Why Should You Think Like a Scientist?

As you may or may not know, I’m currently at work on a book called How to Think Like a Scientist. This raises the fairly obvious question in the post title, namely, why should people think like scientists? What’s the point? In a sense, this is (as Ethan Zuckerman pointed out at lunch the other […]

How Did the arXiv Succeed?

In which we look again at the question of why, despite the image of physicists as arrogant bastards, biologists turn out to be much less collegial than physicists. ———— While I was away from the blog, there was a spate of discussion of science outreach and demands on faculty time, my feelings about which are […]

Excellent Approximations and Lying to Children

In which I talk about the common complaint that we teach students physics that “isn’t true,” and the limits on that statement. ———— Frequent commenter Ron sent me an email pointing to this post by David Reed on “What we “know” that t’aint so…. and insist on teaching to kids!”: he science we teach is […]

What Does It Take to Evaluate Teaching?

In which we compare a couple of different systems for evaluating teachers, looking at what’s involved in doing a fair assessment of a teacher’s performance. ——– Another casualty of the great blog upgrade, in the sense of a post that was delayed until the inspiration for it has been forgotten by most of the people […]

Calendrical Innovation

Union operates on a trimester calendar, with three ten-week terms (September-November, January-March, April-June), rather than the two 14-15 week semesters used by most other colleges and universities. This has some advantages in terms of flexibility– even science and engineering students get to take terms abroad, which is harder to swing in a semester system– and […]

Return of the Project for Non-Academic Science

In keeping with this week’s unofficial theme of wibbling about academia, there’s an article at The Nation about the evils of graduate school that’s prompted some discussion. Sean says more or less what I would, though maybe a little more nicely than I would. I wouldn’t bother to comment further, except this spurred Sean to […]

Filtering Isn’t the Problem

Via Twitter, Daniel Lemire has a mini-manifesto advocating “social media” alternatives for academic publishing, citing “disastrous consequences” of the “filter-then-publish” model in use by traditional journals. The problem is, as with most such things, I’m not convinced that social media style publication really fixes all these problems. For example, one of his points is: The […]

Why So Many Theorists?

When I was looking over the Great Discoveries series titles for writing yesterday’s Quantum Man review, I was struck again by how the Rutherford biography by Richard Reeves is an oddity. Not only is Rutherford a relatively happy fellow– the book is really lacking in the salacious gossip that is usually a staple of biography, […]

Survey-Related Inadequacies

I recently participated in a survey of higher education professionals about various aspects of the job. It was very clearly designed by and aimed at scholars in the humanities and social sciences, to the point where answering questions honestly made me feel like a Bad Person. For example, there were numerous questions about teaching methods […]

Education Reform Is Slow

Kevin Drum notes a growing backlash against education reform, citing Diane Ravitch, Emily Yoffe and this Newsweek (which is really this private foundation report in disguise) as examples. The last of these, about the failed attempts of several billionaires to improve education through foundation grants, is really kind of maddening. It makes the billionaires in […]