#anglingforanIgNobel: someone glued breakfast cereal flakes to an agar-covered globe in the locations of major cities, inoculated with slime mould, and compared the spatial spread of the foraging slime mould to the historical development of road networks. And got a paper (well, an arXiv preprint) out of it. See for yourself.
This will get you in the holiday spirit (or not…) Cheap Talk notes a psychology experiment in which someone sent Christmas cards to a bunch of randomly-chosen strangers. Many of them sent cards back, often with lengthy handwritten letters. Which illustrates that many of us feel obliged to reciprocate friendly gestures–a fact that some charities exploit to increase response rates to funding drives. Charities that send little free gifts (say, some preprinted address labels) along with their request for donations get much higher response rates. What I’m wondering is, are there evolutionary examples of this sort of thing? Examples where norms of reciprocal altruism have evolved–and which some organisms have then evolved to exploit the way some charities do? What are the conditions required for this sort of exploit to evolve?
Here’s why brewers helped invent statistics, and winemakers didn’t. Seriously!
Continuing a recent theme here, Kent Anderson at The Scholarly Kitchen has a nice post critiquing publishing metrics and altmetrics as blunt instruments that don’t really tell us much, that motivate the wrong behaviors, and that have been oversold relative to the limited value they do add. He suggests that what we need is not more or better altmetrics, but alternatives to metrics (“alt2metrics”). Time to insist that not all things worth paying attention to, or that need prioritizing, can be measured. As shown by the fact that we somehow manage to decide what papers to publish, and what grants to fund, mostly without any recourse to metrics.
This Science Careers piece on the importance of paternity leave seemed so promising to me when I first saw it making the rounds on twitter. I definitely agree that paternity leave is important, and that having both men and women take parental leave is important for making the climate more favorable for women in science. But the way the article describes Harald Junge as using parental leave does NOT help women in science. Parental leave policies exist because having a newborn is incredibly demanding. If the release time from teaching and other obligations is used by men to do extra work in the lab, that just gives them an extra leg up as compared to a woman who just gave birth and is using the same leave to recover from birth, nurse the baby, etc. I realize that this use of parental leave happens, and it is hard to prevent. And whether or not it was the right move for the Junge family is up to them. I just object to it being used as a key example in an article that is arguing that paternity leave is important for women in science (without recognition that this use doesn’t help women, at least).
From the archives:
Since I just talked about why do statistics, it seems like a good time to note that I’ve already talked about why do experiments. Note that the most obvious answer (“to test predictions”) is far from the only answer.