Links for 2010-07-28

  • "Through long years of experience, we have accumulated the following useful set of rules. These should be helpful to beginning research students. However, we have also observed seasoned veterans making some of these simple errors. For advanced students, these rules can also be applied to regular courses. "
  • "My frustration with graduate training is that from my (admittedly removed) perspective, scholars seem to be taught the ropes of building a career very thoroughly: which journals count, how to finely slice research into multiple publications, how to build a competitive CV. I get the impression PhD candidates are rarely prompted to ask themselves "so what?" unless it's to build an argument in a grant proposal. When scientists are asked "but what does this actually mean?" they usually are able to connect the dots to an eventual cure for a disease, a longer-lasting battery, a more sustainable planet. They have to be able to do that; science is expensive, and funders want answers. So they connect the dots even if, in reality, they are doing basic science and have no idea what it will lead to."
  • "The past news week was dominated by the Shirley Sherrod saga, a miserable episode that involved political operatives masquerading as journalists distorting fact in order to promote pre-existing bias, followed by a rush to judgment on the part of those too weak or fearful to exercise independent thought. A casualty of the Sherrod story's domination of the news is that it obscured the whimpering end of two of the largest crises of the past several years: the signing of the Dodd-Frank financial services reform bill and the plugging of the BP well.
    As we all now know, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and here we have wasted two of them. "
  • "It is nearly impossible for most researchers to go through an entire career without ever working with a jerk.

    Much has been written in the corporate world on the topic of difficult co-workers and bosses. Some of the issues are universal, but others are more specific to academe. That is, the personality types might be similar in academic and nonacademic settings (e.g., the bully, the manipulator, the patronizer, the whiner, the passive-aggressive underminer, etc.), but some of the methods and situations that academic jerks have at their disposal are different."

  • "Ms. Brox's narrative is in many ways a social history, told through man's relationship to light. In the Middle Ages cities were dark at night, residents locked into their houses. The term "curfew" dates from this period (couvre le feu), for the moment the lights were doused the streets became too dangerous to navigate.

    By the 1700s cities were sporadically lit with whale oil lamps, kept alive by lamplighters. They tended to extinguish easily. Most were out by 9:00 or 10:00. Linkboys, bearing links, or torches, took over, hiring themselves out to pedestrians and lighting their way home. Eventually city lights came to define the very idea of urbanity, she writes. The countryside remained mostly in darkness until the Roosevelt era, when the hydroelectric projects of the Tennessee Valley Authority finally made possible the spread of electricity to rural areas. "

  • "The University of California campuses are known for top doctoral programs, but two new reports on graduate students suggest that the state's financial problems are posing dangers to that reputation."
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