College Curmudgeon 5

I have bemoaned repeatedly the nastiness that is closed access research journals. O quite appreciate the economics but while being poor may explain evil it does not excuse it. Rather, it indicts rich and poor alike for the apathy of not fixing the situation. One of the primary targets of my complaints is the journal SCIENCE, which raises social correct elitism to apoxic heights. The quality of their content for main stream, inherently uncontroversial research articles is unassailable, except for the stench of a form of simony that cries for nails and hammer.

Despite this, I note summaries of a couple of articles this week, note, after all, since SCIENCE is a subscription periodical and unless one pays their dues the real information is sequestered. The articles have to do with the on-going failure of the academic system, so the absence of detail is not pertinent under these conditions of little more than arrogant, disdainful admission of fully apparent rot.

The first deals with the re-engineering of undergraduate biology courses, [Link]

 “to assess how far they have come in their efforts to improve undergraduate introductory biology courses, which are seen as a critical step toward raising the nation’s scientific literacy.”

The thing that is striking about this statement is the tacit, de facto concentration on biology 101. The casual observer would read this as an indication that knowledge of biology is the key scientific area for Joe and Jane Consumer. That would be inaccurate, as is the basic premise of the effort. The simple accuracy is that biology courses are “popular” today, as they have been for decades, if not centuries, because they are viewed as the simplest of introductory science courses.

The average college student takes almost no science courses. Some, notably business students, take no science courses, and few maths courses, which, despite their association, are not science. Most students take two or four science courses, almost all in the introductory level. Very few student minor in a science discipline, most as a convenience to a science major in a different discipline. The modern consumerist-capitalist Amerikan ideal of a liberal (broad) education is far from Capellan.

The fact is that for the average college student, the ones who go to college not to learn but to adhere to social expectations or plump a resume, the requirement of science courses is considered odious and punishing. Many delay the courses as long as possible so that one commonly sees the halls of introductory science courses populated with freshman would-be majors and minors, and senior others. The contrast is striking; bright young faces with straining attention to disciplinary pablum conjoined with apathetic, dilettante gray countenances wondering why they bothered to attend class. The requirement for this mass of bogishness to take a science course achieves the opposite of its intent, it alienates rather than illuminates. No amount of course improvement will change this. The effort is wasted because the basics of science have not been appliedbecause that would violate political correctness – and have, possibly, improbably, some effect.

The second piece has to do with a related rot in graduate nerd education, [Link]

“The commingling of graduate education and research in the United States has created a system that is the envy of the world in terms of research productivity. It’s also not a bad deal for the student, who typically doesn’t pay a penny to earn her Ph.D. But that wildly successful system comes at a high cost to both students, who end up providing their advisers with several years of skilled labor at below-market rates, and the profession, says Nobelist Roald Hoffmann. And it’s not sustainable, he argues, especially during tough economic times like these.”

Part of this is accurate. The average graduate student is indeed reduced to a form of servitude, in the form of either a research or a teaching assistantship. Both have pay scales considerably less than minimum wage if one includes the hours of unpaid effort subsumed tacitly into the proposition. And what is unsustainable about the whole program is its dishonesty with the graduate students themselves.

Almost all graduate students have some expectation of graduate shul being a path to an academic career. The actuality is that the fraction of failures of this aspiration is second only to those in popular entertainment. The sad accuracy is that once these students complete graduate shul, the strong majority who can live in the genteel poverty of that environment, the only continuation is more years of slightly reduced poverty as a post doctoral serf. The simple and previously noted mechanics are professors who have thirty (plus?) year careers and graduate one or two students a year.

Rot. Pure and simple. A system that pretends to educate while doing the opposite. The responsibility is not solely that of academia, however much they would be loathe for anyone outside to consider either its actuality or its treatment, so until that hurbis can be overcome, all that seems likely to result is more rot and ruin.

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Belly of Summer Lees

End of the exercise period for the week. The folks at the BBC’s “In Our Time” have evidently wandered off into the nothingness – vacation – that Europeans seem to do for so long at this time of year. Makes one rather wonder about the nature of a society that can effectively shut down for almost a tenth of a year. Do they put all the sick and infirm and young in freezers of some sort?

Because of that nothingness I had to fill in my concentration-time at exercise this morning with a different podcast. after all, the television at that time of the morning is even more corrupt and degenerate than during later in the day, what with liberal and conservative newsreaders who are actually agenda propagandists, and, of course, the joys of infoporn for everything from canine obedience training for the apathetic asentient to chemical regimes to enlarge primary sexual characteristics, male and female.

But finding a different podcast presents some difficulty. There is the matter of finding some podcast that will be rewarding and attention gathering. The risk that the podcast will be so good that I will be unable to abandon it must be dealt with else my already oversubscribed stable become even more pooified. This is when I go looking for college lecture series and am repeatedly gladdened that iTunes doess not have a native version for Linux. The down side of this, of course, is how good it make MegaHard look by comparison, which is a chilling realization.

