fun with moocs: i “heart” stats

As many of you already know, I am leaving Notre Dame to become the provost at Marquette University in a couple of months.  I am really excited to get started there, but I have a couple of things to finish up here on the home front as well.  One of them is that I will be teaching Notre Dame’s first “MOOC”, which is supposed to be a super fun introduction to statistics.  Below is the trailer for the course, which I’m sure you’ll find entertaining.  It completely embodies my approach to teaching this course…You’ll have to decided, after watching it, if (a) Notre Dame will be glad to see me go, (b) anyone will learn anything from the course, or (c) if I will win an online-learning-Oscar (I’d call it a MOOCie) in the category of best overacting!

Oh, and you can sign up here if you want to actually take it!

poll bias

With all the poll watching that goes on in elections these days, the question of how accurate the polls are has become more interesting (to me at least).  I’ve been informally tracking the question of whether certain polling outfits tend toward liberal or conservative bias for quite some time.  To be clear I’m not accusing any particular polling operation of purposeful bias, but rather just calling into question whether their methods (particularly of sampling, weighting, collecting data, and especially constructing likely-voter models) trend one way or another.  In the case of the battleground areas, at least, that the pollsters–as a group–missed the mark is not a huge surprise, but the consistency in the pattern of that miss Continue reading “poll bias”

yet another blog?

I know you’ve all been just dying for another blog to read, haven’t you?  Well, I’m here to satisfy!

Today marks the the public launch of Mobilizing Ideas, a new scholarly (or perhaps pseudo-scholarly!) blog concerned with activism, social movements, protests, and the like.  The blog consists of two sections: a monthly set of invited essays on a particular Continue reading “yet another blog?”

for your consideration: the journal of universal rejection

About the Journal | Instructions for Authors | Subscriptions | Archives

Editor-in-Chief: Caleb Emmons

About the Journal
The founding principle of the Journal of Universal Rejection (JofUR) is rejection. Universal rejection. That is to say, all submissions, regardless of quality, will be rejected. Despite that apparent drawback, here are a number of reasons you may choose to submit to the JofUR: Continue reading “for your consideration: the journal of universal rejection”

frances fox piven under attack

January 24, 2011

Dear members of the Collective Behavior and Social Movement Section of ASA

We write to express our outrage at the way in which our esteemed colleague, Frances Fox Piven, has been pilloried, even terrorized, by both the right wing media (most especially Glenn Beck of FOX News) and character-assassinating, vicious, right wing extremist blogs associated with (but not limited to) him. One of us first heard about these assaults Continue reading “frances fox piven under attack”

the scatterplot official* ranking of sociology graduate programs

After seeing the NRC ranking of graduate programs, my first impulse was to simply ignore it.  The process has been a mess–and now the results reflect that mess perfectly.  My second instinct was to write a post encouraging everyone else to ignore it.  Obviously, that’s not going to happen!  It’s so hard to stop myself from responding and pointing out the many flaws and the really bizarre results.  But it won’t be long until everyone else deals with that task–so instead I think what we really need is an alternative.

The NRC study cost millions of dollars and tens-of-thousands of person hours to create.   I want to be cheap and fast–and better than the NRC ranking.  Not way better, not perfect, just better.  So, I give you the Scatterplot Official Ranking of Sociology (SORS), constructed in less than 15 minutes using a very carefully constructed proprietary algorithm (see footnote 2 for details).  You will no doubt find surprises and program positions you’d quibble with–but anyone who compares my results to the “S” rankings of the NRC will immediately declare mine to be superior and more useful.  I submit, therefore, that you will be more than justified in using the SORS in any future program evaluation, discussion about the state of sociology, or program initiative.  Continue reading “the scatterplot official* ranking of sociology graduate programs”

The Shortest Possible Game of Monopoly: 21 Seconds

OK, since no one is posting, you get to endure another Monopoly post!

After our recent attempt to play the shortest actual game of Monopoly on record, we started to wonder about what the shortest THEORETICALLY POSSIBLE game of Monopoly would be. That is, if everything went just the right way, with just the right sequence of rolls, Chance and Community Chest cards, and so on, what is the quickest way one player could go bankrupt? After working on the problem for a while, we boiled it down to Continue reading “The Shortest Possible Game of Monopoly: 21 Seconds”

a discipline of anecdotes?

