Sunday, October 09, 2005

Sunday Items of Interest

Several items of interest from around the Blogosphere and the rest of the Web:

  • Here is the blog of Harriet Miers, via Geeky Mom.
  • Here are some interesting comments on the overlap between science and philosophy, from Dr. Free-Ride, Ph.D.
  • Please welcome Eric Zorn, SciTech Daily, Underneath Their Robes, and The Moderate Voice to the blogroll.
  • These have been around for a while, but the other day at work discussion having to do with GoogleWatch came up. Also, here's GoogleWatch Watch.
  • It looks like Sylvia at The Bookworm has also read Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Educated Mind. I shared my experiences with the books Bauer recommends here, and shared my clarification of Bauer's misstatement that equated ASINs with ISBNs here. Also, Rachel's Tinkerty comments on the TWEM list can be found here. My comments were much more list-oriented, and Bookworm's comments (with follow-up here) deal with the method of study espoused in TWEM. Anyhow, I think I'll add her to the blogroll as well.
  • I thought this Chris Anderson/Long Tail post on Lego Blocks was really good. The Long Tail Concept has to do with supply & demand and the application of new technologies to market-oriented supply chains. Check out that link and also the relevant Wikipedia entry for further explanation of the idea. On a side note, when I was a kid, the whole point of Legos was that you had these building blocks of various shapes and colors and the end product would only be limited by your imagination. In recent years (OK, recent decades) the Lego stuff you find in retail stores reminds me a lot more of the plastic model airplanes I did when I was little, in that there is a picture on the box of a specific object (castle, fire engine, Star Wars ship, etc) that kids are supposed to end up with when they are finished. The specificty of the design of the individual Lego pieces of these sets make them more like puzzles with a right answer than tools with which to do one's own thing. For years, my job involved working with kids of Lego age and I remember once that one of them built a very creative and original Lego sculpture that had nothing to do with the spaceship depicted on the box cover, and another kid berated him for doing it wrong. The Long Tail model (as opposed to retail model) kind of incorporates the imaginations of Lego users into the supply of the product.
  • Last but not least, this document spells out very clearly the discipline, preparation, and manner of thinking that would be expected of you if you worked at Hooters. Excerpt:
    The deal with science — the thing that makes it different from some "philosophical theories" you might worry about — it that there's a serious attempt to do the job of describing, explaining, and manipulating the universe with a relatively lean set of metaphysical commitments, and to keep many of the commitments methodological. If you're in the business of using information from the observables, there are many junctures where the evidence is not going to tell you for certain whether P is true or not-P is true. There has to be a sensible way to deal with, or to bracket, the question of P so that science doesn't grind to a halt while you wait around for more evidence. Encounter a phenomenon that you're not sure is explainable in terms of any of the theories or data you have at the ready? You can respond by throwing your hands up and hypothesizing, "A wizard did it!" , or you can dig in and see whether further investigation of the phenomenon will yield an explanation. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. In cases where it does not, science is still driven by a commitment to build an explanation in terms of stuff in the natural world, despite the fact that we may have to reframe our understanding of that natural world in fairly significant ways.
    I love questions that ask how we know what we know. (Wait, was that from the Hooters thing? I'll double check later.)


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