It’s so nice of the space robots to fit themselves to my schedule

It’s Wednesday. That means from 9-11 I’ll be in my office, doing some light grading and prepping for today’s lecture, and 11-12 are my official office hours, in which students will stop by and tell me things. And at about 10:30 my time, the Rosetta spacecraft will be bolting itself to Comet 67P, which we’ll know about once electromagnetic waves have taken their own sweet time to cross the solar system about a half hour later. That works for me. I’ll pencil “Rosetta” in for 11ish. I’ll make tea.

I’ll pull up the ESA live webcast and have that running while I’m taking care of other business. This is certainly a civilized way to go about exploring the universe!


I just noticed that Philae is now on the comet, securely anchored to the surface. I’ve also discovered that, my God, watching engineers is the most boring activity on the planet. The entire live feed consisted of bored-looking people staring at consoles, trying to look intelligent while doing pretty much nothing at all, and then everyone erupts into cheers when they get the right beep.

Sticking to biology now. I’ll look forward to learning about the data, but otherwise…yeesh.

What they should have done is turned the camera away from the tedious engineers (and especially the one in the tastelessly tacky and grossly offensive shirt), and focused on the images coming in from the device.

I always thought free will was philosophical micturition anyhow

David Dobbs mentioned the curious topic of the philosophy of the pee-pee dance, and since that’s one of my current obsessions, I had to read about it. I’m currently suffering with prostatitis, which means I’m somewhat, um, clogged. And worse, when I have to go, I have to go…so about every three hours, night and day, I’m standing in front of the porcelain receptacle of pain, weeping as I dribble what feels like gravel through my urethra. This has obviously wreaked havoc on my sleep schedule and my state of mind — and also, supposedly, my philosophical interpretations of theories of free will. I’m supposed to believe less in free will now.

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Truth doesn’t change from building to building on a college campus

Georgia Southern University has a history professor teaching creationism. This is absurd; no serious academic in any discipline should be misinforming students about the state of knowledge today. That Emerson McMullen is in a history, rather than biology, department, is no excuse at all — I should think that we ought to defer to a significant degree to our colleagues’ expertise, so McMullen ought to be paying attention to what more knowledgeable people are saying, and striving to give his students better representation of what we actually know.

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Plastic brains

This is quite a nice talk by Daphna Joel on male brains and female brains — she’s making the point that there are no such things. There are differential responses by developing brains to the environment that lead to different structures…but because it is a property of interactions between sexual factors and the environment, it’s inappropriate to call the differences simply “male” or “female”.

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Yay! Sexism in science is over!

The New York Times has declared that Academic Science Isn’t Sexist. What a relief! The authors are reporting the results of a broad study of many different parameters of the career pipeline, and are happy to report that there are no problems in academia. None at all, no sir.

Our analysis reveals that the experiences of young and midcareer women in math-intensive fields are, for the most part, similar to those of their male counterparts: They are more likely to receive hiring offers, are paid roughly the same (in 14 of 16 comparisons across the eight fields), are generally tenured and promoted at the same rate (except in economics), remain in their fields at roughly the same rate, have their grants funded and articles accepted as often and are about as satisfied with their jobs. Articles published by women are cited as often as those by men. In sum, with a few exceptions, the world of academic science in math-based fields today reflects gender fairness, rather than gender bias.

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