Friday links: Bill Nye vs. Wayne Brady, Greek gods vs. salmon, and more (UPDATED)

Also this week: make yourself happy in just five minutes per day, Japan vs. everything that’s not STEM, you suck at multitasking, Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and more.

From Meg:

On twitter this week, Auriel Fournier asked:

It was interesting for me to think about (I couldn’t think of anything automatically, though I suppose eating chocolate during that time would make me feel happy!) I liked reading through the replies. (Here’s the storified version.)

From Jeremy:

Ever wonder why organisms that ordinarily reproduce once and then die are called “semelparous”? Stephen Heard has the answer–and as he notes, once you hear the answer, you never forget it. (UPDATE: see the comments–Stephen’s answer may be incorrect. Sadly.)

This week in Reports of Death That Were Greatly Exaggerated: in an old linkfest I lamented that the Oikos blog apparently was no more, while admitting that I don’t really read it these days. Actually, it just moved to a new URL a while back, and I failed to notice. Sorry for any confusion; my bad.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalists are out. Jaw dropping stuff as always, many of the images are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s my impression that many of the world’s very best nature photographers submit their very best stuff to this competition. I have fond memories of attending the exhibition of the winning images every year back when I was a postdoc in London. If I could somehow instantly acquire one skill I don’t currently have, it’d probably be the ability to take pictures like these.

The Japanese government just ordered every public university in the country to stop teaching humanities, social sciences, and law. Yes, really. Details and some critical commentary from the perspective of an economist who used to live in Japan here.

Is it ethical to sell complimentary copies of textbooks?

A leading social science journal will no longer consider submissions from authors who won’t review for them. Interesting policy. I wonder if the effect will be to incentivize reviews or disincentivize submissions. My own view is that authors should review in appropriate proportion to how much they submit, but that they owe this obligation to the field as a whole rather than to any particular journal. At least so long as they’re submitting to various journals rather than just to one journal. Related: here’s the data on how often thousands of individuals submit to, review for, and get asked to review for, the British Ecological Society’s journals.

Noah Smith on the modeling tradeoff between microscale and macroscale validity. The claim is that realistic modeling assumptions about microscale phenomena (e.g., about the behavior of individual organisms) lead to inability to fit macroscale data (e.g., macroecological patterns in species richness, composition, and abundance). Conversely, models that fit the macroscale data do so by making obviously-false microscale assumptions, justified (if at all) by saying that the macroscale world works “as if” those microscale assumptions were true. Smith suggests that this tradeoff isn’t universal, and only exists because of deep problems with a field’s entire approach to modeling. Actually it’s about economics, but it’s interesting to think about in an ecological context, which is why I suggested ecological examples.

If you want to try–probably futilely–to convince students to quit “multitasking” and pay attention to your lecture, you may want to point them to experiments showing that (i) nobody’s “good” at multitasking, and (ii) the people who think they’re best at it actually are worst at it. Note that I haven’t looked at the experiments themselves, so can’t vouch for them myself.

And finally: holy crap, Bill Nye can really move!๐Ÿ™‚

12 thoughts on “Friday links: Bill Nye vs. Wayne Brady, Greek gods vs. salmon, and more (UPDATED)

  1. the microscale vs macroscale tradeoff thing reminds me a bit of the work by Jonathan Chase (remembering most of it from a talk he presented last spring in Zรผrich rather from reading many of his papers in detail).

  2. I’ve had that multitasking piece (well, the version at the Financial Times) open in my browser for at least two weeks now. Should I try to read it while multitasking?๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Clearly, the very people who most need to give their full attention to this piece are the most unlikely to do so.๐Ÿ˜‰

      Is “leave a whole bunch of tabs open in your browser for weeks at a time” going to be one of the efficiency tips in your post next week?๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Ha! I do talk about needing to have a system for keeping track of things to read. I just fail to say that mine is leaving them open in tabs.๐Ÿ˜‰ Eventually, I get annoyed at how many tabs are open and go through and read things.

      • @Meg:

        I do the same thing with papers, except that my computer occasionally crashes and I lose all the open tabs. So I either need a different system, or a more reliable computer.

  3. I read the piece on the etymology of “semelparous” and thought it a cool snippet. As we had just taught life history ecology in our Ecology and Evolution class, I thought I’d share it with the students. Before I did so, something made me dig a little further (five years of schoolboy Latin?). I was surprised to find very little to back it up in a Google search, but found that all dictionaries gave as the word’s root the Latin “semel” for once (semel being derived from the Proto-Indo-European word for one). A trip to the library provided a letter published in the May 1988 issue of Natural History written by a lexicographer that appears to debunk the link between Semele and semelparous for the same reasons ( I hate to say it, but I think the Semele explanation might be wrong. Then again, given that her only offspring eventually rescued her from Hades, maybe she qualifies for zombie status๐Ÿ™‚

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