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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 […]

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Press and Pop Culture

The Politics of Time and Date

The last couple of days have seen a number of articles on the “leap second,” this otherwise unremarkable second that we agree to insert every now and then to keep atomic clocks in sync with the rotation of the earth. The decision yesterday to postpone making a decision sounds a lot like early modern efforts […]