24 September 2010

Readings, 2010.09.23

Thursday's Readings


E. J. Dionne Jr. at TruthDig points out that the activist arm of the Tea Party is very small, and is receiving media attention all out of proportion to its size.

Science Blogging

Sean Roberts at A Replicated Typo reports on a talk by Geoffrey Pullum regarding the (essential) Language Log (at which Pullum is a frequent contributor), and talks about the developing role of blogs in the process of actually doing science, rather than just reporting on it.

Daniel Lende at Neuroanthropology writes on anthropologist Kathryn Clancy, her blog Context and Variation, and her experience in the world of science blogging, which has so far been mainly the province of men.

Philosophy of History

And speaking of actual science (and scholarship in general) happening in blogs:  Daniel Little at Understanding Society (which bills itself as a "web-based, dynamic monograph on the philosophy of social science") announces the publication of his new book, New Contributions to the Philosophy of History (Springer), which, as he explains, has incorporated quite a lot of material that he has developed at the blog over the past few years.

Science-based medicine

Adam La Caze has what looks like an important article in Biology & Philosophy, "The role of basic science in evidence-based medicine."  Unfortunately, it's behind a paywall at Springer, where it costs $34; an angel would be appreciated, as I'd really like to read it (because of a current project on the money-corrupted science on antidepressants).

Here's the abstract:
Proponents of Evidence-based medicine (EBM) do not provide a clear role for basic science in therapeutic decision making. Of what they do say about basic science, most of it is negative. Basic science resides on the lower tiers of EBM’s hierarchy of evidence. Therapeutic decisions, according to proponents of EBM, should be informed by evidence from randomised studies (and systematic reviews of randomised studies) rather than  basic science. A framework of models explicates the links between the mechanisms of basic science, experimental inquiry, and observed data. Relying on the framework of models I show that basic science often plays a role not only in specifying experiments, but also analysing and interpreting the data that is provided. Further, and contradicting what is implied in EBM’s hierarchy of evidence, appeals to basic science are often required to apply clinical research to therapeutic questions.

Melody Dye at Child's Play writes on the role of negative evidence in associative learning, and wonders why developmental psychologists and linguists (particularly those on the East Coast, and particularly those who live and work within ten miles of me) pretend that this doesn't exist.

And Joshua Hartshorne at Games With Words (from one of those East Coast labs) explains why she's wrong, using made-up examples of supposedly non-grammatical sentences that I don't find very persuasive (which doesn't mean he's wrong; it just means he needs better examples).


Jonah Lehrer as The Frontal Cortex asks "how do babies pay attention?"  According to developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik, babies have a "lantern" of attention, rather than a spotlight, and Lehrer cites several recent studies that support this notion.  He also makes me want to read Gopnik's recent book, The Philosophical Baby, which I think I'll pick up at the library today (although it goes in the queue behind about a dozen other books).

Jason Goldman at The Thoughtful Animal writes on the ability of infants to make social (and incipiently moral) judgments about whether another individual is likely to be a "helper" or a "hinderer."


Der Spiegel reports that Roman Polanski's next film will be an adaptation of Yasmina Reza's novel Le Dieu du carnage (The God of Carnage; Der Gott des Gemetzels).  The cast will include Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, and Matt Dillon.

There were more reviews on Thursday of Oskar Roehler's Jud Süß—Film ohne GewissenHere is another negative one by Josef Nagel at NZZ Online.

Meanwhile, Christian Buß at Der Spiegel reviews a WDR documentary on Veit Harlan, the director of Jud Süß, based on interviews with his children, grandchildren, and other relatives.  The review prefers the documentary to Roehler's film.  A striking passage from the review:
Als einer von wenigen Künstlern der Nazizeit wurde Harlan 1949 der "Beihilfe der Verfolgung" angeklagt - und, wie sich Sohn Thomas in der Doku verbittert äußert, von einem Richter freigesprochen, der während des Krieges Ukrainerinnen wegen eines gestohlenen Kopftuchs köpfen lassen hatte.
One interesting tidbit:  Christiane Kubrick, Stanley's widow, is Harlan's niece (and there's a good story later in the review about Stanley Kubrick meeting her family).

The Future of the Book

Ideo has an interesting promotional video up at Vimeo, "The Future of the Book," discussing three of their ideas in that area:  Nelson (a platform for delivering multiple viewpoints on controversial topics), Coupland (a way for sharing reading lists), and Alice (a platform for interactive fiction).

I can see problems with all of these (Is it really desirable to have ID presented as a valid viewpoint in a discussion of evolution?  Why is Coupland presented as just a way of sharing reading lists within "companies"?  Don't we already have something a lot like Alice in video games?)  And nothing remotely as good as the tablet computer/e-reader in the video is on the horizon yet, in terms of form factor, display size, and resolution.

But it's fun to think about, and this is the direction things are going.  Although I wouldn't have said so even a year ago, I now think it's inevitable that traditional books and other forms of print publication are going to be almost completely displaced, and this is going to happen sooner than even the most enthusiastic boosters would have predicted a few years ago.  I'm not saying this as a booster:  I think the trend has many promising and exciting aspects, but also many serious problems (of which the current dysfunctional state of copyright is one of the most important; and when is someone going to come up with a really good way of annotating a digital text, one that is at least as good as, if not better than penciled notes in the margin of a printed book?).


A post by Oliver Hulland at Cool Tools reminds me of the cheap and effective fruit-fly death trap that a friend had recently persuaded me to try: 
By simply pouring apple cider vinegar into an open cup or bowl and adding a drop or two of dish detergent you can easily make an incredibly effective trap for ridding your kitchen of fruit flies.
Works like a charm.  In fact, after reading this on Thursday I went to the store to buy some apple cider vinegar in order to renew my trap, which had completely evaporated, leaving a crust of dead fruit flies at the bottom.

However, I don't think it's necessary to use the expensive brand of raw, unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar that Hulland shows in the post.  The dying fruit flies are probably not going to care whether the vinegar is organic or generic.  I bought the small size of the Food Club brand at Roche Brothers for 99 cents.


And some true philosophy from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (via Evolving Thoughts):  "It's a fact of reality that any argument can be destroyed by nihilism" (except that Sokal Burgers are, in fact, delicious).  (For the "mouse over," go to the main site and click on the red button.)


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