Further indeterminate fallout 
Thinking more about indistinguishable spacetimes has led me to think about the contrast between underdetermination and indeterminacy. Somehow, I wrote a dissertation on the former without clearly thinking through the latter.

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Fallout from Pittsburgh 
A few weeks ago, I participated in a workshop on underdetermination at the Pittsburgh Center for Philosophy of Science. The conference was fabulous, both socially and intellectually. Here's a post growing out of that, specifically about John Manchak's work on global features of spacetime.

The post is somewhat rambling, so let me begin by summing up:
The underdetermination facing our theorizing about global features of spacetime is formally more like familiar illustrations of the problem of induction than it is like familiar examples of empirical equivalence. Yet (if Manchak is right) it is different than usual worries about induction because we could never have the right kind of background knowledge to justify the inductive generalization.

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A blog before the internet 
We have been rearranging our department lounge. Previous efforts have made it less of a cluttered dump, and efforts are now directed at making it less clinical.* Today we got new chairs from university surplus, green relics which were probably purchased for an administrative office in the 1970s.

While shuffling around furniture, I happened to pick up a bound volume in the department store room. It contains issues of Phib, the Philosophy Information Bulletin, from 1972-1974. It was a department newsletter, filled with trivia like contact information, records of faculty meetings, announcements of events, and descriptions of what various faculty had done on vacation.

Phib was editted by "WHL." I surmise from internal references that this was William Leue, who was part of the department at the time. Each issue consisted of a few typewritten, mimeographed pages. But the series is numbered as two volumes, with continuous page numbering within each volume.

There is a long, multi-part history of the department which I may comment on later. For now let me quote something that WHL wrote at the end of the academic year in 1973:
I guess I'm not really in a position to judge whether doing this thing was worth it. I'm not sure what the criteria should be. It certainly isn't a project I would urge upon a young man trying to forge an academic career for himself, but then I'm not a young man. It fits no recognized category - it isn't "research," it isn't "teaching." It isn't even a "publication" - it is probably "infra-professional" - too casual, too episodic, too "journalistic." I guess it isn't even good journalism - irresponsible mixing of the reporting and the editorializing, with snide innuendoes and private jokes at which only I can snicker. But then that's probably part of the reward for me - getting my own anomic kicks - and the price that you, poor (but quick-scanning) readers have to pay.**
Phib was essentially his blog, and almost the same paragraph might be written today by any blogging academic. The only sentence out of place would be the warning to career-minded young men, since blogging has been predominantly a young philosophers' game.

If I were just starting to blog now, I might have settled on Phib as a name rather than FoE.

* Most of the recent work has been done by my colleague Lisa Fuller, who has been watching the university surplus website for better lounge furniture.

** 'A Year of Phibbing.' Phib. v 1, n 31. p 148.

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Now with fifty percent more bupkis 
I recently stumbled across Forbes' America's Best Colleges, which was published last year. The assessment is explicitly intended to break the hegemony of U.S. News & World Report's rankings of American colleges, which seems like a good thing whether or not ratings are ultimately a good thing.

UAlbany comes out in the middle of the pack (295th out of 569), which is not at all bad. Among SUNY centers, we are ranked behind Binghamton (119) but ahead of Stony Brook (332) and Buffalo (436). The rankings seem plausible.

Nevertheless, the methodology is disturbingly weak sauce. A full 25% of each institution's score is derived from the number of its alumni who appear in Who's Who in America. I was recently contacted by Who's Who and asked for biographical information so that I could be included. I did not reply, because Who cares? Forbes magazine, that's who.

A further 25% of each institution's score is derived from student evaluations at RateMyProfessors.com. Now, I think it's a fun website. It allows students to gossip about which prof is good for which courses, and I get pretty good marks there. Yet, as I said in an earlier post, "it would worrisome if an unrepresentative and deliberately somewhat frivolous resource came to play an important part in campus life." Now Forbes expects it to play such a role.

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Two dead senators and an extra Wilhelm 
Some people have suggested to me that I should try my hand at writing some newspaper op-ed pieces. One natural topic for me, given where my research intersects with the interests of the guy down at the Dairy Queen, is nattering about the Wikipedia. So last month, in response to then current events, I wrote a piece that essentially recapitulates the thesis of my Episteme paper.

I submitted it a couple of places, but no luck. Rather than leave it in a directory on my hard drive where no one will ever read it, I've opted to put it here on the blog where no one will read it...

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