Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Will the Ivy League's pillars crumble?

As someone who took plenty of heat for choosing a Big Ten school over her father's Ivy League alma mater, I have to admit that reading this commentary by Salon's Andrew Leonard brought a smug smile to my face. Thanks to the internet, elite universities may no longer have the right to act so―for lack of a better word―snotty.

Indeed, it makes perfect sense. Historically, the quality of education a school provided (and the quality of research its faculty conducted) used to depend, at least partially, on the school's physical proximity to its resources. Leonard writes:

But the Internet has enabled collaboration without physical proximity. So an up-and-coming new-growth-theory theorist at the University of Florida can coauthor a paper with a Stanford or Harvard or Chicago professor without having to move across the country. This is a great thing -- the democratization of education. As the authors note, "If improvements in communication technology have made low-cost access at a distance possible for production purposes, then firms have lost a powerful instrument to regulate and control the accumulation and utilization of knowledge."
So now that information and communication are just a few clicks away, who needs a fancy diploma and an address in Cambridge, MA to get somewhere? Not me, my friend. Not me.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Does pot lead to cancer and addiction?

Sadly, I don't have the time these days to compose lengthy, well-conceived blog posts (cue sappy violin playing). But I am perfectly happy to point out interesting stories that other people have written.

I just came across this assuredly controversial piece (what did you expect? It's Slate after all!) that refutes some of the so-called risks of marijuana use. Take it as you will.... if you choose to take it at all (ha ha).

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Say that again?

While I was doing research today, I read the most amazing sentence EVER. This baby was the first sentence of an introduction to a physics paper published in The Astronomical Journal. Ten bucks goes to whomever can explain this (in English!) in under 65 words.
Analysis of gravitational microlensing observations of the quasar Q0957+561 has offered strong evidence for the existence of an intrinsic structure within this quasar that can only be explained by a nonstandard luminous quasar model consisting of a thin accretion disk whose interior is essentially empty of matter out to a luminous inner edge that resides at about 70 gravitational radii from the central compact object and that is also surrounded by an order of magnitude larger outer ring-shaped Elvis structure where the broad blueshifted emission lines are formed.
Elvis structure! I love it.