Curiosity

In Curiosity Is Critical to Academic Performance, curiosity was measured as a strong factor like conscientiousness and intelligence for academic success. Capacity and speed acquiring information, staying on task, and motivation to work with information are all good things. At the end of article, I found this interesting.

Employers may also want to take note: a curious person who likes to read books, travel the world, and go to museums may also enjoy and engage in learning new tasks on the job. “It’s easy to hire someone who has the done the job before and hence, knows how to work the role,” von Stumm says. “But it’s far more interesting to identify those people who have the greatest potential for development, i.e. the curious ones.”

For the members of my team curiosity is critical. We get the escalations of problems several layers of tiers below. Every problem we get should be something others found too challenging to solve or requiring information not available to them. Plus every problem requires informed decisions, meaning gathering data and determining that results are accurate. Expectations of the near impossible become the new normal every time we succeed. Plus delivering the near impossible usually means learning something new. These same academic performance factors help solving challenging problems.

Our interviews were designed to get a sense that candidates have enough relevant knowledge to be a foundation we can build upon and maybe some expertise the fill in our own gaps. Also, we ask questions about how someone worked on problems to get a sense that the candidate learned from past experiences and can find the information necessary to solve issues.

The technology landscape is constantly changing. Software upgrades mean things break or work in a new way. Leadership makes decisions which pull the rugs out from under us. Adapt or die. Curiosity is the only way to stay sane in such a world where what I know today may be irrelevant in a week.

Hack Education has a good post on the frustration of learning to code even with education startup Code Academy. Pretty sure I never would have learned to code without needing to accomplish something + curiosity. Of course, that is often the description of a geek.

The origins of pleasure

Why do we like an original painting better than a forgery? Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that human beings are essentialists — that our beliefs about the history of an object change how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is.

One interesting thing is the same wine from a more expensive bottle improves the taste. In college, my first experiment was looking at which soft drink people liked best: Coke, Pepsi, or Sam’s Choice. In a lot of cases, people would say they thought the drink was either Coke or Pepsi and so it was the one they liked best. In many of those cases it was actually Sam’s Choice. None stated they liked the cheap Sam’s Choice best. So I can buy the perceived expensiveness of something does help me like it better.

Broken

At 30:00 Steve Jobs talks about how innovation came about because people wanted something for themselves to use that was actually good. Maybe this is the takeaway message for dealing with any technology, especially in education. If <name your institution’s LMS> sucks, then look around and cobble together something actually good. Or failing that make your own. Don’t rely on a corporation making profits to suddenly improve.

Email is the most important app I use. I’ve used everything out there… I know we could improve the productivity at Apple 30% just by getting them good email… If something so obvious as email is so broken… there is no answer to these questions [1] except, “Let’s go do it.”

[1] Actually, I think the answer is licensing. A manager wants to pay one bill for software everyone uses. People who hate the software either spend the time to find a free alternative and/or pay the money for a license to an alternative.

TED Talk: Finding planets around other stars

How do we find planets — even habitable planets — around other stars? By looking for tiny dimming as a planet passes in front of its sun, TED Fellow Lucianne Walkowicz and the Kepler mission have found some 1,200 potential new planetary systems. With new techniques, they may even find ones with the right conditions for life.

A prior method of detecting planets around other stars was looking for the wobble. As planets orbit their star, they affect the position of the star. The more mass the planet has, the more the wobble and easier to detect. Of course, a shorter orbit also makes it easier to detect. So it was really good at locating gas giants like Jupiter or larger as close as Mercury or Venus. It would not find an Earth.

Kepler has done a fantastic job so far locating planets, especially those near the size of Earth. Apparently we can even participate by looking for the light dips through the Planet Hunters web site. (Kind of surprised this is not automated. But then, getting credit for having helped find a star is pretty cool.)

If you cannot see the video below, visit Finding planets around other stars.

Vibration-Induced Drop Atomization

Something really cool from Georgia Tech.

… a small liquid drop is placed on a thin metal diaphragm that is forced to vibrate by an attached piezoelectric transducer. The vibration induces capillary waves on the free surface of the drop that, upon attaining the critical conditions, begin to eject small droplets from the wave crests.

They call it Vibration-Induced Drop Atomization. If the embedded video below fails, check it out on Youtube.

Schrödinger’s Politician

Here is good explanation for Schrödinger’s Cat. I’ll continue below the video.

If the embedded video does not work, then go to Schrödinger’s Cat on Youtube.

So the cat exists in two states both dead or alive until something forces the universe to choose one.

