Thursday, April 8, 2010

Notes for April 8th

  • If you artificially 'rank' the sciences, with hard sciences (physics, chemistry) up top and soft sciences (social sciences) down low, then it turns out that 'positive' results occur more frequently in the softer sciences.  The author of that PLoS study believes this is due to "the nature of hypotheses tested and the logical and methodological rigour employed to test them".  In other words:  Softer sciences are less scientific.  I don't necessarily disagree, but I don't think that's the only way to interpret these results.  It is equally possible that the value of negative results in the social sciences is simply less.  In physics, if you overturn an assumed hypothesis, your result is vitally important to many other researchers (because all physics is tied together mechanistically), and therefore they will not hesitate to value that publication.  In the social sciences, the topics of interest seem much more dispersed.  If you refute a hypothesis about the value of good breakfasts to school children's participation in after-school activities, a fellow researcher looking at whether voting patterns are related to home values isn't going to really value your 'no result'.  I've heard many stories of elaborate social science experiments that were simply shelved when the results were negative, I've not heard those stories about physics research.  
  • Northern and southern rhinos are actually 2 species.  As opposed to sub-species, as previously presumed.
  • I really want to go to this museum.
  • Probably the biggest story of the day week year?  is the discovery of a new hominid.  And of course, a 9-year old found it.
  • I won't lie to you, I only clicked on this article for the title.  But hey, those are some pretty interesting tits!

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