Creative Destruction

August 30, 2007

Global Warming Consensus Unraveling?

Filed under: Environment — Robert @ 2:54 pm

Remember the Oreskes survey in 2004 that found a huge acceptance of climate change in the scientific literature? (Don’t lie. You do not either remember.)

These days, not so much.

August 29, 2007

Apple creeps ahead

Filed under: Business — Adam Gurri @ 8:49 am

For those of you who fear that Microsoft will one day take over the world, good news!  Apple now sells one laptop in six.  Rather a dramatic growth in its market share.

I’ve never subscribed to the evil-Microsoft-monopoly perspective, but I do tend to view their products as inferior.  I’ve been a Firefox user for years now, and I just recently went over to the Linux side–specifically, to Ubuntu.  So I don’t really feel a lack of alternatives these days in particular.

August 28, 2007

Nation of Readers

Filed under: Education,Media Analysis — Brutus @ 10:35 pm

A new poll by the Associated Press and the accompanying story published everywhere (I link to USA Today for no particular reason) reveals that 73% of Americans read a book in the last year. That’s a much higher number than the 6% I remember seeing reported elsewhere or even the 57% noted in a 2004 report mentioned in the article. How the question is posed and how response error (or straight up lying) is handled could account for a lot of the variance. Interestingly, readers gravitate toward religious works and popular fiction, and the typical number of books read yearly is about seven.

True to form, though, the news story tries to scare us with the spectre of 27% of Americans who are nonreaders. A percentage of them are no doubt illiterate, and another percentage of them are non-English speakers/readers or are functionally illiterate in English.

It’s impossible to know quite what to make of such a story. Although book sales are reported to be flat for the past few years, there are still many, many books being read, and not just by enthusiasts. I always see lots of people on the train commute reading, and the Chicago Public Library routinely has lots of patrons. Moreover, lots of folks are reading newspapers, journals, and blogs. But the book, understandably, remains the flagship bearer of textual value. So are we really curious and well-informed folks, or are our reading habits marked by lethargy and enthusiasm for mere entertainment?

Ultimately, this poll (where is the poll data, BTW?) and story have all the earmarks of a “significant” bit of information that is in actually just so much fluff. The fuller story is told in “Reading at Risk.” If it’s true that responsible civic participation requires both knowledge and paying attention, to say nothing of the ability to think critically about what’s going on, then I fear we far more likely to see the average citizen offering up blithering nonsense like the would-be beauty queen who couldn’t respond to the question about a fifth of American’s inability to find the U.S. on the map.

The Ratchet Effect at Work in Law Schools

Filed under: Blogosphere,Race and Racism,Science — Robert @ 12:14 am

A while ago we had an interesting set-to at Alas about the ratchet effect, with me saying it was real and pretty much everyone in the universe disagreeing with me. Scroll down to around comment 70 if you’re not interested in the post’s original topic. It drifted. 😉

Universe 0, Robert 1!  Wish I’d known about this guy’s work when we had the original argument.

August 27, 2007

Awkwardly entering from stage left

Filed under: Navel Gazing — Adam Gurri @ 5:21 pm

Hey there guys. I know, I’m surprised I’m still alive too.

Have recently redoubled my blogging activity, and Robert asked where the hell I’d been. So, uh, here I am. Expect something with a little more substance in the near future…

…but not too much more substance.

UPDATE: In lieu of real content, I give you the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks.

August 16, 2007

Mines and Giant Calculators and Videos, Oh My

Filed under: Blogosphere,Content-lite — Robert @ 2:07 pm

These are both pretty funny.

Minesweeper: The Movie

Don’t Stop Believing

August 11, 2007

Unintended Consequences

Filed under: Blogosphere,Education — Brutus @ 12:50 pm

Newsday.com has a brief article about Brainy Baby and Baby Einstein videos marketed by Brainy Baby Co. and Walt Disney Co. Commentary has been all over the blogosphere for the past few days. In short, the article says that children exposed to visual stimulation fare worse than those exposed to storytelling and reading as determined by the size of the children’s vocabularies.

Um, could this be any more obvious? Teach words and kids learn vocabulary. Teach images and kids learn … what … more images? It also seems rather obvious that kids would prefer visual to verbal stimulation, much as they prefer sugary foods to veggies. The ironic thing, funny perhaps if it weren’t so insipid, is that parents who take their cues from corporations selling this junk innocently believe they’re doing their kids a favor when in fact the kids are being stunted — a classic case of unintended consequences.

One of my favorite authors, Neil Postman, recommends that even primary education be suffused with semantic analysis of the information environment. Why? So that we can better understand this:

To oversimplify more than is probably justified, we might say that (1) because of the symbolic forms in which information is encoded, different media have different intellectual and emotional biases; (2) because of the accessibility and speed of their information, different media have different political biases; (3) because of the physical form, different media have different sensory biases; (4) because of the conditions in which we attend to them, different media have different social biases; (5) because of the technical and economic structure, different media have different content biases. [from Postman’s Teaching as a Conserving Activity]

If teachers and parents better understood the various biases of information to which children are exposed, would they ever even consider admitting things such as TV, video games, iPods, and various other electronics into children’s daily lives, much less buying into the fatuous notion that these things are educational tools?

August 9, 2007

Welcome to Mississippi

Filed under: Content-lite — Robert @ 3:05 pm

The whole state is like this.

mississippi-signs.jpg

August 1, 2007

Here’s One For A Rainy Day

Filed under: Blogosphere — Robert @ 12:16 pm

Go to www.wikipedia.org. Hit the random article link.

Hit the link over and over again and read the articles until you’re bored – but make sure to learn at least a few new things about the world.

Now go through your day. See whether the thing(s) you learned become relevant or appear in your life. For example, I did this a couple of days ago and learned about a tropical fruit called rambutan, which I’d never heard of and which is some freaky-lookin’ stuff. The next day I was in Whole Foods and there was a sampler plate of…you guessed it.

Report your findings.

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