Troubleshooting Replication Studies (in Music)

We’ve already reposted Marie-Claire’s post on Tegan & Sara’s rendition of Walking with a Ghost, which, depending on your pedantic devotion to the definition of irony, may or may not have been ironic. Marie-Claire’s post used the comparison between Tegan & Sara’s original and The White Stripes cover to talk about replication studies in science.

On Wednesday, The Nerdist Podcast released an interview with Tegan & Sara, in which they talk about their careers, motivations, inspirations, pet giraffes, and asteroid-induced apocalypses. This reminded me of a key principle of understanding replication studies in science: you need to understand not only what the people were doing, but also the people. Continue reading “Troubleshooting Replication Studies (in Music)”

Science “Fair?”

As a science-y spouse of a secondary school biology teacher, I’ve judged my share of science fairs. I have routinely struggled with the judging criteria. In one case, my wife rewrote the judging rubric being used to focus on how well the student implemented the scientific method, not superficial elements. I often struggled with being asked to give points for “importance” or “novel research”. These are high school/middle school science fairs. You want curiosity. And screw “novel”. Reproducibility and retesting are part of science too. I would leave glowing notes complimenting students even though the judging criteria wouldn’t let me give them top scores because, for example, parts of their board presentation were hand written.

The previous paragraph was an incoherent ramble. For a very coherent discussion of Science Fair issues, especially reinforcing privilege and excluding disadvantaged students, you need to read Erin Salter’s “Science fairs: rewarding talent or privilege?” at PLoS’s Sci-Ed blog.

The nominal purpose of science fairs is to promote student-led inquiry and give kids hands-on experience with the scientific method. Much of our science education centers on the “product” of science – established laws, facts, and theories…Student-led projects (like those done for the science fair) are one way to incorporate open-ended inquiry into education.

However, the rewards system of the science fair is flawed. There is no equity of access to lab facilities and equipment or access to scientific mentors, meaning some students are disadvantaged from the start…the students who win these science fairs will often be the ones with the best access. – Erin Salter


What is wrong with this hypothesis?

Is there anything wrong* with Calvin’s hypothesis and/or experimental design (click-through for full protocol)?

*The answer “Thou shall not tempt the Lord your God” will not be accepted. Really, what is the point of omnipotence if you can’t be tempted**. BOOOORRRRING.

**Can God make something so tempting that God is tempted?

Jerry Coyne reads Stanley Fish so we don’t have to

Why Evolution Is True: “Stanley Fish misunderstands science; makes it a faith equivalent to religion

Fish’s big mistake: the reasons undergirding that belief are not that we can engage in a lot of philosophical pilpul to justify using reason and evidence to find out stuff about the universe. Rather, the reasons are that it works: we actually can understand the universe using reason and evidence, and we know that because that method has helped us build computers and airplanes, go to the moon, cure diseases, improve crops, and so on. All of us agree on these results. We simply don’t need a philosophical justification, and I scorn philosophers who equate religion and science because we don’t produce one.

Continue reading “Jerry Coyne reads Stanley Fish so we don’t have to”

Why You Need to Read The Voyage of the Beagle Before You Die

In honor of Darwin’s Birthday, I lay out the case for The Voyage of the Beagle as great literature:

Sitting on a rickety homemade bookshelf in my living room are the fifty volumes of my Great-Grandfather’s Harvard Classics. Once a teenaged political refugee from the Russian revolutionary turmoil of 1905 and later an accomplished bacteriologist with Merck, my Great-Grandfather exemplified Harvard President Charles Eliot’s American middle class, “twentieth century idea of a cultivated man,” the kind of person for whom Eliot’s “five foot shelf of books” was intended. A respected Mr. among professional scientific peers of Drs., my Great-Grandfather was fiercely committed to self-education. I never met him, but I imagine that my Great-Grandfather would have subscribed to Eliot’s notion of individual and civilizational progress, progress that is the result of “man observing, recording, inventing, and imagining.” The Harvard Classics were selected to be a survey of how this process has played out over the millennia.

Eliot’s words, “observing, recording, inventing, and imagining,” describe several thousand years of human intellectual activity by invoking the process of science. This is appropriate because Eliot, and my Great-Grandfather, were living when the modern scientific view of the world was well on its way to world domination, becoming a new belief system with as much cultural heft as the major religions, and one whose conquest occurred even more rapidly than the spectacular rise from obscurity of Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam over the last two thousand years. Continue reading “Why You Need to Read The Voyage of the Beagle Before You Die”