Links for March 30, 2015 (UPDATED)

Artwork for the cover of a 1959 issue of the French science fiction magazine Galaxie CCI/Art Archive/Art Resource via nybooks.com

Artwork for the cover of a 1959 issue of the French science fiction magazine Galaxie
CCI/Art Archive/Art Resource via nybooks.com

  • Inmates at a women’s prison in Indiana took it upon themselves to research their own prison’s history, and drew on their own experiences as well as published and archival evidence to radically revise a story of heroic reformers into something much darker. They’ve presented at conferences, published articles, and are hoping to write a book.
  • When an airplane crashes, listen to James Fallows of the Atlantic and William Langewiesche of Vanity Fair. Both, but particularly Langewiesche, are excellent on the dynamics of human interactions with the enormous technological systems that are aircraft and the air-travel system. For Fallows on the Germanwings crash, read this, and especially this and this. Here’s Langewiesche on a similar, probably even more terrifying incident of pilot suicide, the 2001 crash of EgyptAir flight 990, where he is astute about the roles of uncertainty, plausibility, and bureaucratic cultures on the art of finding out what happened to a crashed aircraft. And here is the Guardian on what it’s like to listen to a cockpit data recorder.
  • James Krupa, a biologist, recently published related essays in Orion and Slate about the challenges of teaching evolution at the University of Kentucky, where many of his students approach the “e-word” as conjecture with dangerous atheist undertones.
  • Mathematician Leif Ristroph studies patterns in biological organisms, such as the bumps that most fish species have along their sides, known as the lateral line. To understand why these bumps are typically arranged in the same way across many fish species, he mounted pressure sensors to polyurethane fish surrogates in his lab at New York University.
  • Sensory histories of New York City: check out Slate’s breakdown of an odor map from the 1870s, and while you’re at it, take a look at Emily Thompson’s interactive map of NYC noise during the 1920s.
  • The Transhumanist Party UK is a thing.
  • Concerns about the Robot Revolution–automation of everyday life at the expense of human capital–are nothing new, but has it finally arrived? Sue Halpern reviews a new book about the increasing ubiquity of machine labor in the post-recession era.
  • High School Historiography? An essay in the Atlantic calls for a rejection of historical synthesis and the embrace of historiography in high school classrooms. According to author Michael Conway, “historiography is potentially freeing for the next generation of students”; it allows them to pull back the curtain on how historical narratives are constructed and understand how different versions of American history can co-exist. This proposal is a far cry from Bill Gate’s latest foray into historical pedagogy, where students are taught a single cohesive narrative of the entire history of the universe (in just twelve weeks).
  • HistSTM March Madness Update: Round 2 is over, and we’re down to the Elite Eight. The question for Round 3 is “Whose work/contribution are you most willing to erase from history?” Will your favorite scientist emerge victorious?? Vote here.
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