A NYTimes article on the phenomenon of ‘Hacker Hostels’, group living situations in the Area of Bays with minimalist accommodations for nerdy collaborative types.
An open letter to Donna Laframboise, who’s just written a book entitled “The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert,” about how mere graduate students have given input to and even played leadership roles within the UN’s IPCC process. Shock. Horror.
To: Professors; Re: Your Advisees. So many PhD advisors are so bad at academic and career advising, that there’s now a cash market for consultants who will do their job for them. Paid by graduate students of course.
Scientific Process Rage. Science doesn’t work like in the movies. In reality, there’s a lot more cursing and crying.
A Harvard Medical School study designed to address the shortcomings of earlier research was unable to detect any long term negative effects in MDMA users. The main difference in the new study was that both the control and user populations were all-night ravers — some straightedge, and some not, and the ones using, using only MDMA. The results suggest that previous studies were observing the negative effects of all-night dancing, dehydration and sleep deprivation… not MDMA! Full article hidden behind a paywall… until PubMed gets it in 6 months.
Thank you for your invitation to participate in the peer review process which is so vital to the progress of scientific knowledge. However, I unwilling to contribute any review or editorial work to publications which do not satisfy very liberal Open Access criteria as set out by, for example, the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing from 2003, or the Creative Commons Attribution license used by the Public Library of Science Journals. I look forward to a day hopefully not too far off when Elsevier decides to support free access to scientific knowledge (PDF) for all, and especially for scientific knowledge which was gained in part through publicly funded research.
Peer review is only one necessary ingredient for science to work. Open access and systemic transparency are others. All of them need work.
Science is a strange kind of reality worship. We want to know what really is, out there in the physical world, independent of the vagaries of our internal experience. We try to find what’s true for everyone, all the time. It’s easy for me to forget that there are some contexts in which what is actually happening, in a measurable sense, is not what matters most. Sometimes, it hardly seems to matter at all. Corporate PR hacks, religious proselytizers and other propagandists understand this intuitively. If you tell people a story they want to believe, often they will go ahead and believe it, regardless of any countervailing evidence. They will thank Big Brother for increasing the chocolate ration from 30 grams to 20 grams per week. But this kind of disconnection of external from internal reality isn’t always sinister. Sometimes it isn’t even a disconnection so much as it is an orthogonality. Disconnection suggests that the two were once connected, or are intended to be one, but our internal experience is just not the same thing as external reality. They are related, but separated, by warm vitreous pools of light and hairy waveguides. There is some part of us which is intrinsic, or such a distant and distorted echo of the outside world as to be unrecognizable.
Before I finished Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age in the Salt Lake City airport Monday, I found a book by Carl Sagan in the bookstore. “The Varieties of Scientific Experience”, based on his Gifford Lectures from 1985 (and published posthumously, in 2006 by Ann Druyan). I read half of it in the airport, and the other half last night. It went fast, because I’d heard it all before. The main piece of new information was that a decade and a half after the fact, Carl Sagan is truly dead to me. I’ve read most of his books, I’ve seen his television series Cosmos several times. I love his ideas; they’ve shaped me throughout my life, but I no longer hope to find anything new in them. So long as there were pieces of his mind that had been recorded, but that I hadn’t yet been exposed to, it was as if he wasn’t quite gone. He was still, from my point of view, a dynamic entity.
In class Peter Goldreich once said “You don’t get smarter in grad school. You just get older.” I don’t know if I agree entirely, but there’s a grain of truth in there somewhere. It is a strange kind of scientific hazing ritual. An induction and an indoctrination. Highly skilled and intelligent people, doing difficult technical work, for years, earning something close to minimum wage. Why? Is it for a chance to play in the tenure-track tournament, with the odds stacked 10 to 1 against you? If you win, you can study anything you like (as long as there’s funding…). Is it because we think having a PhD will get us somebody’s respect? Whose? Our parents? Our advisors? Society at large? It’s certainly not because we’re seeking power or riches. That way lies law school, or the dreaded MBA. Is it because we don’t know how to do anything else? Because our self esteem has been so entangled with school for so long? Because we are a people addicted to understanding? What fraction of PhD students finish feeling good about themselves, or in love with their research? Or even learning in general?
It seems a bit of Vaudeville is still lingering around the Academe…
THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER
Zane A. Selvans
FOR THE DEGREE
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
Date/Time: 2:30pm, Friday, 20th November, 2009
Bldg./Rm: Benson Earth Sciences (BESC) 380
Examining Committee Members:
- Karl Mueller
- John Wahr
- Robert Pappalardo
- Bruce Jakosky
- John Spencer
OUTLINE OF STUDIES
Major Field: Geological Sciences
A descendant of Dust Bowl migrants, Zane grew up near Fresno in California’s San Joaquin Valley. He left as soon as humanly possible, and got his BS in Computer Science at the Caltech in Pasadena. After a brief stint working in Silicon Valley (which unfortunately did not result in any kind of dot-com stock option fortune), he returned to Caltech via sea kayak to work with Mars Global Surveyor data, mapping Mars’ south polar layered deposits. While he has been a student at CU Boulder since the fall of 2002 you may not have seen much of him lately, because in early 2006 his wife and advisor both moved to Caltech/JPL, and like a long period comet, he slid back down into that place’s deep potential well to be with them. Next year, Zane intends to spend a lot of time on his bicycle.
Time, Tides and Tectonics on Icy Satellites
Faculty Advisor: Karl Mueller
In the outer solar system, we cannot directly use the radiometric dating techniques widely applied in terrestrial geology. We also lack the detailed understanding of the correspondence between crater size-frequency distributions and absolute ages that the radiometric dating of lunar samples has given us in the inner solar system. Additionally, many geologically interesting surfaces on the icy satellites are insufficiently cratered to allow us to infer precise relative ages. Thus it is desirable to find other ways to construct geological chronologies that function well in the outer solar system. In this work I develop two techniques.
The first compares the linear tectonic features covering Jupiter’s moon Europa to modeled tensile fractures resulting from tidal stresses due to the non-synchronous rotation (NSR) of the satellite’s decoupled, icy, lithospheric shell. The amount of shell rotation required to align a feature with the stress field resulting from NSR is used as a proxy for time. This translation is potentially convolved with a phase lag between the tidal potential and the stresses it induces, resulting from the shell’s partially viscous response to the NSR forcing. The geography of individual lineaments is found to be no more consistent with NSR stresses than chance would predict, however, the ensemble of global lineaments displays a non-uniform apparent rate of lineament formation throughout the time period recorded by the surface. This non-uniformity may be explained either by steady state fracture formation, activity, quiescence and erasure, or by a transient episode of tectonics.
The second technique encodes the myriad superposition relationships evident between Europa’s tectonic features as a directed graph enabling algorithmic analysis. The observed superposition relationships are generally insufficient to construct complete stratigraphic stacks, but we can calculate the degree to which they corroborate or contradict another hypothesized order of formation. We find that they tend to corroborate the hypothesis that the lineaments are tensile fractures due to NSR stresses.
Together these results offer cautious support for the idea that Europa’s shell rotates independently of its silicate interior, and demonstrate techniques useful in comparing tectonic features on other icy satellites to hypothesized mechanisms of formation.