Science & Society

Today's tale looks at whether ancient Sufi mystics predicted the current climate for science in the Western World.  Some see science as an ivory tower pursuit, others as a way of achieving technological advancement, still others as a path to personal glory.  But some of us see more.

A quick look at the top ScientificBlogging stories this week gives us titles seemingly ripped from summer blockbusters and beach reading.  Shark Week, Chemistry of Love, Moral Lessons, the Indiana Jones Method of Science, Super Sexy.
The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good
T'is one of my favorite sayings.  "The perfect is the enemy of the good," refers to the habit of condemning a solution because it is not perfect, like rejecting a free Honda Civic because it is not a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT.1967 Shelby Mustang GT

This issue afflicts academics, religious zealots, stereotypical princesses, and Israel/Palestine.  It generally prevents compromise and, you know, getting stuff done.
Calypso
The lonely nymph who waylays Odysseus for eight years on her island of Ogygia. Though the beautiful Calypso offers ease and even immortality, she is in fact selfish, caring only to alleviate her own loneliness. Watch out for self-serving kindness.

Cyclops

Polyphemus, the Cyclops, traps Odysseus and his crew in his cave and eats six men before Odysseus gets him drunk, blinds him with a wooden stake, and escapes with his remaining crew by hiding under sheep. Polyphemus, with his one eye, represents a person with only one point of view. Beware: If you are monofocused and that monofocus fails, you are SOL, just like Polyphemus.

Yes! Science is finally wiggling its way in to that sweet spot of American culture, television. Exhibit A: the Emmy nominations, announced today. I've never paid attention to this before but was suckered in by a headline about Family Guy (the first animated series since The Flintstones in 1961 to be nominated as best comedy series) and happily discovered nods to science among the nominees.

Just some of the nominees from popular programming related to science:
I'm assuming most of you here have not followed the ongoing board war between ex-Scienceblogs and current Discover bloggers Chris Mooney/Sheril Kirshenbaum and current Sciencblogs tour de force PZ Myers.

To save you all that time it would take to read it, I encapsulated the first two salvos in Chris Mooney Versus P.Z. Myers And The State Of "Unscientific America" but now I'll just include my thoughts on the latest installments.  I got no dog in this fight but it's the kind of train wreck I can't look away from.
This almost makes up for cursing the world with Windows Vista: "Gates Puts Feynman Lectures Online
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates believes that if he had been able to watch physicist Richard Feynman lecture on physics in 1964 his life might have played out differently... Mr. Gates, who is also well known for his sharp and varied intellectual interests and his philanthropic commitment to education, said this week that he had purchased the rights to videos of seven lectures that Dr. Feynman gave at Cornell University called “The Character of Physical Law,” in an effort to make them broadly available via the Internet.
A page of interesting thoughts and great quotes on visual thinking in science:


[Feynman]: The next great era of awakening of human intellect may well produce a method of understanding the qualitative content of equations. Today we cannot. Today we cannot see that the water flow equations contain such things as the barber pole structure of turbulence that one sees between rotating cylinders. Today we cannot see whether Schroedinger's equation contains frogs, musical composers, or morality - or whether it does not. We cannot say whether something beyond it like God is needed, or not. And so we can all hold strong opinions either way.

In the past several months I have been intellectually consumed with the
idea of academic blogging and its potential to one day change the face
of academic communication.  I say "one day" because although there are
increasing numbers of academic bloggers, and academic blogging sites
like scientific blogging, only a small number of academics actually
blog. 
I can relate to what Isis is saying

When I first told a more senior colleague what I was up to, he told me, "Isis, I don't care if you are building model trains in your spare time and then blowing them up. Just keep the data coming." That is the metric by which we are judged. But, keeping the data coming can be tedious and sitting to hammer out a grant application, book chapter, or article can feel endless. I can throw out a blog post, by comparison, in a minimal amount of time and feel like i have accomplished something. And I have to you and to me, as long as I don't take my eye off the prize.
University of Denver researchers say that couples who live together before they are engaged have a higher chance of getting divorced than those who wait until they are married to cohabitate.

In addition, couples who lived together before engagement and then married, reported a lower satisfaction in their marriages.   Couples who got engaged and then later moved in together had no conclusive difference one way or another.   The research published in Journal of Family Psychology was conducted by Galena Rhoades, senior researcher, Scott Stanley, research professor, and Howard Markman, professor of psychology.