Monday, July 22, 2013


  1. Atul Gawande: Slow Ideas: Some innovations spread fast. How do you speed the ones that don’t?

  2. Rex at Savage Minds: How to explain anthropology to a physicist.

    Anthropology is the science which studies human behavioral diversity. Because culturally-influenced conduct can take radically different forms in different places, it is foolhardy to use intuitions developed in one culture as a source of hypotheses about another. For this reason, it is reckless practice for natural scientists to stray into the expert territory of our discipline simply because they believe that if they are good at testing hypotheses in one realm they must be good at it in another.

    A good analogy to using the intuitions of one culture to to generate hypotheses about another culture would be to imagine a non-physicist with pre-theoretical intuitions about motion creating hypotheses about life aboard the international space station. Expectations about momentum, weight, and the behavior of fluids will founder in a micro-gravity environment. Because they have not had experience in microgravity, their intuitions will be incorrect.

    Simply because you are very good at shark embryology does not mean that you are ready to speak authoritatively about human societies. And, I am sure you will agree, vice versa.

    Often times specialized language in the life sciences is considered as a sign that those fields are mature and specialized, while specialized language in the human sciences is merely obfuscation or meaningless jargon. There seems to be an assumption that because biologists engage in marriage, commensality, and linguistic interaction they should, in principle, be able to understand all technical writing about these subjects. And yet somehow biologists think it obvious that layman cannot understand the the technical terminology of biochemistry, despite the fact that all laymen have metabolisms.

  3. James Surowiecki: E-Book vs. P-Book. Largely about Barnes & Noble's iffy fortunes (and about its dumping its Nook tablet business), the article ends with the following on the continuing relevance of physical books:

    For many people, as a number of studies show, reading is a genuinely tactile experience—how a book feels and looks has a material impact on how we feel about reading. This isn’t necessarily Luddism or nostalgia. The truth is that the book is an exceptionally good piece of technology—easy to read, portable, durable, and inexpensive. Unlike the phase-change move toward digital that we saw in music, the transition to e-books is going to be slow; coexistence is more likely than conquest. The book isn’t obsolete. Barnes & Noble just needs to make sure it isn’t, either.