Re: Scrolling so smooth, like the butter on the muffin

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It seems like they could have changed the default back to paginated search results, but added an option to allow users to turn on infinite scroll if they wanted to. (Although maybe they did an A/B test on this and it also failed.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:25 AM
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The trouble with infinite scrolling is that you can't reliably read the whole list. Sure, the first few hundred items load OK, but eventually it breaks. With a paged list you're OK: you can carry on reading from page 10 or whatever. But with an infinite scrolling list you're stuck. All you can do is start at the top again and hope you get a bit further before it breaks.

For example, how do you read all of someone's answers on Quora?


Posted by: Gareth Rees | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:44 AM
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I find pages helpful in telling me how far into a thing I have gone (especially if there's some sort of page marker hidden in the URL gobbledygook). Infinite scrolling makes it easier to lose my place if I want to jump around a bit, which I do a lot. With pagination you just remember the page you were on and jump back and forth with gay abandon.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:36 AM
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I don't like infinite scrolling because it means the task of reading a web page is never done, and thus allows the internet to suck yet more minutes from my life.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:38 AM
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The only thing worse than infinite scrolling is Netflix's (vastly improved but still shitty) interface.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:03 AM
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True, I like pagination on some things, when I want to keep track of how far I've gone. But I like to be able to pick 96 items per page, or 300 items per page, or whatever.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:19 AM
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Infinite scrolling is where Clay defeats Shirky over and over again forever between facing mirrors.

No seriously, infinite scrolling is a nice mode of browsing (where users want to just look at what's available) rather than search (where you have a goal). Myself, when I start with some broad category, I like interfaces that suggest a cloud of additional terms to refine the initial exploratory query. People who are more visually rather than verbally oriented might like it, good lunck finding one of those here.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:21 AM
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But I like to be able to pick 96 items per page, or 300 items per page, or whatever.

Something that accomplishes both assumed desiderata mentioned in the linked post: getting more results and getting results faster. Even if users did want both those things, it's a further step to think "and infinite scroll is the way to do it".

Infinite scrolling also makes it impossible to link to a particular place in the results stream, AFAICT.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:22 AM
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The most annoying thing about infinite scrolling is that if you scroll for a long time and then click on something, and then go back to the previous page, you usually have to scroll all the way back to where you were.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:25 AM
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The most annoying thing about infinite scrolling is that if you scroll for a long time and then click on something, and then go back to the previous page, you usually have to scroll all the way back to where you were.

This is brought up in the linked post.

Generally speaking I don't like infinite scroll, although it works better in fields where the algorithms are pretty poor at ranking results appropriately - eg image search. Partly my dislike is visceral - there's something wrong about a page that seems to have an end and then just keeps expanding downward. Either spread it across multiple pages or show everything at once. But it's also for the various practical reasons mentioned already to do with naviation.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:35 AM
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although it works better in fields where the algorithms are pretty poor at ranking results appropriately

I like it on Facebook.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:59 AM
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I mean, I would, if I didn't hate Facebook.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:59 AM
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This is brought up in the linked post.

I read the OP, now I'm supposed to follow the links too?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 10:00 AM
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Speaking of the difficulty of searching one's Otherplace feed, who was that person working on a book about the authoritarian technological swing in the early history of telephony? Is it out yet?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 10:25 AM
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14: If you're thinking of this, his faculty page says the book is done and ready to be published this year.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 10:50 AM
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Yes, thanks.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 10:53 AM
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I sort of tolerate it on something like Twitter, but hopefully the novelty will wear off soon and it will be used only where appropriate.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:01 AM
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14, 15: that looks like it'll make an interesting counterpoint to this book, which made the case for the (monopolistic) Bell System as an enabler of a kind of corporate support of innovation that isn't really possible in a less stable startup kind of environment. (Which is definitely not a thesis I would in a million years have thought was supportable, making it extra interesting to me, at least.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:07 AM
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I don't really like infinite scrolling beyond the firt few steps towards infinity but I tolerate it because what else am I going to do?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:10 AM
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18: I have zero confidence in any assessment of the way the counterfactuals cut for something like that. It all happens in a cultural milieu that extends far beyond that of the specific actors described (and I don't know, the book probably/maybe goes into that). But I sill find things like that to often be decent reads if you compensate for the author's particular conceit (unless the ratio of polemic to meat is too big).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:15 AM
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I thought the book was very interesting. The central premise, which I found hard to refute, is that the way Bell Labs was set up allowed really talented researchers the resources to work in a sort of middle ground between basic research and applications that promoted different kinds of breakthroughs than you would get in either an academic setting or in a startup environment (in the former case because you tend not to have the resources and in the latter case because your time windows are too short).

