Recommended reads #95


In the United States, a woman died a few months ago of a bacterial infection. This microbe was resistant to all antibiotics available in the US that we were capable of throwing at it.

A paper came out this week, looking at predictors of publication rates among 280 graduate students accepted and enrolled into a biomedical grad program. And — shocker, I know — grades and standardized test scores didn’t matter. The best predictor was the content of the letters of recommendation. You want to know which undergraduates have the greatest research potential? Listen to their undergraduate mentors. Here’s a drugmonkey post about this paper.

When I talk about climate change, I don’t talk about science. I’m (probably) not your dad or your boss or your professor so I can’t assign this to you or tell you to read it, but I do think this is a must-read.

State lawmakers in Missouri and Iowa are looking to get rid of tenure.

Peer review is not broken.

With enough evidence, skepticism [may] thaw. (But denial, not so much.)

Even more evidence about the unfair biases that manifest in student evaluations of teaching. This experimental design is rather elegant.

What scares [him] about teaching students with ideologies not adequately grounded in fact.

Why AntWeb images are not free.

You will want to read this melancholy story about the sparrow with four sexes.

A burrowing owl shows up in MacArthur Park. Which is a tiny little patch of nature in the middle of a heavily urbanized area. So cool.

Think you have fire ants but aren’t sure? Now there’s a 10-minute test for this, much like a pregnancy test. (Fortunately, you don’t have to try to coax the ant to pee on a stick, you just squish it.)

Lindy West explains why she left twitter.

The governor of New York announced a plan to provide free tuition to state colleges and universities for low(ish) income students (those whose families earn less than $125,000 per year). Some folks were trying to claim that this wasn’t a good thing for those students, but fortunately, Sara Goldrick-Rab is there to set those folks straight. Of course it’s a good thing.

The Rusty-Patched Bumblebee gets listed as endangered. We still do have an Endangered Species Act in effect, and we still have an Environmental Protection Agency, for at least another week.

The contemporary American university, in seven emails.

Using Slack in the classroom.

The site of George Lucas’s massive Museum of the Narrative Art has been announced, in the exposition park of Los Angeles, adjacent to the Natural History Museum of LA County (where I’m sabbaticaling). Exposition Park is becoming even more of a destination.

Scientific American blog network published a guest post from a guy who did research on the physiology of shrimp that got a lot of bad press from anti-science Republicans as “Shrimp on a treadmill.” Most notable about this guest post was that the editors initially ran the piece with a horribly sexist and wholly creepy line about how the author leers at students of his peers while they are doing fieldwork. They promptly edited the piece, but it never should have gone to press. (And if you’re a marine biologist, you probably want to watch out for this guy.)

A sexually harassing faculty member returned to teaching at UCLA, and was greeted by huge protests outside his classroom, loud enough that the classes were cancelled.

How Stanford is failing to protect its own students from assaults on campus.

I imagine nearly all biologists know the historical story of PCR. If you don’t, then here you go. If you do, then I think this is a particularly well-crafted version of the story.

The National Review (a conservative publication) writes, “I guess we’re not going to make a fuss about that.

This is why you don’t kiss the ring.

Did inadequate healthcare destroy Star Wars’ Old Republic?

Here’s a nice profile of John Prine in Rolling Stone.

A message for my doomed colleagues in the American media.

An excerpt from They Thought They Were Free.

Why this monkey had sex with a deer. (spoiler: he was horny).

Planet Earth II did not help the natural world

How nostalgia for white Christian America drove so many people to vote for Trump. (Just in case you are still harboring the notion that this was about economic policy and free trade.)

Folks have been saying that Rex Tillerson has completely severed financial ties with his oil company if/when he becomes Secretary of State. But, that’s not true. The day he quits, he could go back as CEO.

Here’s a science-friendly Republican who we should get to know: John Culberson.

What it’s like being a sane person on the House Science Committee.

New information comes out about how Nixon was even worse than we thought: he secretly undermined peace talks so that he could win the election in 1968.

Here’s another person to watch: my new senator, Kamala Harris. Who is awesome.

Putin’s real long game.

Have a great weekend, folks. (By the way, if you happen to be around South Island, I’ll be heading your way and sticking around for a few weeks. I’ll be flipping over lots of rocks, but I promise to put them back.)

3 thoughts on “Recommended reads #95

  1. How does the Washington Post article explain Trump’s victory as being the result of nostalgic white Christians and not economic frustration? Perhaps I missed something, but it seemed to me to be an in-depth look at one community in rural North Carolina with no data to support this particular community as being a microcosm for the rest of the country — especially that part of the country that previously voted for Obama but this time voted for Trump. I seriously doubt that if you had surveyed this or other communities that voted for Romney, McCain, and Bush previously that the story would have been any different 4, 8, or 12 years ago.

    For example, the article provides some stats on white evangelicals, which make up ~26% of the electorate. 78% voted for Romney, 74% voted for McCain, and 78% voted for Bush. 81% voted for Trump. Sure, it was a close election, but are we going to make that much out of an increase of ~0.78% of the total electorate from this particular demographic?

    Conversely, it looks like ~212 counties across the US that voted for Obama in 2012 voted for Trump this time around. ~53% of those counties lie in just 8 states — the core Rust Belt states (NY, PA, OH, IN, MI, IL, WI, and IA). If you’re not aware of what has happened in the Rust Belt economically in the past couple decades (at least in part due to Clinton neoliberal policies), check this out:

    To be clear, I absolutely do think racism/xenophobia contributed to Trump’s victory, but it really irks me to hear people dismissing the real economic struggles of a huge portion of the country and the contribution to Trump’s victory, especially when it’s not backed up by compelling evidence. The quick and dirty analysis I presented is obviously highly imperfect (I’m not a political scientist), and I’m aware that there are more sophisticated analyses that challenge this, but these conversations need more data and fewer articles like this if we are actually going to resolve this extremely complex issue. Articles like this are exactly the type of crap* that is alienating so many young progressives from the Democratic party (myself included).

    *See also:

    • You are correct, there are more sophisticated analyses that challenge the idea that you propose here. In previous recommended reads, I linked to a few articles that were very rich in data that supported the same idea. I thought this time around, I’d share this (rather telling, in my opinion) account, for those who prefer this form of narrative. Yes, you are correct, there are more sophisticated analyses that challenge the ideas you present.

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