Archive for the 'Links Best Served Cold' category

What belongs in the public domain?

Oct 20 2010 Published by under Links Best Served Cold

Most science blogs link to other science blogs.  I get the feeling our readers are in good hands when it comes to getting their science-fill.  So here's what else I'm reading (or watching) right now:

Man Gets Revenge on Ex-Girlfriend on C-SPAN 2

What belongs in the public domain?  This video begs the question in a big way.  (It also happens to be hilarious).  See the Washington Post recap here.

Coming Out : On Gay Identity (A Video Series, Courtesy of BigThink)

There is something intensely voyeuristic about this, which makes it both compelling and avidly watchable.  I've seen quite a number of the videos on BigThink and am usually bored to tears within minutes (academics rambling on does not make for good viewing, typically).  But catch the brilliant at their most personal and it's something else entirely.  My favorite?  John Waters -- he comes at the end.

The Book Bench : Paul Muldoon takes on K$sha

Ever wanted to watch a vaunted Princeton lit professor take on pop's dirtiest star?  (In the vein of : Ali G. goes to Princeton)

Christine O'Donnell & Sarah Palin are proof that the more incendiary your beliefs, the better

A hysterical take-down of Christine O'Donnell by none other than the Guardian's AF Kennedy.  (A woman)  Be sure to at least check out the picture and O'Donnell's tightightight smile!

"Uppity anti-masturbation campaigner, ex-witch and TV pundit Christine O'Donnell is both an embarrassing threat to established Republican interests and a woman with the stunned eyes and tighttighttight smile of a stranger to self-love. (She also presents an apparently intoxicating, Palinesque persona: part 80s hooker, part moron, part woman who may wake boys with garden shears for impure thinking.)"

Please see also Christine O'Donnell, constitutional scholar, on the separation of church and state (what's that again--?)

What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?

A collection of contributed horror stories.  Hat tip to Mr. Ritchie for sharing.

Deprecated language columnist wins fiction prize

A short, short post on Language Log by Geoffrey Pullum (a linguist whom I greatly respect and admire).  He seems to always be advocating for optimism.  "I like the diversity of humankind, and the complicated character of individual human beings. The surprises and the contradictions appeal to me."

One link that's been circulating that I really can't stand : "FCKH8 (Warning : You Will Be Offended)"

There's something truly pathetic about preaching to the converted while offending the on-the-fencer's (who are you trying to win over here, anyway?).  One of the most powerful shorts I've seen in the last year was MIA's "Born Free."  I think that lyric testimony made me feel much more likely to give to a gay-rights campaign (or any other campaign to aid the marginalized or oppressed) than a flippant (adolescent) "f*ck you."  Anger can prove a powerful weapon, but wielding it is a delicate matter.

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We've been drawn!

Frequent commenter and excellent artist Joseph Hewitt has immortalized us in colored pencil. Apparently I play the role of "pseudoscientific dogmatist." wut?

(click to see the full page)

While we're at it, here are a few more links to enjoy:

From the NY Times:

When a 12-year-old’s mother asks him “How many times do I have to tell you to stop?” he will understand that the answer, if any is required, had better not include a number.

But that insight requires a sophisticated understanding of ironic language that develops long after fluent speech. At what age do children begin to sense the meaning of such a question, and to what degree can they respond appropriately to other kinds of irony?

In laboratory research on the subject, children demonstrate almost no comprehension of ironic speech before they are 6 years old, and little before they are 10 or 11. When asked, younger children generally interpret rhetorical questions as literal, deliberate exaggeration as a mistake and sarcasm as a lie.

Also from the NYT:

Child Protective Services investigated more than three million cases of suspected child abuse in 2007, but a new study suggests that the investigations did little or nothing to improve the lives of those children.

Feel free to share other interesting links in the comments.

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Hilarity did not ensue

Oct 07 2010 Published by under Links Best Served Cold

There's this disturbing (and simultaneously hilarious) article in yesterday's NY Times about rampant fraud and plagiarism among China's academic ranks.

My favorite line, by far :

He cited the case of Chen Jin, a computer scientist who was once celebrated for having invented a sophisticated microprocessor but who, it turned out, had taken a chip made by Motorola, scratched out its name, and claimed it as his own.

I can just imagine the poor man patiently scratching out "Motorola" and writing "Chen Jin" over it in crayon.  Brilliant, really.  What's truly amazing, of course, is that anyone believed this -- as my friend Joe pointed out, taking credit for a chip is kind of like taking credit for a 767.  "Oh zees?  I built it in in ze evenings, weeth some scrap metal an' a soldering iron."

More unnerving :

After Mr. Chen was showered with government largess and accolades, the exposure in 2006 was an embarrassment for the scientific establishment that backed him.  But even though Mr. Chen lost his university post, he was never prosecuted. “When people see the accused still driving their flashy cars, it sends the wrong message,” Mr. Zeng said.

The problems in China are more than a little blatant.  But what have the recent American scandals told us about US institutions?  --Are these anomalies, to be brushed under the table?  Or does the integrity of scientific research in the US deserve a closer look?  (Thanks to @CaldenWloka for the scoop)

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Why are Zipfian distributions found in language?

This post is a scholarly addendum to today's main post, aimed to satisfy the curiosity of my academic readers.  I'm going to leave you with an excerpt from an excellent book chapter, "Repetition and Reuse in Child Language Learning," by Colin Bannard and Elena Lieven.  The two take up the question of why Zipfian distributions are found in language.  A short suggested reading list with annotations follows.  Please feel free to leave links to other suggested reading in the comments..

