but is it safe at all?

Philosophy is the most valuable school subject.

Are PhD students in the humanities irrational?

Review articles: the black market of scientific currency.” (I think I disagree with this, by the way.)

This week, an excerpt from Mark Forsyth’s 2013 book The Elements of Language went viral. It demonstrated a particular oddity of our particularly odd language: “…adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-color-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac.” Indeed. Simon Horobin was quick to write up a useful exploration of this quote.

What does “excellence” mean in postgraduate education?

If you haven’t seen this story about how the Feds track guns, oh my gosh this is both a miracle and a nightmare. The article says, “Kafkaesque” and this feels like an understatement. They are forbidden from using databases or from connecting individual names to guns. It’s like a scene from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, but more surreal.

How can grad students learn skills in grad school that the faculty in the department are lacking?

Raising kids in a warming world.

A brief history of the college textbook pricing racket.

Who is to blame for the completely bizarre and unrepresentative image of “millennials”?

Angela Heetderks explain how the trope of miserable grad students in PhD Comics is off point because you can be happy in grad school and many people are.

The New York Times explains how cuts to public universities have driven students out of their own states. With infographics!

A new commentary in Nature argues for a reframing of our actions to work against antimicrobial resistance.

The intersection of science and poverty, by Natalie Hambalek.

Letters to a Pre-Scientist is doing well and looking for more classrooms and more scientists. Taking a short time to write directly to kids can be rewarding and is a valuable form of outreach. If you aren’t creating the opportunity visit K-12 classrooms then this is a way to be involved.

“Welcome to our university! We’re delighted to have you, but if you think we’re going to cancel the KKK rally, you’ve got another thing coming.”

The president of Brown explains how her university is safe for the the freedom of expression.

I’m a black UChicago graduate. Safe spaces got me through college.”

Cornell Eco/Evo/Behavior/Neuro folks have put together a Diversity and Inclusion Recruitment Weekend – which brings students out late in the spring semester before they apply to grad school. This looks like a potentially promising approach.

Daly et al. reported in 2010 from the National Interior Plantscape Association that putting plants in classrooms increases student performance by at least 10%.

NSF is inviting feedback on their most recent strategic plan.

Jeff Ollerton asks if reference management systems encourage sloppy referencing. (I do find it annoying that when you export references, there are things that are not well standardized, such as capitalization or journal abbreviations.) I think (some) publishers aren’t being as vigilant about this as they were a couple decades ago. It doesn’t seem to be as much of a priority in the proofing stage.

I’ve read a few reviews of a new book by Arlie Russell Hochschild,  Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American RightHere is a review in Vox (which oddly is marketed as a clickbait article) that captures what (I imagine) the book is about. It’s the flip side of the coin from Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? (which I once got as a present and, so, I read it), which looks a the individual identity of people who have chosen to affiliate with the Republicans (and now Trump), without painting them as passive victims of manipulation.

Six strategies for effective learning.

You know how The Man tracks you online to create a big predictive model of your behavior so they can market to you? Some universities are now doing similar things with learning analytics.

The Federal Trade Commission has charged OMICS, the predatory publisher of pseudojournals, with deceptive marketing. Here is some context.

“We talk a lot about big money in higher education but I know for a fact that it’s small money that can derail one’s educational ambitions.”

Sara Goldrick-Rab started The FAST Fund, to which she is donating 5% of her salary, to provide funds to students who are in need. “No applications, no paperwork. Just cash, delivered when and where it’s required.” You can donate via PayPal on the page for this fund.

Beyond ‘wow’ science.

Musician Herb Alpert donated $10 million to an institution of higher education: Los Angeles City College. “It will be transformative.” Which is something that can’t be said about a $10 million donation to USC or Stanford or Harvard or other places with absurdly huge endowments. If you want to make your philanthropy truly matter, give it to a place that serves the underserved.

Elsevier received a patent for “online peer review and method”? Yeah, it appears to be so.

It’s worth your time to observe other teachers at work in the classroom.

The NEA has found that Americans are reading less literature.

Here is the obituary of Ruth Hubbard, the first tenured woman biologist at Harvard:

Then one day in 1969, she happened upon protesters criticizing the discrimination women in science faced. “I was absolutely flabbergasted,” Dr. Hubbard told the Globe years later. “I was a scientist. And they allowed me to work at Harvard. So how come there was discrimination?” She found part of the answer by looking at her own feelings. “I really thought men were smarter, more interesting, better company, and I played up to them,” she said, reflecting on how she had lived her life until the late 1960s. “I had one woman friend.”

Here’s a good reason to scale back on use of your university email account (aside from the fact that you don’t want to have to change your professional email every time you move to a new institution.)

In the first time in US history, university faculty are being locked out as a part of a labor dispute. (Locked out of email too!)

Over the course of a whole week, the LA Times published a detailed saga about how a parent was framed for drug possession by another couple with a kid in the same school. It has the flavor of pulp, but is a compelling read.

Rebecca Schuman explains why students shouldn’t ever tell their professors that they “need” a certain grade. It’s obvious to us, yeah, but now you have this snarky-yet-honest link that you could send back to your students if they email you saying they “need” an A.

Is urban cycling worth the risk? Here’s a thoughtful assessment given the variables at hand. (Several years ago, I chose to stop commuting by bike to connect to Metro, because I didn’t feel safe enough. And two people had died on my route within six months of one another. Riding past this ghost bike may have did it for me.)

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