Archive for June, 2007

Oh! No!

June 30, 2007

We have just found out to our deep regret that the ‘submit a link’ script hasn’t been working for the last few days since we migrated our server. This is heartbreaking since I know a lot of you have submitted links. At this point, we can promise to post links as quickly as humanly possible, so we request that you please submit them again.

Homo Urbanis and Statistics Porn

June 27, 2007

Hans Rosling’s video debunking developing-world myths is our feature this week. From the get-go, he challenges widely held assumptions about policies and what it means to be in a developing nation. In this talk, he uses fantastic visualization methods to illuminate concepts that would otherwise be lost in a sea of data. His passion for what he does is infectious and his facility with the presentation is like nothing else. If you only watch one thing this week, let it be this.

There’s nothing new about the notion of ours becoming an urban species, and the trends that are appearing are fascinating. UN data says that the milestone of more than half of all humans living in cities is happening right . . . now.

Stewart Brand suggests that this is a kind of tipping point. He also says that squatter cities are a good thing and gives some very surprising reasons why. His controversial talk is only three minutes long:

Admittedly, clocking in at three minutes and seventeen seconds, the talk’s hugely oversimplifying a complex problem, but the ideas it introduces are worth consideration. He gives an hour-long talk on the same topic with much more background in this video:

To balance his side of the story, in Mike Davis’ set of three interviews, he draws completely different conclusions. Brand says that they were looking at the same data, but that Davis left out anything positive and Brand suspects that he’s doing the same thing, but leaving out the negatives.

Here are Davis’ videos – it’s one interview that’s been split up into three.

Same data, drastically different interpretations. One a message of hope. One a message of devastation. One expected, the other surprising. Would love to hear your comments!

Thanks everyone for a terrific first week!


Hi Everybody and Welcome to Scitalks!

June 9, 2007

Scitalks is the brainchild of Sam Bogoch. He realized that his wife, Ann Senghas, a psychology professor at Barnard, needed an appropriate place to upload and post lectures on emerging sign languages.

Sam’s one of those people who makes things happen. Scitalks happened.

Scitalks is important and needed. In the general trend toward democratizing education, we hope that it can become an important tool for educators, home schoolers and those who are wanting to educate themselves.

In another context, science’s credibility is at the heart of a conflict where the opponent is well funded and well organized. We’re a society trained to sound-bites. Our critical thinking skills are eroding. Scientific thought is by its very nature complex and challenging to communicate to the general public. Most universities aren’t up to the task and the scientists themselves are involved in a system where the public is at the bottom of the list of the masters they must satisfy if they want to remain in research. They must publish or perish, and peer review is where they publish.

Yet there is no one else who can better convey the necessity, drama and passion of their work than the scientists themselves.

When I was first asked to come on board, I went to the site and saw immediately that if I wasn’t careful, just hanging out on the site would consume all of my time. The Feynman lectures alone are priceless. This is mind-candy at it’s most habit-forming. If your interest is science, raw and authentic, there’s something here for you.

The task ahead of us is, in one sense, curatorial. We are collecting the pearls of our civilization. We encourage universities and scientists to give us their links and videos to catalog and care for. We have dreams for the site, but also know that your dreams and suggestions will likely shape it more than ours from now on. We want to hear from you. We would love your help.


Lee Vodra
June 9, 2007