Some stuff I’ve found interesting in the last week or two:
Nicholas Felton released his annual report of… himself. It’s a personal annual report on Felton, as seen through the eyes of a bunch of friends, family, and strangers:
Each day in 2009, I asked every person with whom I had a meaningful encounter to submit a record of this meeting through an online survey. These reports form the heart of the 2009 Annual Report. From parents to old friends, to people I met for the first time, to my dentist… any time I felt that someone had discerned enough of my personality and activities, they were given a card with a URL and unique number to record their experience.
Hackademe is a serialized novel about a man, with an axe, who dislikes professors enough to take them out behind the wood shed and… alright, no, it’s actually “a website devoted to sharing clever uses of technology, software, or modified items to solve problems related to information overload, time management, organization, productivity, and other challenges faced by academics on a daily basis.” Which is pretty cool, except that I have trouble seeing the word “hackademic” in a positive light…
The UK’s General Medical Council finally laid the smack down on the ethically-challenged Andrew Wakefield–he of “vaccines cause autism, and here’s a terrible and possibly fraudulent study to prove it” fame. There’s a very long but very good write-up of the whole debacle here. Unfortunately, the reprimand is really just symbolic at this point, because Wakefield now lives in the US, and isn’t (officially) practicing medicine any more. Instead, he spends his days pumping autistic children full of laxatives. I wish I were joking.
The Neuroskeptic has had a string of great posts in the last couple of weeks. I particularly enjoyed this one, wherein he exposes reveals himself to be an expert on all matters sexual, dopaminergic, and British.
According to a study in Nature, running barefoot may be better for our feet than running in shoes. Turns out that barefoot runners strike the ground with the middle or ball of the foot, greatly reducing the force of impact. This may explain why so many (shod) runners get injured every year, and is supposed to make sense to you if you’re one of those evolutionist folks who think humans evolved to run long distances over the course of millions of years. But since you and I both know god created shoes around the same time he was borrowing Adam’s ribs, we can dispense with that sort of silliness.
The Census Bureau has some ‘splaining to do. Over at Freakonomics, Justin Wolfers discusses a new paper that uncovers massive (and inadvertent) problems with large chunks of census data. The fact that the census bureau screwed up isn’t terribly surprising (though it does call a number of published findings into question); everyone who works with data makes mistakes now and then, and the Census Bureau works with most data than most people. What is surprising is that Census has apparently refused to correct the problem, which is going to leave a lot of people hanging.
Slime mold has evolved the capacity to plan metropolitan transit systems! So claims a study in last week’s issue of Science. Ok, that’s not exactly what the article shows. What Tero et al. do show is that slime mold naturally forms networks that have a structure with comparable efficiency to the Tokyo rail system. Which, if you think about it, kind of does mean that slime mold has the capacity to plan metropolitan transit systems.
Projection Point is a neat website that measures something its creators term your “Risk Intelligence Quotient”. What’s interesting is that the site measures meta-cognitive judgments about risk rather than risk attitudes. In other words, it measures how much you know about how much you know, rather than how much you know. If that sounds confusing, spend 5 minutes answering 50 questions, and all will be made clear.
Pete Warden wants to divide up the US into 7 distinct chunks. Or at least, he wants to tell you how FaceBook thinks the US should be divided up, based on social connections between people in different geographic locations. There’s Stayathomia, Mormonia, and Socialistan. (Names have been deliberately altered to protect the guilty states.)