Growing up, I thought there was only one way to make a chocolate chip cookie. You started with the yellow bag of Nestlé Toll House chocolate morsels, followed the directions on the back, and nine to 11 minutes later you were rewarded with a tray of warm cookies. Simple as that. Fast forward 20 years, and there are now more recipes for chocolate chip cookies than I’d ever have a chance to make in my lifetime (although I’d be down to try). To distinguish themselves from the competition, they all claim to be the best, whether that’s because they’re the easiest, or the most flavorful, or the chewiest, or the softest.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Experts at the St. Louis Zoo are trying to figure out how a 62-year-old ball python laid seven eggs despite not being near a male python for at least two decades. Mark...
Could a marriage policy first pursued by the Catholic Church a millennium and a half ago explain what made the industrialized world so powerful—and so peculiar?
Henrich, who directs Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, is a cultural evolutionary theorist, which means that he gives cultural inheritance the same weight that traditional biologists give to genetic inheritance. Parents bequeath their DNA to their offspring, but they—along with other influential role models—also transmit skills, knowledge, values, tools, habits. Our genius as a species is that we learn and accumulate culture over time. Genes alone don’t determine whether a group survives or disappears. So do practices and beliefs. Human beings are not “the genetically evolved hardware of a computational machine,” he writes. They are conduits of the spirit, habits, and psychological patterns of their civilization, “the ghosts of past institutions.” ❧
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:03AM
WEIRD people have a bad habit of universalizing from their own particularities. They think everyone thinks the way they do, and some of them (not all, of course) reinforce that assumption by studying themselves. In the run-up to writing the book, Henrich and two colleagues did a literature review of experimental psychology and found that 96 percent of subjects enlisted in the research came from northern Europe, North America, or Australia. About 70 percent of those were American undergraduates. Blinded by this kind of myopia, many Westerners assume that what’s good or bad for them is good or bad for everyone else. ❧
This is a painful reality. It’s also even more specific to the current Republican party. Do as we say, not as we do.
This is the sort of example that David Dylan Thomas will appreciate.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:09AM
By the time Protestantism came along, people had already internalized an individualist worldview. Henrich calls Protestantism “the WEIRDest religion,” and says it gave a “booster shot” to the process set in motion by the Catholic Church. Integral to the Reformation was the idea that faith entailed personal struggle rather than adherence to dogma. Vernacular translations of the Bible allowed people to interpret scripture more idiosyncratically. The mandate to read the Bible democratized literacy and education. After that came the inquiry into God-given natural (individual) rights and constitutional democracies. The effort to uncover the laws of political organization spurred interest in the laws of nature—in other words, science. The scientific method codified epistemic norms that broke the world down into categories and valorized abstract principles. All of these psychosocial changes fueled unprecedented innovation, the Industrial Revolution, and economic growth. ❧
Reading this makes me think about the political break in the United States along political and religious boundaries. Some of Trumps’ core base practices a more personal religion and are generally in areas that don’t display the level of individualism, but focus more on larger paternalistic families. This could be an interesting space for further exploration as it seems to be moving the “progress”(?) described by WEIRD countries backward.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:19AM
If Henrich’s history of Christianity and the West feels rushed and at times derivative—he acknowledges his debt to Max Weber—that’s because he’s in a hurry to explain Western psychology. ❧
This adds more to my prior comment with the addition to Max Weber here. Cross reference some of my reading this past week on his influence on the prosperity gospel.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:21AM
Henrich defends this sweeping thesis with several studies, including a test known as the Triad Task. Subjects are shown three images—say, a rabbit, a carrot, and a cat. The goal is to match a “target object”—the rabbit—with a second object. A person who matches the rabbit with the cat classifies: The rabbit and the cat are animals. A person who matches the rabbit with the carrot looks for relationships between the objects: The rabbit eats the carrot. ❧
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:25AM
Toppling the accomplishments of Western civilization off their great-man platforms, he erases their claim to be monuments to rationality: Everything we think of as a cause of culture is really an effect of culture, including us. ❧
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:27AM
He refutes genetic theories of European superiority and makes a good case against economic determinism. His quarry are the “enlightened” Westerners—would-be democratizers, globalizers, well-intended purveyors of humanitarian aid—who impose impersonal institutions and abstract political principles on societies rooted in familial networks, and don’t seem to notice the trouble that follows. ❧
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:29AM
If you want to transfer a few hundred gigabytes of data, it’s generally faster to FedEx a hard drive than to send the files over the internet. This isn’t a new idea—it’s often dubbed SneakerNet—and it’s how Google transfers large amounts of data internally.
But will it always be faster?
Cisco estimates that total internet traffic currently averages 167 terabits per second. FedEx has a fleet of 654 aircraft with a lift capacity of 26.5 million pounds daily. A solid-state laptop drive weighs about 78 grams and can hold up to a terabyte.
That means FedEx is capable of transferring 150 exabytes of data per day, or 14 petabits per second—almost a hundred times the current throughput of the internet.
IT’S GETTING EASIER to secure your digital privacy. iPhones now encrypt a great deal of personal information; hard drives on Mac and Windows 8.1 computers are now automatically locked down; even Facebook, which made a fortune on open sharing, is providing end-to-end encryption in the chat tool WhatsApp. But none of this technology offers as much protection as you may think if you don’t know how to come up with a good passphrase.
