Sunday, 16 March 2014

Stefano Collini - What are Universities For?

p xi Did not say about humanities being more important as I first read. Actually says "not, needless to say, because I believe they are more central to a university than the natural and social sciences, but partly because their character and value are usually less well understood than that of the scientific disciplines, and partly because they are the disciplines with which I am most familiar."

Chapter One - his idea is that the university is an important name for an institution because of the respect and prestige that the title brings. Very powerful arguments about the weaknesses of league tables and the ability to game them. Especially cynical about what league tables measure and if the student experience is a valid measure of anything at university.

Chapter Two - Anderson Committee 1960 created student grants - just as the boomers were about to enter. Before that entry was based on unequal privilege.

Chapter Four - Humanities are discussed but he is wrong to say that science and academic work should be inaccessible. His view that academic work is an apprenticeship in the humanities is a good one. We are all at some time apprentices even in the lab.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Origins Of Sex

p101
... the Reverend Robert Wallace meant complete liberty for both men and women to cohabit successively with as many partners as they liked, and an end to spurious notions of female delicacy - for ' a woman's being enjoyed by a dozen in proper circumstances can never render her less fit or agreeable to a thirteenth!.


p109 Ultimately and paradoxically, sexual appetite was both the basis of civilisation ' the first and original principle of human society' and an ever present threat to social bonds

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Fix - Damian Thompson

p92 Nonetheless, there is a common denominator: availability.

Here he is looking at opium addiction in China and for US G.I.s during Vietnam and to gin in London. Dumb argument and the one usually used by the anti-legalisation crowd is that availability creates addiction. Yes if something doesn't exist I cannot be addicted to it. But there are plenty of addictive things that are freely available to which not everyone is addicted - cigarettes are not illegal yet and there are non-smokers. Doctors have wide access to drugs and not all of them are addicts (although more might be than is admitted). What they also all have in common is high stress/anxiety and low self worth with high levels of deprivation and the desire to escape life.

p107 This dismissed the popular notion of sugar as 'empty' calories. On the contrary, they were bad calories. "A little is not a problem, but a lot kills - slowly," said the authors, who went on to propose that sugary foods should be taxed and their sales to children under 17 controlled.

Yes there is a chance of increased levels of Diabetes and that is a very great cost to healthcare. Cup-cakes are a danger to society. This is not to be scorned and is easily dealt with and this is not an infringement of civil liberties it is education.

p192 The most explicit video games create scenes of digital violence so extreme that they are closer to a serial killing rampage than even the bloodiest warfare. Some games even allow players to simulate an act of necrophilia on the body of a fallen opponent.

Paranoid madness - he does not cite any literature on the link between violence and video game violence and he does not even name the game. This is hearsay, urban myth made into print. They are pixels coloured red and you get to hear worse on the news (Saville for example)

p192 On the other side of the fence are the anti-gaming campaigners such as Baroness Greenfield, a professor of synaptic pharmacology at Oxford University who argues that digital technology is exacerbating autism spectrum disorders and leading to an increase in violence and distraction amongst children.

Greenfield does look like an authority with all her books and interviews and appearances. What she fails to produce is any real scientific evidence to any of her claims. She has yet to publish one peer reviewed scientific article that presents any evidence of her claims and she is often attacked by people such as Ben Goldacre for making spurious and unsubstantiated claims.

p197 The internet has an almost magical ability to arouse male sexual cravings.

If he actually was not a sexist unable to relate to female sexuality he would also know that women also have sexual cravings and that these are also arouses by the internet although in different ways. He might like the book The Joy of Cybersex written by Deb Levine to show him a positive female view of sex on the internet.

p198 you are wrestling with obsessions that until a few years ago you thought were confined to ferret-faced men in raincoats hanging around school playgrounds.

This is a ridiculous stereotype. A lot of those who are paedophiles look like respectable members of the community because that is how they are most likely to get an opening for grooming young children. He forgets all the Catholic Priests for example that would hit too close to home as a devout Christian and Catholic as well as religious correspondent.

p202 I don't think anyone would have anticipated the features of porn that unnerve us most today: the massive appeal of hard-core images, often involving teenagers or children; and its transformation from a bad habit into an addiction.

