30 March 2011 (PM)

Humor Jesus in a pizza?

Science, Trail Running and Walking, and locomotion
It seems strange that I’d link to a blog about evolution here, but I am:

The authors ran four helmeted guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) over tracks, training them on tracks with a sandpaper segment, providing good traction. Then they let the birds run over both sandpaper tracks and tracks with a slick segment made of polypropylene. As you might guess, some of the birds slipped. Here are some recordings; be sure to watch them since they’re short and LOLzy:

Bottom line: overstriding (placing your foot too far out in front of you) is bad, especially on slick surfaces. 🙂

Education/Academia Tenure at a research university if very different than tenure at a teaching-oriented university. Here is one professor’s take: (I’ll focus on two of the items):

#Don’t worry about teaching, leadership, organizing, etc. I don’t think being good at these things actively hurts you, although I did once hear a senior faculty member say that he was negatively predisposed to candidates who had good teaching evaluations. (He was joking, I think.) Why? Because you’re spending time on something that isn’t research. But generally it won’t hurt, it just won’t help. You will typically be told (as I was) something like “teaching isn’t really important, but if your case is very close, it can help put you over the top.” Everyone agreed my case was very close, and my teaching was among the best in the department; it didn’t help. The point is simple: this stuff is not research. […]

# Don’t be too well known outside the field. I hate to say this, but the evidence is there: if you have too high of a public profile, people look at you suspiciously. Actual quote: “I’m glad we didn’t hire Dr. X; he spends too much time in the New York Times and not enough time in the lab.” And that’s the point — it’s not that people are jealous that you are popular, it’s that they are suspicious you care about publicity more than you do about research. Remember the Overriding Principle.

# Don’t write a book. This follows partly from the above; if you’re contemplating writing a popular book, and aren’t sure whether it will negatively impact your chance of getting tenure, you’re probably too far gone for this list to even help you. But it’s worth a separate bullet point because even textbooks are beyond the pale. (Probably the worst thing I personally did was to write Spacetime and Geometry.) You might think that a long volume filled with equations that provides a real service to the community would help your case. It won’t; it will hurt it. Why? Because while you were writing that book, you weren’t doing research. Catching on? (Obviously I’m writing from a field where research is conveyed solely through papers, not books; if you’re in a field where the serious research is contained within scholarly books, then by all means write all the scholarly books you can.)

He also talks about bringing in grant money and about becoming well known IN YOUR FIELD. If this sounds strange, remember this: the mission of a research university is to generate knowledge and NOT to teach undergraduates. The undergrads in such a place have the opportunity to learn from researchers, but their learning is NOT the primary focus. And frankly, it shouldn’t be at those sorts of places.

And yes, it takes time, dedication and talent to succeed. I didn’t have enough of the latter.

2012 Election Nate Silver points out that the blog-o-sphere pays attention to different candidates than the media does. So, are the bloggers more in tune with what is going on? Maybe; on the other hand many fringe candidates (Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich) have vocal, loyal followings. Yet neither are going anywhere.

The NASA space probe Messenger visited Mercury. Surf to Cosmic Log to see some photos; one of which is this:

Economy Robert Reich warns us:

Why aren’t Americans being told the truth about the economy? We’re heading in the direction of a double dip – but you’d never know it if you listened to the upbeat messages coming out of Wall Street and Washington.

Consumers are 70 percent of the American economy, and consumer confidence is plummeting. It’s weaker today on average than at the lowest point of the Great Recession.

The Reuters/University of Michigan survey shows a 10 point decline in March – the tenth largest drop on record. Part of that drop is attributable to rising fuel and food prices. A separate Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence, just released, shows consumer confidence at a five-month low — and a large part is due to expectations of fewer jobs and lower wages in the months ahead.

Pessimistic consumers buy less. And fewer sales spells economic trouble ahead.

What about the 192,000 jobs added in February? (We’ll know more Friday about how many jobs were added in March.) It’s peanuts compared to what’s needed. Remember, 125,000 new jobs are necessary just to keep up with a growing number of Americans eligible for employment.

Note: job additions were 200,000 which is enough to keep up with new job seekers but not enough to make a big dent in unemployment. Reich goes on to point out that the Republicans don’t want to admit this because it would lead to clamoring for more government, and of course President Obama doesn’t want to admit this.

Now Tim Pawlenty is also claiming that we are heading for a double dip:

we have Tim Pawlenty — who’s supposed to be the non-crazy non-Romney — saying things like this:

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) predicted Tuesday that the U.S. will face a double-dip recession that could last all the way until the 2012 elections.

The likely presidential candidate said the government, under President Obama, has devalued the dollar by injecting “fiat money” into the economy in an attempt to boost it — a plan he said will be damaging in the long-run.

Say what? Does this make any sense at all? Well no…though the double dip prediction might prove true:

Now, it’s perfectly clear, even from that small bit, that Pawlenty has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about — that he doesn’t know that we’ve had fiat money since 1933, when FDR took us off the gold standard, and that he also doesn’t know that Ben Bernanke, not Obama, controls the monetary base.

My guess is that Pawlenty was just repeating some phrases he’s heard from the Paulistas, and doesn’t even know the difference between monetary and fiscal policy. After all, he’s done this sort of thing before, going national with some false claims about government employment that he picked up from some right-wing document.

And this is what passes for presidential material.

Note: Robert Reich talks about consumer demand. It turns out now that demand is rising at the rate it always had; but a couple of years ago demand “jumped” downward.

From the Bonddad blog:

While consumers are spending, as shown in the chart above, there has been no sign of pent up demand. Real consumer spending on goods fell off its pre-2008 trend line during the recession and has since resumed its former pace with no indications that a surge in spending to make up for lost time is imminent.

The argument there is that this shift was one back to something that could be sustained (no more using the inflated price of one’s house as an ATM). That isn’t coming back.

Paul Krugman makes a compelling argument that this housing bubble collapse is also behind the lack of new investment; there is excess product and not enough demand.


March 31, 2011 - Posted by | 2012 election, astronomy, economics, economy, education, humor, physics, politics, politics/social, religion, science, space, technology, Tim Pawlenty

1 Comment »

  1. it took me a while to see the Jesus…

    The first thing I thought, “Wow, that pizza looks like vomit”

    Comment by Lisa (WildCelticRose) | March 31, 2011 | Reply

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