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Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

How an academic urban legend can spread because of the difficulty of clear citation

Allan Dafoe writes: I just came across this article about academic urban legends spreading because of sloppy citation practices. I found it fascinating and relevant to the conversations on your blog. The article is by Ole Bjørn Rekdal and it is indeed fascinating. It begins as follows: Many of the messages presented in respectable scientific […]

“Stop the Polling Insanity”

Norman Ornstein and Alan Abramowitz warn against over-interpreting poll fluctuations: In this highly charged election, it’s no surprise that the news media see every poll like an addict sees a new fix. That is especially true of polls that show large and unexpected changes. Those polls get intense coverage and analysis, adding to their presumed […]

Macassar

Some of the discussion of yesterday’s post reminded me of a wonderful bit from Life on the Mississippi: When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman. We had transient ambitions of other […]

Are you pro or anti-biotics?

Paul Alper points to this news article by Susan Perry: Probiotics have been overhyped and rely on ‘shaky’ science, reporter finds Although some of these studies’ results may be promising, they aren’t strong enough to support the long list of claims currently being made by the manufacturers of probiotic products. . . . Perry links […]

Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood

Saw a couple of plays, both excellent. Fun Home. Compared to what I remembered of the book (which I also thought was excellent), the play seemed to be more about her family and less about Bechdel herself. But that worked for me. Bechdel’s story won’t be shared by everybody, but we all have families. The […]

These Twin Names Match, But Aren’t “Matchy-Matchy”

I love this stuff: Alice/Celia: This subtle anagram yields two charming classics with completely different sounds. Beckett/Marlowe: Two playwrights representing two of the hottest contemporary name styles, double-t names and hidden-o names. Zoe/Eve: These Greek and Hebrew “life” names look similar on paper, but not spoken aloud. Rima/Amir : These mirror-image Arabic name make a […]

For Opening Day

From John Lardner: A young ex-paratrooper visited Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, one day, and addressed some language, as ball fans will, to Mr. Leo Durocher, the Brooklyn manager, himself the most polite and clean-tongued gentleman in the national pastime when his mouth is shut, which is a hypothetical situation. I should really stop here because this […]

“Chatting with the Tea Party”

I got an email last month offering two free tickets to the preview of a new play, Chatting with the Tea Party, described as “a documentary-style play about a New York playwright’s year attending Tea Party meetings around the country and interviewing local leaders. Nothing the Tea Party people in the play say has been […]

My namesake doesn’t seem to understand the principles of decision analysis

It says “Never miss another deadline.” But if you really could never miss your deadlines, you’d just set your deadlines earlier, no? It’s statics vs. dynamics all over again. That said, this advice seems reasonable: The author has also developed a foolproof method of structuring your writing, so that you make effective use of your […]

Grizzly Adams is an object of the class Weekend at Bernies

It just came to me when I saw his obit.

Mars 1, This American Life 0

Palko points to the ultimate takedown of Mars One, courtesy of Sydney Do and Andrew Owens. At this point, shooting down the financials of Mars One seems a bit of overkill, something comparable to debunking the statistical expertise of Satoshi Kanazawa or Daryl Bem, or questioning the quality of publications with the name “Edward Wegman” […]

Comedy book with surefire can’t-miss formula, misses

The other day at the library I noticed a pink-covered book, “We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy.” It was filled with interviews. Cool! I checked it out and . . . jeez was it boring. It’s hard to imagine you could interview a bunch of comedians and come up with something so […]

“David Brooks And Jeremy Paxman To Judge The Golden Giraffes”

I don’t think I have much of a chance here, not because of the judging—I’d trust Brooks and Paxman to recognize good writing—but because the competition includes some heavy hitters, including Dan Davies with a meta-blog-post called The Verjus Manifesto, Sara Paretsky on The Detective As Speech, and Charles Pierce with . . . well, […]

Don’t miss this one: “Modern Physics from an Elementary Point of View”

I was googling *back of the envelope* for a recent post and I came across these lecture notes by Victor Weisskopf from 1969. I can no longer really follow this sort of thing—I really really wish this had been my textbook back when I was studying physics. If they’d taught us this stuff, I might’ve […]

Top 5 movies about scientists

In this NYT interview, Philip “Stanford Prison Experiment” Zimbardo gives his list: 1. “Madame Curie,” 1943 2. “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution,” 1976 3. “Awakenings,” 1990 4. “The Insider,” 1999 5. “The Imitation Game,” 2014. Not a very impressive list. But that’s the point, I guess: there haven’t been many good movies about scientists. I was racking […]

Annals of Spam

OK, explain to me this email: God day, How are you? My name is **. I came across your contact email at the University of Cyprus, Department of Economics. I seek for a private Economics teacher for my Daughter. I would like to know if you would be available for job. If you would be […]

Erdos bio for kids

Chris Gittins recommends the book, “The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos,” by Deborah Heiligman. Gittins reports: We read it with our soon-to-be-first-grader this evening. She liked it and so did we. I knew a little about Erdos but the book probably quadrupled my knowledge. Thought it might be of interest […]

Review of The Martian

I actually read this a couple months ago after Bob recommended it to me. I don’t know why I did this, given that the last book Bob recommended to me, I hated, but in this case I made a good choice. The Martian was excellent and was indeed hard to set down. Recently I’ve been […]

Being polite vs. saying what we really think

We recently discussed an article by Isabel Scott and Nicholas Pound entitled, “Menstrual Cycle Phase Does Not Predict Political Conservatism,” in which Scott and Pound definitively shot down some research that was so ridiculous it never even deserved the dignity of being shot down. The trouble is, the original article, “The Fluctuating Female Vote: Politics, […]

Irwin Shaw: “I might mistrust intellectuals, but I’d mistrust nonintellectuals even more.”

A few weeks ago I picked up a paperback of stories by Irwin Shaw, printed in the late 1950s. I love these little pocket books—but this one was a bit too disposable: after about 50 pages the spine gave out and the pages started to fall out, which was a bit irritating because then I […]