It is certainly undeniable that an astounding number of really pivotal inventions came out of Bell Labs.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:21 AM
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21: How does that environment compare to Google? Without a monopoly, my impression is that their high profits seem to have allowed a similar environment.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:23 AM
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Environment, environment. Sometimes I wish I didn't write like an idiot.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:25 AM
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Well, what he says in the book (and what I've heard independently from people who've been around) is that no company since the breakup has come remotely close to the level of resources AT&T put into research. Not Xerox PARC, not Microsoft Research, not Google. Bell Labs would let somebody like Claude Shannon spend basically decades just fucking around with whatever he wanted, and then also had the resources to completely revolutionize materials science in the interest of making a practical transistor.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:28 AM
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Some people say idiocy is nearly all genetic and doesn't really involve the environment much. I don't buy that either.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:28 AM
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Book just ordered.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:29 AM
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21: Yes, and that was certainly the general sense of the day in the '60s/70s--and I pretty much believe it as well*. But I don't put much credence in my belief that it was better than a more fragmented alternative when I look at it at all critically.

*Fucking microwave background radiation, for God's sake. Much less stuff like Unix and C.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:32 AM
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25: Right. This to that.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:34 AM
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Fucking microwave background radiation, for God's sake. Much less stuff like Unix and C.
Pales in comparison to Shannon and information theory, as Tweets mentioned.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:35 AM
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27: well, right, that's pretty much where I ended up. What they did was astounding, but then I know personally how fucking ossified and terrible the Bell System was towards the end of the line, and of course a big piece of the puzzle (in preserving the monopoly, and in guiding research directions) was the Cold War. And as compelling a case as he makes, there's an equally compelling case to be made for the astounding innovative leaps that have been made in technology since the dawn of the startup era. But it was interesting to me (since I'm so steeped in the latter framework) to consider the ways in which that model actually did work very well for a time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:38 AM
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Oh, great. Now I have to add the Bell system book to the list of books I'll probably buy and have sit around somewhere unread for years even though I really want to read it or at least have convinced myself I do.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:50 AM
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sit around somewhere unread for years even though I really want to read it or at least have convinced myself I do.

We can trade. You read Postwar and I'll read the Bell Systems book.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:51 AM
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I'll read the Bell Systems book

It's very well organized, but there is no plot to speak of.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:52 AM
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This article is highly relevant to this discussion, I think. Also highly relevant to the "constant rate of change in fashion" post.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 12:48 PM
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Although tbs it's written in signature "Indonesia: At a Crossroads" style.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 12:49 PM
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This Bell stuff has a lot of congruence with something I heard from a neuroscience-PhD friend, that there's a sort of "valley of death" (no longer a term exclusive to pharma development), not basic enough for universities and not profitable enough for private R&D, now that most of the low-hanging fruit of straightforward applications of various scientific breakthroughs has been plucked.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 12:51 PM
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It is certainly undeniable that an astounding number of really pivotal inventions came out of Bell Labs.

Plus a lot of basic research -- including theoretical, not just experimental, work. It was basically the home of condensed matter physics for a long time.

29: Really? For applications, sure, but dude: the Big Bang was a prett big deal.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 12:54 PM
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the Big Bang was a pretty big deal.

Well, at the time, yeah.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 12:58 PM
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Anyhow I can't speak for physics but some fairly surprising corners of science turn out to have been attempts to grapple with what information theory meant in other realms.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:02 PM
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Although come to think of it, the concept of informational entropy has been pretty productive in physics too, right?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:03 PM
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the Big Bang was a prett big deal
Mere happenstance.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:05 PM
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And, yeah, information theory has more than just practical implications. It's also possible I was trolling a little.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:07 PM
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Yeah, of course, information theory is useful and awesome. But dude: they found light that had been floating through the universe undisturbed for 14 billion years! What's more awesome than that?

I guess I tend to always value experimental findings more than theoretical ones.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:09 PM
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they found light that had been floating through the universe undisturbed for 14 billion years!

