- Physicsworld has an interesting article "In search of the black swans" by Mark Buchanan who ponders the question whether the current research environment for scientists is optimal for knowledge discovery. It quotes Geoffrey West (currently president of the Santa Fe Institute) in praise of interdisciplinarity, Eric Weinstein (who attended our last year's conference on Science in the 21st Century, talk at PIRSA: 08090036) suggesting that scientists should put their money where their mouth is, and Lee Smolin who explains tirelessly that science needs more valley crossers and more risk-taking.
As I have argued many times - on this blog (eg here, here and here) and elsewhere - all of these suggestions are almost certain to fail. They sound nice and are meant well, but though today we might call for more interdisciplinarity or more risk-taking, tomorrow we'll have to much of it. Who is going to decide how much is enough? The only way to solve the problem is to allow the system to dynamically reach a balance. I am thus quite sympathetic to Eric's idea which wouldn't fix any percentages but allow some sort of self-organization, just that I don't think monetary incentives are a cure for every problem, and in particular in academia are more likely to cause additional problems.
- PI's former director Howard Burton published his book on The Crazy Business of Doing Serious Science. I haven't read it, so don't ask.
- Interactions.org is re-launching the quantum diaries. The original quantum diaries were launched in celebration of the 2005 year of physics and are basically a group blog documenting the lives of physicists. I find the design of the website very well done, and to my eyes' relief it's entirely ad-free.
- PBS will be airing "400 years of the Telescope" on April 10 to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy. More information on the program here, and photos here.