Pop, pop science 
The science news that my friends link to on Facebook is a mixed bag. Some of it's interesting, but lots of it is either junk or uncritical hype around new results.

There's some great science stuff on YouTube, however.

One great series is the Periodic Table of Videos, filmed by Brady Haran and hosted by Martyn Poliakoff. In addition to interesting tidbits of chemsitry, they put together a playlist which provides a guide to all the elements. Although I've been a fan for a while, this post was prompted by a recent video in which Sir Poliakoff expressed what philosophers would call realism about the periodic table. "What we're interested in is what nature is like," he says, "not how easy it is to draw."

While I'm at it, I'll also recommend Smarter Every Day. The host, Destin Sandlin, is an engineer who does some simple experiments but also finds experts on cool things to interview. His ecclectic interests include archery, animals, space, and what stuff looks like in slow motion. From his most recent video, I learned about devil facial tumor disease and the plight of the Tasmanian devil. Some YouTube slow-motion videos are just staged to be as spectacular, but Destin sets them up to illustrate the process he's filming; his video about tatooing, for example.

A few students from my summer course commented that they'd have preferred to have videos rather than so much reading. Although I don't think that I could use these videos to accomplish anything I use texts for, I do wonder if I could use them to warm students to a topic or get them to reflect on the popularization of science.

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Janet at Forbes 
Janet Stemwedel is now a contributor at Forbes on topics of ethics and the social structure of science.

Janet started her blog "Adventures in Ethics and Science" back in 2005. It moved to the professional Science Blogs network and then to Scientopia. Her blog "Doing Good Science" ran at Scientific American until they changed the editorial vision for their blog network at the end of last year.

2005 was an auspicious year to begin a philosophy blog. *ahem* And her previous blogs had cool banners.

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On gendered terms and the vocative "dude" 
Another scrap uncovered while moving.
Vocatively, you can use "dude" to a woman because it's in this weird in-between space.


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Scrap from a non-existent story 
Another scrap of paper unearthed by the process of moving.
All of the fictional parts of this story are made up, because that is what it means to be fictional. All of the true parts correctly describe the world as it really is, because that is what it means to be true. What more would you expect? These are words, and they mean what they mean.

Things are never so simple (one might object) because meanings themselves are complex things produced by the give-and-take of language. Meanings are produced by talk and by books, as much as talk and books depend on language. What words mean depend on how we use them. Reality is not like that -- what a stone is and how much it weighs do not depend on how we use it.

I'm not sure when I wrote this, exactly. Perhaps it's a section of Philosophical Investigations in the possible world where Wittgenstein was a novelist.

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A font like a clown 
I'm in the process of moving, which means that I'm sorting through scraps of paper that accumulated in my office. Some of these are short ideas which I kept because I'm fond of them. Rather than throw them away or retain them as clutter in the new office, I'm sticking a pin in them by posting them here.
It's as if, every time someone drew a picture of their father, they drew Ronald McDonald without realizing that there were other options.

Years ago, I was thinking about writing a paper about the then-ubiquitous computer font Comic Sans. I was not going to complain that it's ugly, because some people have bad taste and so disagree. Instead, I was going to argue that Comic Sans reflected a kind of alienation. People use a standard font like Times or Helvetica when they want to be serious and official. When they use a handwriting font or something else non-standard, they mean to be injective levity and personality into the thing they're typing up. But Comic Sans, precisely because it's ubiquitous, is not personal or expressive at all.

The invitation to Das Man's birthday party is written in Comic Sans.

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