Category Archives: academics

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 […]

More fragile student feelings: Christian students refuse to read Duke’s summer-assignment novel because (horrors) it deals with lesbians and other touchy subjects

Well, here we have another ludicrous reaction of college students to their academic assignments, refusing to engage because the assignment might bruise their tender feelings. It so happens that Duke University assigns first-year students a book to read in the summer before they begin college. It’s a common practice in U.S. universities, and a good […]

On the hair-trigger sensitivity of today’s college students, and how to fix it

The cover story for the September issue of The Atlantic is a curious one, a long one, and well worth a read. “The coddling of the American mind” has two authors, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. Lukianoff is president of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), and has done great work trying to […]

Dissertations for sale!

Being in academics all my life, I’ve of course heard of people who would, for a fee, do research for your undergraduate papers, or even write them for you. In fact, there are even sleazy online companies that sell pre-written papers on a diversity of topics. Pay your money, do no work, and you might […]