Sunday, April 28, 2013

MoAR: bad news, questionable news, and ..

it's been a good week:

i'm eating well,
i'm more tanned than i've been in a while,
i meet good friends every day ..

.. and i think a collaborator and i have hammered out the basics for a short new paper .. or rather, a note. it will be about fractals; maybe i'll write about it sometime.

then again, experience tells me that nothing i do is ever short.

that said, this idyll bliss won't last. tomorrow begins a week-long conference and after that i'll be gone again. when i was younger, i'd despair of these endings. growing older now, i start to wonder if the good times are necessarily short with premature ends.

this might explain, then, why i seemed to stumble onto more bad news than good, this week ..

first, the bad news ..

the second paragraph below makes me cringe. cheating has some terrible (and unexpected) consequences.
" Now, looking around during rush hour, as people streamed on and off the platforms, Stapel could not find a location that matched the conditions described in his experiment. “No, Diederik, this is ridiculous,” he told himself at last. “You really need to give it up.”
The scrutiny was meant not only to clean up the scientific record but also to establish whether any of Stapel’s co-authors, including more than 20 Ph.D. students he supervised, shared any of the blame. It was already evident that many of the doctoral dissertations he oversaw were based on his fabricated data.
".. Science is of course about discovery, about digging to discover the truth. But it is also communication, persuasion, marketing. I am a salesman. I am on the road. People are on the road with their talk. With the same talk. It’s like a circus."

~ from "The Mind of a Con Man" @nyt

i remember being told by my counselor in high school that one should join various clubs, sports teams, and organisations (including charity work) because it looks good in college applications.

i don't know if the following excerpt is true or not. without firsthand accounts of university deans and other higher-ups from that era, it's hard to justify the suggested causality of events. (there's also the problem of presentism, of course.)
" "Holistic admissions criteria emerged at Ivy League schools in the early 20th century and were almost immediately twisted for virulently anti-semitic purposes. Until the 1920s, students took an admissions test and those that did well on the test were admitted to the colleges “almost entirely on the basis of academic criteria.” This resulted in lots of Jewish men on the campus of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

It’s around this time that Ivy League schools switched from a strictly quantitative system of test scores to a more subjective, holistic approach. The holistic approach was used to squelch diversity and the number of Jews in American universities then plummeted."

~ from "Do Elite Colleges Discriminate Against Asians?" @priceonomics

.. next, some questionable news ..

admittedly, i've thought about the same ethical dilemma before. fortunately for cafe owners, i seem unable to concentrate at a cafe longer than 2 hours, which means more turnover for them.
"I’m sure there are people who spend time like me and spend money more generously. Buying peppermint mochas or pumpkin spice lattes plus a pastry sounds delicious and seems like it buys you as much time as you'd like. Is the time spent at the coffee shop balanced out by what you've purchased at the coffee shop?"

~ from "The ethical coffee shop freelancer" @medium

strange things happen when we digitise them and set them in the grand scale of the internet. despite connecting us to more people, social media may have made us all lonelier. it would be equally strange if the same thing would happen betwen teachers and students ..
"It creates a strange paradox: these professors are simultaneously the most and least accessible teachers in history. And it’s not the only tension inherent in MOOCs."

~ from "Two Cheers for Web U!" @nyt

the next article isn't so much about questionable behavior as it is about peculiar choices. (i see the reasons behind the instructor's choices, but i wouldn't do it myself .. partly because i don't see how pure maths could fit the same model.)
"A week before the test, I told my class that the Game Theory exam would be insanely hard—far harder than any that had established my rep as a hard prof. But as recompense, for this one time only, students could cheat. They could bring and use anything or anyone they liked, including animal behavior experts. (Richard Dawkins in town? Bring him!) They could surf the Web. They could talk to each other or call friends who’d taken the course before. They could offer me bribes. (I wouldn’t take them, but neither would I report it to the dean.) Only violations of state or federal criminal law such as kidnapping my dog, blackmail, or threats of violence were out of bounds.

Gasps filled the room. The students sputtered. They fretted. This must be a joke. I couldn’t possibly mean it. What, they asked, is the catch?

“None,” I replied. “You are UCLA students. The brightest of the bright. Let’s see what you can accomplish when you have no restrictions and the only thing that matters is getting the best answer possible.”"

~ from " Why I Let My Students Cheat On Their Game Theory Exam " @popsci

lastly: imagine that, instead of time or distance, we could parametrise curves based on income?


.. and now, the good news.

actually, none of the excerpts below are inherently "good." they're just bits of news that don't depress me or cause me malaise.

for example, this is an excerpt from a pretty good expositional article:
"Yet for the most part, complex numbers are treated as an inconvenience. Because they are inherently multi-dimensional, they defy our attempts to visualize them easily. Graphs describing complex math are usually simplified schematics that only hint at what's going on underneath. Because our brains don't do more than 3D natively, we can glimpse only slices of the hyperspaces necessary to put them on full display."

~ from "how to fold a julia fractal" @acko
.. and that's about it for "good" news, this week. 7-:

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