I'm sure that most of the academic readers of this blog (and heck, maybe the non-academics, too!) have seen the recent outrage that results from a Forbes post: The least stressful jobs of 2013. The winner of this title went to the university professor, due to:
they are off between May and September and they enjoy long breaks during the school year, including a month over Christmas and New Year’s and another chunk of time in the spring. Even when school is in session they don’t spend too many hours in the classroom. For tenure-track professors, there is some pressure to publish books and articles, but deadlines are few. Working conditions tend to be cozy and civilized and there are minimal travel demands, except perhaps a non-mandatory conference or two.
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Sci is at Scientific American Blogs today, talking about a great new project for getting informed citizen voices involved in science policy. ECAST is a fantastic new initiative that makes great efforts to get citizens directly involved with science policy, and an even better effort to make sure people from all walks of life are represented. I think the project has a lot of potential and I'm very proud to highlight it today. Head over and check it out!
If you're the kind of nerd like me, then you're the kind of nerd that really liked spending time in libraries and old bookrooms as a kid. To this day I love having books around me, especially the old kind with nice leather covers. And of course, if you're spent time around old books, you know that old book smell. It's kind of musty, but evokes happy memories of wood and leather and soft lamp glows, and maybe a nice fireplace (if you're very lucky) by which to sit and dig through intellectual treasures.
And what with all the memories, you start to really love that old book smell. But do you love it so much you could wear it? Pascale at Whizbang alerted me to the fact that there is a "Paper Passion" perfume!
Couldn't make this stuff up. Pascale notes that it might be good to spritz on your e-reader for the authentic paper experience. I do love me some dead tree smell but not quite enough to wear it.
But it made me wonder: does the perfume really smell like old books, and what makes that old book smell? Luckily, Marc Abrahams came to the rescue with a paper that's perfect! And so I present today's Friday Weird Science:
Strlic et al. "Material Degradomics: On the Smell of Old Books" Annals of Chemistry, 2009*
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Higher Education people are all talking about the MOOC. MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses including sites like Udacity and Coursera, are the latest hotness in online learning and open classrooms. The big universities like Cal Tech are getting on board, and asking their professors to contribute.
The concept is that of an online class enhanced, with minilectures (usually about 10 min to half an hour), sometimes in class assessments, and quizzes or papers on the material. The experience is enhanced by user forums where the class can ask questions and interact with the professor.
And lately I've been hearing a lot about these courses, their great promise, how they will change university education forever, and even how the days of the college course are numbered, how MOOCs will transform higher education.
I gained interest in the model, and so I've been taking one of the courses myself (Coursera's "Drugs and the Brain", taught by Lester from CalTech). I'm planning on taking more to get a better idea, but right now, well...I don't think the uni's days are numbered.
That's not to say it's not interesting. But I'm not sure who, or what, exactly, these courses are for, and what they are trying to accomplish.
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