Which is to say, this is going to be a weekly feature where I provide a round-up of things that I wanted to write about, but about which I subsequently found that I had nothing interesting to add.
At Science Not Fiction, Kyle Munkittrick exposes the hidden message in Pixar's films, which lays the groundwork for social justice in the future:
The message hidden inside Pixar’s magnificent films is this: humanity does not have a monopoly on personhood. In whatever form non- or super-human intelligence takes, it will need brave souls on both sides to defend what is right. If we can live up to this burden, humanity and the world we live in will be better for it.
At The Nation, William Deresiewicz writes about the crises facing higher education, from exploitation of graduate students to the double-edged nature of tenure to the defunding of the liberal arts:
A system of higher education that ignores the liberal arts, as Jonathan Cole points out in The Great American University (2009), is what they have in China, where they don’t want people to think about other ways to arrange society or other meanings than the authorized ones. A scientific education creates technologists. A liberal arts education creates citizens: people who can think broadly and critically about themselves and the world.Yet of course it is precisely China—and Singapore, another great democracy—that the Obama administration holds up as the model to emulate in our new Sputnik moment. It’s funny; after the original Sputnik, we didn’t decide to become more like the Soviet Union. But we don’t possess that kind of confidence anymore.
At Jezebel, Anna North wrote about a controversy in which the president-elect of the American College of Surgeons, Lazar Greenfield, tackily referenced 2002 study claiming that semen has antidepressant properties. Greenfield resigned as a result of the ensuing controversy, but Gordon Gallup, the author of the original study, has stepped forward to defend him. The story features comments by Kate Clancy, as well as this take-home:
Basically, there are a lot of questions scientists would have to answer before they could really conclude that semen is an antidepressant. Clancy also reminded me that Gallup and his co-authors were clear in their initial paper that their research was by no means the last word on the subject, and that it's a shame that much other scientific literature (other than the Mota study) has cited it uncritically. It's also a shame that Greenfield thought it was a good idea to present the semen-antidepressant link essentially as fact in his editorial, and then make a tasteless joke about it. His resignation isn't a case of politics silencing science, as Gallup alleges. It's a case of science poorly and offensively reported. If Gallup's research were followed up in appropriate ways and appropriate venues, we might all learn something about sexual and mental health — and yes, even about semen.
Dan Adler, Democratic candidate in the upcoming special election for California's 36th congressional district, has produced a sequence of videos, some of which have gone viral. The most viral, and the one you've probably seen, is Stick Together, but also check out Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!, which features his real-life campaign manager Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee) and Patty Duke getting s**t done with Dan, which features, well, Patty Duke, who once played identical cousins. For the whole series, check out his YouTube channel.
Finally, over at Darwin Eats Cake, this week's episodes were: Base 10 and Welcome to our OOL.