The best of the week in #histsci #histtech #histmed, courtesy of your bloggers.
- Drawings and scrimshaw by whalers from the Providence Public Library Special Collections (h/t @sethrockman).
- Uber and Princeton economist Alan Krueger have released data on the company’s drivers.
- “Guano contracts” helped trap Southern sharecroppers in cycles of debt. Relatedly, All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw appears to be the best book people have forgotten about. It is an oral history of an Alabama sharecropper, and in 1974 it won the National Book Award. That year, it beat Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker,” Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men,” Studs Terkel’s “Working,” and Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”
- Nine facts about the detective show “Mathnet.”
- New intellectual histories of the idea of the global economy, from G. W. F. Hegel to zombies.
- Preserving and digitizing cultural heritage under extreme duress: Dominican monks in Iraq try to save their centuries-old collection of rare books and manuscripts in fear that ISIS will loot their library and turn it into a prison or torture chamber.
- A cool minimalist poster series on women who changed science and the world, featuring Ada Lovelace, Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson, Marie Curie, and others.
- Another take on the relationship, if there is one, between virtue and the scientific vocation, by Steven Shapin.
- The New York Times (acting on Evan’s suggestion, no doubt) begins to tell the story of biomedical research funding buried in the Sheldon Silver corruption charges. (Check out pages 24-31 of the complaint.)
- Jill Lepore on using the Internet Archive as an archive: “Last year, the Internet Archive made an archive of its .gov domain, tidied up and compressed the data, and made it available to a group of scholars, who tried very hard to make something of the material. It was so difficult to recruit scholars to use the data that the project was mostly a wash. Kahle says, ‘I give it a B.’ Stanford’s Web archivist, Nicholas Taylor, thinks it’s a chicken-and-egg problem. ‘We don’t know what tools to build, because no research has been done, but the research hasn’t been done because we haven’t built any tools.'”
- “Project Syria,” a video game that simulates a day in the life of a Syrian refugee, debuted this weekend at the World Economic Forum.
- Researchers are considering relocating the origin moment of the Anthropocene from the Industrial Revolution to the mid-twentieth century, to correspond to the detonation of the first atomic bombs (stay tuned for more on this later this week from Leah).
- An in-depth profile on life with rare genetic condition Prader-Willi syndrome. Those who suffer with Prader-Willi have insatiable appetites, and can literally eat themselves to death. This strange symptom makes the disease of great interest to both researchers and pharmaceutical companies, who hope that Prader-Willi patients hold the key to understanding the mysteries of diet and obesity.
- Scientific writing can be described in lots of ways, but beautiful is usually not one of them. Stephen Heard, an ecologist at the University of New Brunswick, wants to make the case for “whimsy, jokes, and beauty” in scientific in prose. His blog post and recent paper on the subject have sparked a debate about relative merits of typically turgid versus poetic scientific writing styles. Nature nicely sums up the conversation here.