Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lazy Linking: Wallace, Wikis and more

Some interesting articles to tide my readers over while I work on a conference paper (and not on blogging)...

There is a fantastic article in the NYT blogs about Alfred Russell Wallace (co-discoverer of natural selection, the mechanism of evolution). Olivia Judson, the author and an evolutionary biologist, laments that Wallace does not receive more recognition.

I am a longtime fan of Wikipedia and its founder Jimmy Wales. (I was extremely skeptical of Wikipedia - for elitist reasons - and always urged my students not to consult it until I read, of all things, a positive Economist article sometime during 2005 and decided to see for myself. I had to change my mind about a lot of things as a result). Anyway, as most of you will know, Wikipedia is a wiki, a type of software that allows collaborative editing that has been pretty controversial, especially since the fact that it can be edited by anyone immediately makes people suspect it is unreliable. So I was more than a little surprised (and now we come to the actual link!) that an august traditional media publication is giving (a very watered down) wiki model a try. Scientific American announced that (appropriately enough) they're conducting an experiment to see whether allowing readers to shape an article improves it. Again appropriately, the article in question is on "Science 2.0", or how blogs, wikis, and other Web 2.0 technologies are (possibly) going to revolutionize science. Now if only they were brave enough to allow people to edit the article themselves... (The article all on its own, by the way, would have been worth a link).

Francisco Ayala has an interesting editorial in PNAS in which he discusses the new National Academy of Sciences publication "Science, Evolution and Creation" (available as a pdf once you sign in). The publication is a significantly revised version of "Science and Creationsim: A View from the National Academy of Sciences".

The Neurocritic has a good blog entry on the fMRI study of ESP I also reported on.

There is a particularly interesting guest on this week's episode of Point of Inquiry: Aubrey de Grey, a controversial gerontologist committed to fighting aging in all its forms. (He was also a speaker at the TED conference). The reason I find him so fascinating is that I genuinely can't make up my mind about whether he's doing genuine (and good) science, or whether he's a crackpot. He certainly makes bold claims that raises some skeptical red flags - but he seems very scientifically minded. There is a MIT Technology Review article subtitled "Aubrey de Grey thinks he knows how to defeat aging. He's brilliant, but is he nuts?" that might help you make up your mind.

Lastly, Furious Seasons has a post about the effectiveness of current anti-depression therapies.

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