Within higher education, requests to build websites for individual faculty members sit at the absolute bottom of the work queue for most marketing/communications teams. If this type of product is offered at all, it typically uses a self-service model; the institution will provide the platform while the faculty member will provide the content. And while this is the most sustainable model for most small and mid-sized web teams, it tends to produce multiple websites that are ineffective at communicating even simple messages. Worse, they have a high tendency to become the poorest reflections of the institution with a high rate of abandonment or misuse.
Let's fix that tendency together. With a careful examination of what really matters to faculty members who are looking to create and maintain their own websites, we can begin to build better sites. With better sites (and a little luck), you can start to derive value from the project at the bottom of your work pile.
Together we'll talk about:
- A simple analysis of the types of content that you'll typically find within a faculty website.
- A "wish list" for the types of content that you (as a marketer) would really like to see from these types of sites.
- A working example of a theme that delivers on these key concepts and adds some "quick wins" which makes for a better experience.
- How to leverage the capabilities of WordPress multisite to produce more value from collections of these type of sites.
I totally want to start using something like this myself to not only test it out, but to build in the proper microformats v2 mark up so that it’s IndieWeb friendly. Perhaps a project at the planned IWC Pop-up Theme raising session?
To recognize strange extraterrestrial life and solve biological mysteries on this planet, scientists are searching for an objective definition for life’s basic units.
White supremacy is baked into science and academia, from racist language in textbooks to a culture that excludes Black scientists from innovating and advancing at the same pace as their colleagues. But rather than more milquetoast statements and diversity initiatives, researchers want action. Organizers are asking the scientific community to participate in a work stoppage on Wednesday, June 10 to bring attention to racism in the world of research.
I find myself seeing some immediate and excellent historical examples in Dr. Ibram X. Kendi‘s book Stamped from the Beginning. In chapter nine of the book he discusses the variety and flavors of racism espoused by Thomas Jefferson in his book Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), which would become the most consumed American nonfiction book until well into the mid-nineteenth century.
Shortly afterward Samuel Stanhope Smith countered portions of Jefferson’s racist ideas in the 1787 annual oration to the august American Philosophical Society. This annual lecture was already one of the most heralded scholarly lectures in America and was attended by the wealthy and elite leaders and thinkers in the country. The lecture would be published as the influential Essay on the Causes of Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species.
Samuel Stanhope Smith joined those preeminent intellectuals in Boston’s American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Philadelphia’s American Philosophical Society in attacking polygenesists, in reviving climate theory in America. His scholarly defense of scripture was quickly printed in Philadelphia, in London, and in Lord Kames’s back-yard, Edinburgh. By the time he sat down in Princeton’s presidential chair in 1795, he had amassed an international scholarly reputation.
So in just a few pages Kendi lays out some serious evidence of the direct spread of a wide variety of racist ideas by not only by the academic elite, but the leaders of multiple influential universities and scientific and philosophical institutions in America. The reverberating echos of these wrongs are still haunting us today. They still need to be addressed and righted. We need to use our moral alembic and distill these racist ideas out of science in America.
Lest one wonder about the influence of Samuel Stanhope Smith’s essay, I’ll note that Noah Webster cited Smith directly in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary in the definition of philosophy. The citation was from Smith’s second edition of his Essay on the Causes of Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species (1810). The quote as given: “True religion, and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle.”
We’re obviously still seeking both true religion and true philosophy.
While you’re thinking about #shutdownSTEM on June 10th and long thereafter, I recommend you spend some time sitting with the ideas that have been handed down to us and question them closely, for this is what science and philosophy are all about. If you find you can’t do that hard work–and it is hard, then perhaps read a bit of Dr. Kendi’s excellent and ardent text Stamped from the Beginning.
This is a video I've been wanting to do for a while (in part because I've wanted to learn Morse Code myself, for years!) and I've also had many requests for it.
Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom are policing Twitter feeds, Medium posts, and other sources of bad data and misleading charts.
NIMBioS is hosting a series of webinars focusing on topics at the interface of mathematics and biology. Unable to attend the live presentation? That's ok! Register to attend, and you will receive a link to the webinar recording.
Over recent years, new light has been shed on aspects of information processing in cells. The quantification of information, as described by Shannon’s information theory, is a basic and powerful tool that can be applied to various fields, such as communication, statistics, and computer science, as well as to information processing within cells. It has also been used to infer the network structure of molecular species. However, the difficulty of obtaining sufficient sample sizes and the computational burden associated with the high-dimensional data often encountered in biology can result in bottlenecks in the application of information theory to systems biology. This article provides an overview of the application of information theory to systems biology, discussing the associated bottlenecks and reviewing recent work.
Different quantities that go by the name of entropy are used in variational principles to infer probability distributions from limited data. Shore and Johnson showed that maximizing the Boltzmann-Gibbs form of the entropy ensures that probability distributions inferred satisfy the multiplication rule of probability for independent events in the absence of data coupling such events. Other types of entropies that violate the Shore and Johnson axioms, including nonadditive entropies such as the Tsallis entropy, violate this basic consistency requirement. Here we use the axiomatic framework of Shore and Johnson to show how such nonadditive entropy functions generate biases in probability distributions that are not warranted by the underlying data.