(Roughly) Daily

“A man is angry at a libel because it is false, but at a satire because it is true”*…

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Gawken

* G.K. Chesterton

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As we take our chances, we might note that today is the first day of National Auto Battery Safety Month.

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On a more serious note, today is also the world premiere of the Global Lives Project‘s Lives in Transit series at the New York Film Festival.  The centerpiece of the Festival’s Convergence program, dedicated to the fast-evolving world of non-traditional film and media, it will run from October 1-16 in the Furman Gallery of the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center.

Check it out.

 

“Now everybody’s sampling”*…

 

Long-time readers will know of your correspondent’s fascination with the world’s fascination with “The Final Countdown” (Original music video here.)  See, for example, here, mashed up brilliantly with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and here, performed on the Kazookelele.)

Today, another entry: Pawel Zadrozniak a.k.a. “Silent” has programmed the electronic orchestra of sixty-four floppy drives, eight hard disks and two scanners contained in his wonderful Floppotron to play an incredible, if not slightly eerie version the classic…

Via Laughing Squid.

* Missy Elliot

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As we get down, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that the UK’s first national pop radio station, BBC Radio 1 was launched in the UK.  It was an effort by the BBC to take over from the very successful pirate radio stations forced off-air by the Government.  Former pirate DJ Tony Blackburn (from Radio Caroline) was the first presenter on air; The Move’s “Flowers In The Rain,” the first record to be played.

Written by LW

September 30, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge”*…

 

We’ve looked before at the methodological problems that beset (too) much science, and at the work of John Ioannidis, who’s done more than anyone else to uncover them (see here and here).  Ioannidis is back…  and the news is troubling:

Over the past decade, scientists have increasingly become ashamed at the failings of their own profession: due to a lack of self-policing and quality control, a large proportion of studies have not been replicable, scientific frauds have flourished for years without being caught, and the pressure to publish novel findings—instead of simply good science—has become the commanding mantra. In what might be one of the worst such failings, a new study suggests that even systematic reviews and meta-analyses—typically considered the highest form of scientific evidence—are now in doubt.

The study comes from a single author: John Ioannidis, a highly respected researcher at Stanford University, who has built his reputation showing other scientists what they get wrong. In his latest work, Ioannidis contends that “the large majority of produced systematic reviews and meta-analyses are unnecessary, misleading, or conflicted.”

 Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are statistically rigorous studies that synthesize the scientific literature on a given topic. If you aren’t a scientist or a policymaker, you may have never heard of them. But you have almost certainly been affected by them.

If you’ve ever taken a medicine for any ailment, you’ve likely been given the prescription based on systematic reviews of evidence for that medication. If you’ve ever been advised to use a standing desk to improve your health, it’s because experts used meta-analyses of past studies to make that recommendation. And government policies increasingly rely on conclusions stemming from evidence found in such reviews. “We put a lot of weight and trust on them to understand what we know and how to make decisions,” Ioannidis says…

More at “The man who made scientists question themselves has just exposed huge flaws in evidence used to give drug prescriptions.” See also “The Inevitable Evolution of Bad Science” and “Trouble at the Lab.”

And lest we think “hard scientists” alone in their misery, consider the plight of economists: “The Emperor’s New Paunch.”

*Daniel J. Boorstin

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As we check, check, and check again, we might send disingenuous birthday greetings to Trofim Denisovich Lysenko; he was born on this date in 1898.  A Soviet biologist and agronomist, he believed the Mendelian theory of heredity to be wrong, and developed his own, allowing for “soft inheritance”– the heretability of learned behavior. (He believed that in one generation of a hybridized crop, the desired individual could be selected and mated again and continue to produce the same desired product, without worrying about separation/segregation in future breeds.–he assumed that after a lifetime of developing (acquiring) the best set of traits to survive, those must be passed down to the next generation.)

In many way Lysenko’s theories recall Lamarck’s “organic evolution” and its concept of “soft evolution” (the passage of learned traits), though Lysenko denied any connection. He followed I. V. Michurin’s fanciful idea that plants could be forced to adapt to any environmental conditions, for example converting summer wheat to winter wheat by storing the seeds in ice.  With Stalin’s support for two decades, he actively obstructed the course of Soviet biology and caused the imprisonment and death of many of the country’s eminent biologists who disagreed with him.

Interestingly, some current research suggests that heretable learning– or a semblance of it– may in fact be happening, by virtue of epigenetics… though nothing vaguely resembling Lysenko’s theory.

