Friday, January 28, 2011

This and That

  • Katy Börner from the project "Places & Spaces: Mapping Science," who came with her poster exhibition to our 2008 conference on Science, Society and Information Technology, has written a book called "Atlas of Science: Visualizing what we know." I haven't read it, but there's a review in a recent issue of Nature which most of you probably can't access, and another review in Seed Magazine which will give you an impression of what the book is about. If you have an interest in visualizing data and/or the structure of scientific communities and the process of knowledge discovery, this might be interesting for you.

  • A PS to my post on Cosmic Strings that summarized a recent study on the gravitational wave emmission from Cosmic Superstrings' cusps. According to the study's results, the presence of extra dimensions would suppresses the signal, possibly too much to be observable. In a new paper, O'Callaghan and Gregory have now studied the signal from kinks, claiming that the suppression is not as pronounced as the one from cusps.

  • Some months ago, during one of my hospital stays, I received another inquiry seeking permission to use one of my figures for what I thought would be an illustration of some essay on gravitons. My reply was essentially "yeah, whatever," just in some more words. I now was sent a link to the result, a digital book, in French, called "Du LIVRE de Mallarmé au livre mal armé." The website is here, and you can download the ebook here. It looks to me like a collection of sciency philosophy essays. My figure appears in section "14.59°" - whatever that might mean. If your French is better than mine, please let me know in the comments what this compilation is all about!

  • Here's an article I filed in the category "Complete Bullshit:" Daniel Sarewitz in Slate claiming, in a nutshell, that it's a problem Republicans are represented among US scientists in a smaller percentage than among the US population: "No wonder the Republicans are suspicious of the science," he writes and goes on to make a case that "the scientific community should be willing to investigate and discuss the issue" because this situation is clearly politically incorrect. I had the intention to get upset about this article, but it's so completely bullshit it's not even worth the effort, so I just let you read it. Don't miss the comments.

  • Something to laugh: And the state of the union is... salmon!


  1. Hi Bee,

    Thanks Bee for you pointing to Katy Börner’s new book. Your drawing attention to such things is just one of the many reasons I like to follow this blog. This is one book I will definitely need to pick up, as the thing being I’m one of those people who visualizes concepts and information as a matter of course and thus finds it becoming even more revealing when given greater substance as Börner apparently does in this book.

    As for Daniel Sarewitz’s piece all I can say it does provide a good laugh. It was Charles Dudley Warner who famously pointed out that “Politics makes strange bedfellows” and yet despite such temptation it appears for most scientists reason more generally wins out over passion:-)



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  3. It's fairly obvious why there are more liberals in Science: most scientists (that publish) tend to work in Academia which is quite liberal itself, given all the young people attending. And every year, a new crop of young. :-)

    Yet another reason why Academia is failing in America at least and we need our Institutes of Advanced Study and Logic. Less undergrads, more maturity.

    Also, Academics in general have no clue by and large how to make money. That's fine, we can't all be, nor should we all try to be, capitalists. Ideas, especially new fresh ones, are kind of important, you think? I think so.

    But your point re the article being bullshit is well-taken. The Far Right-wing war on Science is relentless, and embarrassing. That which we do not know or understand, we fear, and "fear" is their operating principle.

    Successfully, too, as fear is the most primal of human emotions therefore the easiest to appeal to. It got Bush elected twice and tea partiers as well.

    Point the second: Obama mentions "salmon" and the whole world latches on to the national food of Norway? I guess that's why Teddy Roosevelt called the US Presidency "a bully pulpit," the word "bully" meaning "strong" in his day.

  4. Hi Bee,

    I agree with you. This article about democrats in science is complete bullshit. I think there're not many republicans working in science is at least coming from the fact that one cannot make so much money in science. The 'debate' about climate change in this article is disgusting.

    Best, Kay

  5. There are plenty of scientists working for global corporations, Kayzum, for example ExxonMobil, and if they know what's good for them they will present themselves as conservatives or Republicans, regardless of how they feel. You don't advance in corpora tions unless you adopt the "company line."

