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Stories by Janet D. Stemwedel

Why does Thanksgiving dinner make you sleepy?

For years, you've heard the tremendous fatigue experienced after an American Thanksgiving dinner laid at the feet of the turkey -- or more precisely, blamed upon the tryptophan in that turkey...

November 23, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

More on #Womanspace: common suggestions and patient responses.

A few things people have suggested in the discussion of "Womanspace" on multiple blogs and social networking platforms: That the story does not advance any gendered stereotypes (or, it it does, that these are not negative stereotypes, or that they reflect most poorly upon the hapless men in the story rather than upon the highly competent woman)...

November 18, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Scientific authorship: guests, courtesy, contributions, and harms.

DrugMonkey asks, where's the harm in adding a "courtesy author" (also known as a "guest author") to the author line of a scientific paper?I think this question has interesting ethical dimensions, but before we get into those, we need to say a little bit about what's going on with authorship of scientific papers.I suppose there are possible worlds in which who is responsible for what in a scientific paper might not matter...

November 4, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

DonorsChoose #scibloggers4students: donate and set my blogging agenda.

You already know that the science-inclined precincts of the blogosphere are in the midst of Science Bloggers for Students 2011, in which we and DonorsChoose ask you to contribute funds to public school classroom projects which provide books, science kits, safety equipment and reagents, field trips, and other essentials to make learning come alive for students.You may also recall that the drive this year runs through October 22nd...

October 12, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

DonorsChoose #scibloggers4students: now occupying your social media.

A video communiqué from Science Bloggers for Students 2011:#scibloggers4students occupy your social media The drive runs through October 22, and a number of Scientific American blogs (Anthropology in Practice, The Artful Amoeba, Doing Good Science, EvoEcoLab, PsiVid, Science Sushi, The Thoughtful Animal, and The Urban Scientist .....

October 12, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Ada Lovelace and the Luddites.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day.If you are not a regular reader of my other blog, you may not know that I am a tremendous Luddite. I prefer hand-drawn histograms and flowcharts to anything I can make with a graphics program...

October 7, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Drawing the line between science and pseudo-science.

Recently, we've been discussing strategies for distinguishing sound science from attractively packaged snake-oil. It's worth noting that a fair number of scientists (and of non-scientists who are reasonably science-literate) are of the view that this is not a hard call to make -- that astrology, alternative therapies, ESP, and the other usual suspects fall on the wrong side of some bright line that divides what is scientific from what is not -- the clear line of demarcation that (scientists seem to assume) Karl Popper pointed out years ago, and that keeps the borders of science secure.
While I think a fair amount of non-science is so far from the presumptive border that we are well within our rights to just point at it and laugh, as a philosopher of science I need to go on the record as saying that right at the boundary, things are not so sharp...

October 4, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

What a scientist knows about science (or, the limits of expertise).

In a world where scientific knowledge might be useful in guiding decisions we make individually and collectively, one reason non-scientists might want to listen to scientists is that scientists are presumed to have the expertise to sort reliable knowledge claims from snake oil...

September 28, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

What the chlorite-iodide reaction taught me.

Since 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry, the good folks at CENtral Science are organizing a blog carnival on the theme, "Your favorite chemical reaction".My favorite chemical reaction is the chlorite-iodide reaction, and it's my favorite because of the life lessons it has taught me...

September 26, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel
Trust me, I’m a scientist.

Trust me, I’m a scientist.

In an earlier post, I described an ideal of the tribe of science that the focus of scientific discourse should be squarely on the content — the hypotheses scientists are working with, the empirical data they have amassed, the experimental strategies they have developed for getting more information about our world — rather than on [...]..

September 24, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

A brief rhyming interlude concerning responsible conduct of research.

I recently became aware, by way of the Tweet-o-sphere, that I am regarded by some as "the Dr. Seuss of science policy."I mentioned this compliment ( I think ) to the reliably hilarious SciCurious (who also blogs here), and she promptly produced this educational tale, which I post with her kind permission:The sun did not shineIn the laboratory that dayas we sat with our gelswatching bands slide awayI sat there with SallyWe stared at data, we twoAnd I said "How I wishthere was something we could do!"We have tried all our primersand tweaked all our bandsbut this data's not replicableat least in our handsSo all we could do was totry, try, try, tryusing all our free hoursfor our hypothesis run dryAnd then something went BUMP!How that bump made us jump!We looked,we saw him dart out from the -80 freezerand we saw him!Our old PI, that hairless old geezer!And he said to us,"why do you sit there and stare?"I know the data's badFundings not forthcomingBut there's things we can doWe can do data plumbing!"I know some good games we could play"said the guy."I know some old tricks"said that geezer PI."A lot of old tricks,to make your data like new.Other scientistswill not mind at all if I do"Then Sally and I Did not know what to sayFor no other PIs were in lab that day.But our tech said "no no!""Make him go away!...

August 31, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel
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The Essential Guide to the Modern World

The Essential Guide to the Modern World