So you want to go to grad school-Step One: Is grad school even right for me?

I thought it would be nice to give out some advice about the whole applying to grad school process since I really didn’t have any given to me when I under went this process. Trust me, it would have been nice to get some advice. The advice I will give pertains to applying to a biology program, since that is the one I am most familiar with. Today’s post, do you even really need to go to grad school? Continue reading

Laws Block the Study of Gun Violence

Violence happens.  People use guns to kill other people, and if not guns, then some other weapon.  Murders are so common, in fact, that homicides claim roughly 1,000 victims everyday and images of guns and violence fill our TV screens.  Although mass-killings like those in Columbine and Aurora continue to horrify us, they no longer surprise us.  We understand that humans kill others and that violence is just one aspect of human social behavior that we sometimes accept — think war — but often reject — think bullying, fistfights, and Aurora.

But why?  Why do will hurt, hit, and occasionally murder one another?  Social scientists could shed light on the causes of gun violence and means of preventing it.  But, unfortunately, politicians and lobbyist have stymied research into both the social sciences and gun violence.  In a new op-ed for the Washington Post, Jay Dickey and Mark Rosenberg lament the dramatic cost of gun violence — over 30,000 deaths a year, more than those murdered on September 11th and almost as many that die each year from car-crashes — and their own failure to fund research into its causes. Continue reading

Caturday: Acoustic Kitty

Blaine sent me this damn interesting post about Operation Acoustic Kitty, a Cold-War-era plan to use cats as listening devices.  Basically, the CIA took a cat, surgically implanted a listening device into it (they put the antenna — where else? — in the tail) and then trained it to hang around one person.  Predictably, things did not go as planed.

After several surgeries and intensive training, the cyborg cat was ready for its first field test. The CIA drove the cat to a Soviet compound on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C., and let him out of a parked van across the street. The cat ambled into the road, and was struck by a taxi almost immediately. Five years of effort and over $15 million in spending were reduced to roadkill in an instant. Shorty after its demise a CIA operative returned to the accident site and put the cat’s remains into a container to prevent the Soviets from getting their paws on the sensitive and expensive listening devices.

I imagine a lot of Cold-War-era plans went like Operation Acoustic Kitty: start with a ridiculous plan, spend lots of money, end in disaster.  Good times.

Old Misconceptions Die Hard: Scientific knowledge suppresses but does not supplant earlier intuitions

ResearchBlogging.orgTeachers operate on the assumption that students are “empty vessels” they can fill with new information.  But many students begin classes with assumptions about the world that, although intuitive, are actually incorrect.  For example, many students incorrectly believe that individuals can evolve or that all members of a species evolve together.  Teachers assume that instruction and testing will make students understand that both of these assumptions are wrong and that only populations evolve.  However, recent research suggests that simply providing students with factual information doesn’t make them drop their faulty assumptions.  As it turns out, old misconceptions die hard.
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Book Review: The Swiss Family Robinson

So, I recently read The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. This book is old school, like 1812. I got it when the local Borders was going out of business, mostly because I grew up loving the Disney movie based on the book. My little sister and I used to watch the movie all the time, consuming frozen grapes as our snack of choice. Somehow that was the snack we deemed necessary for the movie. Anyway, let’s just say the book is very different than the movie. Continue reading

Ben Franklin: Awesome

I’m stuck this week with yet another round of revisions on my last dissertation chapter, so more posts about science and books will have to wait.  I doubt too many of you are disappointed, but I do want to share one quick thing.  I am currently reading Walter Issacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin.  Not only is it highly entertaining, it reminds me that Franklin is undoubtedly the Founding Father of Badassery. Continue reading

Pepsi soda is people!!!! Ok, not really.

I recently got into a discussion on Facebook with someone who was a friend of a friend. My friend posted about how food companies use certain selling points to trick the consumer when it comes to artificial flavorings and preservatives. For example, “No sugar added” means they probably used some sort of sugar substitute that causes cancer in lab animals. Within the comments, a friend of this friend said something along the lines of “yeah and some companies are adding fetuses to the food and drink they manufacture.” I knew exactly what this was referring to, the HEK 293 cell line. Continue reading