Science & Society

It's election season and the biggest schism in American culture come November voting won't be abortion or global warming, it will be the size and role of the U.S. government in the last two years.

But increased government involvement is not new in American cultural debates - nor is it even new in science.   
When you think 'geek', is your first thought 'marry one'?  If so, you may enjoy this 'how to' from blogger Leslie Sobol over at AMD (yeah, the processor manufacturers).  If, on the other hand, you are yourself a geek, at least you can be happy discovering there's a cheat sheet on how to date _you_.  Mostly for your paycheck and job security, I suspect, but hey, this makes us mainstream!

And yet, and yet... I find some of the Cosmo-level advice sadly viable.  Not just for geek-bagging, but for snaring any spouse through faked interest and false intentions.
Our ideal image of the perfect partner differs greatly from the one we have, according to new research from the University of Sheffield and the University of Montpellier in France.

Why would we choose partners with a different height, weight and body mass index than those we would ideally choose?

It may be that we take what we can get.   

The study found that most men and women express different mating preferences for body morphology than the actual morphology of their partners and the discrepancies between real mates and fantasies were often larger for women than for men.
Can crowdsourcing lead to better medicine?   

Crowdsourcing is used in astronomy and protein folding in biology, along with engineering and computer software. But can the 'wisdom of crowds' also help cure disease?

It's certainly possible.  An unheralded clockmaker in England named John Harrison showed that longitude could be determined by using a timepiece, making the study of astronomy by experts overkill and revolutionizing travel by sea

A group at Harvard created The Challenge in February to find out if citizen science could work for diabetes research too, and their results are in.  

A group of scientists say they have conducted a comprehensive study of how different body measurements correspond with ratings of female attractiveness.

Even across cultural divides, women who are young, tall and long armed were considered the most attractive, they found, to little surprise.

According to the researchers, traditional studies of attractiveness used a natural selection framework - an individual will always choose the best possible mate that circumstances will allow (romance of the fitter?).   Those studies focused on torso, waist, bust and hip measurements.
If you are a scientist in any field you have had to deal with a member of the public who did not understand the word theory.  This blog post intends to be a simple explanation for the willing but confused. 
What are theories how are they arrived at? 

The word theory has it's roots in the scientific method.  (In order to divorce this from creationism or the theory that the ancient Egyptians were really black Africans and other emotionally charged topics I shall write in Abstract terms. )

The scientific method has several basic steps.  

  1. Observation of some phenomena.    


A postdoc's view of the changing world of academic research

'What's on your mind?' These are the four words taunting me on my Facebook page as I wind down from a long day at work. Today that may be a tough one to answer in a witty one-liner. The postdoc union this week reached a tentative agreement with the University of California to help implement a whole host of improvements to postdoc working conditions, and I was obliged to vote for or against its ratification. 
Airlines, hotel companies, anything with a date attached, know they have you on the hook the closer to that date because no one buys airline tickets for tomorrow unless they are desperate, and there are fewer tickets available, so capitalism says you consumers will pay more because they must.

But even William Shatner knows the airline seat or hotel room has no value for the corporation either, once it is gone - he works for a corporation that makes money selling last-minute fares and hotel rooms because it is an asset that expires. That can be your advantage also because airlines and others don't want to fly empty so they often have the 'best' prices on a limited number of seats long in advance in order to break even.   Buying in advance makes sense also.
I live in China, in Nanjing, which is not too far from Shanghai, and work at Nanjing University (NJU). This type of adventure becomes popular. China gains in popularity also among academics. It seems to become a viable career move. I have been by now off and on for 5 years in China and can attest that it booms at a frightening, literally scary speed. It cannot go on at this pace, but nothing stops people from coming to the cities except the slow choking of everything.
There was a time a few years ago when the music industry was in the doldrums.   They blamed MP3 piracy, though it made no sense unless you were the kind of person who believes 'jobs saved or created' is also a valid metric for beneficial impact of government stimulus plans - basically, claiming that every pirated piece of music was a lost sale was unrealistically hopeful.   Most pirates may download something, but they weren't going to buy it anyway.

Yet capitalism began to reshape the music industry even when they couldn't figure out how themselves.  iTunes made it elegant for people to buy songs, and so they did, and now capitalism is at work in the music itself.