Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Penises of the Animal Kingdom

Do you know Jim Knowlton, won the IgNobel'92 for his anatomy poster "Penises of the Animal Kingdom," a portion of which is reproduced here.

[left to right: Whale, Elephant, Giraffe, Bull, Horse, Pig, Porpoise, Ram, Goat, Hyena, Dog, Man]

Read more at the Improbable Blog (check also this link for a video on how penises work; not as simple as you would snigger).

As a bonus, Jim Knowlton gets to teach courses with cool titles, like the Human Gross Anatomy at the Indiana University. The closest cool (or hot?) homophone that I get to teach is the 'Pennes' bio-heat equation, which looks like this:


Tamil writings

Forgot to mention this in my about page earlier. A recent comment and my response reminds me to 'advertise' now.

I also have a Tamil language website, with essays/articles mostly on Science and Carnatic Music and occasional asides.

Interested readers are also welcome there.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Learning Outcomes

Fresh semester begins today. I begin it by learning new things. Or may be old things in a new way. For instance, I understand 'learning outcomes are not learning objectives'. Because
The learning outcomes approach recognises and encourages learner-centred learning.
That is from a document (pdf download) recommended to me; for assisting primarily 'academics with teaching and unit of study development commitments' in writing their 'learning outcome' in 'higher education courses'.

BTW, 'unit of study', in a language which address Chennai auto drivers as 'transport executives', means 'subject' (a la Thermodynamics).

2011 Read Book List

The series of short takes on books I did so far, raises eventually the odd eyebrow whether I plan to do only that in this space. As a feeble reassurance, here is a list of books I read — or attempted to and succeeded in most cases — in 2011, for which, I don’t foresee writing a review/opinion piece/personal memoir in the near future, at least, not in this space.

From experience while exposing such lists in blogs, let me add two things. Yes, its only my vanity that exposes such a list. What other primary reason a blog is for? Secondly, the list here doesn’t include the ‘technical stuff’ one gets enamored by and endures with, during ‘office hours’. That would be an overkill, even by the narcissist standards of an academic.

Now for the list, beneath the fold...

Saturday, July 28, 2012


  1. John Timmer in Ars Technica: Epic fraud: How to succeed in science (without doing any).

  2. Early Computing's 'Deal With the Devil': Marc Perry interviews George Dyson, dwelling on themes from Dyson's new book -- Turing's Cathedral -- on the early history of Computer Science.

  3. Nick Rowe: Selection bias and disagreement in blogging.

  4. Greg Downy at Neuroanthropology: Talent: A difference that makes a difference.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Post-Harry-Potter English fiction, particularly, page-turning-unputdownable three-hundred-paged 'entertainers', is of a certain mould. For instance, it must cater to 'young adult' and so, all elements in the book should be PG13. The dialogues should be singularly constructed out of simple words with fewer syllables and ample um ah and yu knows strewn around to pad up for the rest of the human consciousness. All old and experienced humans and non-humans will and must listen, obey and follow the 'young adult' protagonist, who will be brave in soul and weak in flesh, but always with a 'vision' that is gifted for his/her virtuous inexperience, a vision or mission or goal that is superlative, indefatigable and unfathomable by any adult in the story. Either that or such development demands effort from the writer and distracts the reader from the 'main narrative'. The story must have some fantastic element, magic by default; it should show off gizmodons and geekery as 'futuristic science ideas' but should always explain them as meta-magic spawned via agarbathi smoke and glabaderifst spells. The story should have non-human lifeforms, vampires by default, preferably succubus, fantastic creatures of fright and delight, always submissive to the protagonists (if for adult, amorous in all its fangs and tendrils) and takes orders in English, preferably teenspeak. And the girls should be in (malnutrition-ed) form-fitting leathers wielding swords as weapons, while the gents are clad in somersault-friendly, shapeless robes. And importantly, none of the characters must be developed to any level of maturity or depth -- All the World is a Stage, hence, all ephemeral Stage-fests must thrive only in the all-pervading now. All of which is OK, but who gets to decide on how dumb the readers should be -- the writer or the reader?

With minor exceptions in plot elements and one neat idea notwithstanding, Railsea, the latest by China Mieville, a talented author at that, fits snugly into the above category.