Did that light in any way help create a massive global distribution network for free pornography?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:14 PM
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Because if so I'd be fascinated to hear about it, frankly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:14 PM
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light that had been floating through the universe undisturbed for 14 billion years

Then they used the light for Drew Carey's colonoscopy because fuck a ton of the majesty of the universe.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:16 PM
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40. Sure, but that predates Shannon.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:23 PM
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What the fuck is so awesome about information theory? I've been hearing people spout off about how awesome information theory is for ever and ever, without ever documenting this awesomeness.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:24 PM
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Because it's like the computer science major except the dumb kids can pass it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:25 PM
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they found light that had been floating through the universe undisturbed for 14 billion years!

And what did those arrogant scientists do to that light? They disturbed it! Fuckers.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:28 PM
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But dude: they found light that had been floating through the universe undisturbed for 14 billion years! What's more awesome than that?

If they'd found it had been floating through the universe undisturbed for 15 billion years!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:44 PM
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47: huh?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 1:58 PM
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(That is, am I missing something? Was there some concept of informational entropy that existed before Shannon?)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:01 PM
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log of number of accesible states was Boltzmann. Partition function and measure of physical disorder since at least the 1930s. The idea of extending this to signal processing was due to Shannon.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:12 PM
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Hm. Well, I am unsure enough about what exactly I was talking about in 40 that I won't pursue the point, but I feel like maybe we are talking about different things.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:16 PM
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Szilárd's and Brillouin's treatment of Maxwell's Demon in 1929.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:18 PM
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Right but it wasn't clear that was about informational entropy for another thirty years or whatever, was it?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:20 PM
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57: Not actually sure...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:24 PM
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But yeah, the real connection and sorting out came in the '60s by the dude whose name I can never remember--Wikipedia says Landauer*.

*Who per this whole subthread was at IBM. IBM labs not Bell, but also did some pretty basic stuff.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:37 PM
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Kolmogorov's 1933 paper had the connection. Shannon was brilliant. I don't know how widely understood the potential generalizability of a measure of physical order was, but the foundations definitely preceded Shannon. The physicists were thinking about new systems rather than signal processing and scope extension or methodological improvement.

I found Jaynes a lot easier to read, don't know who Shannon cited.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:39 PM
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Is it weird that my overwhelming first impression at La Brea is "smells like Santa Barbara"?

I'll join the entropy discussion later if it's still a thing.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:40 PM
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37.3: I've been to ask somebody this for a long time -- is the line "Arno, you've put a thermometer into the rectum of the universe!" part of known science lore?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:43 PM
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Boy, tough crowd. I think it's pretty neat to discover that the same logic governs ensembles of classical particles, communication, data storage, compression, card shuffling, etc.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:44 PM
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62: Please insert "meaning" after "been".


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:45 PM
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My first thought when someone says Pasadena is Idi Amin-ah.

(I'm not kidding, there's some rap song from the 90s where he says "Pasadena, know what I mean-ah?" and my brain heard "Idi Amin -ah" and it stuck.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:46 PM
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60: I guess I don't know the history well enough. Was Shannon's theory really just a new application of the well-understood logic of statistical thermodynamics? It's my impression that Shannon gave us better insight, that is, not so much an extension as a better theoretical foundation.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:48 PM
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I feel like I should know something about information theory after my last graduate program but it was pretty much never mentioned at all anywhere.

I bought the Kindle version of the Gleick book to read on my computer and barely read it. Then after I got a Nook I bought the Gleick book in print. I've read more of the print version so far.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 2:58 PM
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I want to keep the entropy discussion going to essear will participate but I don't actually have anything informative to say.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 5:16 PM
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68: Heh, I was about to post the same thing.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 5:53 PM
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I really should be reading these grad school applications, though. Here's someone who will contribute diversity through his collection of computer mice and mousepads!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 5:56 PM
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I mean, I guess it would contribute diversity. No one else is offering that.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:03 PM
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I'm not great on the history but I don't think Shannon's definition of entropy added much-- Boltzmann, Gibbs, and (for quantum mechanics) von Neumann were basically playing with the same thing. So I think Shannon's contribution was more in applying it in different ways than in coming up with a fundamentally different concept of entropy.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:06 PM
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You know who else was interested in computer mice?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:10 PM
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"I am also look/ing forw/ard to get to k/now the cult/ure of USA, the coun/try of Stein/beck and
Hemi/ngway, Brauti/gan and Ayn Ra/nd, Ke/zey and Von/negut."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:29 PM
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Wait is this the same as the mousepad person?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:30 PM
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Young Kezey!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:31 PM
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No, totally different. God, I love reading these things. Aside from the sheer number of them to go through, I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to be on this committee, because these essays are like a parade of awesomeness.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:31 PM
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Boy, there sure are people on the internet who collect mousepads. Here's how!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:52 PM
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I bet the mousepad I have is pretty darn collectible, come to think of it. It got pretty dirty, though, before I stopped using it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:53 PM
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Every ouzel mousepad


