Superficial scholars

Heather Wilson, who has served on Rhodes Scholarship selection committees, examines the lack of broader education from America’s top universities in Our superficial scholars.

I wish I could say that this is a single, anomalous group of students, but the trend is unmistakable. Our great universities seem to have redefined what it means to be an exceptional student. They are producing top students who have given very little thought to matters beyond their impressive grasp of an intense area of study. This narrowing has resulted in a curiously unprepared and superficial pre-professionalism.

Remember the lament for polymaths earlier this month?

A 2,550 year old beer recipe

Wired has an article about the resurrection of a 2,550 year-old beer recipe.

Six specially constructed ditches previously excavated at Eberdingen-Hochdorf a 2,550-year-old Celtic settlement, were used to make high-quality barley malt, a key beer ingredient, says archaeobotanist Hans-Peter Stika of the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart. Thousands of charred barley grains unearthed in the ditches about a decade ago came from a large malt-making enterprise.

Stika published his findings in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, where you can find the original paper.

Feeling old at a gig

Two Door Cinema Club and Tokyo Police Club in concert

On Sunday night, I went to see Two Door Cinema Club and Tokyo Police Club play a gig at Club Soda. Yeah, there’s a promoter somewhere who’s far too impressed with getting so many “clubs” on to one poster. I thoroughly enjoyed Two Door Cinema Club, they were much better live than on their album (it’s a tad over-produced). Tokyo Police Club was up and down, the songs off A Lesson in Crime rocked, but the rest of the set was blah and the banter with the crowd was a nonstarter.

The highlight of the show was the encore — the two bands joined forces on stage to belt out The Strokes’ Last Night. The song was uptempo and high energy, it was awesome. Part of the way through, I stopped rockin’ out to take a look around. I was surrounded by people in their late-teens or early twenties. The kids were not alright. The lack of energy in the crowd made me realize that most were probably nine or ten years old when the song came out. It made me feel old. So, I slunk off to consume some prune juice and donepezil.

An Awesome Book!

An Awesome Book! cover

Dallas Clayton created An Awesome Book! for his son. The story is about dreaming big and never giving up. The book is self-published and is currently in its twentieth printing. Dallas started a foundation to give away a copy of his book for every copy that he sold. It’s not limited to schools and stores, he’ll walk up to random parents and give them a copy. You can read the book in its entirety and then buy a copy.

The Disposable Academic

The Disposable Academic is a somewhat cynical look at the world of high-level academia. I’ll take the article with a grain of salt, considering the secondary headline reads, “Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time”.

One thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. Some describe their work as “slave labour”. Seven-day weeks, ten-hour days, low pay and uncertain prospects are widespread. You know you are a graduate student, goes one quip, when your office is better decorated than your home and you have a favourite flavour of instant noodle.

Yeah, it can be a bit crap, but it’s on par with a lot of other professions. Talk to the struggling artists, apprentices and interns that toil away in indentured servitude for the betterment of their craft. Some make it big, some never will, most end up in the middle of life’s bell curve and do just fine.