Education

There’s been a lot going on this past week so it’s likely that National Farm Safety Week, announced by Presidential Proclamation on September 19th may have escaped notice of those not working in agriculture. “America,” said President Obama in the proclamation, “depends on our farmers and ranchers to clothe our families, feed our people, and fuel our cars and trucks.” And he continued: “While our farmers and ranchers are the best in the world, agriculture remains one of our country's most hazardous industries. Producers and their families are exposed to numerous safety and health dangers --…
  The ‘Nifty Fifty (times 4)’, a program of Science Spark, presented by InfoComm International, are a group of 200 noted science and engineering professionals who will fan out across the Washington, D.C. area in the 2014-2015 school year to speak about their work and careers at various middle and high schools. Meet Nifty Fifty Speaker Cassidy Williams  Twenty-two year old Cassidy Williams is passionate about being a role model to encourage more young women to pursue careers in computational science and other areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). As an Iowa State…
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau finds that the U.S. poverty rate declined slightly between 2012 and 2013, however the numbers of people living at or below the poverty level in 2013 didn’t represent a real statistical change. Yesterday, the Census Bureau released two annual reports: “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013” and “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2013.” The agency found that between 2012 and 2013, the nation’s poverty rate declined from 15 percent to 14.5 percent. But the 45.3 million people living in poverty as of 2013 was not a “statistically…
Steven Pinker has a piece at the New Republic arguing that Ivy League schools ought to weight standardized test scores more heavily in admissions. this has prompted a bunch of tongue-clucking about the failures of the Ivy League from the usual suspects, and a rather heated concurrence from Scott Aaronson. That last finally got me to read the piece, because I had figured I would be happier not reading it, but I wanted to see what got Scott so worked up. Sadly, my first instinct was correct. It starts off well enough, taking down an earlier anti-Ivy League piece by William Deresiewicz for being…
As Texas Gov. Rick Perry makes moves toward a 2016 presidential run, it seems he can’t talk enough about the so-called “Texas Miracle." But upon closer inspection, it seems clear that a “miracle” based on small government, big business tax breaks and laissez-faire regulations is hardly a blessed event for Texas workers. In an in-depth article on workplace deaths published in the Dallas Morning News, reporter James Gordon writes that Texas workers face the highest workplace death rates in the nation. In fact, Gordon notes that a Texas worker is 12 percent more likely to be killed on the job…
7 Things Librarians Are Tired of Hearing Library without books debuts at Florida’s newest college How Streaming Media Could Threaten the Mission of Libraries Books: Important Symbol or Annoying Physical Reality? Ice Ice Baby: Are Librarian Stereotypes Freezing Us out of Instruction? UNBSJ students protest for study space: Say the new library is too noisy How Libraries Can Survive In The Digital Age What does an unsuccessful academic library look like? Editorial: Evolving libraries still need people The future of libraries is in good hands Schism in the Stacks: Is the University Library As We…
Here we go again. If there's anything that ignites the fevered brains (such as they are) of antivaccine activists, it's a good seeming conspiracy. Indeed, as we've seen before, if they can't find a legitimate one, they'll either exaggerate one or make one up out of whole cloth. This week, an "alleged" conspiracy has been brewing. It's really the damnedest thing in that it's hard to figure out exactly what's going on. Whatever is going on, though, I would recommend extreme skepticism because two people are involved whose word you would be very foolish to trust on any scientific matter…
To continue the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science theme, I present the text of a recent open letter I signed to the AAAS concerning their new journal Science Advances. Thanks to Jonathan Tennant for spearheading this effort. You can read more about the rationale behind writing the letter and the process involved at Jon's blog here. As well, he's listing the other places where the letter is being disseminated. Dear  AAAS, This is an open letter concerning the recent launch of the new open access journal, Science Advances. In addition to the welcome diversification in…
I come across antivaccine editorials all the time. Usually, some editor ignorant of the issues involved is duped by antivaccine arguments or succumbs to the annoying journalistic fallacy (with respect to science) of “telling both sides.” Either that, or the editor has antivaccine proclivities himself. Either way, the result is an op-ed by someone like Barbara Loe Fisher, one of the clown car crew over at at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, or one of the drinking moms over at the horribly misnamed “The Thinking Moms’ Revolution.” I’ve seen so many of them and dealt with the same…
Over the last decade that I’ve been at this blogging thing, I’ve come across some incredibly irresponsible quackery, but what I saw about a week and a half ago took the cake. I’m referring to practitioners of The One Quackery To Rule Them All, homeopathy, demonstrating a sense delusion that was as massive as the concentration of a 30C homeopathic dilution is small when they proposed that homeopathy could be used ot treat Ebola virus disease. There are not enough facepalms face palmy enough to express the disgust at the utter ridiculousness and irresponsibility of even suggesting that magic…
