Ok, hardly anybody clicked the links in our first Friday linkfest. But here at Dynamic Ecology we don’t give up easily*, so we’re going to try it again. This time perhaps with a bit more commentary to “add some value” and encourage you to click through.
Nice editorial in the Washington Post on the value of fundamental scientific research and the need for the government to fund it well. I especially like the line about how Columbus didn’t originally set out to discover the New World–and that his voyage was government funded. Relies heavily on the “you don’t know how it will turn out to be useful, but history says it will turn out to be useful” argument. This is the standard argument for funding fundamental research, articulated beautifully by Steve Jobs in this well-known commencement speech. But it’s far from the only argument for funding fundamental research, as I describe in this post (which is probably one of the best posts I’ve ever done, by the way). Of course, you can also argue that fundamental research is valuable for its own sake and that to argue for it based on its utility–even its unexpected or indirect utility–is to distort and devalue it. But if you want to make that argument, you’d better be able to articulate it as beautifully as Robert Wilson, since otherwise it will come off as arrogant, elitist, and naive.
Trophic cascade humor: what the man on the street thinks about sea otters protecting kelp forests by eating sea urchins, thereby allowing said forests to absorb more carbon dioxide. (Serious p.s.: We’ve known about the otter-urchin-kelp trophic cascade for many years. Isn’t it totally obvious that all that additional kelp would also store lots more carbon dioxide? If so, why is this study news? Is it just because they put a number and a dollar value on the carbon dioxide stored?)
At The Edge, an interesting conversation between ace science writer William Poundstone and the authors of a recent, very important PNAS paper on the iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma (IPD). The IPD is a classic, really well-studied toy model of how cooperation can evolve. You wouldn’t think there’d be anything new to learn about it–but you’d be wrong. The paper is pretty technical, so this exchange (which includes additional comments from Karl Sigmund and Martin Nowak) is a great place to start before diving into the paper.
From Prof Snarky: “So you got a job with your prof: advice for undergrads”
http://profsnarky.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/so-you-got-a-job-with-your-prof-advice-for-undergrads/Prof Snarky’s first bit of advice? “Show the f**k up.” The “quit, don’t just disappear” advice is one I’ve run into with students in my lab. The tone is as you might imagine for someone who goes by Prof Snarky, and it has good advice for undergrads in there.
Sci Curious has a related post on Undergrad Herding:
The post includes Sci’s advice for undergrads, as well as thoughts on mentoring undergrads.
“Q-Bio conference in Hawaii, bring your surfboard & your Y chromosome b/c they don’t take an XX” by Jonathan Eisen. Most ecology conferences are better than this, but I’ve encountered a few p<0.05. (Jeremy adds: Hey, Brian’s quantitative and has a Y chromosome, he could go! And then live-tweet it to Meg! I kid of course, not to mock the seriousness of the issue but purely to keep Meg from doing this.)
*”Vulpis est contumacem animalis”