Railsea has one neat idea. <SPOILER> What if our railroads become in a near-enough future, a sea,  a maze of crisscrossing never-ending rails laid on a terrain of 'dangerous Earth'. Railsea as a symbolism for uncontrolled industrialization and associated deprecation. And mankind train-travels on Railsea as voyages on ships commandeered by noble captains bloodthirsty for Railsea monsters as life-ambitions (all domestic and gentle animals of our times have become megasize Railsea 'man-eaters'), as philosophies; </SPOILER> to far-off forgotten lands, salvaging washing machine wrecks of the 'past'; consulting charts and maps to sunken treasures... Pirates of the Caribbean (all four parts) meets Treasure Island meets Mobydick yielding a sum of the parts that is way less than each of the parts.

Railsea is an adventure tale, i.e. an attempt at that. Its target readers age mentally somewhere between a tween and an adult, too old to rejoice in a Treasure Island and too young to enjoy a Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes); too modern for the directness of a Mobydick too impatient for the relaid Ulysses (James Joyce), too distracted to comprehend a Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco). The narration has all the elements tailor made for the genre: short dialogues interspersed with narrative that is also short, peppered with bombastic words perhaps to keep the needle of Fog Index reasonably above comprehension, all sectioned in short chapters of length between a page and five; Oh, BTW, the 'and' is printed throughout as &, with an original, lame, idea that reasons its form with rails (China, ayyoo!).

Railsea is science fiction, i.e. an attempt at that. A silly idea taken seriously, way too seriously by the author. Yes, there will be fans who will take it even more seriously, rave on, to interpret and infuse meanings into the copious blandness of a story that chugchugs sedately with blips of action frenzy, to the most predictable of endings even a P. G. Wodehouse could better. The book is a telegraph pre-script for an inevitable screen-script of a mega summer action blockbuster. Brace self, it could become one; such writing doesn't deserve anything better. Pools of joy and waves of sorrow are drifting through my annoyed mind...get the drift, 'young adult'?

Christopher Priest in a recent criticism of the 2012 ACClarke Award nominees had this to say on China Mieville and his Embassytown (I am selectively quoting portions, without traducing Priest but to drive my point):
Miéville has already won the Clarke Award three times – which is not his fault[...] However, a fourth award to this writer would send out a misleading and damaging message to the world at large: it suggests that not only is Mr Miéville the best the SF world can offer at the moment, he is shown to be more or less the only writer worth reading.[...] Although Miéville is clearly talented, he does not work hard enough.[...] He also uses far too many neologisms or SF nonce-words, which drive home the fact that he is defined and limited by the expectations of a genre audience.[...] A better writer would find a more effective way of suggesting strangeness or an alien environment than by just ramming words together. Resorting to wordplay is lazy writing. [...] I also find Miéville’s lack of characterization a sign of author indifference [...] unless he is told in clear terms that he is under-achieving, that he is restricting his art by depending too heavily on genre commonplaces, he will never write the great novels that many people say he is capable of. In the short term, to imply that this (Embassytown) is the best science fiction novel of the current year by giving it a prize, or even shortlisting it for one, is just plain wrong.
After reading Railsea, I agree with Mr.Priest -- whether a Mr. Scalzi agrees or not. I will not pre-order another book by China for some years.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Coming out

Two moving accounts:

  1. Ashwin Nayak in In Theory: Turing Centennial Post:

    We were walking through art galleries in San Francisco when Luca brought up the Turing centenary events that were taking place around the world. None of the events celebrating his work referred to Turing’s homosexuality. Luca wondered whether the celebrations would be complete without revisiting this aspect of his life. As a response, he was thinking of having a series of guest blog posts by contemporary gay and lesbian computer scientists about their experiences as gay professionals. How would they compare with those in Turing’s times? [...]

  2. Standard Deviation ("... true story of a student currently studying at IIT-Madras...") [P. 20 in the pdf]:

    Hello. You do not know me. Even the people around me don’t really know me. Because I have a secret, something I’ve kept to my world for a very long time; something I wish to reveal. But not confess; that makes it sound criminal. I need closure and for that, I must be true to myself. So here goes.

    I’m gay.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sacre Bleu

Vincent van Gogh, at the heights of his powers, shot self with a gun he didn't own. Or did he? The Sacre Bleu, an iridescent blue color in most paintings by the Impressionists remains alluring and mysterious to art lovers. Would that hue have a common source, timeless and indefatigable? The creative spirit that paints, sculpts, writes, the hand that moves to create, does it belong to the one who muses or the Muse herself? Christopher Moore answers all these and some more in his inimitable style in Sacre Bleu.

