A potpourri of pieces on science, health, technology and the environment
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. This was first posted on Scienceline.org.
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).
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 ofgravitational microlensing observations ofthe quasar Q0957+561 hasoffered strong evidence forthe existence of anintrinsic structure within thisquasar that can onlybe explained by anonstandard luminous quasar modelconsisting of a thinaccretion disk whose interioris essentially empty ofmatter out to aluminous inner edge thatresides at about 70gravitational radii from thecentral compact object andthat is also surroundedby an order ofmagnitude larger outer ring-shapedElvis structure where thebroad blueshifted emission linesare formed.
I am a freelance science journalist based in New York City -- in other words, I live in the most expensive city in the world without a steady income. I have written for publications including Seed, The Scientist, the Boston Globe, Wired and Scientific American. Check out my website at http://www.melindawenner.com.