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Norman Sperling
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, CA 94705-2702

cellphone 650 - 200 - 9211
eMail normsperling [at] gmail.com

Norm Sperling’s Great Science Trek: 2014

San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara
Palm Springs
Death Valley
Tucson
El Paso
Corpus Christi
Baton Rouge
Tampa
Everglades
Key West
Winter Star Party, Scout Key
Miami

MARCH 2014:
up the Eastern seaboard
mid-South

APRIL 2014:
near I-40, I-30, and I-20 westbound

MAY 2014:
near US-101 northbound
May 17-18: Maker Faire, San Mateo
May 23-26: BayCon, Santa Clara

California till midJune

JUNE 2014:
Pacific Northwest

JULY 2014:
Western Canada, eastbound

AUGUST 2014:
near the US/Can border, westbound
August 22-on: UC Berkeley

Speaking engagements welcome!
2014 and 2015 itineraries will probably cross several times.

The Issues of the Issue: JIR v51 #4

© Norman Sperling, August 9, 2011

The Journal of Irreproducible Results volume 51, #4, is now in the mail. As always, much of the humor connects to real-life issues.

One of our articles is about the Medical Narrative Essay, a form of scholarly publishing with a lower entry threshold than research papers. Dr. Katherine Chang Chretien makes a good point about the "crap-shoot" feeling authors get, because some essays may get rejected summarily by one publication, and accepted as-is by another. She's right! And it isn't only a matter of the article's quality, or the journal's. Sometimes we have too many submissions on some topic and too few on another, which changes what's welcome. Often a new editor wants to show a different face than the previous one. Sometimes an article is a perfect companion for something else that the author is unaware of. There can be lots of reasons in addition to whim - which also happens.

Our article "Science Blitz" by David Bartell and Paul Carlson was, according to Marty Halpern's blog More Red Ink, rejected by Analog as being too weird, crossing too many genre boundaries. Those factors worked in its favor for JIR, but we're happy to print it as a good, witty story that ties in science with a novel twist.

Colleges try to teach high-level information to students who aren't always prepared for it. The bullet-point list is one ubiquitous method to simplify and emphasize points. Prof. Lou Lippman points out that this can train students to take in information only in that format. I find myself teaching to standards that others seem to have left behind, such as requiring term papers of students who have never done any such thing before. A lot of employers will still want employees who can find relevant information and put it together coherently, and practically every employer will still need employees to take competent notes from oral instructions ( which are often much less coherent than professors' lectures!). We still need to engrain those skills in the students.

The ease and presumed anonymity of writing on the Internet spawns lots of new terms. Many of those are great puns, which we love. Others, however, earn their way into a glossary of neologisms, provided here by Doreen Dotan.

Lawns, and mowing them, are a cultural fad that too few question. A lawn that people actually use is fine with me. But most are for show, or for conformity. They suck up water and time. For usefulness, or for decoration, they deserve to be a lot rarer. Dr. Robert Haas couches the issue for the anthropologists of 1,000 years from now, but many of us already don't like lawn care here and now.

Opioid pain relievers remain wildly popular. Either an enormous number of people live in great pain (surely some do) or a lot just say so to get their opioid prescriptions renewed. This wide-spread, semi-legal zonking is rarely counted in studies of drug use. If scholars want to know the dimensions of drug use, they need to count this. They come up with statistics on illegal drugs, and it should be easier to add this factor. If specific doctors are "easy touches" or active over-prescribers, whoever licenses and certifies them needs to get serious about enforcement. But some patients try to get opioid prescriptions from Dr. Allan Zacher, and he rebels by writing for JIR.

We're publishing an English translation of a pair of articles that originally appeared, under pseudonyms, in a small publication in the USSR, 50 years ago. We have not found who actually wrote them, nor any previous translation into English. This translation is submitted by Sergey Makshinskiy. We always seek nuggets from other places and times, that our present readers would enjoy.

Our former publisher, George H. Scherr, PhD, has published another book! This one is on the history of fighting infections. Pasteur, he says, was following Agostino Bassi. Why Millions Died is being published by the University Press of America.

Image: 
JIR v51#4 front cover
The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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