It seems like many political decisions follow something like this. Until all the votes are cast, any particular decision is both yes and no at the same time. Tracking the campaign monetary pledges can be a guess, but people could surprisingly have a conscience. Polls rarely use the same language as the actual vote and so framing in both can distort the results.

This is all to say, the American election for president is still over a year away. Yet the pundits are guessing at who will win the nomination over 6 months away and the presidential vote. They have no idea. They know the guesses will change over the next several months all the way up to hours before the election. Probably good for them no employer will fire them for making wrong predictions.

Then again, that the decision is both yes and no at the same time until all the votes are cast is why people should cast their votes.

Privacy and Technology

Isaac Asimov has an interesting pre-World-Wide Web quote, “The advance of civilization is nothing but an exercise in the limiting of privacy.” Janov Pelorat in Foundation’s Edge (1982). Think about the word “civilization”. The root, civil, means to treat others well. In one ideal world, everyone would treat everyone else well for no reason. In hunter-gather societies, groups were small because groups were split when the group grew too large. At these small sizes, human abilities to track trustworthiness worked. Farming attached people to the land, making laws and people to enforce the laws necessary.

Privacy is good for the individual. Eliminating privacy is good for the state. Both claim their point of view is good for society. Both are right. A state with too much ability to see into the lives of  individuals will eventually abuse that power to mistreat its citizens. A state with too little ability to see into the lives of individuals will be too blind to protect citizens from mistreatment by criminals. During times of war, people want the state to protect them and the refrain, “Innocent people have nothing to hide,” gets resurrected. During times of peace, people want the state to leave them alone. It has everything to do with trust. When people no longer trust each other, they turn to the state. When people can trust each other, they stop trusting the state.

Ah. Oversimplification

As technology improves, we gain access to tools which allow us to do more with less effort. With information technology, this means we can gather more and accurate information. At the same time, it means less privacy for us.

Part of my work is to provide evidence to deans, department heads, and instructors about student online behavior. Students would be surprised at how much I can find about what they did in our system. Of course, the campus administrations would like us to be able to know everything about what the students and instructors are doing. To get the same in the bricks-and-mortar parts of campus, cameras and microphone would record and store all the audio and video for every classroom and office.

TED Talk: How to spot a liar

Almost forgot about my How to tell when your boss is lying post.

This attracted me to this TED Talk: “Koko once blamed her pet kitten for ripping a sink of the wall.”

On any given day we’re lied to from 10 to 200 times, and the clues to detect those lie can be subtle and counter-intuitive. Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, shows the manners and “hotspots” used by those trained to recognize deception — and she argues honesty is a value worth preserving.

Some interesting things:

    • We lie more to strangers than coworkers.
    • Extroverts lie more than introverts.
    • Men lie 8x more about themselves than other people.
    • Women lie more to protect other people.

If the below video does not work, then click this: Pamela Meyer: How to spot a liar

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck is my primary interaction with Twitter. Managing two Twitter accounts would be annoying via the web (two browsers given Prism is dead). At times I do accidentally post under the wrong one. Though I think the solution to that might be not having two blue profile icons. It is not Tweetdeck’s fault I fail to pay attention.

The dot indicating an unread post helps me keep track. I can also clear read posts. These keep me from wasting time re-reading posts. Twitter web presents a count of new unread posts and requires me to click it to present the new one. Maybe if I were more of a dopamine addict, I would prefer it.

I follow the brand names of our clients and the relevant product names in my industry. Tweetdeck’s search columns make this easy.

In an ideal world, I would use the AIR app. However, it is no longer supported for the OS I use at home. Even then, there is a feature both the Chrome and Android apps have it does not.

    1. AIR app
      1. PRO: edit the columns in the title bar. (Why I switched back to AIR from Chrome app on one computer.)
      2. PRO: separate application from the web browser.
      3. CON: Adobe AIR is no longer available for Linux, which is the OS I use for about 25 hours a week.
      4. CON: If someone I follow mentions another user and I want to look at this other user, then I end up opening a browser to see their profile. Very clunky compared to the Chrome app. There is a setting “Open profiles in web page (saves on API calls)” that was set.
    2. Chrome app
      1. PRO: If someone I follow mentions another user, then I can see it in a client profile.
      2. CON: In a browser window.
      3. CON: Cannot edit columns in the title bar. Have to recreate the column with correct values.
    3. Android app
      1. PRO: If someone I follow mentions another user, then I can see it in a client profile.
      2. CON: Columns available to use are those from the Twitter web.

Really I am happy enough.