March Pieces Of My Mind #3

Investigated a midden on the commuter train as I went into town for a doom metal gig. Investigated a midden on the commuter train as I went into town for a doom metal gig.
  • Untouched WW2 resistance arms cache found in a cave near Bergen. Sadly no archaeological involvement. Everything dealt with by police explosives experts.
  • Greek Western heroine: Kalamata Jane.
  • So annoying when people write about patently incorrect beliefs held in the past or in far parts of the world as "knowledge".
  • They're going to drill cores of the limestone that fills the dino killer crater and look at what happened after the impact.
  • A car is a device that allows you to charge your phone using petroleum products.
  • Now I've seen all Östergötland's sites with visible remains of Medieval fortifications plus a selection of sites with Medieval house foundations in naturally defensible locations.
  • Put an umbo on your shield -- like a boss!
  • I just applied for docentur, roughly equivalent to Dr. Habil. My 31-page application letter includes the chair's recommendation letter and the certificate I got from the supervision course last week. The former chairman of the committee that hands out the docentur told me recently that under these conditions, the docentur badge is never refused.
  • Refused to install the Chromecast dongle in the TV. Pointed out that you don't need a willy to be able to do that. Wife & Jrette went to it and soon proved me correct.
  • I'm not entirely sure, because these organisations change their names and merge and shit. But it seems that I will be receiving pension money from seven different schemes. The way things are going so far, it will add up to abject poverty.
  • Billy Preston who plays on several tracks on Let It Be was a gay black survivor of childhood sex abuse.
  • If I was a member of The Band I would be completely incapable of refraining from telling my wife that I wanted to make Music From Little Pink with her.
  • One of my excavation volunteers just bailed. I used a die from my 1984 copy of Swedish Runequest to determine who gets the slot.
  • Do all academics understand that a large part of what a paper's citation index measures is how eager scholars are to be friends with the author? Nothing improves the apparent importance of your work like you making head of department.
  • Two pairs of terms that I can't tell apart internally: anorexia vs. bulimia, and pedagogy vs. didactics.
  • Funny with group photos where people are leaning drunkenly on each other despite the frame being way outside them.
  • Junior made an interesting find in the current EU rules for ecological food (p. 11). "... chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products including antibiotics may be used where necessary and under strict conditions, when the use of phytotherapeutic, homeopathic and other products is inappropriate." "Allopathic" means "real science-based" in the alternative argot. "Phytotherapeutic" means "of healing herbs". "Homeopathic" means "of sugar pills with water on them". What "other products" might mean is anyone's guess.
  • Movie: Ex Machina. Young software engineer is tasked to test an AI. But who is testing whom? And why is there so much gratuitous young-female-only nudity? Grade: Pass.
  • Walter the Peruvian car mechanic informs me that the dramatic banging noise from the front right wheel on the car was due to a spindle arm on its way to breakdown.

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Nothing improves the apparent importance of your work like you making head of department.

That's less true of American physicists than in other fields and other countries--here, being named head of your department is basically like becoming chief cat herder. (US funding agencies typically award grants to individual professors, not departments, unlike in many other countries.) But there is an equivalent method in my field for boosting your citation rate and especially your H-index: become curator for one, or preferably several, large and important data sets. There is a senior professor in my field with well over a thousand publications to his name, and an H-index more than half again that of the second highest H-index in the field. He did that by being the lead person on a bunch of key data sets over a period of decades.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 31 Mar 2016 #permalink

extra points if you recall the wild west reference

It's been parodied at least twice: once in Blazing Saddles and once in UHF. In the latter, a "Weird Al" Yankovic vehicle, the host of the animal kingdom show (played, IIRC, by the same actor who spoke the original line in Treasure of the Sierra Madre) objects to the inclusion of badgers in a shipment of animals delivered to his apartment.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 31 Mar 2016 #permalink

Yes, I get that department heads have some input to hiring. But there are cultural differences between fields and between countries. The US has more than 3000 universities. Sweden has about 10 (maybe as many as 20, and at least six because I can name that many offhand). Not all of those universities offer degrees in all fields, but there are enough that candidates cannot be reasonably expected to cite the work of the chair of every US department to which they are applying. Department chair also tends to be a rotating position, with any given head serving in that capacity for 3-6 years. Furthermore, physicists are quite a bit more specialized in their research, and at least at the research university level (things may be different at teaching universities), the opening is usually in a specified subfield. An astrophysicist isn't expected to cite the research of somebody who works on superconducting materials, or vice versa.

It's not that I don't see examples of flattery via citation in my field. Senior scientists in the field are more likely to be suggested (and chosen) as peer reviewers because they are the best known, and it's standard practice to cite the relevant work by those senior scientists, in a favorable light when possible (in controversial cases you may not be able to avoid offending one side or the other), in hopes that they will review the manuscript more favorably. But heads of US physics departments tend not to have as much relative power as heads of Swedish archaeology departments. US physics department heads certainly don't control funding to the extent that is common in other fields and countries--as I said, US funding agencies tend to fund individual professors rather than departments.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 31 Mar 2016 #permalink

There is a BBC News story today about a possible Viking settlement site at the southwest corner of Newfoundland. This is distinct from the site at L'Anse aux Meadows, which is at the northern tip of Newfoundland.

Of course, given today's date and BBC's history (they are the ones who aired the infamous Swiss spaghetti harvest segment this day in 1957), I don't know if this story is real.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Apr 2016 #permalink

"anorexia vs. bulimia"
Anorexia: eat nothing.
Bulimia: puke everything.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 01 Apr 2016 #permalink

Birger@10: That's the same story I mentioned seeing on the BBC web site on Friday. Glad to hear it was a genuine story.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 04 Apr 2016 #permalink

This could be VERY useful for China, and other countries that still are dependent on coal:
"Combining gasification with fuel-cell technology could boost efficiency of coal-powered plants" http://phys.org/news/2016-04-combining-gasification-fuel-cell-technolog… This would produce twice the electricity, and would make it much easier to carry out carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 05 Apr 2016 #permalink

The treatments in the article concerns things like spinal discs, but with the renewed optimism we will se a lot of research into regenerating liver, kidney or heart tissue.
I also wonder if CRISPR can be used to make embryonic stem cells cancer-proof, but that is another matter.

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 05 Apr 2016 #permalink