I watched Woody Allen's Oscar winning Midnight in Paris a week before I read Sacre Bleu, the poster of which also used that color blue! The Paris they both depict, a cauldron of creativity and culture, is inspiring and inviting. While the movie glorifies the city and its dwellers in the 1920s, the book is more expansive in its period. Both are positive and entertaining. Surprisingly, the book doesn't utilize the Surrealists of the 1920s -- introduced effectively by Woody Allen in Midnight... -- may be because they didn't use Sacre Bleu, or more to the context, didn't paint real life. Nevertheless, Moore's book has an all star line-up of painters and artists spanning several centuries. Should not reveal more to avoid spoilers, but I was reminded of Danny Ocean's (of Ocean's Eleven) comment, which goes something like: "I always get confused with Manet and Monet; I know one of them is a painter and the other died of Syphilis." I also liked the way Oscar Wilde (and his creation The Picture of Dorian Gray) and Michelangelo are weaved into the main story. But that also prompts my crib. When Moore took a perspective to include sculptors and writers, persons involved in creative pursuits in fields other than painting, I expected him to give a scientist the same treatment as other Creators. Such a character is already there, begging to be 'mused' with all his eccentricities and ludicrous contraptions, in Professeur Bastard.

Don't expect a Coyote Blue or anything that Chris has written earlier. The plot here is even more intriguing and the exploration of the 'what ifs', ambitious. The narrative is taut, the humor, as usual, whacky and sophisticated. In fact, the humour is underplayed (barring the penis fixation, but then it is after all our Chris). Moore's baker protagonist Lucien and family are also likable characters churning up lively banter and bread (with rats). Moore cites enough books and on-field research at the end that made the characters and Paris authentic. He glosses over the explanation for iridescent colors -- which I wouldn't hold against him. I liked the characterization of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, present throughout the book as an ebullient, congenial drunkard of a painter, unlike the one-dimensional recluse portrayed in the movie Moulin Rouge. Sacre Bleu, in my opinion, is the best work of fiction by Christopher Moore. And yes, I don't think Chris ruined Art for everyone. He has entertained it for me in radiant colors.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Timequake is an event where the Universe, due to some quirk, incurs a glitch in its spacetime and decides to 'relive' ten Earth years of its existence. Ten years to be relived exactly as in the first run, by every human on Earth and elsewhere, with full knowledge of what is going on as their  accrued 'memory' cannot be undone due to the timequake. They should relive ten years, experiencing the consequences of their follies, of their mistakes and lost opportunities. But Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut is not only this. Timequake is a much maligned book, at least in the writing circle I frequent. One popular Tamil writer, while praising Timequake as a science fiction (which it could be), cited the blurb (about the ten year re-run) and mentioned the book is about the consequences of that event. Having read it, I am now convinced that Tamil writer hasn't.

Timequake is an autobiography. An autobiography can be told only as a 'timequake', a set of events that cannot be altered to suit our convenience and comfort. It has to include all the mistakes, wrong turns and consequences. Timequake is also a fiction. Fiction, as a fertile imagination of the mind of the writer (even as he plays the autobiographer in the same book), is not affected by any 'timequake'. Fiction lives many a life in the mind of the author, even as he relives his life in a timequake. Kurt Vonnegut is the autobiographer. Kilgore Trout is the writer - an alter ego of Kurt. They both recount their stories and life, through 'time quake' and before and after. They even meet, rejoice, relive as they recount. Timequake (1998) is one of the later writings of Kurt Vonnegut (passed away in 2007), is also the most moving of his books, if not the most disturbing (thankfully). The Kurt and Kilgore of Timequake did remind me of the haunting lines of Paul Simon, "Old friends, old friends, sat on their park bench like bookends.... how terribly strange to be seventy..." They do bring out that sigh but they were also uplifting.

If you are getting introduced to the writings of Kurt Vonnegut through this book, be prepared for an exasperation that should turn into fulfillment only as you finish reading the book. For veteran fans of Kurt this feeling is neither new nor artificial. I got introduced to Kurt through Breakfast of Champions, a whacky, funny and seemingly pointless collection of loosely tied up events, sometimes bizarre and sometimes poignant, narrated presumably by the same guy. After going through Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle, Bagombo Snuff Box, Welcome to the Monkey House... I have come to expect the exasperation and fulfillment. Books of Kurt works at least in two layers; as individual events, funny and reflective, frivolous and poignant and as a collection with a thread of common message: we, humans, are made of this (war) and this (peace).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Research side-effects

What do you think the "Effect of choroidal blood flow on transscleral retinal drug delivery using a porous medium model" would be? Something academic, archaic, pedantic but harmless perhaps?

