Links: On Aaron Swartz, Nate Silver, Detroit, Grace in Teaching, A New Cancer Technology, Etc

Not sure if I will keep doing these links…perhaps will do them less frequently and with less annotation, since even this takes a surprising amount of time.

  • Harry Lewis on MIT’s response to Aaron Swartz, contrasting it with Harvard’s response to the cheating scandal. Note the importance of moral wisdom in universities. (And note how this is precisely the sort of wisdom that overzealous prosecutors did not show.)

  • An interesting article by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair about the prosecution of a programmer from the finance world. I won’t comment one way or the other besides saying that, as with the Swartz affair, there are lots of grays; extreme advocates of either side are often missing important points. But this certainly provides some interesting background on the case (even if I disagree at times with Lewis’s tone and the analysis he provides).

  • Francis Su on grace in teaching. This fits in with the professor-as-a-moral-force in Harry Lewis’s Excellence Without a Soul.

  • Take a look at this tumblr: Pictures of People Scanning QR-Codes. This is so great—I admit I’ve fallen for it twice in the past few months.

  • The Economist on Detroit

  • An excellent article by Matt Yglesias on Nate Silver. I’ve got much more to say about this sort of stuff, in future posts.

  • Anyone else like Jordan Ellenberg and me in terms of not understanding those how-to-swipe credit card diagrams? (Ditto for public transit tickets.) I should note that this aspect of spatial reasoning is very different from the quality of one’s sense of direction—I have an excellent sense of direction, but I’m really bad at this.

  • Renewing your passport in NY

  • On a new approach to fighting cancer

  • Unhappy Truckers and Other Algorithmic Problems An interesting bit suggesting that the human perceptual system automatically guides towards more optimal solutions to traveling-salesman type problems.

  • Patricia Marx is always fun—this time Workouts at the brain gym (paywall). A favorite sentence: “Similarly, a study of six-hundred and seventy-eight elderly nuns analyzed essays they’d written in their twenties and found that the sisters who had used the most linguistically complex sentences tended to have the lowest incidence of Alzheimer’s, which is why I’ve added this unnecessary subordinate clause even though it’s been a long time since I was in my twenties.”

  • On the Harvard report on the humanities

  • Matt Yglesias on a 99-year-old custodian

  • Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have four things by Matt Yglesias, but this on Nate Silver is important: On Nate Silver’s Election Forecasting Model. (I posted this a few weeks ago on my Facebook wall, where I added: “Can we stop with the Nate Silver qua Chuck Norris of prognostication jokes, already?” I also pointed out that one could make the same sort of argument about Yglesias, mutatis mutandis: most of the things Yglesias says follow naturally from understanding economics. It’s just that most members of our society, even the highly educated, are unaware of this. Just like Silver, Yglesias [whose writings I’m more familiar with] succeeds in part because he explains things very well. Of course, there’s also an aspect of judgment and analysis that goes beyond mere technical proficiency with economics; this, too, is part of what makes Yglesias so good—but is that so much to ask for from the world of journalism?)