Category Archives: Follies of the Human Condition

What’s on your “To Do” List?

This was my four-year-old’s “To Do” list. I think she gets it.
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Unfortunately, investing in her life coaching sessions is not cheap*.

*Insert college tuition joke here.

Days of the Enola Gay

In a must read article at Slate, Ben Lillie (Story Collider) looks at the events surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope protests at Mauna Kea. He challenges scientists and the science community to recognize and reflect on the dark parts of our history – and how that history affects today’s events:

I’m disturbed that this conflict came as a surprise, and disturbed about what that says about the culture of science. I’m disturbed by how scientists see ourselves as separate from culture and history, unaffected by it, and not responsible for its ills, and I wonder what we can do about that…And so transcendence can take the form of blindness to differences between people and to our own biases.
Ben Lillie

I am compelled by his argument that we should, in addition to the days we promote for celebrating scientific achievement, set aside days in our year for reflecting on the regrettable aspects of scientific history. The Days of the Enola Gay (8:15AM 6 August – 11:02AM 9 August) will be going on The Finch & Pea‘s calendar of holidays (in the traditional sense of holy days).

The Science of Monsters

The edges of old maps, the gateways to parts unknown, are often said1 to have carried the words “Here Be Dragons”. At the dawn of the Scientific Revolution, there was plenty of room for those dragons to roam. Each human culture around the globe was surrounded by a fog of geographic and metaphysical unknowns. Since that time, science has destroyed the habitat of those dragons in a steadily process 2.

The central question of Matt Kaplan’s book, The Science of Monsters, is really focused, not on the monsters, but on us. Why did we populate that fog of unknowns with fabulous creatures that evoked fear and awe? Do we still tell similar stories after the fog has been lifted? If we do, how have the stories changed to reflect our new reality? The Science of Monsters is ultimately about our favorite monster – us. Continue reading

Trollslayers

On 10 April, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key aspects of patent-troll Personal Audio’s “podcasting patent” following a petition for review spearheaded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with assistance from the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and other pro bono attorneys. Personal Audio had been using the patent to threaten podcasters with lawsuits unless a settlement was paid out.

ORDERED that Petitioner has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that claims 31–35 of U.S. Patent No. 8,112,504 B2 are unpatentable…

A key aspect of the successful petition was the evidence of “prior art” – podcasts or podcast-like productions that pre-dated the patent – which were researched in part through crowdsourcing.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key claims in the so-called “podcasting patent” today after a petition for review from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)—a decision that significantly curtails the ability of a patent troll to threaten podcasters big and small…In petitions filed with Patent Office, EFF showed that Personal Audio did not invent anything new before it filed its patent application, and, in fact, other people were podcasting for years previously.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Science for the People: On Intelligence

sftpThis week Science for the People is learning about how scientists and society measure intelligence, and the relationship between smartness and success. We’re joined by cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, to talk about his book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined. We’ll also talk to Nathaniel Barr, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Waterloo, about research into the relationship between smartphone use and cognitive skills.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.