This year I settled on a special series done by the CBC “Ideas” folks on “How to Think About Science.” I am now up through the second episode. The attention gathering here is not so much about science but about the vast majority of humanity that do not science. Well, not all of the vast majority, only the cognitive component. After all, this is not a program designed to appeal to those whose minds are enslaved by organizational superstition and mysticism, or who are unwilling to consider any lifestyle other than their own as having merit. So I don’t have to worry too much about the faithful of the (modern) democrat and republican parties.

That incidentally is what the second episode was all about, the intellectual tyranny of the church of Rome during the middle ages. No wonder they called them dark. Curiosity was sinful.

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Cold Dark

I live in a neighborhood with rather few children. This is not a bad thing, nor a good thing, just a statement. I have nothing against children, except that I hold the opinion that there should be special aircraft for transporting children with or without their parents and they should not be permitted on adult air craft, and visa versa.

I do have objections and concerns about the parents of children, especially for their competency. It seems unconscionable that we require people to have a license to operate an automobile and not to have children. It seems grossly negligent on our part and harmful to both the species and the children.

I mention the absence of children in my neighborhood because the avowed reason for day light savings time is so that families – parents and children can be outside in the evenings. But when I sit out on my porch of an evening I see and hear no children, no families. But I can see the actinic corruption that is television flashing through windows and curtain sheers. But then day light savings time is a political porkism vastly separated from its propaganda.

But the other evening as I was enjoying the twilight I espied a fire fly, that flying insect with the faculty of biochemical luminescence, the first of the summer. I mused on its beauty even in the moderate light field of not yet full dusk and the pollution of street lamps. (Yes, some of that time doing astronomy on the plains of Illinois did rub off!) I also mused on it being the first one I had seen this year and summer is somewhere about half gone, mostly gone for the shul children that I neither see nor hear of evenings but whose servitude to the diseducation system renews in a week or so.

Hence scant surprise that I read [Link] a report of research from U Florida that fireflies are diminishing. Could it have something to do with the absence of children?

Whither Away 2

Floop! The shoe has not only dropped but exploded on impact! [Link]

Does this mean that I am modal?

And how about contour integration epiphanies while being transported (?) on amusement park rides? And how do you write the result down before it gets lost in head noise?

Decision Saccade

Tuesday is Science and Technology podcast day at gym, and this morning was a good one for listening. Shul session restarts Monday week and the teacher taliban is off avoiding as a last fling, I suppose. Anyway, nice sparse crowd.

This also seems to be holiday time for podcasts as well, so I ended up listening to a bit of a different mix this morning than the mode. Anyway there were vignettes presented having to do with the hullabaloo last week over ants making better choices than humans. (see [Link], e.g.) As I listened to the second exposition of this I suddenly realized that the decision model being described by the podcasters was not the one I usually associate with human decision making.

They were giving an example of house selection where there are two criteria (in this case kitchen and yard size.) If one has two choices: large + small; and small + large; the statistical decision making is 0.5 each. But if a third choice is offered: large + none; then the decision making shifts to predominantly large + small. This is presented as poor decision making.

I realized this may be poor decision making – the goodness cannot be determined accurately from the presentation but that is another matter – but it is not how that type of decision making is done. My experience, both personally and observing other humans, is that they make decisions based on high contrast.

It bears commenting there that this is how we search for things with our eyes. We do series of looks – glimpses starting at points in the visual field where there is strong contrast and we bounce to and from that point to other points of defined contrast.

I have observed a similar behavior in human decision making. The decision is made not on some measure of goodness per se, but on a measure of high contrast or distinctiveness. In the example of the two house criteria, when there were only two houses neither had strong contrast and so the decision making was ambiguous. Add the third house and a strong contrast emerged dominating the decision.

So the question is, do ants operate the same way?

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Migration Path

I am entranced this morning. My morning eMail brought me a link [Link] to an Information Week article entitled “How To Upgrade To Windows 7 From Windows XP “. The entrancement is not what the article is about, a route from W XP to W7, but the cogitation chain emergant from the statement:

“While Windows supported direct upgrades from XP to Vista, they’re not supporting a direct upgrade path from XP to 7. “

The chain is a bit of the obvious, starting with a trade-off analysis of upgrading from W XP to W7.

As I survey the IT situation in Fortress SCP, I find that our dependence on MegaHard Windows has actually decreased from where it was last year. Yes, FD SCP still has that odious PFAFF software on her computers but she has actually decreased her use of nasty Windows-only clients that have no complement on Linux. I still have a W XP desk box and two laptops that run W XP, but the desk box is only used as a bcak up and sometimes goes for days without being touched. 0.99 of what gets run is AV scans and W updates. And the Dell lap box that I have a W hard drive and a U hard drive only gets the W hard drive slapped in once a month for updates. And I have almost ordered a hard drive for my HP lap box to do the same.

Yes, I still have a few W clients I need, but in the last year I have moved about half of them to WINE, so the need for glass? I have my doubts I can get FD SCP’s PFAFF merde to run in a virtual W box. The stercus barely runs on a W box with anything else on it at all; indeed, it barely tolerates W – some of the time. But the National Socialists who do that code will probably shift to W7 anyway and I might as well spring for a new machine that dual boots and only has the PFAFF plop on the W boot.

Hmmmm. Is it premature to plan a wake for MegaHard?

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