Wednesday, January 30, 2008


(Madame Tutli-Putli)

Now that Oscar nominations are in, I am interested (as always) in the short films, animation and foreign language nominees that I haven't heard about. The 2008 AWN Showcase offers you a chance to see portions (or in one case all) of the animation nominees, including a clip from Persepolis.

(Ursula K. LeGuin)

The site Gay Utopia, a "symposium on sex and the future", has some excellent reading. I want to particularly recommend a lesbian-positive poem by Ursula K. LeGuin, For Judith, a response to a line in a poem by Judith Barrington.

H2O Conserve has a feature called the Water Calculator, which will help you determine your water footprint, "an interactive tool designed to help you measure how much water you use, better understand the ways you use water in your daily life, and get you thinking about what you can do to use less."

(Zarabanda by Alexander Calder)

In the current issue of Seed, science writer Jonah Lehrer argues that The Future of Science Is...Art?. He begins with how Niels Bohr was able to re-imagine the structure of matter during the 1920 by means of cubist art. When I read this, I was immediately reminded of the New York Times article last April (thanks for the tip, Liza), When Picasso and Braque Went to the Movies which illuminated the influence early moving pictures had on the development of Cubism. I love it when the actual complexity of how we cross-fertilize each other, as human beings, is briefly illustrated.

Lehrer states "It's hard to believe that a work of abstract art might have actually affected the history of science. Cubism seems to have nothing in common with modern physics. When we think about the scientific process, a specific vocabulary comes to mind: objectivity, experiments, facts. In the passive tense of the scientific paper, we imagine a perfect reflection of the real world. Paintings can be profound, but they are always pretend.

"This view of science as the sole mediator of everything depends upon one unstated assumption: While art cycles with the fashions, scientific knowledge is a linear ascent. The history of science is supposed to obey a simple equation: Time plus data equals understanding. One day, we believe, science will solve everything.

"But the trajectory of science has proven to be a little more complicated. The more we know about reality—about its quantum mechanics and neural origins—the more palpable its paradoxes become.

"Modern science has made little progress toward any unified understanding of everything. Our unknowns have not dramatically receded. In many instances, the opposite has happened, so that our most fundamental sciences are bracketed by utter mystery. It's not that we don't have all the answers. It's that we don't even know the question.

"How can we make this happen? My answer is simple: Science needs the arts. We need to find a place for the artist within the experimental process, to rediscover what Bohr observed when he looked at those cubist paintings. The current constraints of science make it clear that the breach between our two cultures is not merely an academic problem that stifles conversation at cocktail parties. Rather, it is a practical problem, and it holds back science's theories. If we want answers to our most essential questions, then we will need to bridge our cultural divide. By heeding the wisdom of the arts, science can gain the kinds of new insights and perspectives that are the seeds of scientific progress."

(From the one and only Austin Cline)

A recent study published in ScienceDirect found that when double-blind peer review was practiced in academic journals, representation of female authors increased by a third.

Peer review is an operational standard that ensures the fair assessment of research quality. Double-blind peer review is when neither author nor reviewer identity are revealed. Since the increase of female authored papers was not observed in a very similar journal which did provide reviewers with author information, and there was no negative effects identified, it seems clear that the bias against women by their so-called peers is profound and the remedy of double-blind review is recommended.

And, for you multilingualists out there -- one of the plushies who live with little gator, Fnordikins, did some online translating this week. What follows is the original, Fnordy's translation, and, ahem, another translation.

Ho confrontato la nostra ricetta con quella sull'internet che mi hai dato tu. Mancano i chiodi di garofano e la cannella, che danno ai biscotti quel gusto un po' "medioevale", ci sono meno mandorle [mai abbastanza!] e parecchio piu' burro. Il verdetto [non del tutto obiettivo, ammetto!] e' che la nostra ricetta e' la migliore.

Confront the rice in your nostril. What an internet, oh hai! May I date you? The man's cane is a giraffe in the canal. I don't know biscuits that taste "medievel." The mandolin plays a stanza by ABBA. and the parachute of donkey poo. It's green, but not obvious, my love. The rice in your nostril, listen!

[Translation: I compared our recipe with the one you found on the net. The cloves and cinnamon are missing, which is what gives the biscuits that sort of "medieval" flavor, and it has less almonds (never enough!), and a good deal more butter. The verdict (admittedly not objective) is that our recipe is superior.]


kat said...

speaking of science and art, I heard an interview on NPR the other day about that new book that's out: "Proust was a Neuroscientist." It sounded really interesting, and looks at brain function and creativity. It was a great interview, until some PhD student in evolutionary biology called with snippy comments about how if it's not strictly part of the physical sciences, it's obviously BS. The author, Jonah Lehrer very politely raked her over the coals for failing to realize that neuroscience HAS to deal with stuff that's a little abstract, since, you know, the brain really just produces synapses and yet some can write or paint or whatever, and others not so much.....

some sciency folks can be such kill-joys sometimes....

letsdance said...

Hi Maggie, once again your writing takes me on a journey I would never have made....except for the two cats forgetting the safeword!! (some places I've been exploring haven't been found on your blog!!)