Again he presents no evidence other than empty rhetoric. If there is this sea of paedophile pornography we are all wallowing in then why aren't there more arrests and convictions?

p204 His two porn experts are Shana Olfman and Gail Dines, Dines is apparently the best-known authority on the effects of pornography on women. That is nice but again both citations of evidence are for books and not for peer reviewed scholarship. Personally I have never heard of Dines at all and I follow a large number of sexologists and academic sex-perts on social media and she is never part of any conversations. In fact reading Dines' list of articles she does not have a single peer reviewed article in her career. All her writing is for newspapers and other public media. Olfman's scholarly c.v. is equally thin.

p209 In November 2004, the US Senate held a committee hearing on "The Science of Pornography Addiction". Dr Judith Reisman, a prominent crusader against pornography, told the committee: "We now know that pornographic visual images imprint and alter the brain, triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail, arguably subverting the First Amendment by overriding the cognitive speech process. This is true of so-called 'soft-core' and 'hard-core' pornography. And once new neurochemical pathways are established they are difficult or impossible the delete."

The problem is that Resiman is lying and this is an obviously bat-shit nuts statement. Affects the First Amendment by overriding cognitive speech? So I am no longer capable of free speech once I have been hypnotised by the evils of porn? It doesn't even make any sense when you write it down. She is a law Prof. She has no knowledge of neuroscience and the experiments she talks about do not exist and what has been done is neuro-science imaging of behaviour and adaptation is highly suspect. Basically this is all nonsense quoted as expert opinion.

p210 He goes on to show that Resiman's testimony was shredded by real experts such as Dr Daniel Linz - so what he has done is presented something he knows to be bull-shit first and in a convincing way and then presents the refutation is less dynamic terms. This is typical of Thompson who uses rhetoric over reason and evidence. He takes a position and then tries to warp reality to fit what he wants. Up until this point it was merely annoying but this section of the book is appalling deceit. Regardless he cites Norman Doidge as being convinced that porn is as addictive as drugs. I might be convinced that Liverpool will win the Premiership next year or the New York Jets will win the Superbowl but it does not make it true or even likely.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Common Lawyer - Mark Gimenez

"Andy the tobacco companies kill a thousand people a day and have done for forty years. They knew their products were killing people, but they kept the real dangers secret all that time, to keep their profits. They killed millions of people for profit. What's one kid to the drug companies? These are people who will do anything to preserve their business model,"
"What business model?"
"Death and disease. Drug companies thrive on death and disease, Andy not health and happiness."

p431

A nice attack on Big Pharma but not as effective of ominous as The Constant Gardener.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Visions - Kaku

Rhodopsin and the master gene theory of Gehrig suggests that eye evolution is divergent. But this paper is not cited again in the next 9 years and so this would seem to be a dead-end so convergence is still probable as suggested by Stewart.
Having a master gene would invalidate the idea of canalisation as it is too deterministic there would be no convergence in related populations, there would be no need for plasticity or evolvability. The system would be very rigid and not very robust to loss of master gene function.
Fru gene controls make sexual response in fruit flies. This would be an example of a single gene and not a system of genes controlling a complex behaviour/trait. This would kill the need for a system and make selfish genes much more likely to exist. But this paper has not been cited again so it was probably a high level transcription factor required for activating many pathways.

Another physicist who sees futility where we do not need to. He worries that the Universe will end in about 13 billion years time and that this will be a waste of intelligent life. I think that if our descendants make it to 1 billion years that will be an outstanding success. At the minute we don't look like making another 100.


p12 "now the heyday of reductionism has probably passed. Seemingly impenetrable obstacles have been encountered which cannot be solved by the simple reductionist approach."

p82 "Sejnowski remarks, 'A lot of the details and organisational decisions in biology are historical accidents. You can't assume that nature took the simplest and most direct route to do something. Some features are remnants of some earlier stage of evolution, or it may be that some genes that happen to be around are commandeered for some other purposes.'"

p169 BPDE causes lung cancer mutations of p53 Science Oct 18 1996. p430.

p333 "For 99% of human existence, we lived in small primitive, nomadic tribes that could economically support perhaps no more than fifty of so individuals. ( Studies have shown that when a tribe expands beyond roughly this number, it cannot support and feed all the additional members and it will split up)."