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Eyes Wide Shut : The Anonymous Workings of Peer Review

Aug 24 2010 Published by under Forget What You've Read!, Links Best Served Cold


Since my writings on the Hauser controversy several weeks ago, I have watched the scandal unfold with some interest.  This is not least because the post I wrote was subjected to some fairly vicious attacks, both in the comments section and in comments on other blogs.  I was accused of ‘gossip-mongering’ and ‘idle speculation,’ among other, less savory activities.  On one blog, it was even suggested that I had anonymously commented on my own post as a supposed ‘insider’ to lend credence to my story.  (For the record : come on!)

Given the potential fall-out for researchers associated with Hauser, I can understand why tempers might be running hot.  However, one of the things that has interested me throughout the process, is that all of the nastiest comments I’ve received have been anonymous.  Certainly, there have been self-identified researchers who politely disagreed with me or pressed me to justify or clarify certain statements.  Yet, for the most part, hostility arose from the nameless.  Anonymity, it would seem, empowered commentors to lash out against me in a way that I expect they never would in ‘real life’ [1, 2].

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What You Missed: A Mathy Roundup

Aug 22 2010 Published by under Links Best Served Cold

While Melody was enjoying Portland following the Cognitive Science conference, Jason took you on a mathematical tour of the mind and brain. This week we did a series on numerical cognition and developmental dyscalculia.

If you're just getting started now, might we suggest checking them out in order:

1. The Developmental Origins of Numerical Cognition

Unlike basic number abilities, calculation ability represents an extremely complex cognitive process, and requires explicit instruction. The loss of the ability to perform calculation tasks resulting from neuropathology is known as acalculia or acquired dyscalculia, which is an acquired disturbance in computational ability. The developmental defect in the acquisition of numerical abilities, on the other hand, is usually referred to as developmental dyscalculia, or simply dyscalculia.

2. What is Dyscalculia? How Does It Develop?

A more recent definition according to the DSM-IV-R is offered as well, which defines developmental dyscalculia as a learning disability in mathematics, the diagnosis of which is established when arithmetic performance is substantially below that expected for age, intelligence, and education.

3. Developmental Dyscalculia Explained: Strategy, Memory, Attention

Experimental studies of developmental dyscalculia and math disability in children have focused primarily on skill development in arithmetic, which can be divided into two sections: counting knowledge, and strategy and memory development.

4. Numbers on the Brain: Neurobiology of Mathematics

Depending on task demands, we speculate that this core quantity system, analogous to an internal “number line,” can be supplemented by two other circuits. A left angular gyrus area, in connection with other left-hemispheric perisylvian areas, supports the manipulation of numbers in verbal form. Finally, a bilateral posterior superior parietal system supports attentional orientation on the mental number line, just like on any other spatial dimension.

For an evolutionary perspective, there were two companion pieces this week at The Thoughtful Animal:

5. What Are The Origins of Large Number Representation?

Surely, humans have something unique that allows us to do things like multivariate regression and construct geometric proofs, however, but let's start at the beginning. I will hopefully convince you that there is an evolutionarily-ancient non-verbal representational system that computes the number of individuals in a set. That knowledge system is available to human adults and infants (even in cultures that don't have a count list), as well as to monkeys, rats, pigeons, and so forth.

6. The Origins of Small Number Representation

Small numbers do not need to be counted or estimated; instead, they are subitized. Upon seeing a scene with a small number of objects you have a sudden, immediate sense of how many objects there are. This happens in parallel rather than serial- you do not need to count the items individually. Therefore, judgments made about displays of 1, 2, 3, or 4 items are rapid, accurate, and confident. As the number of items in the scene increases, judgments are increasingly less accurate and made with less confidence.

And if you haven't had quite enough child development this week, here are a few more links to whet your appetite:

From the Washington Post: Working Mothers Not Necessarily Harmful to Child Development

Should kids be walking to school instead of driving?

Childhood memories of dad might help men effectively cope with stress later in life.

Does Parenting Rewire Dads? A fascinating article in Scientific American by Brian Mossop

Parents' mental health suffers when children struggle. No surprise there, really.

Are today's superheroes sending the wrong message to boys?

For today's dose of kids are cruel: Kids who squint are less likely to be invited to peers' birthday parties.

From the New York Times: What Is It About 20-Somethings? Is "emerging adulthood" a new developmental stage? And a response in Slate.

Signing off from the city of angels,

Melody & Jason

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What You Missed: This Week's Series on Delay of Gratification

Aug 08 2010 Published by under Links Best Served Cold, What You Missed

This week, we did a series on Delay of Gratification and Walter Mischel's classic cookie task.

If you're just getting started now, the best place to begin is with Jason's hilarious video post on the task itself.  Then onto the series:

1.  The Room: Self Control and the Classic Cookie Task

2. A Cognitive Primer: Cognitive Control and Neural Architecture

3. The Defenestration of Cookie: Throwing Cognitive Control out the Window?

4. Does Self Control Determine Class?

5. In Sum, Dear Reader

From the Melodye Files, there was a bittersweet tale of tears and triumph, circa 1989.  Then downloaded straight from Jason's brain, we had a fascinating look at historical perspectives on social development.   You might also enjoy our writerly blind item on a bed-wetting British essayist (for the curious, the answer is revealed at the end of the comments).

Still hungering for more?

Last year, Jonah Lehrer did an engaging piece for the New Yorker on Walter Mischel that should intrigue.  And given all the talk about class that got bandied about, you may be interested in hearing about "The Persistence of Poverty," by philosopher Charles Karelis (link is to Mind Hack's write up, which is a great starting point).

My friend, Jason K., has also rightly pointed out the excellent work of Harvard economist Roland Fryer, and in particular his papers "It May Not Take a Village: Increasing Achievement Among the Poor" and "Are High-Quality Schools Enough to Increase Achievement Among the Poor? Evidence from the Harlem Children’s Zone."

Signing off from the city of angels,

Melody & Jason

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