July, 2016- Stamps for science, Beall vs. Frontiers, Ghostbusters, Taleb on Wolfram, and Hillary’s laugh line

July 1st

In an effort to address the deplorable state of philately today, and to impel a new generation of nerds to purchase postage, the Isle of Man issued stamps commemorating Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking on the 100th anniversary of the publication of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Mayim Bialik (@missmayim) seems pleased with hers:


July 14th

Reference librarian Jeffrey Beall (@Jeffrey_Beall), whose on-line list has become the de facto Who’s Who of crap academic journals, continued his campaign against Frontiers Media, the publisher of the “Frontiers in…” open access academic journals:


Beall’s addition of Frontiers to his naughty list last year stirred up a great deal of controversy, prompting attacks on his qualifications, integrity, methods, and accusations of academic terrorism. Many reputable academics have published articles in Frontiers journals, and on-line comments recount good experiences from editors at some Frontiers journals, but the discussion has brought to light highly questionable editorial practices. The image that emerges is of a publisher whose journals may display a striking inconsistency in the quality of peer review. Beall has drawn attention to a number of articles that should never have made it to press. Frontiers being tarred with the Beall brush does not guarantee that published work in a Frontiers journal is of inferior quality, but it does undermine the assurance of baseline quality that peer review is supposed to confer. The article in question is an “original research article” which expounds the chem-trail conspiracy by crackpot and purveyor of pseudo-science bullshit J. Marvin Herndon. Now, I’m fairly certain that this is just whack-a-doodle, conspiracy clap trap, but just in case I’m sending the hubby out for more foil...

July, 15th

The long awaited release of the Ghostbusters reboot occurred today. The movie, which features four female leads in the title roles, has created quite a stir since it was announced. In honor of the occasion Gozer manifested on the roof of Trump Tower and wiped out the childhoods of whiney, middle aged, white men with a wave of their all-powerful hand. The new movie received help from researchers Janet Conrad and Lindley Winslow, and James Maxwell from MIT on design of props and sets, so when we see it we can all say, “Hey, that looks like real geek stuff!” Perhaps more importantly, the movie is nestled in the midst of the ongoing discussion about the under-representation of women in the sciences. In a recent conversation about the movie astrophysicist Rachel Ward-Maxwell (@allouttalemons) and Alex Leitch (@aeleitch) spoke about how inspirational media representations of female scientists could be for young women considering careers in the sciences. Will any IRB approve  a well designed experiment to test the causal effect the Ghostbusters movie on gender balance in STEM? To all the haters- Here’s ectoplasm in your eye!

July 28th

This month Stephen Wolfram (@Stephen_Wolfram) published his book “Idea Makers: Personal Perspectives on the Lives and Ideas of Some Notable People.” Wolfram’s previous effort, New Kind of Science, weighed in at 5.6 pounds. It’s central insights had to be meticulously exhumed from a cairn of syrupy, self-congratulatory prose. What is so remarkable about this book is not it’s relatively parsimonious presentation, or even that Stephen Wolfram wrote a book that is ostensibly not about Stephen Wolfram. What is interesting is that three weeks later Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) wrote a review of the book in which he had nice things to say about someone who is not Poincare, Hayek, Mandelbrot or Kahneman. Perhaps the most telling phrase of which was when he said, “Wolfram is fair. He shows a fair –even adulatory– portrait of Mandelbrot, in spite of attacks by the latter. Indeed, if Mandelbrot hated someone, the person has to be good and threatening. Otherwise he would not bother mentioning him.” Taleb respects a person who can take a good drubbing and comes back smiling, and he regards being nasty to someone as a sort of complement. Are you taking notes Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers)?

In other news Hillary Clinton‘s (@HillaryClinton) acceptance speech for the Democratic Presidential nomination shocked 42% of the US population when she stated that “I believe in science.” Sy Entiss of People for the Ethical Treatment of Science offered the following comment, “Science is not a monolithic thing, it is a process. We would have preferred a statement such as, ‘I believe that the world obeys certain natural laws, the way to learn about the world is through careful structured observation, and that replication of results builds confidence in a theory. I acknowledge that due to uncertainty, measurement error and sampling variability that the results of individual studies may display considerable variation. The evidence in support of climate change, when taken as a whole, is compelling, and, given the potential consequences of inaction, warrants a swift and decisive response.'” A source close to the Hillary campaign said that the original draft of her speech contained a similar statement, but was removed because it didn’t make nearly as good of a laugh line.

Want to become a contributor to the Monthly Intelligencer? The world of academic gossip is an enormous beat to cover, and I need help. Got a tidbit of information or a funny article? Send it my way and become a special correspondent. I’ll even give you a funny nickname! Send all correspondence to annomalice99[at]gmail.com.



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