Monthly Archives: July 2012

Writing a thesis is like weaving on a loom

Writing a thesis is like weaving on a loom. The balls of wool and other material available are the data gathered from the literature, the research and thinking about the topic. The finished material is the thesis. The mechanics of weaving the material are like the processes of putting the thesis together. The raw materials […] … learn more→

Students crying in my office: Our future elite

Yesterday, Ariel Hsing, a sixteen-year-old American high school junior, was tied two games to two in the best of seven format against the number two ranked table tennis player in the world, Li Xiaoxia. Heading into the competition, Ariel was ranked in the mid-100’s in the world, not even expected to make the main draw […] … learn more→

In the Facebook era, students tell you everything

The impact of Facebook on the college classroom goes far beyond technological innovations and the ability to build relationships. It has led young people to publicly announce intimate personal details without thought of the consequences. And that style of communication has led to some very uncomfortable encounters between students and their professors. The first time […] … learn more→

University or business? Yale’s Singapore partnership violates human rights

Yale university’s decision to set up a liberal arts college at the National University of Singapore (NUS) while accepting Singapore’s restrictions on students’ rights to free speech and freedom of association is outrageous. Human rights organisations are rightly concerned. One group said in a statement that Yale is “betraying the spirit of the university as […] … learn more→

Emotional labor and ethical hiring practices in academia

We all know the score: despite the continued growth in post-graduate degrees, full-time, permanent positions in academia are increasingly rare. In 2009, part-time faculty members represented more than half of all faculty in teaching positions and only 30 percent of all faculty held tenure track positions. Certainly, to search for work in today’s over-saturated academic […] … learn more→

On tree rings, CO2 levels and the Pliocene

A study of tree-ring data recently found that in some regions temperatures during Roman times (21AD to 50AD) were 1.05 degrees Celsius higher than the 1951-1980 mean. The paper’s lead author, Professor Jan Esper of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, and his colleagues wrote that: “large-scale near-surface air-temperature reconstructions relying on tree-ring data may […] … learn more→

Future of California high-speed rail looks green

A new analysis gives Californians good reason to be optimistic about the green credentials of the state’s proposed high-speed rail project, due to begin construction in 2013 thanks to funding recently approved by state legislators. Arpad Horvath at the University of California, Berkeley, and Mikhail Chester at Arizona State University compared the future sustainability of […] … learn more→

Virtual community and physical space

Summer is the time when many faculty members vacate our shared campus space and retreat to home offices (or travel) to work. Most of us are still connected to our campuses through email and some of us are teaching online. Recent debates about the value of online education and the difference between virtual and physical […] … learn more→

A far-off solar system

Our solar system exhibits a remarkably orderly configuration: The eight planets orbit the sun much like runners on a track, circling in their respective lanes and always keeping within the same sprawling plane. In contrast, most exoplanets discovered in recent years — particularly the giants known as “hot Jupiters” — inhabit far more eccentric orbits. […] … learn more→

Weighing the environmental costs: buy an eReader, or a shelf of books?

Bookshelves towering floor to ceiling filled with weighty tomes, or one book-sized device holding hundreds of “books” in electronic form: which one of these options for the voracious reader creates the least damaging environmental footprint? There is no easy answer to the question, dependent as it is on personal environmental values and a reader’s reading […] … learn more→