The Opposing Thumb

An opinionated digit leafs through the biological literature
Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

Species get introduced and isolated by all sorts of interesting mechanisms. Drifting in the wind, or on a tree trunk. A new land bridge. Migration following prey. Migration running from predators. Dynamic Ecology on the previously neglected mechanism of transport by drug lord and release in to the wild following said drug lord’s slaying. Pablo Escobar’s legacy to teaching biology: “ask the students whether Colombia will be overrun by hippos”.

A good list of tips on writing and publishing an academic paper, from several editors of academic journal, compiled at The Guardian (personal favorite: “Don’t try to write and edit at the same time” ).

Finland’s Pasi Sahlberg in The Washington Post on the conservative quasi-sexual fetish for blaming teachers for societal failures “In the United States today, 23 percent of children live in poor homes. In Finland, the same way to calculate child poverty would show that figure to be almost five times smaller. The United States ranked in the bottom four in the recent United Nations review on child well-being.  Among 29 wealthy countries, the United States landed second from the last in child poverty and held a similarly poor position in “child life satisfaction.” Teachers alone, regardless of how effective they are, will not be able to overcome the challenges that poor children bring with them to schools everyday.”

As Lily Tomlin said, “the trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat”. Drug Monkey on absurd requirements for a tenured positions and “the sad reality that our profession has a general stance of “never enough.”

The risk of failure is an integral part of progress. So amidst all the celebratory “best of 2014” lists, Antonio Regalado at MIT Technology Review memorializes the year’s most prominent tech failures, and their diverse causes-of-death: “The reasons for failure aren’t predictable. This year we saw promising technologies felled by Supreme Court decisions, TV cameras, public opinion, and even by fibbing graduate students.”

David Quammen at National Geographic asks “While people in West Africa continue to die from Ebola, scientists are pondering a mystery that has eluded them since the first known outbreak of the virus among humans, in 1976: Where does this fearful bug hide when it’s not killing people?”

Computer scientist Luis Rocha moonlights as a movie critic, reviews ‘The Imitation Game’ at his blog  Hey City  Zen! and finds that “the worst of the movie is the Hollywood cliché of the crazy scientist. Turing was not autistic and people actually liked to be around him.”

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