What studies? Walden Two? Nietzche's sister in Paraguay?



Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Characterising effective e-learning resources: Littlejohn, Falconer and McGill 2008

"Learners construct their own knowledge through these interactions with tutors, other students and the learning materials."
"aggregation offers the possibility of 'personalised' learning systems that identify learner's skills levels and presents them with materials aimed at their current abilities."
"the most commonly used electronic materials ... include articles, book chapters, illustrations and animations."
"'Learning Objects' that could be plugged together to produce a course."
"Learning objects have been rejected by Wiley (2000) as encouraging a simplistic view of learning resources, and a narrow view of education as transmission of blocks of content. He has proposed an alternative metaphor: that of a chemist combining atoms to form molecules."
"not every resource can combine with every other."
Indicators for useful Learning Objects would be "positive evaluation documentation, regular citations within the literature, and widespread adoption within accredited courses."
"metadata describing their potential use."
"much debate about who should produce metadata for Learning Objects."
Resources should be durable and maintained e.g. content in an eJournal over material on an unsupported website.
Quality Assured.
Free from legal restrictions
Formats that are accessible and ubiquitous
Electronic formats or print.
Engage the learner
"reluctance among academics to submit authored resources to a digital repository ... insufficient reward (financial or kudos)."
"that resources at appropriate cost will be adopted if other factors (for example accessibility of language) render them appealing to tutors and students."
"The disadvantage of not being easily repurposed is apparently outweighed by the benefit of contextualisation or of saving time in aggregation."
"Resources should be sufficiently small to be reusable, but large enough to ensure that tutors do not have to spend time aggregating large numbers of resources."
"move away from a narrative presentation of information towards a more active use."
"active learning resources and their sequencing within a learning design or lesson plan becomes more prominent, the profile of dynamic resources is likely to increase resources will need to show how they can be reused in a range of educational models or learning designs."
"inverse relationship between resources being sufficiently large to be of educational value, while being small enough to reuse effectively."
"embraces constructivist principles"
"What may be a positive accessibility characteristic in one situation may be a barrier in another, even for the same subject area and teacher."
"Currently many tutors start by focussing on content and may appreciate guidance in the choice of resource format, medium etc, as well as in consideration of educational design and learner activities through determining the suitability of resources for their teaching."
"their use in context that is important."


The Written World - Andrew Feenberg

From Mindweave:  communication, computer and distance education 1989 Pergamon Press.
"when we leave a message in computer memory we feel an intense need for response."
"Paradoxically, then speeding up and improving asynchronous exchanges causes unexpected distress. This explains why on-line communities place such an emphasis on active participation and are often critical of passive readers who are pejoratively called lurkers."
"Flaming (the expression of uncensored emotions on-line) is viewed as a negative consequence of this feeling of liberation."
"the idea of community implies bonds of sentiment that are not always necessary to effect online communication"
"we must discover how the conference empowers its members to speak up and provokes others to reply."
"Sharing of purpose among people who do not form a community but have accepted a common work or play as the context for an intense temporary relationship."
"the social network designer - has emerged to solve the problems of organising and leading on-line groups."
"try to get people on-line with the hope that once they connect something will happen. This approach to CMC leads to disappointing results."
"Educational conferencing systems, for example, are fairly limited in their ability to handle mathematical symbols." Hiltz 1986.
Created the idea of weaving "identifying the themes, making connections, 'indexing' the material mentally."
"drawing together in a momentary synthesis that can serve as a starting point for the next round of debate."

"The absence of tacit cues and coded objects strands participants in a contextual void that may leave them literally speechless."
"The face-to-face meeting can also asynchronise the commencement of the on-line exercise through a ritualised initiation to the conference."
"The erotic charge of new communications technology in France today curiously parallels early experiences with the telephone in that country See Catherine Bertho 1981 p243-245."