Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday soundbites: out like a lamb

Pretty devastating article in Rolling Stone on the military's use of "psychological operations" to "win the hearts and minds" of US senators.

Barking up the Wrong Tree reports on a first placebo-controlled clinical trial of nootropic dietary supplements.

Speaking of nootropics, a discussion of the ethical issues presented by the film Limitless.

Scientific American examines a new study on free will.

Neurophilosophy discusses study showing gut bacteria can alter cognitive function.

This is a great new tool for publishing data that are otherwise unpublishable, such as null results.

Another skirmish in the tenure wars.

The Invisible Gorilla shares a great Richard Feynman video discussing science with a chess analogy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday soundbites: wall of sound edition

David Rumelhart has left the building.

Owsley Stanley has left the building.

In memory, why don't you build your own set of hallucination goggles?

This is a great radio program on the uncertainty of fingerprint analysis.

The Guardian on the (lost?) art of memorization.

Barking up the Wrong Tree tries to find the most typical person.

Why do scientists, artists and criminals have the same age-range of peak productivity?

Jonah Lehrer on grit.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday soundbites: Guinness edition

"Most children today can’t have it both ways: they can’t have a fun, low-stress childhood and also an Ivy League education"

Mapping the mouse visual cortex, cell by cell.

Gizmodo explores some new smart drugs.

Data mining: the corporation is watching you.

... but sometimes it's just unbelievably cool!

Jesse Bering on the evolutionary psychology of homophobia. I'm not touching this with a ten foot pole.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The value of teaching at the university level

The Neuroskeptic has a particularly insightful post on the uncomfortable disconnect between how universities, academics and politicians see the role of teaching. I've written occasionally on some of the broken aspects of the academy, and I think Neuroskeptic's piece adds a couple of crucial thoughts to the discussion:

"And academics have no incentive to teach well and, in most cases, no incentive to make sure that their university has a reputation for good teaching."

(Emphasis mine.)
Indeed, if anything, being involved in excellent teaching is viewed as the "kiss of death" for one's tenure at many American research universities. And, as Neuroskeptic points out, the nomadic lives of young researchers prevents strong ties to a particular university:

"Until you get to the level of tenured professor, if ever, you cannot assume that you'll be working in the same place for very long. Many academics will go to one university for their undergraduate degrees, another for their masters, another for their doctorate, and then another two or three as junior faculty member before they "settle down" - and the majority don't make it that far."

Perhaps the solution is to tenure faculty more often and earlier.  Imagine young, energetic, passionate academics, unafraid to teach with excellence and filled with a sense of place in their institution. Maybe this is what we need for excellent undergraduate education.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sunday soundbites: spring training edition

Mind Hacks on delusional parasitosis.

Scientific American reviews a potential memory enhancing drug.

Dan Ariely on why people look for "natural" products.

Moving article on those who fake illness to get attention in online support groups.

The New York Times has an interview with anesthesiologist, statistician and general-badass Emery Brown.

A blind man taught himself echo-location.

Tracking drug addiction in Baltimore using PDAs and GPS.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hook up culture, blah, blah

This is the most interesting piece I've read on modern sexual politics in quite some time. I'm looking forward to checking this book out.

Anyone read it yet?