Categories
Historical Expertise

And yet the Legend Lives

Scott Huler is right to take the North Carolina legislature to task for trying to legislate whether or not ocean levels are rising: NC Considers Making Sea Level Rise Illegal. Yet like President Obama before him, Huler reveals his own ignorance when he invokes another tired historical myth. Contrary to what Huler would like, there […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Science is Not Just a Word

Two current shows on Leonardo da Vinci have prompted the perennial speculation about his status as an artist or a scientist. Jonathan Jones wants Leonardo to be “a scientist and an artist at the same time.” Thony over at The Renaissance Mathematicus takes Jones to task for making a category error, pointing out that for […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Does History of Science Contribute Anything to Science?

A nice exchange occurred recently on Twitter about how history of science and science might complement each other. Looking beyond retrospective diagnosis, some interesting points about how using scientific techniques might raise questions for historians and how science might benefit from some historical techniques. You can see most of this exchange with this Twitter search

Categories
Press and Pop Culture

A Mathematician Solves the Obesity Puzzle

In an interview in the Science section of today’s NY Times, Carson Chow claims to have solved the obesity puzzle: Why is the obesity rate increasing in the U.S.? Chow’s mathematical analysis found that since the 1970s food production in the U.S. has increased considerably and that we consume most of that increased production. While […]

Categories
Press and Pop Culture

Bias Affects All Scientific Research

In a recent column at Nature, Daniel Sarewitz worries about the effect that systematic bias is having on science: “Beware the Creeping Cracks of Bias.” According to Sarewitz, scientists can no longer point the finger at traditional causes but now should “recognize bias is an inescapable element of research.” He finds biomedical research most susceptible […]

Categories
Academia

Academic History and Stylish Prose

I missed Helen Sword’s short article last month when it first appeared: “Yes, Even Professors Can Write Stylishly.” She laments the stodgy (her word) style many academics use and rejects the common claim that academic prose needs to be jargon-laden: Unfortunately, the myth persists, especially among junior faculty still winding their anxious way up the […]

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Press and Pop Culture

Universal Vaccination is a Perennial Struggle

The Shot@Life Campaign is the latest effort to vaccinate less fortunate children in developing countries. Part of the United Nations Foundation, Shot@Life hopes to expand access to vaccines by drawing on “the American public, members of Congress, and civil society partners.” While the Shot@Life seems to result from improved, modern public health, universal vaccination especially […]

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Speaking

Speaking at the Wagner

Yesterday I had the chance to visit The Wagner Free Institute of Science and to speak to a group of students from Drexel University. As part of a class on the history of museums, they had spent considerable time at the Academy of Natural Sciences—last year Drexel acquired (the official term is became affiliated with) […]

Categories
Teaching

Thoughtful Dissent

In late 1951 Bertrand Russell composed “A Liberal Decalogue” in response to growing fanaticism. We would all do well to recall daily Russell’s ten commandments for the teacher: Do not feel absolutely certain of anything. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light. […]

Categories
Teaching

The Importance of Style

Without further comment: The American university teacher who gives honor grades to students who have not yet learned to write English, for industrious compilations of facts or feats of memory, is wanting in professional pride or competence. Samuel E. Morison, History as a Literary Art (1946), 3.