The title is a .signature line that somebody– Emmet O’Brien, I think, but I’m not sure– used to use on Usenet, back in the mid-to-late 90′s, when some people referred to the Internet as the “Information Superhighway.” I’ve always thought it was pretty apt, especially as I’ve moved into blogdom, where a lot of what I spend time on involves the nearly random collisions of different articles and blog posts and so on. It’s also as good a title as any for this tab-clearing post, which consists of pointing out two pairs of articles that, in my mind at least, seem to have something to say about each other.

Two Cultures Edition: A while back, Thoreau offered without qualification a nice post about the informal things you learn from undergraduate research. More recently, Timothy Burke had a really interesting post about semi-formally teaching some of the not-entirely-intuitive search techniques of historians. They’re very different posts in a lot of ways, but they’re both, in a way, trying to talk explicitly about stuff that is usually more implicit– I like the way Burke laid things out there, because while the processes I use for finding relevant scientific papers isn’t exactly the same, there are a lot of similarities, and I don’t think anybody ever taught me any of that explicitly. I may need to think about a more science-y version of that research post at some point. In my copious free time.

People Are Stupid Edition: Last weekend on Twitter, somebody pointed to this study of student beliefs about astrology, which is vaguely depressing but not all that surprising. It could be worse, though, as the Guardian helpfully points out some mind-bogglingly stupid things said on quiz shows.

And as long as I’m tossing out references to ephemeral pop culture, the AV Club collects fictional appearances of real game shows. They muffed the punch line of the Trebek bit from Cheers, but at least none of the responses given by the sitcom characters was as dumb as the real people in the Guardian piece.

So, there you go. Random bits of the Internet, knocking into each other at high speed. Make of it what you will.

Comments

  1. #1 Eric Lund
    May 12, 2011

    I like the way Burke laid things out there, because while the processes I use for finding relevant scientific papers isn’t exactly the same, there are a lot of similarities, and I don’t think anybody ever taught me any of that explicitly.

    Seconded. A big issue in such searches is dealing with the false positive problem. For instance, one database I frequently use (because it covers the major physics/geophysics/astrophysics journals as well as the arXiv) has noticed that not everybody is consistent about specifying initials, so if you are looking for papers by I. M. Scientist it will also return papers by I. Scientist. Unfortunately, you will also get papers by I. B. Scientist and I. R. Scientist, whose work may be completely unrelated to the topic. Obviously, certain names are worse than others–in some cases I search on the name of a co-author with a less common name because there are so many Smiths or Kims or Zhangs out there that I am likely to get false positives even when I restrict my search to a particular journal and year.

  2. #2 Walt
    July 25, 2011

    Hi Chad — it was James Fischer, I think, who came up with the information supercollider notion way back in the Usenet / listserv era. It was fun to image an information supercollider, and it was fun to argue with Mr. Fischer.