Friday, August 22, 2003

Loki, Raven:

I think most academics have a peculiar sense of humor. It comes from our circulating and having meaningful conversations in too restricted a group of people. As with any group like that, a set of inside jokes and obscure references develop that outsiders cannot understand, and by which the outsiders feel threatened.

I suspect that most scientists are sticklers for literal meanings - I know I am. It's that "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" mentality that so many people hate. It's why I blogged about people saying 'momentarily.' It's why when I was sharing half an ear of corn with someone, they were so annoyed to find I had eaten every other row. It's why I could answer "...well, I only used one side..." when I had agreed to share half of the only towel in the bathroom.


John Vu, a fellow blogger of scientific bent, noted an article on academic blogs in the Chronicle of Higher Education the other day which I thought had a very interesting take on the phenomenon of pseudo-expertise (my phrase, not the author's) that emerges in blogs. People are free to hold forth on whatever they please, even if they are not experts in that field.

Initially I agreed with the view that this was not good, but then it occurred to me that this is often how intellectual progress is made. We respond to challenges from, and discoveries in, other disciplines. It's healthy to talk to people who know a lot about completely different things from you, and conversely, it is very healthy to hear from people who know a lot less than you about a particular issue.

So... What do you want to know about? I'll give you an answer to anything. It's up to you to decide whether my answer is worth anything. It's the free-market information economy, stupid.