Can we (please) have science without the scientific journals?


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Peer reviews. Can we have another model?

We could – I think we should – apply this model to scientific publishing. Publish first, and then let consumers decide what is good or important and what is not.

This would not mean the end of quality control or peer-reviewing – you can have all of that, indeed you can get more of it and in a more efficient way, if that happens after publication.

And this would allow us to get rid of a rent-seeking intermediary no-one needs anymore: the scientific journals themselves.

The complete article

Pascal Boyer — International Cognition & Culture Institute

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An Ode to Ugly Physics


The intuitive physicists were triumphant on many more occasions. Like Richard Feynman, who, from his wild imagination of virtual particles, wrote down outrageously ill-defined integral overall paths of virtual particles and fields through space and time.20 At the level of perturbation theory, that is, pretending that the quantum was infinitesimal, Feynman’s path integral is nothing more than a mathematical trick that helps with organizing calculations. In fairness, it was a damn fine trick. It helped predict the magnetic dipole moment of the electron to eleven digits, while also helping to solve difficult mathematical problems from the topological invariants of knots to the deformation quantization of Poisson manifolds.21

The complete article

Xi Yin — Inference

Deep Laziness


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Deep thoughts on laziness.

Imagine a person who is very lazy at work, yet whose customers are (along with everyone else concerned) quite satisfied. It could be a slow-talking rural shop proprietor from an old movie, or some kind of Taoist fisherman – perhaps a bit of a buffoon, but definitely deeply content. In order to be this way, he must be reasonably organized: stock must be ordered, and tackle squared away, in order to afford worry-free, deep-breathing laziness.

Consider this imaginary person as a kind of ideal or archetype. Now consider that the universe might have this personality.

The complete article

Sarah Perry — Ribbonfarm

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Survey breaks down researcher openness by discipline


Mathematicians and social scientists are the most likely to disclose results with others before publication.

The team found that the tendency to disclose before publication was not associated with the scientists’ gender or age, but with the specific field they worked in. Factors such as competition for funding and commercial relevance of the research explained most of the differences in sharing attitudes. Mathematicians tend to disclose more before publication because they view themselves as being in a fairly non-competitive environment, says Jerry Thursby. By contrast, biomedical scientists perceive their field as competitive, and are less likely to disclose.

The complete article

Giorgia Guglielmi — Nature

Do women really go for ‘bad boys’? Here’s the science that settles the question


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Women, do you agree?

And there may be all sorts of other reasons why some people end up dating “bad people”. They may be repeating patterns of behaviour they’ve become used to in past relationships or they may find the world of dating stressful and end up making bad decisions. Or they may simply have bought into myths of dating and behave accordingly. But, for the most part, the evidence suggests that both women and men prefer nice partners and are turned off by jerks.

The problem with the nice-guys-finish-last stereotype, aside from going against the grain of years of scientific evidence, is that it may compromise the possibility of forming meaningful relationships. Perpetuating this myth not only creates unhelpful expectations about how we should behave, but trying to live up to the myth can sometimes damage relationships.

The complete article

The Conversation

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These Twins, One Black and One White, Will Make You Rethink Race


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Modern science confirms “that the visible differences between peoples are accidents of history”—the result of mutations, migrations, natural selection, the isolation of some populations, and interbreeding among others, writes science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. They are not racial differences because the very concept of race—to quote DNA-sequencing pioneer Craig Venter—“has no genetic or scientific basis.”

And yet 50 years after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., racial identity has reemerged as a fundamental dividing line in our world.

How Stephen Hawking Reclaimed His Voice—and Helped Others Do the Same


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His success serves as a powerful example of how people and machines can work symbiotically to unleash human potential. We can empower people across the entire range of abilities to express their creativity and engage in intellectual pursuits. While humans have always used tools and technologies to enhance their abilities, new developments in areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and human-machine symbiosis can advance this goal far more effectively, more efficiently, and faster. This increases accessibility to people across the ability spectrum and geographical boundaries.

The complete article

SETHURAMAN PANCHANATHAN — Slate

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