11 September 2010

Readings, 2010.09.10

Friday's Readings (and Listenings):


Mark Taylor, author of the new Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities, was Tom Ashbrook's guest for the first hour of On Point on Thursday. You can listen to the show here. Taylor is initially rather stiff, but things heat up in the second half when Ashbrook brings in via phone link Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors.  I'm still not convinced that these insiders fully comprehend the extent of the rot in higher educatin.  And I am continually astonished that no one in the current American debate over tenure refers to the conditions of employment in higher education in other countries. By the logic of someone like Nelson, who completely buys into the myth that tenure protects academic freedom, there must be no academic freedom in Britain.

David A. Bell at The New Republic has a scathing review of Taylor's book: "Does This Man Deserve Tenure?"

Publishing and Reading

Sony has announced two new eBook readers, the Reader Touch Edition and the Reader Pocket Edition. These devices will (at least in the U.K.) be able to "check out" electronic books from libraries in a way that works much like the current system of checking out physical books. See the story by Jonathan Bray at PC Pro.

(Via John Hawks) Gautham Nagesh at The Hill reports on a pilot project in four California schools to give 400 8th graders algebra textbooks on an iPad, in place of physical books.


During the second hour of On Point on Thursday, Tom Ashbrook talked with physicist Leonard Mlodinow of Cal Tech, co-author with Stephen Hawking of the new book The Grand Design.

Meanwhile, The Economist has a highly uncomplimentary review of the book.

James Fetzer's article on Carl Hempel (the "covering law" theory of explanation) has just been posted at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosphy.


The great evolutionary biologist George Williams, author of Adaptation and Natural Selection (1966) died on Wednesday at the age of 84. See Carl Zimmer's touching appreciation at The Loom.  John Wilkins has links to several other obituaries.

Literary Darwinism

Norman Holland at Psychology Today writes on "How the Literary Darwinists Got it Wrong," calling the claims of literary Darwinism "fact-free and faith-based."

Joseph Carroll, the "father" of literary Darwinism, responds, and a lengthy (sometimes heated) exchange follows (continued here).


William Lu at The Quantum Lobe Chronicles summarizes a new review paper: A. Dietrich and R. Kanso (2010), "A review of EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies of creativity and insight," Psychological bulletin.  Behind a paywall at APA PsycNET, where it costs $11.95.

Jason Goldman at The Thoughtful Animal has a good post, "Origins of Mind 101," ranging from Descartes to Berkeley to the innateness of facial recognition in humans.

Art and Attribution

At FAZ.NET, Rose-Maria Gropp points out that scandals like the "Sammlung Jägers" (about which see my Roundup from last weekend) could be avoided if "experts" would simply do their homework when investigating provenance:  "Der Heilige Kuh heißt Provenienz."


Wikileaks is said to be preparing the release of a "massive" collection of U.S. military documents related to the Iraq War; the collection is said to be larger than the one released earlier this summer on the war in Afghanistan. Stories at Newsweek and Wired.


You-Learn-Something-New-Every-Day Department
The German title of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is "Wer die Nachtigall stört." 
Not quite the same thing....

And, from a post by Victor Mair at Language Log:

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  1. For a discussion (between Michael Lorenz and me) of the background of the phrases "To kill a mockingbird" (not, apparently, an "old proverb" as the study guides claim) and "Wer die Nachtigall stört" (which goes back to Oswald von Wolkenstein), you'll have to see the comments on this post on my Facebook account.

  2. Is this your "paying wall"? :)

  3. There may be a way to link directly to the comments section of that post in my Facebook account, but I couldn't figure out how!

    The only other interesting bit in the exchange is this:

    The earliest citation for any version of the phrase "to kill a mockingbird" that I could find in Google Books is from a digest of laws in 1897:

    "Mockingbirds and nests: That any person who shall rob or destroy the nests of mocking birds, or who shall take any eggs from their nest, or who shall kill any mocking birds, shall be fined not less than ten dollars, and lie guilty of a misdemeanor.

    Ratified March 9, 1897."

    Some local laws cited just after this use something closer to the phrase that Harper Lee used as a title.

  4. There might be an answer to the question, why mockingbird has been translated with Nachtigall probably you know this...

    "Was uns die Nachtigall ist, das ist dem Nordamerikaner der Spottvogel oder die Spottdrossel. Wie ihr Name besagt, entlehnt sie anderen Vögeln ihre Weisen. Alle diese Töne werden aber so meisterhaft zu einem Ganzen, zu einem „herrlichen Tonstücke“ vereinigt, daß man die Spottdrossel die „Königin des Gesanges“ genannt und sie selbst über die Nachtigall gestellt hat. Die Streitakten über diese Primadonnen der Neuen und der Alten Welt sind noch nicht geschlossen. Der Phonograph wird diese Fragen jedoch bald in neuen Fluss bringen, indem er den bis jetzt so schwer oder gar nicht wiederzugebenden Vogelgesang festhalten kann."