Friday, April 21, 2006

Notes and Links

* Liz Gross's Scientific Illiteracy and the Partisan Takeover of Science at PLoS Biology has received some discussion in the blogosphere, and is well worth reading.

* Coturnix has a great post on science blogging. It's possible to claim too much for blogging, but I think science blogging does have the potential to provide a partial remedy for scientific illiteracy. The fundamental problem with scientific illiteracy, it seems to me, is that the overwhelming majority of us don't have any significant scientific instruction beyond high school -- and, let's face it, it doesn't stick without periodic reinforcement. Moreover, scientific literacy, far more than other kinds of literacy, dates quickly. The full solution to this, I think, would be to develop a widespread culture favorable to adult education, and the institutions and mechanisms to make ongoing education genuinely feasible for most people. But science blogging can help, I think, by giving people more exposure to actual scientific work or, even failing that, to the people who are doing the actual scientific work in a field.

* In reading Terms & Conditions for a Yahoo! service recently, I discovered that it is explicitly a violation of those terms & conditions to use Yahoo! software to run a nuclear facility. I mention it in case any of my readers might ever be in a position in which they will be tempted to run a nuclear facility with Yahoo! software.

* The MLA's Language Map is quite a neat little resource. It's a bit slow, but it's a lot of fun to play around with. It shows just how linguistically diverse the United States is (an article at Inside Higher Ed says that it shows the U.S. to be, with the exception of Papua New Guinea, the most linguistically diverse country in the world).

* I found Robert KC Johnson's discussion of constitutional interpretation at "Cliopatria" to be fascinating. Like Johnson, I'm attracted to Kyvig's proposal: it gives us a layered constitution, without turning it into a wax nose. On this view, the layers are:

Original Constitution
Bill of Rights (Amendments 1-10)
Reconstruction (Amendments 13-15)
Progressive Era (Amendments 16-19)

(The amendments that are not emphasized in this way of conceiving it are [11] restricting the federal judicial power (1795); [12] modifying the process for Presidential elections (1803); [20] modifying the election process (1933); [21] repealing the Prohibition Amendment (1933); [22] restricting Presidential terms (1951); [23] granting D.C. electors (1961); [24] preventing tax restrictions on the right to vote (1964); [25] establishing the Presidential succession (1967); [26] extending right to vote to anyone over 18 (1971); [27] on the compensation of members of Congress (1992). A more refined account would consider these as well; but it's noteworthy that most of these don't have to do with rights but with structures and processes.)

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