As I was reading my recent research, the kid peeps in with a "Whats this stuff Appa?" and so I gushed exposition from all my science outreach tentacles.

Here is the result.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

El Naschie Update

Thanks to Abi for picking again, l'affaire El Naschie (this time, on time!). Now that it is established by a UK court ruling that El Naschie published 290 of his own articles in CSF, which is,
excessive and unwarranted and amounted to an abuse of his position as Editor-in-Chief
and he has
failed to provide any documentary evidence whatever that his papers were the subject of peer review,
let me give my bloggers' update.

Firstly, I had queried in my second post then, about the peer reviews of those 290 papers. I suggested those PRs to be published in the open to clear the name of EN, if he is a deserving scientist who is 'wronged' by 'libelous criticisms' of 'jealous academicians'. That those peer reviews are non-existent according to the current ruling provides a closure to my post.

[To digress, I wrote a subsequent post on the necessity for open peer reviewing to avoid EN-like mishaps, which is a relevant issue worth discussing at nanopolitan. Later.]

Back when this scandal broke out, I picked it with trepidation, by providing quotes from two links in my first post, one from John Baez and the other by Jacques Distler, both well respected physicists (n-Category Cafe group blog; Azimuth blog by John). Among others, Bee (Sabine) had also linked to John's post, while discussing the EN-issue at her Backreaction. The comments section of that post was closed by her due to excessive sock-puppetry.

You will not find those original posts by John and Jacques anymore on their sites. This vanishing act happened around Jan 2009, just a month or two after their original posting dates (~ Nov 2008). I suspected then that both could have received possible legal threats from EN. There is some tangential corroboration now from Quirin Schiermeier (Nature reporter who wrote the article on EN), who while writing about his "EN libel experience", says:
[...]those who raised their voices, in blogs or letters, were silenced by his threats of litigation.
[in above quote, his = EN]

In this context, it is scary to note what QS observes about UK libel laws,
[...] English libel law can stifle justified discourse, including open scientific discussion. The burden of proof falls too heavily on the defendant to prove what they said was true, not on the accuser to show that it is false. The law is therefore more likely to stifle free speech and suppress legitimate criticism than defend the interests of science or society at large [...]
Even in Feb 2009, one Jason started a blog El Naschie Watch and collected all news and "facts" about EN -- many of which were shown to be false or duped claims; browse the archive of that blog. ENW blog also linked to the original posts of John and Jacques, and after similar bafflement about their disappearance, had the time and tenacity to scrounge the internet archive to restore their content.

Here it is, in a suitably titled, That Hard-to-Find Baez Material.

But, back then, when the posts of John and Jacques disappeared, I felt shafted. I resolved never to pick up a discussion from blogs authored by those who I am not acquainted with. May be now John Baez would write about why he removed his criticism from n-Category Cafe. May be he won't. We all move on.

Chronicles of Extreme Publishing

Two items:

  1. El Naschie loses his case against Nature.

    Short version: As chief editor of a journal, the man published tons of papers that were widely deemed to be of very poor quality. A Nature story on his retirement, and raised doubts about the peer review process for the man's papers. The man sued Nature for libel and lost.

    In a section headed “The implausible absence of documentation”, the ruling also says that El Naschie “failed to provide any documentary evidence whatever that his papers were the subject of peer review”. The ruling states, “I am satisfied that his papers were not the subject of any, or any proper, peer review at all.”

    Back when the scandal broke, Arunn had a couple of link-filled posts on l'affaire El Naschie.

  2. A New Record in Retractions

    An inquiry panel in Japan has recommended retraction of over 170 papers by Yoshitaka Fujii. [See also: Retraction Watch posts Report: Fujii faked data in at least 172 papers and Does anesthesiology have a problem? Final version of report suggests Fujii will take retraction record, with 172]

    Thanks to Prof. Dheeraj Sanghi for the e-mail alert.

What if ...

... academics produced a trashy, checkout-counter magazine?

