Friday links: Charles Darwin vs. Tom Wolfe, variance components vs. beer, and more

Also this week: NSF DEB year-end wrap up, how prospective grad students can make the most of their campus visits, “may the wish power be together with you”, and more. The funny links are extra-funny this week!

From Meg:

The NSF DEBrief blog posted the Fiscal Year 2016 wrap up. The main number everyone wonders about: 8.1%. That’s the overall success rate for funding from DEB.ย 8%. Ugh. (That said, I think it’s excellent that they publish these numbers on their blog!)

Ambika Kamath had a post comparing Stephen Heard’s new writing book with Schimel’s book, which is another popular book on scientific writing. I found her comparison interesting! I’m thinking of writing a review of Heard’s book once I finish it (if I can find the time!)

From Jeremy:

Advice for prospective grad students looking to make the most of their campus visits.

Many students like a grading policy in which their worst mark gets dropped. But this policy gives them the option to blow off a quiz or assignment entirely. Data Colada suggests an alternative policy: weighting the assignments after the results are known, with each student having their worst assignments downweighted but no assignment getting zero weight (since that would be equivalent to dropping the worst mark). I dunno, seems a bit over-elaborate to me. If there are enough assignments, dropping the worst one doesn’t actually make much difference to the final averages, even though the students tend to feel like it does. And if somebody wants to blow off one assignment and take the risk that they won’t do badly on any of the others, well, so what?

Didham et al. with an interesting editorial documenting in detail the increasing difficulty their insect ecology journal has finding reviewers. They also argue cogently that the “golden rule of reviewing” (do at least as many reviews as your submissions receive) lacks teeth in an age in which most mss are co-authored by several people. It’s several years late, but this is some of the most incisive pushback I’ve seen against my idea of “PubCreds” and related ideas. Unfortunately, I don’t think Didham et al. suggest alternative reforms that would solve the problem. The measures they suggest are all worthwhile and in many cases are already being implemented. But they’re attempts to treat the symptoms rather than the disease. (ht Simon Leather, via the comments)

The US National Park Service is recommending a plan to restore Isle Royale’s famous wolf population by adding 20-30 wolves over the next 5 years. And it sounds like they recognize that similar restorations, or else genetic rescues, are likely to be required repeatedly in future if the long-term goal is to maintain the wolves indefinitely. I report this out of personal interest and attachment: I did my honors thesis research on Isle Royale, a story I told briefly here.

This week in Car Crash Rubbernecking Linking: Tom Wolfe has a new book out claiming, preposterously, that Charles Darwin was a lazy simpleton who stole his ideas from Alfred Russel Wallace. At least, that’s the conclusion I draw from this absolutely damning review. (ht @dandrezner) I am now imagining Tom Wolfe standing in line for a screening of Creation, blathering about Darwin. Meg happens to be standing in front of him. Unable to take any more of Wolfe’s blathering, she snaps and goes “Charles Darwin?! You don’t know anything about Charles Darwin’s work! I have Charles Darwin right here!” Then she pulls out her Charles Darwin doll and has it say “You know nothing of my work!” ๐Ÿ™‚ (Watch this if you have no idea why that imagined scenario is hilarious.)*

Someone just published a paper in Behaviorial Ecology and Sociobiology on the reliability of online beer ratings. (ht Meg) Which raises the question:

I still have my inscribed copy of Community Ecology, Peter. Here’s why I felt the need to say this. ๐Ÿ™‚

And finally, this has nothing to do with science, but it’s too funny not to share: may the force be with you wish power be together with you. ๐Ÿ™‚

*Why yes, as a matter of fact I was cut from my college’s improv comedy troupe four times. How did you guess?

10 thoughts on “Friday links: Charles Darwin vs. Tom Wolfe, variance components vs. beer, and more

  1. Seems that among his errors Tom Wolfe does not understand the meaning of “abstract” as used by Darwin in relation to his writings.

    I can’t own that I read the entire review but I’m glad I skipped to the end for the “About the Author” line.

  2. Re books turning up unexpectedly – two hard-bound copies of my PhD thesis have appeared on Amazon in the last couple of years and I have no idea why, unless the British Library, Oxford Brookes University, or my supervisor got rid of theirs…. One was bought by my wife as a birthday present for me #giftsIalreadyhave

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