Picks

Climate Change Denial in the Classroom

Universities should be and are expected to be sources of truthful and unbiased information about controversial subjects, especially in the sciences.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  Instructors at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada used "academic freedom" to present an egregiously biased and unscientific course that misrepresented the facts of climate change.

Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order From Chaos

Peter Hoffman is a physicist and materials scientist, and he brings those perspectives and sensibilities to the description of how life converts chemical energy into order and motion.  The "Ratchet" in the title is Feynman's Ratchet, a gedanken experiment described in Feynman's "Lectures on Physics" and reminiscent of Maxwell's Demon.

The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know has an Expiration Date

Samuel Arbesman, a mathematician and network scientist, uses the idea a half-life as an analogy for the changes in human knowledge that science brings. He discusses both the changing rate at which new science is done and the speed at which old results are replaced by newer ones. The analogy is far from perfect, but it emphasizes some critically important aspects of the processes of science.

Public Defender: Diane Ravitch Takes on a Movement

The respected education reformer Diane Ravitch, previously one of the major architects and proponents of No Child Left Behind, has not only taken a new tack, but reversed course. With her 2011 book, she became a leading voice critical of the Obama-Duncan version, Race to the Top. This essay by David Denby describes her evolution.

Dr. Joe's Brain Sparks: 179 Inspiring and Enlightening Inquiries Into the Science of Everyday Life

Professor Joe Schwarcz of McGill University is Canada's foremost public spokesperson for science. His columns in the Montreal Gazette and in Canadian Chemical News and his radio program on CJAD in Montreal reach thousands of readers and listeners, and have provided grist for his many popular books about science and especially chemistry.