“I don’t know if Bob Stoops is a faith healer or not.”

That was the best comment I’ve heard out the mouth of a sports announcer all season. Our players in the Holiday Bowl keep getting hurt, but Stoops says there’s no injuries at half-time. We come out after the half, and that seems to be true. Sooner Magic, baby!

Faith and I watched Sideways today; I don’t recommend it. There is one great moment, and it’s in the previews (it’s line about Merlot). Other than that it’s sort of slow-moving, and none of the characters are interesting.

Results of the initial Firefox Blogger Comments test

Pointing links at popular websites to attract Blogger Web Comments extension users brought moderate returns. Actually, just one link. For some reason, the only link where my post showed up through the new Firefox extension was the (personalized) Google homepage. I linked to a ton of other sites in that post, some of which I also mentioned by name, but only the first went into effect. Google seems to have put in safeguards to prevent just the kind of abuse I was attempting.

My post was the most recent listed for the Google homepage for about 8 hours (in the middle of the US night) and produced about 40 unique hits. Not overwhelming, but not insignificant. (I think I got about 25 cents in ad revenue, so it’s definitely something that could be exploited for evil). If all the links had worked, it would have been many times that. I may try a more controlled test, with short separate posts linking to popular (but probably not too blogged about) pages. Of course, the results were high partly because lots of people were testing out a new product and saw a blurb mentioning that very product, so the game would get old fast if spammers tried to take advantage of it.

However, other sites are reporting that just such abuse is occurring already, with a wide variety of spam. Fortunately, the most interesting and unknown a site, the more likely you are to check out the comments and the less likely it is to be spam-linked. But it still dilutes the value of the extension.

Christmas in OK and TX

I just got to Dallas to spend a few days with Faith’s family, after a week in Yukon with mine. We did a lot of hanging out watching 24, and Melinda and I went to the annual Wasielewski/Adams Christmas party; always a great time. I think I’d like to have an N64 with 4 controllers, just to player Dr. Mario; it’s really the best party game ever. It’s a shame that Yale and Houston and Oklahoma aren’t all in Southern California… my friends are scattered across the whole country.

It’s been nice to be home and get a chance to relax (even though I still have a paper to write).

Santa was good to me this year. I got a slew of CDs, some pajama pants, the extended edition of Sin City (it’s awesome to read through the graphic novel while watching the movie; every scene is filmed exactly like a frame from the original and all the dialogue is verbatim), a couple books, and my mom is ordering me a set of equipment for home beer brewing!

Faith and I saw Chronicles of Narnia just before we left; it was pretty good but not great. The casting of the Pevensies was underwhelming, and Aslan wasn’t as impressive as he should have been.

Hopefully we’ll see King Kong soon.

My sister Melinda has now been accepted to the Dartmouth and OU med schools, and she’s still waiting to hear from UConn. We’re hoping she gets into UConn, because that way me might be able to get a house near Farmington and share it with her and her husband-to-be Zack.

Reading: Snow Crash, Ringworld

Watching: Chronicles of Narnia, 24 (season 4), Sin City

Listening: A New Found Glory – Catalyst, Brian Wilson – Smile

Testing the Firefox Google Blogger comments extension

This is a test of the new Blogger Comments extension. If you see this through the extension, click on through.

Using the Google homepage with the Blogger Comments extension?

Anyone surfing eBay and using the Blogger Comments extension?

Any slashdotters see this with the Blogger Comments extension?

Could this Blogger Comments extension be a new way to generate traffic for splogs?

I’ll update later with the amount of traffic I get with this.

New Ragesoss T-Shirt design!

I’ve been waiting to unveil this until most of my papers were done. (I made it some time ago, when I should have been writing. Come to think of it, I still should be writing.)

Check it out on CafePress.

Make sure you look at the back side, too. It’s especially for math geeks. If you don’t get it, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog (but you’re welcome to continue if you really want).

If you want Normal/Paranormal in some other shirt style or in another medium, let me know.

Faith and I will be in Oklahoma come Monday!

We’re not doing much in the way of Christmas presents this year; we’re trying to pay off credit cards instead. Hopefully my delightful presence will be an acceptable substitute for presents, at least for the half of my family that gets to see me.

I’m especially looking forward to the annual Wasielewski-Adams Christmas party.

Reading: nothing fun

Watching: Lost, House, The Island, Kicking and Screaming

Listening: Weakerthans, Jimmy Eat World (Aaron’s blog reminded me how much I like them), Pink Floyd, New Found Glory

knowledge wants to be anthropomorphized

Nature has an article comparing Wikipedia to Encyclopaedia Britannica. It focuses on science articles, but the results are great news for fans the Wiki concept in general and the whole “knowledge wants to be free” crowd.

Wikipedia is only marginally more inaccurate Britannica, at least for science-related articles. Not surprisingly, the most error-filled articles were the history of science ones; after all, history of science is much more cognitively sophisticated and complex than science itself.

(I say that only half-jokingly. Recovering the complexities of past knowledge is quite a bit harder than finding the current scientific version. However, the history of science articles were biographical, so factual errors and mistatements were mainly the issue.)