    Industry hates pollution control, as it subtracts from their profits, so they've adopted the policy of denying that pollution is a problem. They're very successful, at least in the US and the Czech Republic.

  6. The Republican take on science is inerrant and inarguable. The first five of the Ten Commandments command "Thou shalt shop only in the Company store." Shut up and obey. It is governments' task to prevent mankind from knowing things, and religions' task to substitute inert filling.
    POTUS Obama's State of the Union speech, deconstructed.

  7. Hi Steven,

    I talked about scientists not working for companies. You're right that some scientists working at universities or research laboratories can make money with patents, but theorists f.e. cannot.

    Best, Kay

  8. Hi Phil,

    Let us know how you like Katy's book if you have a chance to give it a look! I will probably not find the time for some while. Best,


  9. Hi Steven, Kay,

    Yes, one may speculate what's the reason for this underrepresentation, but I think that's actually not the point. Point is it's quite a stretch to argue that somebody is being discriminated for where they place their x on election day because who knows that anyway? If you're female or black a hiring committee just has to give you one look to figure that out. But you don't write your political conviction on your CV, it's not printed on your forehead and nobody asks for it. From the vast majority of my colleagues I have no clue how they vote and I actually don't care. It's even more difficult to hide ones sexual than the political orientation. Best,


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  11. Hi Bee,

    I’ll most definitely let it be known what I think of the book after having looked it over. However after consideration and although understanding your time being now more limited I would remind this is primarily a visual experience and thus might not consume very much of your time; that is at least physical time, although cognitive time being another matter. Also in way I see this as sort of the ultimate geek coffee table book that one might just like sitting around for others to share in spare moments; although I don’t see it becoming a big hit in barber shops, beauty salons or doctors waiting rooms:-)

    Anyway after reading the Amazon reviews I came across one written by James Burke, who wrote and developed a science history series I loved, called “Connections”. In the quote I leave below his argument for acquiring it you might find compelling respective of your current change in status.

    "In today’s confusing and fast-changing world, if we are to shape our children’s lives for the best, it is essential that we understand what science is thinking, where it’s coming from, and where it’s going. This fascinating, lucid, brilliantly illustrated book shows us all that."
    —James Burke



  12. Hi Bee,

    Hi Steven, Kay,
    Yes, one may speculate what's the reason for this under-representation, but I think that's actually not the point. Point is it's quite a stretch to argue that somebody is being discriminated for where they place their x on election day because who knows that anyway?

    We got the point. We just extrapolated. Forgive please, but "Republican" as in The American Republican Party makes my blood boil. Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, both Republicans, are my favorite Presidents, but the party is virtually the opposite now of what those fine men stood for.

    Perhaps THE NICEST thing about Mathematical Physics is how Apolitical it is, or should be. Truth straight up for any other non-Poly Sci academic discipline as well. Indeed, the fact that an equation doesn't give a shit about one's political leanings are one of the greatest pulls for many of us toward research as opposed to that pack of lies bullshitfest that is Politics.

    Were that politics never entered Science, but we've known since Los Alamos and the whole "Jewish Science" crap of the 1920's that it is politics that uses science, and for its own nefarious ends, than the other way around.

    Regarding the rest of your reply, you're quite right people shouldn't be discriminated against. The female angle, gender bias, is something I'm very sensitive to as my wife had that used against her very quickly after graduation in laser optics research. In HER case it worked out well because she got an even better job, so we consider her fortunate.

    The real world, alas, gives lip service to anti-bias laws. Latent prejudices give way eventually, although sometimes it takes a whole generation to die out. Thank goodness Dave Hilbert gave as good as the "system" got by managing to get Emmy Noether to teach. How many others besides Emmy and my wife were not so fortunate? What a waste.

  13. Hi Phil,

    Thanks for the quote, I totally agree with him. Best,


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