Posts

April 27, 2015

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9:23 AM | The moral of the story
Most of us have some inbuilt sense of right and wrong; don’t steal and don’t murder are as basic to us as our ability to breathe. But where does this sense moral sense come from? In general, people of a scientific bent don’t attribute it to God nor as some sort of free floating truth that can be grasped by the human intellect. If you hold a materialistic view, that is to say the idea that at base the universe is composed of energy and matter, then it’s next to impossible […]
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7:59 AM | Academic Year ‘disorganisation’
We have a new style academic year at Keele in 2014/15. Up to Easter it felt pretty much the same as previously, but the differences began to become apparent last week. Before going any further I should say that the changes were intended to ‘improve the student experience’, and only time will tell if they … Continue reading Academic Year ‘disorganisation’ →

April 25, 2015

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6:21 PM | "The carpets, the paint on the walls, the ceiling tiles, we have the potential to produce all of..."
“The carpets, the paint on the walls, the ceiling tiles, we have the potential to produce all of these products from sugar.” - UC Berkeley’s Jay Keasling, Using microbes to create the next generation of fuel
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6:07 PM | Girls Who Code (Newton) Visit to Harvard
My friend David Miller is looking for instructors to help out with the Newton Girls who Code club.  Here's an announcement, please connect with him if you're interested.  They visited Harvard last week -- David gave me permission to post his description of the visit.  It seemed like a well-organized event -- thanks to the Harvard Women in Computer Science group for putting it together.---- Last Friday, the Newton Girls Who Code club was welcomed by the Harvard […]
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11:33 AM | In which the small fish contemplates the bigger pond
The wandering path of my unconventional scientific life is about to shift yet again. It’s with mixed feelings that I report another lab move – same Division, another new campus. The retro digs in Bloomsbury, with its polished hardwood trimmings, … Continue reading →
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9:43 AM | Rorschach Tests at the Nuremberg Trials
After the fall of Nazi Germany, the victorious Allies sought to bring the leaders of the Third Reich to justice in the form of the well-known Nuremberg Trials. Less famous are the attempts by  psychologists to understand the Nazi mind in the form of psychological evaluations of the Nuremberg defendants. A new paper by Joel E. Dimsdale of the University of California San Diego looks at one of the stranger episodes in the aftermath of WW2 - the use of the Rorschach "Inkblot" Test on Nazi […]

April 24, 2015

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6:03 PM | Beagles Help Hunt for Genes Associated With Canine, Human Bladder Cancer
Beagles aren’t just one of America’s most popular dog breeds. According to new NC State research, they’re also key to new findings about the chromosomal changes associated with urothelial carcinoma, or bladder cancer.
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5:32 PM | Sex, Aggression & Damselflies Aggression between two...
Sex, Aggression & Damselflies Aggression between two different species of animals is surprisingly common. But what exactly are they fighting over? Male aggression towards potential reproductive rivals could explain much of it.UCLA biologists observed and analyzed the behavior of several species of damselflies. Male damselflies typically ignore males of another species when they fly into their territory — unless they’re attempting to mate with a female damselfly.Female […]
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5:00 PM | Donald Trump's Fake College Keeps Causing Trouble
Pretend GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has run into a lot of trouble over a seminar/career development/college/marketing project he ran for awhile called Trump University. Back in 2010 New York State demanded that he stop using the word “university” to describe what he was running. The “use of the word ‘university’ by your corporation is misleading and violates New York Education Law and the Rules of the Board of Regents,” said Joseph Frey, the […]
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1:25 PM | Open Science News – 24 April 2015
Yesterday and today the FOSTER-UNESCO Open Science for Doctoral Schools meeting took place in Paris. Attendees have been tweeting using the #OpenSci4Doc hashtag. Digital Science has been busy: Here’s a summary of their “Shaking It Up: Challenges and Solutions in Scholarly Information Management” event in San Francisco earlier this week, and an [...]
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12:00 PM | Recommended Reads #51
Apparently, your paper will get more attention if it is published on hump day. This story from last year explains how the Mathematics program at King Abdulaziz University shot from unranked to #7 in the US News global rankings. What they did is pay a full salary to some of the most heavily published professors…
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11:09 AM | Friday links: women and STEM awards, grant review is not a crapshoot, and more
Also this week: underwater thesis defense (yes, really), database-defeating data (yes, really), why scientific papers should be longer (yes, arguably), how penguins ruined nature documentaries, and more. Including this week’s musical guest, They Might Be Giants! From Meg: There are … Continue reading →
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8:13 AM | Zoological Zodiac
Aries- March 20 to April 20. Your model will converge around the 13th, which is in no way related to your model convergence dance (turning in a circle three times and raising your left hand twice).  Please stop doing it, we can all see you. Taurus- April 20 to May 21. A reviewer will suggest additional work prior to publication. Reply to the reviewer with an audio file of yourself singing Bruce Springsteen’s No Surrender and the reviewer will back down. Gemini- May 21 to June 21. May […]
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1:06 AM | How dare UBC take diversity so seriously?
It has been a year since UBC announced its very first …“president of colour”. And as of yesterday, UBC-Vancouver has its very first woman provost. On the surface, these look like de-facto corollaries of a post-racial, post-sexist era, at a … Continue reading →

