09 September 2010

Readings, 2010.09.08

Wednesday's Readings

The Economy

At the New York Review of Books, Paul Krugman and Robin Wells (his wife) examine the causes of the real-estate bubble and the reasons for the weak recovery.  A must-read (even if you want to argue with it): lucid and direct, and informed by a global view of the economy.  The first of a two-part series.

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution considers the conundrum "Should we let housing prices fall?" (which is apparently the economist's version of "What is the sound of one hand clapping?').



Privacy (not)

EFF has posted their "E-Book Buyer's Guide to Privacy."  Bottom line: with Google Books, Amazon Kindle, or Barnes & Noble Nook, you ain't got much.



Copy Protection

Carl Pyrdum at Got Medieval has an entertaining post on copy protection during the Medieval era (via Techdirt, via Slashdot).  "Book curses" were the most popular method. A sample:
Should anyone by craft of any device whatever abstract this
book from this place may his soul suffer, in retribution for what he
has done, and may his name be erased from the book of the living and
not recorded among the Blessed.
--attributed to a 16th-century French missal belonging to a man named Robert



Academia

Larry Moran at Sandwalk reports on the World University Rankings 2010, just out.  The top 10, in order: Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, University College London, MIT, Oxford, Imperial College London, University of Chicago (some of my friends may question this one), Cal Tech, Princeton.  As Moran points out, it's striking that four of the top 10 are British.

At The Chronicle of Higher Education, Frank Donoghue asks "Can the Humanities Survive the 21st Century?"  There is a very active comment thread.  Donoghue has a (fairly) recent book: The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities (2008).

And a comment on Donoghue by Bill Benzon at New Savanna.



Science

Matthew Nisbet at Big Think wonders whether science journalism needs to be more "upstream" (that is, whether it needs to focus more on the messiness of science as it happens).  The discussion seems to be about science journalism in the legacy media, which seems increasingly irrelevant ... Much science blogging is already "upstream."

John Hawks reports briefly on a new paper in Nature that looks at plagiarism in scientific papers submitted to a Chinese journal (it was found in 31% of them).  Hawks points out that plagiarism is actually very widespread.

At Whewell's Ghost, the new blog on the history and philosophy of science, John Wilkins has reposted his "Scientists as historians."  Bottom line: for scientists, history is mainly a kind of PR and spin control.



Evolution

Razib Khan has a nice overview of sexual selection, as a lead-in to a summary of a new paper on the topic, S. Venner et al. (2010), "Make love not war: when should less competitive males choose low-quality but dependable females?," The American Naturalist. PMID: 20415532



Philosophy

A post at The Stone (NYT) on experimental philosophy by Joshua Knobe, one of its practitioners.

Tim Crane, Professor of Philosophy and avowed atheist, has a perplexing piece on religion and science, likewise at The Stone.  The point seems to be that traditionally religious people don't think about the world like scientists do, and critics of religion should take this into account.  Crane's depiction of the scientific way of thinking is a caricature.



Language

The program for the second Neurobiology of Language Conference (11-12 November, San Diego) is available here.



Music

C from R-Chart has posted at github a visual analysis of Bach's 2-part Invention No. 8 in F Major (BWV 779) using ggplot2 in R.  He also includes the code and several other graphs, as well as links to some R packages for musical analysis that I hadn't known about.  I'm going to check them out. (R, ggplot2, and the music analysis packages are all free.)

Here's one of the graphs.





Two reviews of the new production (till 14 September) of the opera Der Stein der Weisen by the Zürich Opera at the Theater Winterthur:
Thomas Schacher, "Aus Schwarz und Weiss wird Grau," NZZ Online.

"Bezauberndes Flöten," tagesanzeiger.ch.
Isn't it about time someone added an article on Stein to English Wikipedia??



&c.

Most unusual headline of the day:

"Detecting Explosives with Nematodes"

No, seriously.

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