Archive for: November, 2009

Under the weight of the semester.

It's the last day of November. I have three more meetings with each of my classes before finals. I have oodles of grading to do before finals. I have one big administrative task and at least a dozen smaller ones to do before the end of the semester.
And, at the moment, I feel as though the weight of the semester is pressing down on me, like the stones used to press to death that one man so sentenced in the Salem witch trials.

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4 responses so far

Friday Sprog Blogging: questions.

Nov 27 2009 Published by under Kids and science

Today, the Free-Ride offspring have lots of questions. Maybe science can answer some of them.
Younger offspring: Why do the stars shine so bright?
Elder offspring: Why do snails come out on rainy days?
Younger offspring: Why does food taste so good?

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3 responses so far

'My work has been plagiarized. Now what?'

I received an email from reader Doug Blank (who gave me permission to share it here and to identify him by name) about a perplexing situation:

I thought I'd solicit your advice. Recently, I found an instance of parts of my thesis appearing in a journal article, and of the paper being presented at a conference. In fact, further exploration revealed that it had won a best paper prize! Why don't I feel proud...
I've sent the following letter to the one and only email address that I found on the journal's website, almost three weeks ago, but haven't heard anything. I tried contacting the Editorial Advisory Board Chair (through that same email), but he doesn't have any specific contact information anywhere available on the web, or elsewhere. He is emeritus at [name of university redacted], but they won't tell me how to contact him. I asked a secretary there to forward my contact to him. I emailed website maintainers. Nothing yet.
Some questions from this: can one have a journal without having someone easily contactable for such issues? No telephone numbers? Who is responsible for catching this kind of thing? Reviewers? Could the community rise to the challenge? For example, could we build a site where papers that are ready for publishing get scrutinized for plagiarism? People would love that more than wikipedia!
Am I in any risk for even sending such accusatory emails? Should I contact the perp? What would he do? What can he do?
I hope to follow this through to the end. Feel free to use any of this as material. If you are interested, I'd be glad to update you. More importantly, I'd be glad to hear of advice.

Doug appended the email message he sent to the elusive Editorial Advisory Board Chair (which I present here heavily redacted, just in case the guy turns up and makes an effort to set things right):

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27 responses so far

Weekend diversion: Happy Thinksgiving.

The younger Free-Ride offspring's soccer team has been playing in a regional tournament this weekend, and we're girding our loins and guarding our shins to go out and play a second day of tournament games. I'm happy that they're playing so well, but I have to say, watching games in late November is a different experience than spectating in mid-September. (Bone-chilling cold + bad sunburn = some kind of tangible sign of a parent's devotion. If only one's child took it seriously.)
Anyway, in the meantime, I wanted to test your knowledge in the identification of some turkeys.


Specifically, the turkeys currently adorning the door to my department's main office.
Here they are one by one:

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6 responses so far

Death is not an option: optimizing academic performance edition.

Let's say you're a college student.
You have a class meeting today at which a short essay (about 400 words) is due. The essay counts for about 5% of your grade for the course.
At that class meeting, your instructor will be lecturing on the reading assignment upon which that short essay is focused. The material from the reading assignment will likely appear on the final exam, which is only a few weeks away.

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21 responses so far

Friday Sprog Blogging: photosynthesis.

Nov 20 2009 Published by under Biology, Chemistry, Kids and science

Dr. Free-Ride: Any ideas for tomorrow's sprog blog?
Younger offspring: I wanted to do how photosynthesis works.
Dr. Free-Ride: Did you do any research on that since last week?
Younger offspring: I don't do research.

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4 responses so far

Dismal, yes, but is it science?

As I was driving home from work today, I was listening to Marketplace on public radio. In the middle of a story, reported by Nancy Marshall Genzer, about opponents of health care reform, there was an interesting comment that bears on the nature of economics as a scientific discipline. From the transcript of the story:

The Chamber of Commerce is taking a bulldozer to the [health care reform] bill. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported the Chamber is hiring an economist to study the legislation. The goal: more ammunition to sink the bill.
Ewe Reinhardt teaches economics at Princeton. He says, if the Chamber does its study, it will probably get the result it wants.
EWE REINHARDT: You can always get an economist with a PhD from a reputable university to give a scientific report that makes your case. So, yes, there will be such a study.

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16 responses so far

Friday Sprog Blogging: placebo effect.

Nov 13 2009 Published by under Kids and science, Medicine

Dr. Free-Ride: Do you know what a placebo is?
Elder offspring: A placebo is something that you think works but doesn't really work.

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11 responses so far

Grades for sale?

Steinn apparently knows how to get me riled about wrong-headed middle school fundraising initiatives, since he nearly derailed my efforts to push through my stack of grading with his recent post about one such initiative. He quotes from a Raleigh News & Observer story:

Rosewood Middle School in Goldsboro... will sell 20 test points to students in exchange for a $20-dollar donation.
Students can add 10 extra points to each of two tests of their choosing. The extra points could take a student from a "B" to an "A" on a test or from a failing grade to a passing grade.
Rosewood's principal Susie Shepherd rejected the idea that extra points on two tests could make a difference in a final grade.
Shepherd said she approved the idea when a parent advisory council presented it. "Last year they did chocolates and it didn't generate anything," Shepherd said.

However, this cash-for-points fundraiser didn't last long:

Wayne County school administrators stopped the fundraiser, issuing a statement this morning.
"Yesterday afternoon, the district administration met with [Rosewood Middle School principal] Mrs. Shepherd and directed the the following actions be taken: (1) the fundraiser will be immediately stopped; (2) no extra grade credit will be issued that may have resulted from donations; and (3) beginning Novermber 12, all donations will be returned."

Steinn despairs at this whole situation. I'm not liking it so much either.

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9 responses so far

One of the reasons I prefer a whiteboard to a chalkboard.

Nov 12 2009 Published by under Passing thoughts, Personal

Chalk dust thigh:


Indeed, this was the state of my pants after I walked partway across campus from my classroom to my office, so the level of chalk dust had decreased from its maximum level when I snapped this picture.

8 responses so far

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