Monday, 5 May 2008

may 5 roundup


  • if you get the joke, you have no right to complain.
  • best time to remember? just before you forget.
  • the LHC as a spam filter: "the LHC will create about a billion collisions per second, and only about 100 of them will actually get stored on hard disk.... the trigger makes some snap judgments about what events are fun."
  • the rationality of single motherhood. Hint: "'Black culture' doesn't explain why the single moms are disproportionately in the states where lots of young black men are in prison."
  • how many people are airborne over the US at any given moment? (the art of estimation)

10 comments:

Zachary Miner said...

Okay, so what if I *don't* get the joke? Do I get an explanation of why there are pictures of undergarments and cats on your blog?

Zachary Miner said...

Also, I hate to play the disciplinary elitist, but one would probably be hard pressed to find a sociologist who is surprised that Black women tend to marry less often because Black men are increasingly incarcerated. Hello economists, and welcome to our field of study! We've pretty fully mapped these regions here - so, don't waste *too* much of your time duplicating our findings. If you find something interesting, though, we'll be over here doing work that actually matters and regular people can sometimes understand. kthxbai!

(Wow, I did not just type "kthxbai." I need to go take a walk or something.)

Isaac said...

Quantum states are represented by two parts, standardly denoted by a bracket notation. When operated on separately, the left is denoted "bra" and the right "ket." See Wikipedia for more.

Isaac said...

Way to represent, yo!

It sounds like your disciplinary indoctrination is complete.

Could ethnographers argue the same way about some of the more interesting sociological findings of the past decade?

How do you expect disciplinary bounds to shift in the coming decades?

Zachary Miner said...

Thanks for the physics info. I knew I was missing something ... those wacky physicists and their undergarments!

Also, in reality, I am far less of a disciplinary snob than it seems. Sure, there's something to be said for knowing "your" field's literature, but the fact is that there is a ton of overlap in many different fields. One of the most interesting books that I've found that's relevant to my (hopefully) upcoming thesis was written by someone getting a degree in medical anthropology. Does that mean it's not worthy of being included in a sociology lit review? Surely not.

I guess what irks me is when someone claims to have found "new" results, when they are merely new-to-you results. I wonder to what extent the rise of discipline-specific academic search engines contribute to this?

Isaac said...

Yes, it also irks me whenever there is a claim of something "new" when it clearly isn't new. Fair or not, though, I mark a lot of it up to marketing. I'm not saying "blame the journalist," but there's no question journalism strains to report things as new.

A number of years ago, I read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel. It was a revelation to me, as I'd never read any anthropology before. But an anthropologist friend of mine was upset by the entire tone of the book, since it was essentially a popularization (by an ornithologist) of theories advanced by his field decades earlier - and which had by now become highly nuanced. It felt to him as though Diamond had skimmed an introductory anthropology text and run immediately to the publisher, shouting "new and improved!"

Dissemination of science is tough, and we get it from both sides.

Zachary Miner said...

It's tough to argue that getting useful academic viewpoints into the mainstream media is a bad thing. The major problem, though, is what we consider to be "useful." Sure, there's something to be said for creating works which influence policymakers, but wouldn't it be just as good (and perhaps better) to influence the general public, so that they will see certain things as important issues to consider when they elect policymakers in the first place?

Then again, it's not so easy to get any kind of a viewpoint into the media if - as you note - it can't be sexed up as "new" or "groundbreaking" or whatnot. But maybe that's not a problem. I mean, really, who cares what causes crime, or how gender representations affect the sexes, or makes our institutions run the way they do? It's not like those things affect us every day of our lives.

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Oh, wait...

4ll4n0 said...

I'm confused as how you guys get from this newspaper article that the guy does not site sociologists, psychologists and the like in his book. Quite possibly he does not as full citation is not as a rule common in popular books (because it is perceived to intimidate or bore the lay reader?).

The point of behavioural economics if I understand rightly is to be bring the insights of psychology (and presumably the other human sciences) back into economics. I'm guessing that means taking results from psychological and other behavioural studies (that they hopefully cite) and working out some game theoretic and other economic functions (utility function?) to represent them and then showing how they can usefully be applied to economic modeling. Famously mainstream economics treats a strange creature called homo econonmicus a being who acts unfailingly for its own self-interest, maximizing personal utility with precision in all its decisions.

Isaac said...

Zac: I think we can agree to not trust the media to be the proper judge of what's important.

4ll4n0: An exaggeration of Zac's point is that if behavioural economics is nothing more than a repackaging of well-known sociological results from ten years ago, then it isn't much good as a field, is it?

More down to earth, I suppose the question we're left to ponder is this: what is the difference between behavioural economics and sociology? Is there an interesting new methodology that gets us these results? How might the methodologies of these two fields be used in concert to shore up weaker arguments from either camp?

Or are we just playing dress-up?

Successful Researcher: How to Become One said...

:)