April 23, 2015

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6:12 PM | The world’s first sustainable surfboard made of algaeUC San...
The world’s first sustainable surfboard made of algaeUC San Diego biology and chemistry students have created the world’s first algae-based, sustainable surfboard.The project began several months ago when undergraduate biology students began working with a group of undergraduate chemistry students to solve a basic chemistry problem: how to make the precursor of the polyurethane foam core of a surfboard from algae oil. (Polyurethane surfboards today are made exclusively from […]
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4:54 PM | Beetles from the North
I’m super-excited to announce new research from the lab, published yesterday with lead author Dr. Crystal Ernst. Crystal’s paper focused on taxonomic and functional diversity of beetles across 12 sites in northern Canada, ranging from Labrador to the Yukon Territory, and from the bottom of James Bay all the way up to the tip of […]
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4:38 PM | A Human Skin CellThe purple in the center is the cell’s nucleus....
A Human Skin CellThe purple in the center is the cell’s nucleus. Surrounding it are wispy blue and white microtubules and filaments that make up the cell’s cytoskeleton. Learn more about the cytoskeleton and this image, taken by UCSF cell biologist Torsten Wittmann.
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3:37 PM | We Don't Need No Regulation (Actually We Totally Do)
Libertarian gadfly Tyler Cowan, along with George Mason University colleague Alex Tabarrok, recently wrote an interesting think piece over at Cato. They argue that today we don’t really need government regulation anymore because, basically, the glory of the Internet means that everyone now has equal access to information. As they put it: Market institutions are rapidly evolving to a situation where very often the buyer and the seller have roughly equal knowledge. Technological […]
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2:42 PM | Thoughts on Prestige and Credibility.
So, I spent the day yesterday lecturing to faculty and administration at an ultra-fancy hospital affiliated with an ultra-fancy medical school. Now, I work in an ultra-fancy hospital affiliated with a very-fancy medical school, so institutionally I wasn’t super intimidated. But I was a little intimidated. If I had been coming directly from my previous […]
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12:00 PM | Will work for food: How volunteer “opportunities” exploit early-career scientists
This is a guest post by Susan Letcher, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Purchase College in New York. A recent job posting at Cocha Cashu caught my eye: What: Co-Instructor for the Third Annual Course in Field Techniques and Tropical Ecology Where: Cocha Cashu Biological Station, Manu National Park, Peru When: September 1 (arrive…
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10:30 AM | Important information for lab undergrads
When I first started at Georgia Tech, someone recommended to me that I do an orientation with all new members of the lab, where I went over basic information. This was a really good suggestion (even if I can no … Continue reading →

April 22, 2015

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10:31 PM | Where's Most of the Money in Higher Education?
The vast disparity in wealth in the United States applies to more than individuals and their private fortunes. It’s also true of American higher education. It turns out that one-third of all the money in American higher education is controlled by just 10 colleges. That’s it. According to this CNN piece: The wealth gap between the nation’s 40 richest colleges and universities and the rest is getting wider. That’s thanks to strong investment returns and a tremendous […]
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9:30 PM | “Your heart sounds just fine, PSO J334.2028+01.4075″
Quasar PSO J334.2028+01.4075 has a very healthy heart rate of 6.7 beats per decade, or once every 542 days. One explanation is that this guy hosts a pair of supermassive black holes. If true, then the astonishing interpretation of this quasar's heart rate is that its black holes are only a few orbits away from merging!
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6:48 PM | Canadian government postdocs: revived (well, sort of)
I wrote before about the demise of the Visiting Fellowship program, which placed postdocs in Canadian government research labs, and used NSERC as a middleman (middle-agency?).  Recently, the employment practices around this arrangement, particularly whether postdocs were entitled to benefits. … Continue reading →
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5:34 PM | Are the Common Core Tests Turning Out to be a Big Success or a Resounding Failure?
Muslim Alkurdi, 18, of Albuquerque High School, joins hundreds of classmates in Albuquerque, N.M, Monday, March 2, 2015, as students staged a walkout to protest a new standardized test they say isn’t an accurate measurement of their education. Students frustrated over the new exam walked out of schools across the state Monday in protest as the new exam was being given. The backlash came as millions of U.S. students start taking more rigorous exams aligned with Common Core standards. AP […]
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5:28 PM | Hillary Clinton Should Acknowledge That Tuition Tax Breaks Don't Work
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to students and faculty during a campaign stop at New Hampshire Technical Institute, Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in Concord, N.H. AP Photo/Jim Cole As Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign gets underway, let’s hope she does not make the mistake that other Democratic contenders have made in the past and propose to increase spending on student aid that is delivered through the tax code. Tuition tax credit programs, like […]
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4:34 PM | Low-level wages cost U.S. taxpayers $153 billion per yearWhile...
Low-level wages cost U.S. taxpayers $153 billion per yearWhile the U.S. economy rebounds, persistent low wages are costing taxpayers approximately $153 billion every year in public support to working families, including $25 billion at the state level, according to a new report. It details for the first time the state-by-state cost to taxpayers of low wages in the United States.“When companies pay too little for workers to provide for their families, workers rely on public assistance […]
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3:09 PM | First living scientific figure: articles can now keep pace with scientific discovery
Last year, open science developer-advocate Jure Triglav wrote a post on how scientific figures should work in 2014. Jure went beyond encouraging the use of scientific figures that update in real-time, he created one on his blog; a neat graph that auto-plots the number of sun-mentioning tweets in the Bay Area against actual cloud [...]
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3:05 PM | From Punk Guitarist to Research Entomologist
Scientists don't fit stereotypes. Clint Penick studies the evolution of social traits in insect societies. He also recorded and toured as a punk rock guitarist.
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1:32 PM | Review of "Designing the New American University"
Since Michael Crow became the president of Arizona State University in 2002, he has worked to reorganize and grow the institution into his vision of a `New American University.’ ASU has grown to over 80,000 students during his time as president through a commitment to admit all students who meet a relatively modest set of academic qualifications. At the same time, the university has embarked upon a number of significant academic reorganizations that have gotten rid of many traditional […]
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