Dispatches

When personal emergencies strike

I recently had a family emergency. All is well now, but I was amused at just how much I used my scientific skills in handling the emergency. — David Mertens

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Behind the screen

Blink is a wonderful book. So wonderful that I tend to think that every good story I ever read about bias, decision making and a number of other topics must have been in there. I just spent several hours trying to find one of those stories. Unfortunately, I couldn’t – ...

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The Probability of a Psychic Octopus

You remember Paul, he was world-renown as the most successful prognosticator of the World Cup. He successfully predicted the results of all of Germany’s games, and he correctly picked Spain as the winner in the final. Paul was the sensation of the year, with hundreds of articles written and TV reports made acclaiming his amazing soccer intuition. Also, he was an octopus.

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Diffusion in complex system: is the anomalous usual?

A brief history of anomalous diffusion as it relates to complex systems. — Haroldo Ribeiro

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Review of PRX

The American Physical Society, publishers of Physical Review Letters among other journals, has recently started a new online-only open-access journal: PRX. The publisher claims that “PRX will bring valuable and innovative results to the broader physics readership.” Does PRX make good on this claim? In this blog post I examine the three articles that relate to this lab’s interests and come up with mixed results. — David Mertens

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Friendship and colleagues

In the academic world, the coming of spring brings more than migrating birds and warming temperatures. We can also count on seminars filled with faculty candidates, and prospective graduate students flocking to elaborate departmental recruiting events. Little time has elapsed since I was an interviewee in the latter category, but ...

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Accountability and the Research Enterprise

The Republican leadership has recently turned its attention to “wasteful” research sponsored by NSF (see YouCut for details.) In a youtube video, Representative Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) calls for Americans to search the NSF database and report “wasteful” grants and cites two projects as examples of such waste, a $750,000 grant ...

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The role of controversy in scientific discourse

Returning from a scientific meeting reminded me again of the current bias against controversy in scientific discussions. Maybe as a result of the hazing-like practices in some circles (math, statistics, old Sovietic academic institutions), many now appear to abhor public disagreement on scientific matters. This is sad, as there is ...

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Being timely or the need to "convert" editors and reviewers

Steve Wiley discusses in “The Scientist” (Timing is Everything) the importance of timeliness in one’s research. One does not want to be behind the curve, but neither does one want to be too ahead of the curve. This raises the question of what to do if you are too ahead ...

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Making a bad situation worse

There is a general consensus that many things are wrong with the way U.S. intelligence agencies operate. The weaknesses of the present system have been clearly brought to light by the 9/11 commission’s report. Included in that report is a recommendation to create the new position of national intelligence director ...

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It all comes down to the people in your team.

In 2002, the Pentagon picked Paul van Riper, a retired Marine and a veteran of the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War, to lead the “enemy” forces battling US forces in the Millenium Challenge war game. Van Riper’s mission was “clearly: impossible; his forces had to contain much better ...

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Expert evaluation vs. citation analysis

The recent Nature editorial “Experts still needed” (Nature, vol 457,pp. 7-8, 2009) made me smile with amusement. There is no question that there is still a significant lack of understandingof what bibliometric measures actually measure, and that the heavy,simple-minded, use of such metrics for evaluation of disciplines,nations, organizations, or scientists ...

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