Review | Scientific Babel – Michael Gordin

Standard

This year, about 2.5 million scientific articles will be published. Roughly 90% of them will only exist in English. So how and why did English become the default language for scientific work? If that question interests you, you might appreciate Scientific Babel.

Scientific Babel is about the languages we use to create scientific knowledge, and how the “language of science” has changed over time. It’s partly a history of science, and partly a discussion of how languages and cultures rise and fall.

Continue reading

Study Summary | To help students who self-injure, focus on helping them manage emotions

Standard

Research from the University of Washington Medical School suggests how to improve treatments for college students struggling with non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Treatments which develop people’s practical skill in managing emotions may be more effective than current therapies, which instead increase people’s confidence in their ability to cope with events.

The study involved 187 students with a history of self-injury. The students provided information about their experiences with NSSI, including the age at which they first self-injured, and the reasons behind their self-injury.

Continue reading

IQ | What does someone’s IQ say about them?

Standard

I previously talked about how scores on an IQ test are developed, and what they mean mathematically. Now, I’ll look at what they can mean for individuals.

IQ could be described as the BMI of the mind. Although both numbers can provide useful information for a typical mind or body, they should still be regarded with caution especially in an atypical mind or body. BMI is near-useless for athletes, who will often score as overweight or obese due to their increased muscle mass. Similarly, IQ measurements may be helpful to understand a neurotypical person in a familiar situation, but they are flawed for people with neurodevelopmental disorders, or people who are unfamiliar with standardised testing.

3) IQ tests cannot always measure someone’s ability accurately. Health conditions and neurological differences result in people having uneven patterns of ability, which confuse IQ tests.

Continue reading

IQ | How do IQ tests work?

Standard

The Intelligence Quotient- or IQ- is one of the most popular subjects in psychology. Yet despite us often using IQ as a shorthand for intelligence, and even using it to define others, misconceptions about IQ are often louder than explanations.

So how do IQ tests work, and what does an IQ score mean?

1) An IQ test does not directly measure your ability. It uses maths to estimate your ability in relation to other people.

Continue reading

Robot Wars Season 10 Post-Mortem

Standard

This post is much later than intended, as I wasn’t able to watch all six episodes at the time and had to wait for reruns. Late enough, in fact, that the unfortunate news of its cancellation has already had its 15 minutes of angry tweets. So consider this a retrospective look at Season 10 rather than a live response. Also, spoiler warnings for the finalists and winner of Season 10.

Going into Season 10, I had been concerned about a few aspects of the show, such as the low profile of female team members, the robot reliability issues, and the focus on professionally-built robots. Rule changes ahead of Season 10 promised to bring in more diverse robots, and to counteract the dominance of spinners. So, how well did Season 10 live up to those promises?

Robots and Weapons

Episode One started well by introducing clusterbot The Swarm, built by Ian Watts of Team Big Brother fame. Clusterbots have often been failed experiments in previous series, mostly due to their weight limits and elimination rules. Clusterbots were either equally-sized pairs, or a near-heavyweight bot accompanied by a distraction minibot. As they were ruled out if either piece was immobilised, minibots were merely a liability, while paired bots were weaker than standard competitors without many corresponding advantages. However, due to advances in materials and weapons, The Swarm was made of five featherweight robots with individual working weapons. The Swarm could use four robots in each fight, and they would remain in if at least two robots (>40% by weight) were moving. This approach meant they could carry out the roles clusterbots were designed for, and generate tactical advantages like distractions and multiple angles of attack.

Continue reading

Impressions | The Two Cultures – CP Snow

Standard

I was introduced to “The Two Cultures” during the first lecture of my scicomm MSc. When we were talking about scicomm history, “The Two Cultures” stood proudly on our timeline alongside documents which were fundamental to the field. So I wanted to read it for myself.

Originally “The Two Cultures” was a lecture, presented by scientist-turned-fiction-author C. P. Snow in 1959. Snow’s titular cultures were “people of the humanities and literature” and “people of the sciences”. In the lecture, Snow sketched out  divisions between these cultures, with anecdotes from his experiences as a novelist amongst scientists and a scientist amongst literary intellectuals. He blamed this cultural divide on Britain’s education system, which forced people to specialise in one subject too early and prioritised humanities at the expense of science and engineering.

Continue reading

Review | A Mind of Its Own – Cordelia Fine

Standard

Books which ask the question “what’s wrong with our brains” are a current pop-psychology staple. Cordelia Fine’s A Mind of Its Own was ahead of this trend, as it was first published in 2005.

A Mind of Its Own explores some ways in which our brains don’t make sense, and the cognitive biases which funnel us down faulty mental shortcuts. The books starts with the bias equivalent of little white lies, detailing how almost all of us are biased to see things as a little easier, happier, and less flawed than they really are. From this gentle introduction, Fine talks us through the progressively larger mental failings discovered through social psychology studies.

Continue reading