Recommended reads #171


Noted philosophers reconsider their key insights after a month of social distancing.

George Saunders’s letter to his students about the pandemic.

Our pandemic summer [highlighted read] This piece by Ed Yong is another supreme piece of journalism. He’s going to get an award for his work in The Atlantic during this pandemic, I hope?

Another piece in The Atlantic by Amanda Mull, which discusses the impacts of recessions on professional and personal lives of young folks coming of age.

Oh, The Atlantic has an academic subscription rate. They aren’t paying me to say this.

A post on the Ecological Society of America’s blog about: To go into the field or not to go? That is the question. Some good context in here.

Carissa May asked a lot of people about the field pants they use, and created a big spreadsheet to about costs/features/sizes, and such. And don’t forget thrift shops and surplus stores.

The past couple months have produced two must-read papers about equity and inclusion in STEM research and education. The first one (Theobald et al. 2020) brings together a mountain of data to show how critical active learning can be for minimizing equity gaps in college STEM teaching. The second one (Hofstra et al. 2020) also uses a huge dataset on to show that doctoral students from underrepresented groups innovate at a higher rate than majority researchers, and despite this fact, they are less likely to land academic positions.

A roadmap for post-coronavirus green recovery

This blog post by a professor is advising students who would be starting out as first-year college students this year to defer for a year. There are some good points (and honestly, if my own high schooler were in this position, this would already have been on my mind), but this seems heavily geared to the minority of students who “go away to college” on some bucolic campus for a 4-year experience. I’m not sure any of us know what the Fall semester is going to look like yet, but I do hope that people planning on going to college continue to learn. But yeah if you’re one of those lucky people who have the privilege of paying 50k per year to go away to college, then maybe sitting this one out and taking classes at a community college might be a good way to go?

Some more data arguing that it’s not possible to infer speciation and extinction rates from phylogenetic trees. I think the sales pitch for the paper is a good one, though I’ve yet to dive into the methods. I mean is the big punchline news to us? If we don’t have any kind of independent estimate of extinction rate, then of course we can’t use the number of extant species to infer speciation rates. But if you make some not-outrageous assumptions about rates of change, then there are some reasonable inferences that you can make with error estimates, right? I have yet to read/hear/see anything from tree-builders or other evolutionary biologists about this, but I’m curious what y’all think.

On the movement to rebrand Land Grant university as “land grab” universities. Here are the full results of the data-rich investigation, led by the High Country News.

This story about people from Cameroon and Pakistan trying to cross the Darién Gap between Colombia and Panama on foot, on their way attempting to immigrate to the United States, is something that might make your heart miss a beat or two. [highlighted read]

Philip Roth’s last book, about an outbreak of Polio, speaks to today.

“As restaurants figure out how to operate in a world full of unknowns, delivery apps should not be allowed to continue the same vulturous practices they deployed in a pre-coronavirus world.”

The dangerous conservative campaign against expertise. Nothing we don’t know already, but it’s well put.

One thought on “Recommended reads #171

  1. I completely agree about Ed Yong…his thorough, highly scientific, crystal-clear coverage is some of the best journalism I’ve ever seen!

Leave a Reply