Zen and the Art of Science Popularization

I remember reading a stack of popular physics books back in the 1980s and 1990s that proposed a connection between quantum physics and Eastern philosophy. For example, The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra and The Dancing Wu-Li Masters by Gary Zukav. What happened to all of those ideas? I recalled this experience while I was reading parts of Ecology, Ethics and the Future of Humanity by Adam Riggio. I’m in the middle of writing a review of the book and one of the early chapters mentions the connection between ecological thinking and Eastern philosophy and religion.

Education and cognitive domination

A brief excerpt in Today’s Professor newsletter from a book edited by Chad Hanson. In the past 20 years, scholars and practitioners have committed to measuring the cognitive outcomes of education. In this chapter, the author assesses the movement that focuses on cognition, to the exclusion of other outcomes. An identity-based framework is offered as an alternative. Howard Bowen (1977) once wrote, “The impact of higher education is likely to be determined more by the kind of people college graduates become than by what they know when they leave college” (p.

Why is Popper so popular?

There is a disconnect between the philosophy of science as it is practiced by philosophers and the philosophy of science as it is interpreted by scientists. I think this difference is the main reason why the paradigm battles between quantitative and qualitative or positivist and interpretivist are still being fought so hard today. I’m wondering how much of this difference can be attributed to the popularity of two philosophers from the middle of the twentieth century: Kuhn and Popper.

Tracking the popularity of the sciences

I was thinking recently about the popularity of various sciences. Off the top of my head I believed that the social sciences were usually less popular than the natural/hard sciences. I also guessed that sociology or anthropology would be less popular than psychology, among the social sciences. The natural sciences get a lot of publicity from television programs such as Nova or Nature. I don’t believe there is very much coverage of the social sciences at all on television.

How did you become interested in social science?

We were talking in class yesterday about how each of us became interested in social science, specifically sociology. What kind of articles did we admire or remember? A few people mentioned some qualitative articles they had read and the rest of the class nodded along with the professor. Yes, qualitative articles are what we remember most, those quantitative articles are just a mess of numbers that never go far enough to analyze what is behind the numbers.

Candles, Faraday, and Teaching

I’m giving a guest lecture to a STEM class in about two weeks. I plan to talk about my research into citizen science. One of the questions I want to get the students thinking about is what makes someone into a scientist. Is it education, knowledge, skill, social influence, professional certification, or something else? But starting with one question always leads to another. So my mind began to wander back to when I was a volunteer at the Science Museum of Minnestoa in the 1990s.

Entrepreneurs, Labor, and Citizen Science

Venkatesh Rao, the blogger at ribbonfarm has written a three-part series “Entrepreneurs are the new labor” for Forbes. His basic argument is that entrepreneurs are becoming a new labor class. Twenty years ago technology entrepreurs, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, were the Robber Barons of the current technology wave, riding the development of personal computres to massive individual fortunes. Today the entrepreurs in Silicon Valley are building upon the shoulders of these giants, many of their companies are small bore endeavors creating the latest social-this-social-that app for consumer smartphones.

Are scientists part of the elite?

Chris Hayes appeared on Point of Inquiry to pitch his new book The Twilight of the Elites. Chris Mooney and he discussed the difference between science and Wall Street, two areas of human activity that appear to value intelligence above all other qualities, and both of which claim to be meritocracies. Hayes argues that meritocracy has failed because it has devolved into a system of ‘inequality in, inequality out.’ Could science suffer from the same problem?

White House announces "big data" initiative

Today the White House held a press conference announcing a new “big data” initiative pledging $200 million dollars to new efforts. Agencies involved include the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and US Geological Survey. A PDF of the press release and a fact sheet is available at the Office of Science and Technology Policy website.

The Value of Information - Freedom and Inquiry

I often hear people talk about the value of information being available in a very general sense. These kind of claims seem to arise during discussions about freedom of speech or the marketplace of ideas. In these arguments the claim is often made that one would rather have the offensive/dangerous/obscure/unusual information out there in the world somewhere, even if one has no personal need or interest in the information. Another similar type of argument is made about academic and scientific freedom - that intellectuals should be free to at least investigate and possibly disseminate any and all types of information.