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Written by LW

September 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

“It’s the 8th Wonder of the World”*…

 

 

Linotype typecasting machines revolutionized publishing when they were invented in 1886, and remained the industry standard for nearly a century after. The first commercially successful mechanical typesetter, the Linotype significantly sped up the printing process, allowing for larger and more local daily newspapers. In Farewell, etaoin shrdlu (the latter portion of the title taken from the nonsense words created by running your fingers down the letters of the machine’s first two rows), the former New York Times proofreader David Loeb Weiss bids a loving farewell to the Linotype by chronicling its final day of use at the Times on 1 July 1978. An evenhanded treatment of the unremitting march of technological progress, Weiss’s film about an outmoded craft is stylistically vintage yet also immediate in its investigation of modernity…

Via Aeon: “The last day of hot metal press before computers come in at The New York Times.”

* Thomas Edison, speaking of the linotype machine

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As we agree with John O’Hara that “hot lead can be almost as effective coming from a linotype as from a firearm,” we might spare a thought for a communicator of a very different sort, Arthur Duer “Harpo” Marx; he died on this date in 1964.  A comedian, actor, mime, and musician, he was the second-oldest of the Marx Brothers.  Harpo was a master of both the clown and pantomime traditions; he wore a curly reddish blonde wig, never spoke during performances, and of course, played the harp in each of the Marx Brothers’ films.  A man of wide and varied friendships, he was a member of the Algonquin Roundtable.

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Written by LW

September 28, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library”*…

 

In the ninth century, Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Tunisia’s Kairouan, arrived in Fez and began laying the groundwork for a complex that would include the Qarawiyyin library, the oldest in the world, the Qarawiyyin Mosque, and Qarawiyyin University, the oldest higher education institution in the world – with alumni including the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, the great Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun, and the Andalusian diplomat Leo Africanus…

Now, after years of restoration, the library is finally set to reopen – with strict security and a new underground canal system to protect its most prized manuscripts.

The library’s restoration comes at a time when extremists are rampaging the region’s heritage. Across Syria and Iraq, the militants of the Islamic State have carried out cultural atrocities that include ransacking the great library of Mosul, burning thousands of manuscripts, bulldozing ancient Assyrian cities like Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq, blowing up the Temple of Bel in Palmyra and sacking the oasis city’s museum, in addition to destroying tombs and mausoleums of Shia and Christian saints…

“The people who work here jealously guard the books,” says one of the caretakers. “You can hurt us, but you cannot hurt the books.”…

Read the whole story at “World’s oldest library reopens in Fez.”

* Albert Einstein

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As we browse in bliss, we might spare a thought for S. R. Ranganathan; he died on this date in 1972.  A mathematician and librarian, he is best remembered for his five laws of library science and the development of the first major faceted classification system, the colon classification (in which books are classified by facets rather than in a hierarchical taxonomy). He is considered to be the father of library science, documentation, and information science in India and is widely known throughout the rest of the world for his fundamental thinking in the fields. His birthday is observed every year as the National Library Day in India.

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“I’m so blue”*…

 

Originally published in 1876, this book is remarkable not only for being the first major work in contemporary chromotherapy, but also for its unique appearance. True to the ideas held within — that blue light is bearer of unique and special properties — the book is entirely printed with blue ink on blue paper. Its author, a retired US Civil War general named Augustus James Pleasonton, proposed that isolating blue wavelengths from the sun could benefit the growth of both flora and fauna, and also help to eradicate disease in humans. The science was shaky at best…

More about Pleasonton’s passion– and the craze that it provoked– at Public Domain Review.  The full text is here.

While Pleasonton’s particulars were off, he did spur the formation and growth of the field of chromotherapy– in which blue light has, in fact, emerged as relevant (and here).

* Big Bird, in Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird. Written by Randy Sharp.

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As we step away from the monitor, we might recall that it was on this date in 1772 that the soon-to-be state of New Jersey passed the first law in the US to license medical practitioners, except those who do not charge for their services, or whose activity is bleeding patients or pulling teeth.  There is to this day no federal medical licensing law.

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Written by LW

September 26, 2016 at 1:01 am

“That tactile feel of flipping through a stack of vinyl remains one of life’s simple pleasures”*…

 

Nearly everyone interested in records will have, at some point heard the news that there is a Brazilian who owns millions of records. Fewer seem to know, however, that Zero Freitas, a São Paulo-based businessman now in his sixties, plans to turn his collection into a public archive of the world’s music, with special focus on the Americas. Having amassed over six million records, he manages a collection similar to the entire Discogs database. Given the magnitude of this enterprise, Freitas deals with serious logistical challenges and, above all, time constraints. But he strongly believes it is worth his while. After all, no less than a vinyl library of global proportions is at stake…

An interview with master collector Zero Freitas: “Inside the World’s Biggest Record Collection.”

* Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)

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As we drop the needle, we might send harmonious birthday greetings to Jean-Philippe Rameau; he was born on this date in 1683.  One of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era, he replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered (with François Couperin) the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time.

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Written by LW

September 25, 2016 at 1:01 am

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