One last week of summer.
Models tell us more than hindsight. Tim Harford, the author of The Logic of Life, defends economics and modeling against a critique of a historian-turned-journalist. My main problem with economists isn’t that the field is formalized and expresses itself in equations. Rather, it’s the tendency to speak with greater force of authority as to the nature of the world than they truly have insight of. A modest amount of knowledge over and above plain common sense is greatly useful, but confusing a modest amount of knowledge for a great amount of understanding is a recipe for disaster (this is clearly evident in the engineering analogy which Harford elaborates upon).
Don’t Believe the Hype About Aborigines, Yiddish, or Ebonics. I’m particularly interested in the section on Guy Deutscher’s new book, Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages. It seems that the book is going to make a big splash, but scientific paradigms don’t usually shift with a book, do they? So has there been a shift in the linguistic literature in the journals over the past ten years?
Gene Discovery Could Yield Treatments for Nearsightedness. The recent spike in myopia in developed societies shows how genes express themselves differently in varied environments. I assume that the idea of gene therapy for myopia is for extreme cases, as glasses or lasik surgery seems like a more tried & tested solution for most of us. Interesting that different genes may have the same effect in different populations. Reminds me of pigmentation.
Phoenix Mars Lander Finds Surprises About Red Planet’s Watery Past. Lots of it apparently. There’s a strong bias to find water I think for various normative reasons, so the back and forth has to be understood in that context. But this is the sort of planetary science which I presume will be definitively resolved in the near future, and it’s really great that we’re still sending out these unmanned probes. I’m really hoping that the Chinese want to make their nation even more glorious and harmonious and really ramp up their space program in the near future.
Real-Time Correlates of Phonological Quantity Reveal Unity of Tonal and Non-Tonal Languages. I’m linking to this mostly to prompt others to look at this paper more closely, as I don’t know what to think of this sort of thing because I’m so overwhelmed by the linguistic jargon. Not a criticism of jargon, I don’t throw stones from glass houses. But it’s a field which I want to understand more, but am really at the shallow end of the learning curve. Here’s a section of possible interest to readers: “The results suggest that there is no unidirectional causal link from a genetically-based perceptual sensitivity towards pitch information to the appearance of a tone language. ”
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