Archive for February 29th, 2012

Personal chairs

[link] Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

So if we believe that students learn best by interacting in the classroom, why don’t university teaching rooms have these chairs?

Why I’ll be avoiding Pinterest

[link] Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

At last: someone twigs it.

A woman named Kristen decided to look into the legality of Pinterest. After all, she’s a lawyer with a passion for photography.

What she found scared her so much, she shut down her Pinterest boards entirely.

Kristen’s investigation began after she saw photographers complaining about copyright violations on Facebook. She wondered why Facebook could get in trouble for copyright violation and Pinterest couldn’t.

She browsed Pinterest’s Terms of Use section. In it she found Pinterest’s members are solely responsible for what they pin and repin. They must have explicit permission from the owner to post everything.

Those Fabulous Confabs

[link] Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Lovely Benjamin Wallace piece sending up the contemporary craze for high-minded talkfests.

The appeal is complex. For would-be world-savers enthralled by “the power of ideas,” these conferences are a stand-in for “a time when governments did shit, like put people on the moon,” per one curator. For even die-hard technologists, interacting via disembodied avatars gets old, and occasional 3-D mingling is refreshing. For a certain prosperous tier of the citizenry, the conferences serve as a higher-brow Learning Annex. But most simply, these events are about establishing and reinforcing new hierarchies. In a culture where social rank is ever more fluid, an entrepreneur who overnight goes from sleeping under his desk to IPO-ing into a billionaire needs a way to express his new status, stat. “We don’t have castles and noble titles, so how do you indicate you’re part of the elite?” as Andrew Zolli, PopTech’s executive director, puts it.

Thus the rise of a cohort of speakers and attendees who migrate along the same elite social-intellectual trade routes. Throw in Sundance and SXSW and Burning Man, and you get what Michael Hirschorn has called “the clusterfuckoisie,” tweeting at each other as they shuttle between events. This is so exactly the sort of thing that David Brooks lives to break down into one of his fictive comic-sociological characters that, in his latest book, The Social Animal, he describes Davos parties as “rings of interesting and insecure people desperately seeking entry into the realm of the placid and self-satisfied.” But Brooks is himself a leading citizen of the realm, having spoken at TED and, regularly, the Aspen Ideas Festival. For public intellectuals with books and brands to promote, the new conferences are force multipliers, unpaid gigs that offer intangible yields. “Obviously it’s not the money,” Brooks says. “For me, it’s the chance to get out of my political-pundit circle and meet people I wouldn’t otherwise meet. There are psychic rewards.”

Hmmm… Is it significant, I wonder, that in last year’s The Muppets movie, Scooter is updated to be a Google employee and TED attendee?

Climate change scepticism debunked

[link] Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Nice piece by William Nordhaus in the New York Review of Books.

One of the difficulties I found in examining the views of climate skeptics is that they are scattered widely in blogs, talks, and pamphlets. Then, I saw an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal of January 27, 2012, by a group of sixteen scientists, entitled “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.”

This is useful because it contains many of the standard criticisms in a succinct statement. The basic message of the article is that the globe is not warming, that dissident voices are being suppressed, and that delaying policies to slow climate change for fifty years will have no serious economic or environment consequences.

My response is primarily designed to correct their misleading description of my own research; but it also is directed more broadly at their attempt to discredit scientists and scientific research on climate change.

I have identified six key issues that are raised in the article, and I provide commentary about their substance and accuracy. They are:

• Is the planet in fact warming?

• Are human influences an important contributor to warming?

• Is carbon dioxide a pollutant?

• Are we seeing a regime of fear for skeptical climate scientists?

• Are the views of mainstream climate scientists driven primarily by the desire for financial gain?

• Is it true that more carbon dioxide and additional warming will be beneficial?

Nordhaus takes each of these in turn — and takes it apart. A really useful, synoptic piece.

So that’s why nobody is getting any work done…

[link] Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

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