Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Fortnight of Links – 29 April 2013

E. O. Wilson is Wrong Again —  About Collaboration – Jon Wilkins on E.O. Wilson’s WSJ op-ed I briefly mentioned a fortnight ago.

Why I Let My Students Cheat On Their Exam – This article has really been making the rounds! I have seen many positive responses. Negative responses have generally been fixated on all the free-riders. I think the main difference in attitude stems from whether one thinks the primary goal of undergraduate education is “separating the wheat from the chaff” or “maximizing student learning.”

Evolutionary psychology: You’re doing it wrong (but you could do it better!) – In my experience, evolutionary psychologists tend to think of themselves as the antidote to “standard” social scientists who deny or ignore the power of evolutionary thinking. Problematic for this self-conception is that evolutionary psychology research often rubs standard evolutionary biologists the wrong way as well.

James D. Fearon: Anarchy is a Choice – A video of political scientist James Fearon discussing “anarchy” in international relations.  This is roughly the observation/idea that altruistic cooperation between countries is difficult to achieve because there is no law-giving-and-enforcing body (leviathan) that is above and constrains the actions of countries.  The actions of countries must be constrained by other things.

The (sigh) Psychopath Brain – This post gets to one of my pet peeves of science reporting – assuming that because something shows up on a brain scan it is somehow “innate” or “genetic.” I plan a blog post on this soon (read: after dissertation.)

On Copycat Whales, Conformist Monkeys and Animal Cultures – A great discussion about culture in non-human animals. I would have liked something about cumulative vs simple cultural evolution – but that is really nit-picking.

Why are your friends more popular than you? – Spoiler Alert: Because people with more friends are, on average,  more likely to be friends with you

Replicated typo: Numerical vs. analytical modelling – A focus on linguistics, but a good discussion on the tractability/realism trade-off for different styles of modelling.

Cyberwar in the Underworld: Anonymous versus Los Zetas in Mexico – Cyberwarefare between non-state actors.

Are the Digits of Pi Random? – Well, what do you mean by random?

Numberphile: Why are there Infinite Primes?

Fun (most fun things are apparently space-related):

Kepler’s Tally of Planets – NYT visualization of all extrasolar planets discovered so far.

How Far Away is the Moon?

Wringing out Water on the International Space Station – for Science! 

Make XKCD-style Plots in Matlab

A Fortnight of Links

I finally have my web bookmarks sinked between computers which will make it much easier to share recent and relevant links.  I hope to make this a regular feature of this blog, especially since I need to finish a dissertation by this summer…

Mathematicians Predict the Future With Data From the Past. An article in Wired about Peter Turchin and cliodynamics – a scientific/mathematical to the dynamics of human history.  This is an interesting article. However, in the Social Evolution Forum, he points out that the title is misleading.  His models are not primarily for prediction, but for understanding historical processes. I am a big fan of Turchin’s work – especially his books Historical Dynamics and War, Peace and War. [via]

We Aren’t the World. A magazine article on the work of Joe Henrich and colleagues on comparing Western Educated Industrial Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) societies to others using economic and psychology experiments.  I am also a big fan of this work.

They’d Rather Be Rigorous Than Right. Andrew Gelman in Chance Magazine on the statistics of Ashraf and Galor. I wrote about their paper here. [via]

False discovery: How not to find the genetic basis of human intelligence. We have a lot of nucleotides.  This makes causal claims based on correlations of things with specific sequences of  nucleotides fraught with peril.

The bad science of Satoshi Kanazawa. The blog post that prompted The Big Think to end its relationship with evolutionary psychologist Satosh Kanazawa.

Great Scientist ≠ Good at Math. This article, by E.O. Wilson, has caused quite a stir.  Mathematical theorizing can be replaced by intuition and daydreams. “Everyone sometimes daydreams like a scientist. Ramped up and disciplined, fantasies are the fountainhead of all creative thinking. Newton dreamed, Darwin dreamed, you dream.” I think it is possible to be a great scientist without being good at math (see Darwin, C.).  I think it is possible to both daydream and make some valuable contributions to mathematics (see Newton, I.)  But without some mathematics, don’t expect that you will be able to test the logical consistency of your daydreams (see Fischer, R.A. saving Darwin’s theory from genetics.)  If E.O. Wilson understood the mathematical theories of kin and group selection, for example, he might not be going around saying incorrect things about them.

Resurrecting a Forest. Most American Chestnut trees were wiped out by a fungus from Asia in the 20th centruty.  For my circa 1997 Eagle Scout project, I helped plant 300 trees to use as genetic stock for bringing them back.  My impression at the time was that there were two major efforts.  The first, more mainstream, effort was to breed American and fungus-resistant Asian chestnut trees to make fungus-resistant hybrids.  The second, less mainstream, effort was to accomplish similar goals through genetic engineering.  My project was part of the later effort and I have not followed up on it until seeing Carl Zimmer’s article.

Bonus Links (entertaining in an internet sort-of-way):

Thumbs and Ammo. Real tough guys don’t need guns,  they just need a positive, can-do attitude.

Six Degrees of Francis Bacon. Pretty much what it sounds like.