One of the most annoying phenomena when it comes to “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), which its advocates are more and more insistent on calling “integrative medicine” is how little the average doctor cares that pseudoscience is infiltrating medicine. The reason, of course, is that CAM advocates don’t like the “alternative” part of the term CAM. Come to think of it, they don’t like the “complementary” part, either, because it implies that conventional science-based medicine (what I like to refer to as “real” medicine) is the main treatment and what they do is just “…
With much of the country still suffering the effects of the last recession, many hourly workers are trying to scrape by with part-time jobs that don’t give them as many hours as they’d like. Worse, their schedules are often unpredictable, with little advance notice -- and workers may scramble to coordinate childcare and transportation, only to arrive at their jobs and learn their shifts have been canceled. Businesses may lower their costs by rearranging schedules at the last minute or sending workers home in response to fluctuating numbers of customers, but they do so at the expense of…
From the current issue of The New York Times Magazine: One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald's Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W's burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it. Only when the company held customer…
How do you say “Surprise” in Norwegian? The word is “Entenza.” I am not making that up.* DFL activists and party leaders were both surprised and annoyed when perennial candidate Matt Entenza filed at the very last moment to run for Minnesota State Auditor against sitting Auditor Rebecca Otto in this year’s primary. He claimed he would fight corporate giveaways at the local level and scrutinize spending on education, addressing the state’s achievement gap. Also, he would be nice to out-state local governments and not favor the Metro, because he was born out-state. Entenza has a habit of…
After having returned from TAM, I was pumped up by how much interest was shown in the case of Stanislaw Burzynski. More importantly, I was heartened to learn while I was there that the Texas Medical Board had submitted an amended complaint against him containing 202 pages worth of charges. Sure, the descriptions of the violations Burzynski committed in the care of seven patients cited got a bit repetitive, but that’s Burzynski. His MO has been consistent for 37 years, the only change being that in 1997 he decided to use and abuse the clinical trial process as a means to an end, that end being…
There was an interesting article in the Chronicle a few weeks ago: The Soul of the Research University by Nicholas Lemann. Lemann provides a very interesting discussion of the contradiction between the academic ideal of the research university and the political perspective of the vocational school of further education, including some healthy historical perspective on the development of the concept in the US. "Underlying all of this is the fundamental problem of the country’s having adopted two noncongruent ideals of higher education. ... most of the stakeholders that provide resources to…
Credentialism always makes for convenient excuses. We love to construct simple shortcuts in our cognitive models: someone has a Ph.D., they must be smart (I can tell you that one is wrong). Someone is a scientist, they must have all the right facts. And of course, the converse: we can use the absence of a Ph.D. or professional standing, to dismiss someone. Creationists are very concerned about this, and you see it over and over again: the desperate need to acquire a degree or title, even if it is from some unaccredited diploma mill or a correspondence school, in order to justify their wacky…
"The real deal is always going to win in the end." -Bill Hybels I always do my best to cut through the hype and give it to you straight here at Starts With A Bang, and that means telling you the secrets of the Universe and the truth about our physical reality to the absolute best of our knowledge. In turn, you do your thing and let me know what you think, what else you want to know, and what just doesn't sound right to you in the comments here on our forum. Over the past week, we've covered the following topics: What are supernova impostors? (for Ask Ethan), The world's first Vine from space…
I've blogged before about becoming an archaeological dad, when new work built upon and superseded stuff I did in the 90s. Now stuff I did in the 00s has become, if not history, then at least museology, in the pages of Dr. Carl-Johan Svensson's PhD thesis in didactics (freely available on-line as a 2.4 MB PDF file). He presented his thesis yesterday at the School of Education and Communication, Jönköping University. Ten years ago I was involved a drawn-out and pretty violent public dispute about the policies of the then director of the Museum of Swedish History – which is misnamed because its…
Being a cancer surgeon, I realize that my tendency is to view my blogging material through the prism of cancer, particularly breast cancer, my specialty. it's easy to forget that there are diseases every bit as horrible, some arguably even more so than the worst cancer. When I think of such diseases, it's not surprising that amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease after its most famous victim. It's a progressive degenerative neurologic disease that affects the motor neurons, resulting in progressive muscle weakness throughout the body. Eventually, victims…