Still dreaming about homework

Posted March 31, 2009 by broncosrule
Categories: Thoughts

Granted, I’m back in school again, but I am not taking classes, so it’s crazy that I’m still having dreams about forgetting homework assignments. I’ve been having this recurring dream for at least the last month (maybe longer), where I keep remembering that I haven’t done my calculus homework and it is due today. It’s really stressful because in the dream I’m like two or three weeks behind on the assignments and I know I’ll never finish them before the due date.

Two weird things about this:
1) I haven’t taken calculus in like 10 years and it was never hard for me and I always cruised through the homeworks, so I can’t imagine why I would be stressed about it.
2) XKCD.com had a post about this recently and it wasn’t until I saw this post that I realized I’ve been having this dream.

still dreaming about homework...
still dreaming about homework…

Blogging with Gangsters

Posted February 22, 2009 by broncosrule
Categories: Stuff On the Web

If you haven’t read Sudhir Venkatesh’s posts on the “Freakonomics” blog from last year, you really need to check them out. For those of you who don’t know, Sudhir is a socialogist who spent several years in the ’90s hanging out with real gangsters in Chicago.  I first became aware of him when I read the “Freakonomics” book (which everyone should read). Apparently, last year he sat down with some gansters in NYC and watched season 5 of “The Wire” with them (or most season 5 – you’ll have to read ll nine blogs to see if they finish…)

Here’s a link to the first one. It’s worth reading them all.

Davos Humor

Posted February 1, 2009 by broncosrule
Categories: in the news, Quotes

Thomas Friedman talks about how there is no silver bullet for the financial crisis in his column today. It’s worth reading, if for no other reason than to prepare yourself for a long, drawn-out recovery from the mess we’re in.  However, he also has a funny joke that captures the absurdity of the whole situation. See below:

“Davos humor: What is the capital of Iceland? Answer: $25.”

Big Science

Posted January 17, 2009 by broncosrule
Categories: science, Thoughts

Here’s a link to an interesting article by Aaron Hirsch in the New York Times. He discusses the idea of Big Science, and mentions how much of the scientific community now relies on large institutions for processing or collection of data (i.e. genome sequencing centers or the Large Hadron Collider). I’ll leave it to you to read the article more fully, but I’d like to add to Hirsch’s concern about the future of Big Science.

As a scientist, it is scary to me that it is becoming so expensive to do science. Many of the results that appear in the high impact journals (like Science or Nature) require lots of resources and people. I doubt that science, especially biology, will soon be a garage experience, though there are people who believe in do-it-yourself biotech (like the DIYbio organization, the Biobricks foundation, and some Synthetic Biologists). Still, I pause when I think about how much of science has been centralized and is “owned” and commercialized by large institutions (see the Ventner Institute, for example).

Fortunately, there are movements to make science more accessible and welcoming to lay-people, like MIT’s Open Course Ware, where MIT has posted access to nearly every class taught at the Institute. As scientists, we’ll need to continue to work to make science accessible and open so that the public is not left standing outside staring at the “urban high-rise” (as Hirsch calls it), wondering what happens in there and how one gets inside.

Useless but cool

Posted December 23, 2008 by broncosrule
Categories: science, Technology

John Hart from Ann Arbor, MI made these nanobama images from carbon nanotubes before the election as a way of demonstrating his support for Obama. They’re totally useless, but are still fascinating. Each one is 1/2 of a millimeter wide. For more information, check out this link.

Each face is made of approximately 150 million tiny carbon nanotubes; thats about how many Americans voted in the 2008 presidential election.

Each face is made of approximately 150 million tiny carbon nanotubes; that's about how many Americans voted in the 2008 presidential election.

How screwed are we?

Posted December 17, 2008 by broncosrule
Categories: Current Events, Thoughts

I was watching “The Week with George Stephanopolous” this weekend and was struck by a comment made by Paul Krugman (recent recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics).  He said, “Hardly a day goes by that I don’t fire up my browser and start my morning with an expletive.” He was referring to the daily barrage of bad economic data that we have been experiencing recently.

I know things are bad, but when one of the top economists puts it that way, it makes me even more pessimistic.

More science in our policy making, please

Posted December 3, 2008 by broncosrule
Categories: in the news, science

Olivia Judson has a nice Op-Ed piece in the NYT today.  She references a book called “Undermining Science: Suppression and Distortion in the Bush Administration” by Seth Shulman that I’d like to read.  She also makes a couple of great points.  Many scientists have been dismayed by the Bush administration’s efforts to suppress the role that science plays in public policy (especially, for me, regarding climate science).  However, I’ve never been able to articulate succinctly why science and the scientific method are so valuable.  Judson does this as well as I’ve ever seen:

In schools, science is often taught as a body of knowledge — a set of facts and equations. But all that is just a consequence of scientific activity.

Science itself is something else, something both more profound and less tangible. It is an attitude, a stance towards measuring, evaluating and describing the world that is based on skepticism, investigation and evidence. The hallmark is curiosity; the aim, to see the world as it is. This is not an attitude restricted to scientists, but it is, I think, more common among them. And it is not something taught so much as acquired during a training in research or by keeping company with scientists.

Now, I don’t want to idealize this. To claim that scientists are free of bias, ambition or desires would be ridiculous. Everyone has pet ideas that they hope are right; and scientists are not famous for humility… Moreover, to downplay evidence that doesn’t fit your ideas, and to place more weight on evidence that does — this is something that human brains just seem to do. Worse, such biases become stronger under certain circumstances.

However, the beauty of the scientific approach is that even when individuals do succumb to bias or partiality, others can correct them using a framework of evidence that everyone broadly agrees on.