Tag Archives: wsj

E.O. Wilson does not think math is unnecessary

This piece by E.O. Wilson has been much shared and much griped about in my circles, but I think it’s a case of a provocative headline (“Great Scientist ≠ Good at Math:  discoveries emerge from ideas, not number-crunching”) prepended by the WSJ to an essay that says something much more modest and defensible.  I’d paraphrase Wilson like this.   Being good in math is like being a good writer.  Everyone agrees:

  • You can do great science and be a terrible writer;
  • Being better at writing is a worthwhile aspiration for any scientist.

The conjunction of these two statements in no way feels like a denigration of writing.  Nor is Wilson denigrating math.

I’ve said this before but it’s important so I’ll keep saying it — when you write an opinion piece for a publication, you don’t write the headline — the editors do, and they’ll put whatever loosely relevant headline will generate the most clicks.

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Stop me before I evoke again!

From Chris Rickert in Saturday’s Wisconsin State Journal, writing on Sun Prairie’s denial of a land use license to the town mosque:

It’s not often you encounter a business park condominium association and Friday call to prayers in the same context.

The first is pure ex-urban Americana, evoking images of identically nondescript buildings, large parking lots and easy access to a major highway.

The second is worlds away, evoking images of rows of dark-skinned men kneeling in unison, Arabic broadcast over bad PA systems, even terrorism.

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Prof’s skills add up to Hollywood gig!

So opines Doug Moe in the Wisconsin State Journal, which has a nice interview with me in tomorrow’s paper. Look closely and you’ll see that Ken Ribet has a photo credit!

In case anyone’s coming here from the WSJ and wants to read some of the things mentioned there: you can buy my book here. You can read my Slate columns here, including my thoughts on Barry Bonds and the placebo effect. The best pizza in Berkeley (or anywhere) is Cheeseboard, and the best ice cream in Cambridge (or anywhere) is Christina’s, as described in The Restaurant Hall of Fame.

To a guy like me, for whom “get this paper done in a hurry” means “within the next three months,” Moe’s output of five punchy columns a week is really startling. If you’re not already reading him, check out his recent columns on the surprising difficulty of street-naming and vanity plates too hot for the DOT.

Despite Moe’s lightning speed, his article gets the facts right. Well, except one: I do not “nurse” my coffee. Cold coffee is gross.

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