Archive for: July, 2010

Friday Sprog Blogging: waking up.

Jul 30 2010 Published by under Kids and science, Minds and/or brains

Younger offspring: Mom? I have a question.

Dr. Free-Ride: OK.

Younger offspring: If I got up really early --

Dr. Free-Ride: I hope you won't.
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Research methods and primary literature.

At Uncertain Principles, Chad opines that "research methods" look different on the science-y side of campus than they do for his colleagues in the humanities and social sciences:

When the college revised the general education requirements a few years ago, one of the new courses created had as one of its key goals to teach students the difference between primary and secondary sources. Which, again, left me feeling like it didn't really fit our program-- as far as I'm concerned, the "primary source" in physics is the universe. If you did the experiment yourself, then your data constitute a primary source. Anything you can find in the library is necessarily a secondary source, whether it's the original research paper, a review article summarizing the findings in some field, or a textbook writing about it years later.

In many cases, students are much better off reading newer textbook descriptions of key results than going all the way back to the "primary source" in the literature. Lots of important results in science were initially presented in a form much different than the fuller modern understanding. Going back to the original research articles often requires deciphering cumbersome and outdated notation, when the same ideas are presented much more clearly in newer textbooks.

That's not really what they're looking for in the course in question, though-- they don't want it to be a lab course. But then it doesn't feel like a "research methods" class at all-- while we do occasional literature searches, for the most part that's accomplished by tracing back direct citations from recent articles. When I think about teaching students "research methods," I think of things like teaching basic electronics, learning to work an oscilloscope, basic laser safety and operation, and so on. The library is a tiny, tiny part of what I do when I do research, and the vast majority of the literature searching I do these days can be done from my office computer.

I'm going to share some observations which maybe complicate Chad's "two cultures" framing of research (and of what sorts of research methods one might reasonably impart to undergraduates in a course focused on research methods in a particular discipline).

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Friday Sprog Blogging: climate change and ecosystems.

Driving home with the Free-Ride offspring yesterday, we heard a story on the radio that caught out attention. (The radio story discusses newly published research that's featured on the cover of Nature this week.) When we got home, we had a chat about it.

Dr. Free-Ride: What did you guys learn from that story on the radio about the yellow-bellied marmot?

Elder offspring: That, in the short term, climate change is good for some species.

Dr. Free-Ride: Tell me more about that.
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Americans for Medical Progress names two Hayre Fellows in Public Outreach.

Today Americans for Medical Progress has announced two recipients for academic year 2010-2011 of the Michael D. Hayre Fellowship in Public Outreach, designed to inspire and motivate the next generation of research advocates. This year, I'm especially wowed by their project.

From the AMP press release:
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Save us from the armchair philosopher with a blog.

In what is surely a contender for the photo next to the "business as usual in the blogosphere" entry in the Wiktionary, a (male) blogger has posted a list of the sexiest (all-but-one female) scientists (using photos of those scientists obtained from the web without any indication that he had also obtained proper permission to use those photos in his post), and now the blogger says he wants to know what could possibly be wrong about making such a post.

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Unprovoked YouTubery.

Jul 16 2010 Published by under Passing thoughts, Pop culture

It's Friday, I'm still working on stuff that I was supposed to be done with by now, and the temperatures in the vicinity of Casa Free-Ride have climbed into the uncomfortable range that is more compatible with having a cold beer (or lying motionless) than with slogging through the stuff I'm working on.
This calls for some videotainment!

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Friday Sprog Blogging: limits on screen time.

Jul 16 2010 Published by under Kids and science, Medicine

Dr. Free-Ride: I know you have some views, maybe, or questions, or something, about the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations about children, adolescents, and television. Although it's not actually just television, it's other screens, too. So, first off, can I get your general reaction to the fact that your pediatrician even has a view about what you should be doing with respect to screen time?
Elder offspring: (Piteous wailing.)
Dr. Free-Ride: That's rather inarticulate.
Elder offspring: (Poses like the figure in "The Scream")
Dr. Free-Ride: While this shows that you've been educated about art, it doesn't really answer my question. Here, have a look at the concerns that their document lists. Are there particular of these concerns that you think are reasonable and particular one that you, personally, maybe think are not?

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In which Socratic parenting backfires.

Jul 15 2010 Published by under Kids and science, Passing thoughts

I've been busy in the three-dimensional world, where I am in the middle of committing an unnatural act for an academic: writing out every word of a lecture. (As weird as it is, it makes the video production of that lecture easier -- more about that in the fullness of time.) In between such unnatural acts, however, I've been schlepping the sprogs to their summertime activities.
Today, during one such schlep, the following exchange occurred.

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Friday Sprog Blogging: trust and the internet.

Regular readers will recall that this is not the first time the Free-Ride family has discussed skepticism and trust.
Dr. Free-Ride: You two are both exploring the internet more lately, and you know that one of the things people use the internet for is to sell you stuff, right?
Younger offspring: Yeah.
Elder offspring: Yeah.
Dr. Free-Ride: So how do you tell if the people selling you stuff are telling the truth about what they're selling?

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13 responses so far

Welcome to inescapable conflict of interest.

Today ScienceBlogs launched a new sponsored blog, Food Frontiers. The sponsor is PepsiCo. Here's the description of what the blog is going to be about from its inaugural post by Sb overlord Evan Lerner:

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23 responses so far

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