Category Archives: academics

A prescient letter from 1969 about what would happen on campuses

Over at Heterodox Academy, you should have a look at this post by Jonathan Haidt (click on screenshot): Haidt’s thesis stems from his observation that many high profile American universities, like Yale, Brown, and Amherst, despite enacting strong policies “devoted to social justice and racial equality”, have been wracked with racial protests in the last […]

A visit with the Boss

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Andrew Berry and I went to visit my Ph.D. advisor, Dick Lewontin, who, at 88, recently moved himself and his wife Mary Jane into Cadbury Commons, an independent + assisted living facility not far from Harvard. When I was in his lab, all of his students called him “the Boss”. Dick […]

A public university is preparing to throw a massive natural history collection away to make more room for the track team

by Greg Mayer In a Washington Post piece by Sarah Kaplan, I learned of the following disaster– read this tweet, by John Overholt of Harvard University, and weep. A public university, @ULM_Official, is preparing to throw a massive natural history collection away to make more ro… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…— John Overholt (@john_overholt) March 29, 2017 And this […]

Happy birthday, Max Delbrück!

by Matthew Cobb As Jerry pointed out earlier, the scientist Max Delbrück was born 110 years ago today. Because many readers will never have heard of him, Jerry asked me to sketch his life. Here you are: Max Delbrück (1906-1981) was a key figure in the history of post-war genetics, pioneering the molecular investigation of […]

College Follies of the Day. Part 2. Florida professor forbids students from describing the U.S. as a “melting pot”

About a year ago the Daily Beast wrote a piece called “The University of Californa’s Insane Speech Police,” which described UC President Janet Napolitano’s “invitation” for deans and department heads in the UC system to attend a seminar on suppressing free speech “fostering inclusive excellence”. These seminars were held at 9 of the 10 University of […]

How far should academic freedom go?

To me, the issue of academic freedom is confluent with that of free speech, but their limits differ. My view is that free speech gives anyone, including academics, the right to say anything they want in public—unless that speech is meant to incite immediate violence or danger, or creates an atmosphere of harassment in the workplace. […]

Are there aliens? (Unedited TV pilot)

by Matthew Cobb Here are some links to a TV pilot I have made along with five scientific colleagues/friends – David Kirby (biologist and historian), Alastair Reynolds (astronomer and SF writer), Danielle George (radio engineer), Aravind Vijayaraghavan (nanotechnologist) and Sheena Cruickshank (immunologist) (all of us except Alastair are from the University of Manchester). The programmes […]

Caturday felid trifecta: a cat of negotiable affections, cat cafe closes because it ran out of cats, and cats in academia

I was going to call this cat, Nala, a “whorecat,” but then I realized I’d be cat-shaming, so I will call her “a cat of negotiable affections”: According to Distractify, Nala came home bearing this note: Transcript: I don’t know who this cat belongs to, but she comes visits us every few weeks. She’ll meow outside […]

Kevin J Connolly (1936-2015)

by Matthew Cobb One of the key relationships in academic life is that between a PhD student and their supervisor. If everything goes well, the supervisor is part mentor, part in loco parentis, and by the end of the process, when the thesis is written up and passed, supervisor and student have learned as much […]

Peter Boghossian on “the regressive left”

“The regressive left” is a term coined by Maajid Nawaz to refer to those leftists in bed with extreme Islamists. In this week’s “The Humanist Hour,” presented by the American Humanist Hour, philosopher Peter Boghossian talks, eloquently, about the regressive left and its attendant tropes (denigration of free speech, concepts of safe spaces, etc).  If […]