Sunday, August 17, 2014

word of the day: tabla

The word of the day is tabla:


noun
1. a small drum or pair of drums of India tuned to different pitches and played with the hands. (dictionary.com)


"Ahmad was preparing to go onstage at the first Louis Armstrong International Music Festival, to play guitar and sign with his band, Junoon - although this was not quite the Junoon with which Ahmad found fame, in the nineteen-nineties, in South Asia.  That band - Styx, in Urdu, with tablas - broke up in 2005."

 - Ian Parker, "The Band Played On", 28 July 2014 The New Yorker


No, I don't get it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

word of the day: sybaritic

The word of the day is sybaritic:

adjective
1. (usually lowercase) pertaining to or characteristic of a sybarite; characterized by or loving luxury or sensuous pleasure: to wallow in sybaritic splendor.
2. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Sybaris or its inhabitants. (dictionary.com)


"Once the rebels break through, Bong and his production designer, Ondrej Nekvasil, provide them with a series of sybaritic astonishments: a sunlit greenhouse garden, a mahogany sleeper car, and party rooms in which toffs, dressed in gowns and rave wear, get stoned, drink, and dance."

 - David Denby, "Endgames: 'Snowpiercer' and 'Begin Again'", 7 & 14 July 2014 The New Yorker


"He was wearing a ten-thousand-dollar ivory-colored tuxedo with blue satin trim by Angelo Galasso, which made him look like a sybaritic sea captain."

 - Rebecca Mead, "Musical Gold: Can three ambitious siblings turn old violins into a new investment strategy?", 28 July 2014 The New Yorker

Recent blog post roundup and Sun letter on fetal learning

Recent posts for the ACS Chemical Biology Community have been on social taboos about discussing compensation, what to wear to work, and gender and scientific authorship.


The Baltimore Sun also published my letter in response to a pop science story they ran on fetal learning.  (The Sun's version appears to have fallen down the memory hole, but here's the original Reuters reports: it's very similar to the Sun story, except the Sun changed "babies in the womb" to "fetuses".)  The Sun has a pay wall, so I'm reproducing the letter here:

Your headline "Fetuses show signs of learning at 34 weeks" (July 27) was inconsistent with the content of the story accompanying it.

The author admitted that the findings were "not statistically significant." In layperson's terms, "not statistically significant" means that the evidence is not strong enough support a conclusion one way or the other.

Scientist Carl Sagan famously said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. To claim that fetuses show evidence of learning three weeks earlier than previously thought, the authors would have to show convincing evidence that the earlier work was mistaken. But because their findings were not statistically significant, they can offer no such evidence.

Science journalists are the final interpreter of science for the public. It is their duty not just to report recent findings but also — and more importantly — to critically evaluate them for their non-scientist readers.

The letter was edited somewhat: for brevity, I guess.  Here’s the original text:

Your recent headline "Fetuses show signs of learning at 34 weeks" was inconsistent with the content of the story.  The author admitted that the findings were "not statistically significant".  In layperson's terms, "not statistically significant" means "the evidence is not strong enough support a conclusion one way or another".  Carl Sagan famously said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.  To claim that fetuses show evidence of learning three weeks earlier than previously thought, the authors need to show convincing evidence that the previous work was mistaken: because their findings were not statistically significant, their findings are not such evidence.  The author was wrong to "cautiously" conclude, the reviewers were wrong not to insist on removing that conclusion, and the journal was wrong to publish that conclusion, but science journalists are the final interpreter of science for the public.  It is the sacred duty of a science journalist not just to report recent scientific findings, but also, more importantly, to critically evaluate them for their non-scientist readers.

Monday, July 14, 2014

word of the day: adjutant

The word of the day is adjutant:


a staff officer in the army, air force, or marine corps who assists the commanding officer and is responsible especially for correspondence (Merriam-Webster)


"Klay writes with a powerful restraint about the inversion of normal reality called combat, its permanent effects on bodies and souls, but the best stories in 'Redeployment' look at war from a slight distance.  The narrator in 'Unless It's a Sucking Chest Wound,' a battalion adjutant, has the inglorious job of writing up the heroics of other marines being nominated for medals...

"The adjutant is one among many troopstheir numbers grew over timewho spent their war almost entirely within the confines of an American base."

 - George Packer, "Home Fires: How soldiers write their wars", 7 April 2014 The New Yorker

Sunday, July 13, 2014

phrase of the day: scare quotes

The phrase of the day is scare quotes:


quotation marks used to express especially skepticism or derision concerning the use of the enclosed word or phrase (Merriam-Webster)


"'Every war is ironic because every war is worse than expected,' Paul Fussell wrote in 'The Great War and Modern Memory,' his classic study of the English literature of the First World War...

"Here's Kevin Powers, who joined the Army out of high school and ended up as a machine gunner in the same region of Iraq as Turner: 'I had by then inferred that the military was where a person went to develop the qualities that I had come to admire in my father, my uncle, and both of my grandfathers.  The cliché, in my case, was true: I thought that the army would "make me a man".'  The scare quotes suggest Fussell's wised-up irony, but they weren't enough to keep Powers home."

 - George Packer, "Home Fires: How soldiers write their wars", 7 April 2014 The New Yorker

molecule of the day: lysergic acid

The molecule of the day is lysergic acid:

(PubChem)


"In the context of their species, these flamingos were like space voyagers, those who'd return with tales beyond telling.  Except that they'd never return.  You might as well have immersed the birds in a bathysphere and introduced them to the orcas, or dosed their food with lysergic acid."

 - Jonathan Lethem, "Pending Vegan", 7 April 2014 The New Yorker


Lysergic acid is closely related to lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

(PubChem)

Friday, July 04, 2014

Recent blogging activity

My most recent piece for the Transcript, the Hopkins Biotech Network's newsletter, is on non-competition agreements, and my most recent blog post for the ACS Chemical Biology Community on the ACS Network shares some statistics from my job search.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

formatting the resume

This week's post for the ACS Chemical Biology Community is up, on what I've learned about how to format my resume.