About Anything

The personal blog of Al Stevens. Focus is overrated.

Archive for April, 2009

Thursday’s Reads

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David Biello summarizes two recent papers that conclude that within 40 years, we’ll add as much CO2 to the atmosphere as we’ve added since 1750 — a scenario that is likely to result in catastrophic climate change.

Tim O’Reilly’s and Sarah Milstein’s “The Twiiter Book” published in PowerPoint and previewed on slideshare.

The virology blog describes the three ways influenza virus’s can be transmitted: (1) by direct contact with infected individuals; (2) by contact with contaminated objects; and (3) by inhalation of virus-laden aerosols.

Written by Al Stevens

April 30th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Wednesday’s reads

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Today, it’s about the swine flu — a few reads that cut through some of the journalistic hype.

The WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan has issued a statement raising the influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5.

Katherine Harmon interviews Chris Olsen on what makes the current strain of flu different and how it might be treated.

Emily Singer summarizes the status of direct studies of the genetic sequence of the virus.

Alexis Madrigal suggests that Google’s search data could have provided an early warning about the swine flu outbreak.

Written by Al Stevens

April 29th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Monday’s reads

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Mark C. Taylor in the NY Times argues that we should abolish the university as we know it by restructuring the curriculum, abolishing permanent departments, increasing collaboration among institutions, transforming the traditional dissertation, expanding the range of professional options for graduate students, imposing mandatory retirement and abolishing tenure.

Scott Walter amplifies the Taylor article and argues that it’s time to change the current reward system.

Elyssa Kroski’s comprehensive overview of libraries and mobile technologies.

Elaine Jarvik’s review of David Wiley’s comment that universities will be irrelevant by 2020.

Nick Anthis’s summary of Obama’s address to the National Academy of Sciences pledging a major new commitment to science.

Written by Al Stevens

April 27th, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Friday’s reads

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Christopher Dawson argues that Second Life is “dead in ed” — time drain, bandwidth requirements, and proliferation of adult content make it a poor choice when compared to BlackBoard snd  Moodle.

Bill Thompson points out that most of us have become dependent on using computers to perform our day-to-day activities. Understanding how computers work should not be left to a small geek minority.

Shikha Dalmia argues that Obama is turning it’s back on principle in order to pay off the teacher’s unions and kill school vouchers in D.C.

Terry Anderson summarizes a new open-access m-learning book, Issues in Distance Education.

John K. Waters summarizes the issues about the future of Java and MySQL under Oracle.

StevenB’s post on the ACRLog advising writers to focus on critics who seriously question ideas.

David Munger summarizes recent research that shows the context in which we make moral decisions matters quite a lot.

Thursday’s reads

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A summary of the JISC e-books observatory project reports two surprises: e-book usage has no impact on print sales and e-book usage is widespread across all age groups.

Exploring Scitable, Nature Publishing’s new personal learning tool, which currently concentrates on genetics, evolution and variation.

Exploring Radar Networks’ Twine site.

Written by Al Stevens

April 23rd, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Wednesday’s reads

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A new McKinsey report on the economic impact of the achievement gap in America’s schools, says the resulting underutilization of human potential imposes the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession — substantially larger than the deep recession the country is currently experiencing. Friedman likens the conclusions to having the tide go out while swimming naked.

I know nowhere near enough physics to understand the details of this but I still find it completely fascinating that crossing an event horizon might take you into a region of space in which some of the dimensions disappear.

Elena Angulo and Franck Courchamp use a novel web-based experiment to collect data from 2560 visitors and demonstrate that people strongly prefer to see rare species over common ones. They go on to argue that this high value on rarity can fuel a disproportionate exploitation of rare species, making them even rarer and thus more desirable and ultimately extinct.

Seventeen ways that social media differ from traditional marketing.

Written by Al Stevens

April 22nd, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Tuesday’s reads

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Nature interviews John Van Oudenaren, director of the World Digital Library, launched this week as an online collection of significant, interesting and important cultural and historical documents.

Mark M. Tanaka, Jeremy R. Kendal and Kevin N. Laland develop a cultural evolution/stochastic model that shows how maladaptive and superstitious treatments can win out over effective ones because their actual ineffectiveness prolongs illness and provides more opportunities to demonstrate them to others.

Written by Al Stevens

April 21st, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Monday’s Reads

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Tom Davenport concludes that we should unbundle the concept of “social media” because some, like Facebook will turn out to be useful, while others, like Second Life and Twitter will die.

John Sviokla and Chris Curran argue that because twitter is simple, has an open architecture and is easy to join will make it the duct tape of the Internet marketing space.

Katherine S. Pollard eescribes how a 118 base sequence of DNA remained unchanged for hundreds of millions of years of evolution — chickens and chimps differ by only 2 bases. It underwent an abrupt change — 18 bases — when humans split, suggesting that the way humans evolved from our chimp-human ancestors was by rapid changes in sites that make a important differences in how we function.

As reported by Dave Munger, there’s no relationship between SAT and ACT test-prep time/money and actual results. Test-prep companies are still likely to stay in business because there is a positive relationship with perceived improvements.

Who wouldn’t enjoy reading brief bios of fifty prominent atheists. The list includes Stephen Hawking, Mick Jagger, Linus Pauling, Jodie Foster and Mark Zuckerberg as well as the usually listed Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett.

Written by Al Stevens

April 20th, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Friday’s reads

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Dean Dad writes about how libraries’ missions are changing, with young technies studying in groups and older students looking for a quiet haven. The discussion, particularly about how to choose the right set of resources,  is as insightful as the article.

Side-by-side timelines of the universe, one according to science and one according to the YEC’s (young earth creationists).

Pursuasive design for sustainability” summarizes the way that tools can pursuade.

Laura Devany describes why cost and flexibility are pushing libraries to use open-source library managment systems.

Another article about the potential of the semantic web, this time for e-learning. Written by Chris Daly. The more of these I read, the more I think that Tim O’Reilly has it right. The Semantic Web is a dead end.

A South Florida Times report on a new charter school with a heavy emphasis on computer-based individualized learning. Technology could yet do to education what it’s done to the news business.

Thursday’s reads

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Smithsonian American Art Museum’s 1934: A New Deal for Artists slide show, Flickr group and map show paintings done by artists sponsored by Roosevelt’s Public Works of Art Program. Many are stunning; many are moving. I’d love to see our current government fund an arts-based piece of the stimulus plan.

If you are right-handed then an eye exercise can help with memorization. A possible explanation is that the eye exercise increases inter-hemisphere activity in your brain. Left-handed people have a higher degree of activity to start with. The report is on Cognitive Daily, along with a link to an online handedness test.

Farhad Manjoo writes that the lack of appeal to advertisers and the cost of hosting user generated content on sites like YouTube, Flickr and Facebook threaten their long-term viability.

MG Siegler follows Peter Rojas’ tweet and argues that twitter should remove it’s follower count.

Scott Seider writes in Edutopia about Multiple-Intelligence Theory as a counterbalance to an educational climate increasingly focused on high-stakes testing.

Owen Edwards interviews the “father of multiple intelligences“, Howard Gardner in Edutopia. Gardner says in the interview, “The challenge in education is to help students develop valued areas of knowledge, skill, and values”.