I was just taking a break and cruising through the Psychology Today website and I ran into this little quote:

“Science never ends with an anecdote; otherwise, it would be sociology.”

This was the lead sentence in Satoshi Kanazawa’s piece “Are Asians More Nocturnal than Others?“.

Curiously, Kanazawa, although appointed in Management at the London School of Economics and primarily publishes as a evolutionary psychologist, has apparently used anecdotal publication outlets himself, including Social Psychology Quarterly, Rationality and Society, The Sociological Quarterly, Sociological Theory, Social Forces, and even the American Sociological Review! CV here.

Relevance, Mr. Coburn?

Since this hasn’t been said (at least not directly) here yet:

What I find disturbing about this whole recent spasm regarding the public relevance of political science is that the “hard” sciences are automatically assumed to have relevance and therefore are immune to critiques about exotic questions and lacking “obvious public benefits.” I spent about 30 seconds on the National Science Foundation web site and located this one study (among hundreds like it) in the chemistry division. I would like to challenge Senator Coburn to explain to me the public relevance of this particular study:

Femtosecond studies of the influence of solvent on chemical reaction dynamics


In this award, funded by the Experimental Physical Chemistry program of the Chemistry Division, Professor Stephen Bradforth of the University of Southern California and graduate students will continue their investigation of liquid medium effects on photo-dissociation, explore new avenues in photo-initiated bimolecular reactions, and develop nonlinear optical spectroscopic techniques that can probe reactions at liquid surfaces. The photo-dissociation studies will focus on solvent effects on the dissociation of molecules such as ICN, BrCN and H2O2, and especially subsequent femtosecond time scale rotational relaxation of the diatomic fragments (CN and OH) produced in the dissociation. Comparison of experimental data with molecular dynamics simulations will aid in the evaluation of solvent effects on relaxation dynamics. The study of photo-initiated bimolecular reactions will involve photo-generation of OH radicals (from OH- or H2O2) and observation of their reaction with Cl- and Br- in the femtosecond regime. These radical-ion reactions are of emerging interest in atmospheric chemistry as possible routes to the formation of tropospheric Cl2 and Br2. Second order nonlinear optical techniques, which can provide surface-specific information, will be developed in order to explore reaction dynamics at liquid or aerosol particle surfaces. While the initial focus will be on solvation and mobility of photo-detached electrons, these techniques may eventually be applicable to the study of halogen formation reactions on sea-spray aerosols.

In addition to the broad dissemination of research results through publications, conference and seminar presentations, Prof. Bradforth will also make available via his group website important innovations in instrumentation that may be useful to other groups working in ultrafast dynamics.

who is a young scholar?

Today my copy of blogger-pal, Eszter Hargittai’s new book, Research Confidential: Solutions to Problems Most Social Scientists Pretend They Never Have, arrived. Given the gauntlet of meetings I faced today and face everyday, I didn’t get through much of it, and it probably will be quite a while before I can finish it off. But I did buzz through the Preface, Introduction, and took a trip through another blogger-pal, Jeremy Freese’s chapter on secondary analysis of canned survey data (which is also, of course, the chapter that is the closest to being about my own research experiences).

In Eszter’s Preface, she notes that she asked “young scholars” to write the chapters for the book. I really liked this idea. Oft-times we turned to the wizened sages of Continue reading “who is a young scholar?”

i’m blogging in the chronicle

A few months ago, I had a blow out because I was asked to review 8 articles in one month. This resulted not in a review, but rather a blog post. Shortly thereafter, I started receiving inquiries from the American Sociological Association’s offices encouraging me to submit the piece to our disciplinary newsletter, Footnotes. The final of these also suggested that the Chronicle might be interested–not a bad idea, I thought. So, I proceeded, and found out along the way that they have to have exclusive rights for a period–and so I pulled the blog entry.

Turns out, they really liked it. Whodda thunk? The “essay,” called “The Peer Review System is Broken” came out yesterday in the Chronicle Review Section. Hope you get a chance to read it. If your institution has paid enough money, you may be able to read it here.

Even better, they liked it so much that they’ve invited me to write 2-3 essays per year for them! Wow–maybe getting ticked off does pay! I’m taking suggestions for the topic of my next rant…