Posted by: Robert abalone | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:55 PM
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Banal Mousepad(s) of the Day Posted on January 19, 2011 by Padder

Hooray for blogging!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:57 PM
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Sadly, the virtual mousepad museum is no more. There's an interview with the creator of the virtual mousepad museum that explains what happened, but I don't think I'll link to it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:58 PM
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I'm out and about so my lack of knowing anything unaided shows through, but I believe that Shannon's did not at all start from the physics perspective, but was building on the work of folks like Nyquist on time series and sampling from the 20s and "arrived" at the entropy. That said, I have no idea when that was relative to publishing the theory. Likewise, despite after the fact recognition of the physics "precursors" I do not believe any of those efforts were really moving in the direction of where Shannon ended up*. I rate Shannon's stuff right up there as among the greatest of it's time.

I was almost certainly being overly glib with my Maxwell's Demon stuff.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 6:59 PM
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essear I think you should argue strongly for that candidate's admission if he (it's a he, yeah? It's a he) has THE HOLY GRAIL OF MOUSEPADS.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:01 PM
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83: well but what I was getting as was that my impression was that Shannon's work had then lead to productive insights back over in physics-land; that what he wrote inspired people to conceptualize thermodynamic entropy (or maybe entropy drawn more broadly) in a different way, and that was interesting for work on, just to say something, black holes, maybe.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:03 PM
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85: Agree completely. My comment was not really directed at anything you had said.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:08 PM
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I had a disastrous weekend making mousepads so it's time for an off-topic post.

There are some really low-probability sentences out there in the world.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:12 PM
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86: oh no I didn't think so; I just thought your claims in 83 were likely to be thoroughly unobjectionable, and I wanted to separate out my claims, which are far more likely to be totally wrong.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:14 PM
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what


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:16 PM
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Re above:

The Japanese seem to have cornered the market for what I like to call "transgressive mousepads". I'm not talking about a mousepad with a racy saying or a soft-core image. I'm talking about mousepads that encourage tactile participation. Want to establish your image as a creepy groper? Let that girl you finally lured back to your apartment get a load of this little number. Scuzz-factor five, Mr. Sulu!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:17 PM
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No! I reserve the right to be more naively wrong!

My phone just auto-corrected a search for 'negentropy' to 'begrudging'.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:18 PM
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89 is not what I expected, on any axis of expectation.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:19 PM
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it certainly is transgressive!


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:20 PM
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I just wouldn't even feel comfortable talking to Sulu about that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:21 PM
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The link in 84 is making me have emotions, but I'm not totally sure what they are.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:24 PM
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The first mousepad was invented in 1969. I don't know where that mousepad is now, but I sure wish I had it! I would guess that the closer you could reliably date a mousepad to 1969, the more intrinsic value it would have as a collectible, based on it's age alone. However, there are some caveats even to that statement. Would a perfectly blank pad purported to be from 1971 be collectible? Only if the provenance (thank you, Antiques Road Show!) was iron clad, I'd say.

Antiques Roadshow, if you tell me this blank rectangle of fabric-covered rubber is from 1974 it had FUCKING WELL BETTER BE FROM 1974.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:27 PM
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Architecture is another one of my design-related loves. Although I once shared an elevator with I.M. Pei, it is at the altar of Frank Lloyd Wright where I do my worship. I won't even attempt to tackle his life and work in a post like this. Suffice it to say he was a one-of-a-kind architect and designer. My wife and I own three collector plates of his design. Wright died before the advent of the mousepad, but his designs look like they were made for the medium.

I want to spend forever at this site.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:30 PM
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Oops shoulda closed the blockquote.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:30 PM
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what he wrote inspired people to conceptualize thermodynamic entropy (or maybe entropy drawn more broadly) in a different way, and that was interesting for work on, just to say something, black holes, maybe.

This is definitely true. Black hole information is deep and interesting and seems to drive really smart people to say really batshit things sometimes.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:32 PM
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who the hell clad this mousepad in iron? you've RUINED its intrinsic value!