Then again, when you have Michael Gordin reviewing Mendeleev articles, he’s bound to be able to find errors in just about anything not written by him. I have his Mendeleev book (and it’s excellent); I wish I had time to go through it again to fix the article, as there aren’t many historians of science editing Wikipedia.

Fellow STS blogger Joseph Reagle has a nice graphic in his post about the WikiBedia/Encyclopaedia Britannica comparison.

Steve Fuller, Intelligent Design, great discussion

I know… I’m going to fail out of grad school because of too many unfinished papers because of too much time wasted on internet discussions.

But I start reading about ID, and I just can’t stop. This time, it’s Steve Fuller. I first encountered Fuller about a year and a half ago because I couldn’t resist the title of his Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History of Our Times. It was rather dense and mostly over my head, but I think he essentially argued that a) Kuhn’s philosophy as set forth in Structure, b) it’s acceptance by many scientists, and c) the considerable extent to which hegemonic scientific paradigms really do exist, have had a deleterious effect on science and science studies. Reinforcing dominant paradigms, making science less democratic, that sort of thing.

After the H-NET discussion I commented on earlier, I made my way to a parallel discussion on HOPOS-L, the History of the Philosophy of Science listserv. It all revolved around Fuller’s testimony at the Dover trial, where Fuller defended the status of ID as science (even though he thinks it’s bad science) and argued for the heuristic value of religious ideology as a motivational factor for scientic discovery… i.e., religious reasons can be and have been crucial for many scientific discoveries, even if the religious content is later removed. Naturally, this tack didn’t win Fuller many friends among the philosophers, but the discussion there was at least much more substantive and (astonishingly, considering the discipline involved) more historically grounded, since there was someone taking a pro-ID stance to prevent the boilerplate dismissal of ID like on H-NET.

Even more interestingly from my perspective, Fuller hinted at the division between organismal and molecular biology as being important with regards to the ID debate. This divide is exactly what I plan to do my dissertation on, and I became interested it in the first place because of ID. It turns out Fuller actually is working with this issue in his current project; a chapter of his in-press book is on the two biologies, and he sent it to me. (I haven’t read it yet, but I’m very much looking forward to it. That makes two STS heavy-weights who think my topic is important, interesting and on the right track, Betty Smocovitis being the other.)

Anyhow, I found more very interesting discussion with Fuller and critics on literature and cultural studies professor Michael Bérubé’s blog:

Bérubé mentions Fuller briefly.
Panda’s Thumb picks up the story via Antievolution.org.
Fuller responds, provoking much discussion. Fuller posts several comments, among the 167 of them.
Bérubé posts a response, with more Fuller posts (and now one by me, comment #48) in the ensuing discussion.

Bérubé is currently writing about the Sokal Affair and seems to have a very reasonable take on it (especially for someone who publishes in Social Text seriously).

UPDATE: Now I have two more posts (##58, 65). Unfortunately, the thread has devolved somewhat; someone actually finds it “infuriating” that others assume the good faith of the people they’re having a discussion with (like me, and Fuller). Check out post #55 by “Lawrence Sober”:

“Sage is a classic example of what I’ve been railing against. He’s spouting off his conclusions without any evidentiary support. He’s repeating talking points torn right out of the Discovery Institute script.”

And it gets better from there. I especially like the call to repentance at the end.

State Science Standards vs. ACT Scores

A lot of the ID debate lately has revolved around science standards for high schools. (Despite my view of the relative vacuity of the science of ID, at least as it now exists) I’ve argued before that teaching ID in schools alongside evolution wouldn’t be terribly bad for the overall scientific competence of the nation, and that it might even be helpful for getting more people into scientific careers and keeping the US on top in science (assuming that is what we want). But what difference do the official standards really make anyway? Probably not much, compared to more tangible things like teacher quality, class size and other factors linked directly to money.

(Science booster) Paul Gross and The Fordham Foundation (a public education think tank that promotes charter schools) released a report on state science standards, grading each state, with evolution sub-scores. But, as it turns out, these grades of the state science standards don’t have much to do with actual effectiveness of science education. Mike Gene on the ID blog Telic Thoughts compared the report grades with the ACT Science sub-scores by state. Almost no correlation.

The most frustrating thing about the ID in high schools debates: what both sides presumably agree on (because both sets of people involved actually care about public school education) is that schools need more money, smaller classes, better science teachers, more equipment and textbooks, etc. But that’s not even on the agenda for discussion. Underfunded schools; that’s what should have people up in arms.

STS Wiki

A Berkeley professor by the name of Bryan Pfaffenberger has started an STS Wiki. Although he has a degree in anthropology, he seems like an alright guy; the fact that he’s a Wikipedia contributor is a good sign. Even though Yale avoids all those new-fangled buzz-fields like Science, Technology and Society, history is close enough to STS in my mind. So I added myself to the Wiki. Hopefully it will catch on. Maybe when I’m feeling less lazy and less encumbered by incumbent papers, I’ll add some other history of science homies.