I dream of Scatterplot

I’ve been recruiting for Scatterplot in recent weeks (with only limited success, thus far, though I remain hopeful that a certain favorite sociologist will soon use the login we sent him last month to begin posting). This usually involves a conversation about how often we hope contributors will post, the advantages and disadvantages of blogging pseudonymously, how to think about various audiences, etc. I usually also end up saying something like, “I consider myself a minor character on Scatterplot, and I like it that way.” I don’t watch enough TV to offer a concrete example of my Scatterplot aspirations, but Keith on “Six Feet Under” comes to mind… Continue reading “I dream of Scatterplot”

without reservation

How to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds is something about which I think (and worry and strategize) a great deal.  I’m happy that this has emerged as a topic on this site and look forward to learning from your experiences and suggestions.

In the meanwhile, here’s something incredibly easy that we can all do:

Continue reading “without reservation”

sociologists to the rescue – stat!

Earlier this month, columnist Paul Krugman wrote about Giuliani’s misrepresentation of the differences in US and UK prostate cancer survival rates and  their role in his  misrepresentation of health care reforms proposed by Democrats.

A more extensive listing of Giuliani’s mis-stats appear on the front page of today’s NY Times.

Perhaps one of our home departments should offer up a first year quant/stats student to help candidates with their counting (I’d say “with their calculating” but I don’t think that’s the problem!)…

querying quants (a triptych)


“I had dinner last night with someone who self describes as a ‘quant jock.’ Is that a familiar phrase to you?”

“Yeah, it gets used a lot at the Kennedy School.”

“So, I understand what it is to be a ‘quant’ – both in finance and in social science – but what’s a ‘quant jock’?”

“It just refers to someones who’s really good at quantitative methods, but I’ve never heard anyone use it to refer to themselves.”

“So, is Jeremy Freese a quant jock?” Continue reading “querying quants (a triptych)”

our gnotobios, our selves

The term “gnotobiotic” stems from the Greek words “gnosis” (“known”) and “bios” (“life”).   Somewhat paradoxically, a gnotobiotic animal is, at least originally, one with no known life.  That is, a gnotobiotic animal is born and reared in a sterile environment, so that it is germ free (or GF, in the parlance of the articles I’ve been reading of late).   Gnotobiotic animals can be colonized, then, with defined microbiota and used in research that examines the role of specific microbes (e.g., by comparing physiologic processes in gnotobiotic and colonized animals).

Why is this interesting to a sociologist (beyond the opportunity for wordplay with the Rumsfeldian title of the previous post?).  Well, it’s interesting to this sociologist because research using gnotobiotic animals is part of recent scientific endeavors, like the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), which focus on the relationship between humans and our microbiota, the microorganisms that live on and in human beings.  While many aspects of the HMP are fascinating, I am most riveted by the proposition that it will support an understanding of the human as a “superorganism”: Continue reading “our gnotobios, our selves”