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:32 PM
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But mousepads are way more interesting than black holes. Unless someone in Japan made a black hole mousepad.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:34 PM
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100: now, if they're made that way, that's a different story:

I've seen mousepads made out of a variety of materials ranging from paper to wood to exotic, static-free foam. This is the first time I've ever seen ones made out of metal! Just check out these statistics on these bad boys

Yes, do let's check out these statistics on these bad boys.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:35 PM
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I was looking for community and I couldn't find it. Eventually a light bulb in the shape of a mouse pad appeared over my head and flickered on: "Hello, Mrs. Necessity. Can Invention come out to play?"

Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:35 PM
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103: NEW MOUSEOVER, BY GOD.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:38 PM
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Back-to-back, I've encountered an essay on how the major step in the person's intellectual development was moving from asking "why" questions to "how" questions, then one on how the more you ask "why" the deeper the things you learn become. The latter, of course, attributes this notion to Richard Feynman, the patron saint of physics-grad-school essay writers.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:39 PM
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101: heyoh!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:39 PM
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Oh, I just encountered the elusive "[X] is articulate and personable, and works well with others" letter of recommendation. That makes my job easy.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:43 PM
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If I ever write a physics grad school application essay it's going to be all about how Murray Gell-Mann was my favorite Murray as a kid, but then eventually I realized there weren't actually very many famous Murrays to choose from, especially if you don't count F. Murray Abraham, but even if you do, but actually Murray Gell-Mann is pretty terrific anyhow, because he taught me about life.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:45 PM
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109

Because, shit, doesn't sound like it'd be any worse than average.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:45 PM
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110

Ooh it's a student whose email address is a Lord of the Rings reference! I love these things.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:47 PM
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111

108: Your favorite Murray doesn't even make Wikipedia's list.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:50 PM
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112

God, Dio era Sabbath is just so great in the car. You should make the students


Posted by: Robert abalone | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:51 PM
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113

You okay, Robert?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:53 PM
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111: America has a serious lack of famous Murrays, I'm saying. I hadn't thought of Murray Leinster before, though. That's a good one.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:54 PM
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111: Is Murray Lender on the list? Because Yglesias says he was the savior of capitalism or something.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:56 PM
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Yes, even n traffic like this I shouldn't try and comment. I do love the Halford/abalone autocorrect though


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:56 PM
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117

Also if you're anywhere near 4th and Hill you should totes stop reading those applications and come out for a drink.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:58 PM
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118

Is there any other part of physics where you have to say more about yourself than: I am interested in the behaviour of Floozits under Whizbang conditions?

Because it seems pretty cruel/hilarious to force post-grad applications to include personal statements by these people, many of whom, let's be honest, appear at best to have no personality.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 7:59 PM
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119

More importantly, Keir, why does NZ have so many famous people named Murray?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 8:00 PM
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120

Scottish influence? Also man Murray McCully, Murray Deaker, Murray Mexted dear god shoot me now.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 8:05 PM
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121

I didn't think anything could top the popcorn maker thread, but the mousepad stuff here comes close.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 8:06 PM
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122

I dreamed I created a collectible mousepad in my maidenform bra.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 8:12 PM
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123

103 really would make a great mouseover.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 8:16 PM
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124

Out-of-context quote from a letter of recommendation: "I was shocked by his wearing so little clothes".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:12 PM
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125

While teaching?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:19 PM
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126

While running in the snow. Apparently this shows the sort of physical strength that is so crucial in a career in research.

Another one waxes rhapsodic about his goal of being a philanthropist.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:22 PM
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117: Sorry, I'll have to come back here sometime for a proper vacation and have a meetup. This morning / early afternoon I covered a lot of ground on foot and public transit and concluded that LA's pretty alright by me.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:24 PM
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128

Another one waxes rhapsodic about his goal of being a philanthropist.

Does he have some sort of plan for how a graduate degree in physics is going to contribute to this goal?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:24 PM
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128: Not really. There's some kind of discussion of an entrepeneurship competition he participated in where he met lots of passionate people, and his passion is in physics, but there seems to be kind of a logical disconnect there.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:24 PM
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130

He can follow the Linus Van Pelt plan, to become a philanthropist with someone else's money. Or he could become a quant.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:26 PM
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131

Or he could become a quant.

I think that's the secret ambition of a fair number of these people.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:30 PM
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132

Have you considered selling equations on Etsy?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:31 PM
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That's a valiant attempt to re-rail the thread, Moby.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:32 PM
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132: It's been done.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:36 PM
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Does he have some sort of plan for how a graduate degree in physics is going to contribute to this goal?

