Monday, July 23, 2018

17th Century Science Ciphers

Did you know? It was common in the 17th Century for scientists to publish cipher-versions of early findings, so as to establish priority in the discovery. (Something of an early, public-encrypted arXiv, as it were.) Huygens wrote in 1668:
a way of securing his discoveries and inventions for the future by way of cypher or anagram, to be lodged in the Register-book of the society, till he should think it convenient to explain them in a common language; making withal a beginning of this way of communicating new discoveries by sending the following cypher; which was ordered to be entered into the Register-book.

Stack Exchange: Skeptics.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Oxford: Likely Alone in Universe

A new assessment from Oxford University finds it quite likely that humans are alone in the universe:
Our main result is to show that proper treatment of scientific uncertainties dissolves the Fermi paradox by showing that it is not at all unlikely ex ante for us to be alone in the Milky Way, or in the observable universe.

Our second result is to show that, taking account of observational bounds on the prevalence of other civilizations, our updated probabilities suggest that there is a substantial probability that we are alone.
Fortune.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Gates Foundation Considered Harmful

Independent assessment of the Gates Foundation's intervention in the last decade, to the tune of $575 million, shows it not just to be wasteful, but even actively damaging:
Laudable as the intention may have been, it didn’t work. As the independent assessment, produced by the Rand Corporation, put it: “The initiative did not achieve its goals for student achievement or graduation,” particularly for low-income minority students. The report, however, stops short of drawing what I see as the more important conclusion: The approach that the Gates program epitomizes has actually done damage. It has unfairly ruined careers, driving teachers out of the profession amid a nationwide shortage. And its flawed use of metrics has undermined science.

Cathy O'Neil at Bloomberg.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Growth Mindset Found Lacking

Large-scale meta-study at Michigan State finds that the "growth mindset" intervention that's been all the rage for the last few years doesn't actually accomplish much:
"This research is important because millions of dollars have been spent on growth mindset interventions in schools," said Alex Burgoyne, a Ph.D. student studying cognition and cognitive neuroscience. "Our results show that the academic benefits of these interventions have been largely overstated. For example, there was little to no effect of mindset interventions on academic achievement for typical students, or for other groups who some have claimed benefit substantially from these interventions, including students facing situational challenges, such as transitioning to a new school."
Medical Xpress.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Illustration of Platonic Solids

A very nice illustration of why there are only 5 regular polyhedra (Platonic solids), by Martin Holtham on Twitter:

Monday, March 19, 2018

Stop Grading on a Curve in New York Times

By Adam Grant in The New York Times, two years ago:
The more important argument against grade curves is that they create an atmosphere that’s toxic by pitting students against one another. At best, it creates a hypercompetitive culture, and at worst, it sends students the message that the world is a zero-sum game: Your success means my failure.
The New York Times