Check out the examples -- Linguistics Today, Grammarian, and Werd -- in Mark Liberman's post at Language Log.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes

Men may come and men may go, as Basil Rathbone had come before and Robert Downey Jr. came later, but for me, Sherlock Holmes in tinsel life means Jeremy Brett. He is the one who lived the character faithful to what Doyle had constructed (Just as Hercule Poirot = David Suchet, although the delectable Peter Ustinov had made a valiant effort earlier). With such a staunch bias to the original, even when depicted in another media (cinema instead of the written word), I shouldn't have attempted reading the written word involving Sherlock Holmes and Watson, by a writer whose name is not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I did. Only out of overwhelming urge to stroll through the swirling mists of Baker's Street one more time, to rest and rejoice in a fresh set of mysteries laid out by, hopefully, an author who raises to our exacting expectation. To my credit, I carefully chose a book, out of the myriad available, that had Jeremy Brett posing as the detective on the wrapper. The Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes by Paul Gilbert. The book started promising in that the language was sufficiently Victorian to transport us back to the early 1900s and I slouched further in the couch with the Kindle DX firmly rested on my tummy with only the right thumb capable of any physical action. The game is afoot.

Each of the story in the book is an "untold mystery" by Watson in the original; cases that were solved spectacularly by Holmes, whose time hasn't come then for public consumption. For instance, "The Affair of the Aluminium Crutch", the third story here, was mentioned in the introductory passages of "The Musgrave Ritual". That ploy, while regaling the reader, unfortunately also sets his expectation high. Premonitory came when I read in the first story titled Baron Maupertuis, a sentence "There is certainly more likelihood of picking up Moriarty's trail again if we take up Lady Beasant's consultation, than if we sit here sucking pipes." Sucking pipes? That usage should have given the game away that the author is belabored to put on this writing style that does not come natural for him. But I am nit-picking; so I thought and I persisted my reading. All the usual suspects from Prof. James Moriarty to esoteric Spaniards were there. But the stories, one after another, came  with an original title by Doyle, and gloriously fell flat. Even an introduction of a uni-sex character (Watson, there are many other forms of attachment between two men), with a reference to the "esteemed and now infamous Mr. Wilde", couldn't save the book. If these are the stories that go with the titles mentioned in passing as "untold mysteries" in the originals by Doyle, by writing them, Paul Gilbert provides now a good reason why they deserve to remain untold.

Having bitten once, I should have shied. I picked another book of similar purpose, a more recent "Between the Thames and the Tiber: Further Adventures by Sherlock Holmes" by Ted Riccardi. I gave up midway through the third story in this collection, which thankfully, also had 'original titles'. There is no additional cause for dislike in this case. Seriously, what these 'stories' -- for, I wouldn't dare anoint them 'mysteries' -- uniformly lack in plump is the fine art of deduction that Doyle originated and enunciated so well through his Sherlock to unravel a seemingly unsolvable mystery through logical appraisal of clues and facts that were at times merely over the top but neither impossible nor implausible. There are more such attempts to write 'Sherlock Holmes mysteries' by other authors (counted seven). I only hope some of those stories pass muster in the mystery and deduction department. Because, with no real talent in English writing, even I can construct Sherlockian sentences (the only thing going right for these books). Like this: After having brought on my undivided attention to bear upon some of the purported mysteries, delivered in wads of accentuated Victorian text, in two manuscripts by seemingly different authors, nevertheless bereft of any real mystery or deduction whatsoever, I could only throw up my arms now in remonstrance and ejaculate, "Catastrophe."

Imagining Creativity

Christopher Chabris, while critiquing the recent book 'Imagine' by Jonah Lehrer, observes in his NY Times Sunday Review:
The goal of "Imagine," according to its subtitle, is to tell us "how creativity works" — to offer a scientific, mechanistic account of a seemingly ineffable phenomenon. And what distinguishes the scientific from other modes of thinking is not its technology, level of detail or even subject matter, but its ability to discover reliable cause-and-effect relationships. The clarity of physics and chemistry is rare in social science, but this is no license for presenting interesting speculations as settled truths.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Shallows

Nicholas Carr, Knight Crusader for Online Undistractions, expanded the theme of his Is Google making Us Stupid article into a Pulitzer (non-fiction category) finalist book, The Shallows. After reading six chapters in the e-version, I bought the hard-bound print version of Shallows and completed reading it a while back. The switch to the 'conventional' version is for a reason that Shallows wouldn't anticipate, but was discussed upfront in the more pragmatic (perhaps, as it was written after Shallows,) The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs (shall write on this separately). I switched not because of any inherent e-version distraction but because of lack of copious links -- yes, that distracting and abhorrent method to wormhole from one region to another in e-text country -- to flip back and forth, guided by my memory, even as I am absorbed in the e-book. It is an inherent design problem with the e-book device, mentioned in The Pleasures..., yet to be satisfactorily addressed.