Cold fusion. Duh.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:38 PM
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127 -- it's ok, I was going to lure you as support for drinks with some friendquaintances. Somebody started making increasingly awful "tranny" jokes, I got drunk, threatened violence, and left. Good times. Ronny James Dio RIP.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 9:59 PM
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Somehow I am inordinately amused by a student's discussion of their "study abroad" experience in Canada.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:05 PM
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I'd say any amusement at that is pretty ordinate.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:07 PM
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ANY amusement?!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:27 PM
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Well, maybe if they spent all their time volunteering at a homeless shelter or something that wouldn't be ordinately amusing.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:29 PM
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I mean, it is, supposedly, a different country, and it does have a marginally different culture. (But then, one can find significantly different cultures within the US, too.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:30 PM
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But if it's all about how they learned that other countries are really, like, different, man, then yeah, any amusement is ordinate.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:30 PM
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143

maybe if they spent all their time volunteering at a homeless shelter

I got one of those in an application too! They were a student in Pakistan and they spend a semester abroad in Montana where they volunteered at a homeless shelter.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:30 PM
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Like, their potato chip flavors are all different! And they spell flavor with a "u"!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:31 PM
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They expressed some dismay at the limited course offerings available in whichever Montanan university it was.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:31 PM
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They put a long 'o' in "progress"!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:32 PM
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143: Whoa. That's, uh, unexpected.

145: That's less surprising. (Sorry, Charley.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:32 PM
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I bet we could enumerate every US/Canada cultural difference in the course of a single thread.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:32 PM
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Whereas, say, Massachusetts/Alabama cultural differences would require volumes.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:33 PM
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Maybe Emerson will make an appearance to discuss the different attitudes toward bears.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:33 PM
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Surely, teo, there is a quantity of amusement essear might conceivably have derived from that application which is not ordinate. Surely.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:38 PM
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Perhaps in theory, but as a man of action rather than a philosopher I don't concern myself much with such improbable possibilities.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-11-13 11:39 PM
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(Since we're apparently all about explaining jokes now, I'll note that the one in 152 is that I am of course not a man of action by any reasonable standard.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-13 12:03 AM
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If we're all about explaining jokes now, can someone help me out with this one?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-12-13 12:19 AM
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Here.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-12-13 12:22 AM
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To go the full Standpipe: I read it in the cadence of the classic palindrome.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-12-13 12:23 AM
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Ohhh, I see.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-12-13 12:26 AM
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Don't worry, x., you're not alone.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-13 12:36 AM
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Someone could actually write a pretty good essay on Canadian and American differences, but they'd have to be good with subtlety.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-12-13 12:56 AM
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I can't not read that as Wet-ham Sausagely.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-12-13 5:39 AM
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Because linking to things written by Andrew Gelman in dormant threads is apparently my thing now, a review of the Bell Labs book by same.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-13-13 8:19 AM
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I strongly suspect that Gelman is wrong by saying that John Bardeen was not among the "legendary minds on the scale of Fermi, Feynman, or Von Neumann". Bardeen's accomplishments are way up there. There's a persistent, weird cultural/cognitive bias that people working on more fundamental or abstract things are smarter-- hence the legions of incoming graduate students who are certain they want to work on string theory, I guess-- and also a way in which some people cultivate a mystique of genius. But I think probably in the end all you can go by is their actual work, which puts Bardeen among the greats.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-13-13 9:54 AM
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But Gelman is totally right about how "it might be impossible to replicate this sort of distraction-free workplace in the Internet era."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-13-13 9:56 AM
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And I like that this Gelman post characterizes working full 8-hour days as a long workweek. It's a nice counter to all the academics who like to brag about their sixty- or seventy-hour workweek, without admitting that they're spending large parts of it on Facebook or blogs or whatever. Actually doing research for 40 hours in a week, you can accomplish a lot. But it doesn't happen so often because ooh, shiny thing


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-13-13 10:05 AM
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162: I feel like people associate an ability to accomplish anything practical with great genius, so the fact that you can actually build an experimental apparatus per se means you could be devoting more resources to thinking Big Thoughts.

163: yeah, that caused a pang. Can you imagine hanging out in a building full of smart people who are interesting to talk to, where the only common frame of reference is the productive (but interesting!) things you're supposed to be doing, and none of you has any real ability to reach outside the building for distractions? Uuungh so good.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-13-13 10:17 AM
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Teo's link in 158 has just send me on a whirlwind tour of ancient Mineshaft. That thread has a lot going on.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01-13-13 10:22 AM
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165.1 should be "an inability". I failed to notice that for the past several hours because GENIUS.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-13-13 12:20 PM
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