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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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Press and Pop Culture

Fighting the Flat Earth Myth

YouTube that briefly looks at and explains five historical misconceptions: horned Viking helmets, Lady Godiva, the tiny Napoleon, the infamous vomitorium, and Columbus and the flat earth. See 5 Historical Misconceptions, which was linked to at Smithsonian.com. The Columbus bit is the last section and begins around 2:50 into the video. The video is a […]

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Press and Pop Culture

The Mythical Copernican Moment

In a new article at the BBC James Stevenson propagates another classic myth in the history of science. Contrary the headline, there was no “Copernican Moment.” Further, Nicholas Copernicus did not “establish that the earth moves around the sun” (see “Humanisation of computing: A Copernican moment for tech”). Historians of science have show how much […]

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Press and Pop Culture

Bryn Mawr’s Genius Mathematician

A nice article in the NY Times draws attention to Emmy Noether, the brilliant mathematician who spent a little more than a year at Bryn Mawr College: The Mighty Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of. Following the publication of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, Noether started working through some of the complexities of the theory. This […]

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Press and Pop Culture

David Levy is Frighteningly Wrong about Faculty Labor

In his recent Op-Ed in the Washington Post, “Do College Professors Work Hard Enough?” David Levy parrots banal misconceptions about what is required of college faculty and how those faculty spend their time. He reduces a faculty career to teaching and assumes that teaching is nothing more than the hours spent in the classroom and […]

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Press and Pop Culture

The Mythical Flat Earth Past

The common claim that Columbus proved that the earth was round is the zombie myth from hell. It refuses to die. Every year students arrive in my intro class having been taught that people in the Middle Ages believed the earth was flat and that Columbus proved them wrong. This past semester, every student believed […]

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Press and Pop Culture

The Data Fetish and the Limits of Data Analysis

Three recent articles reflect both our fetish with data and data analysis, and at the same time reveal that data analysis is, in the end, inconclusive because it is subjective. Data analysis is subjective in the categories that researchers select as relevant and how they manipulate those categories. Another layer of subjectivity arises from researchers’ […]

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Press and Pop Culture

A Historical Perspective on DTC Drug Marketing

An article in the NY Times reports on a recent research about Direct-to-Consumer drug marketing. The article draws attention to authority and power of a “survey” in convincing consumers to self-diagnos and to request particular drugs. All this sounds a lot like the techniques used a century ago to market patent medicines. At that time […]

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Press and Pop Culture

Tacit Knowledge in Science

A recent NPR article reported on the team of craftsmen and technicians who are grinding the mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope. While the entire article is interesting, what is particularly interesting to me is that it reveals the importance of tacit knowledge in making even the most technical instruments. See my post at PACHS: […]

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Press and Pop Culture

The Ever Fascinating Astrolabe

The astrolabe is a fascinating medieval astronomical/astrological instrument. The replica I have always attracts students’ attention when I bring it into class and we talk about how scientific knowledge is embodied in technical instruments. We work through how use the astrolabe to tell time, find the positions of stars, the elevation of buildings. We also […]