Short review (of Shallows): Our increased online activities cultivate an increased level of distraction in us than the internet-noisome-free English lit of yore. Is(n't) Google making us stupid? Perhaps yes, according to Shallows, after chapters of eloquent analysis with a detectable tinge of panic. Analysis that is mostly valid for a library or a dictionary or even a shopping mall. All are sources of such 'distractions' that rewire our brain to make us want something else on the rack than what we hold in our hand. Each of the chapters in The Shallows definitely provides in lucid text, well researched information on the evolution of reading in humans, culminating into an argument for 'unplugging' our reading. Ironically, by then, the argument for 'absorbed reading' is blunted by the prose. So, Is Google making us stupid? But do we need Google to make us so? For instance, if we find online activities distracting and hurting an endearing task we were sure we like to do now -- like writing a book named Shallows -- why not reduce online activities or pull out the internet cable? I am checking this one for the past few months with my online writing -- to minimize my "internet distraction" in order to write a book. It seems possible and not as painful as Nick Carr panics in his book. If we are incapable of discerning, deciding and acting on our priorities, do we need a Google to pronounce us stupid?

Long review: If you have read the above 'link-free' paragraph in one go on your screen, you are perhaps too much into IntraWeb you would already have stopped reading books. Or perhaps you are totally 'unplugged' to retain your ability to grasp my sententious paragraphs above, albeit online. In either case, you don't need The Shallows, leave alone my long review of it to help you decide on its reading. Evgeny Morosov in a best-of-2011-put-down suggested, "This is a book that should have stayed a tweet," about a Jeff Jarvis book. I won't dare to suggest such a verdict for The Shallows with its well researched content. But when viewed as a long argument for a 'patented, off-line un-distracted, concentrated reading', I certainly felt The Shallows could have remained Is Google Making Us Stupid.

Nanopolitan Gets a Co-Blogger

I am pleased to announce that Arunn Narasimhan is now a co-blogger here.

Arunn has been blogging on and off at several sites, and I have had many occasions to link to his posts. It's fantastic that, in a conversation yesterday, he and I came up with the idea of his joining Nanopolitan as a co-contributor.

The sidebar and the About page have been modified to reflect this change, and each contributor now has a separate "Intro" page: Abi and Arunn.

Over to you, Arunn!

The Higgs! The Boson!

  1. The Hunted (cartoon), by Abstruse Goose.

  2. Do you still want to see this Odd Particle I’ve found? (cartoon), by Noise to Signal.

  3. A sonnet on a Higgs-like particle (video) by Vi Hart.

  4. BoingBoing: Gettin' Higgy With it: A Roundup of Higgs Boson Jokes on Twitter.

  5. Closer Home. On the one hand, The gods of the particles ("The Higgs bit we know. But the boson? Western science is overlooking India's contribution to the discovery") by Amit Chaudhuri, and For the Indian Father of the ‘God Particle,’ a Long Journey from Dhaka by Samanth Subramanian.

  6. On the other hand, Higgs and the subcontinent by Rahul Siddharthan; and also on the other hand (a very snarky one!), Putting the Bose in boson. And my fist in your face-on by Achintya Rao.

Extreme Academia

  1. Russia: Drunk professor forces students to sit through 23-hour-long science exam.

  2. Germany: University sues over early graduation: "The School of Economics and Management in Essen is asking the court to make former student Marcel Pohl, 22, pay an extra $3,772 after he obtained his degrees in only three semesters instead of the usual 11."

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Impact(!) of Mathematical Equations in Biology Papers

... The density of equations in an article has a significant negative impact on citation rates, with papers receiving 28% fewer citations overall for each additional equation per page in the main text. [...]

That's from the abstract of a recent PNAS paper: Heavy use of equations impedes communication among biologists by Tim W. Fawcett1 and Andrew D. Higginson of the University of Bristol.

Uri Simonsohn's Killer App

It has been reported to be pretty good at flagging fraudulent data in research publications -- so good, in fact, that it has already led to resignation of a Dutch scientist; according to this Science Insider story, it has forced another (unnamed) perpetrator to resign.

And for all that, the killer app -- a new statistical technique -- is yet to be published.

Science Insider has been covering this very interesting development which, apparently, is sending panic waves into the community of social psychologists:

Philosophers, Wikipedia, ...

... and infographics!

Lots of stuff for philosophers and historians to nibble at, and (eye) candy for the rest of us...

[Addendum: a bigger, richer infographic of all the influentials in Wikipedia.]