Clearly this is quite a bit later than it was supposed to be but, since I had already picked out the links, I decided I would finish it. However, I’m giving up on the weekly quicklinks; they were supposed to help me get some easy writing done in my spare time but they turned out to be a lot more effort and stress than they are worth.
The Japanese name for the wolf also means “great god.”
This article suggests that giving wild animals names, instead of just numbers or other designations, helps reduce the sense that humans are separate from the rest of nature.
It’s, again, only March when I am writing my first blog post about reading for the year, does that mean I’ve been doing a bad job? Surprisingly, no!
The Count of Monte Cristo (1844-1846) by Alexandre Dumas
While I have only read one book so far, it is The Count of Monte Cristo, which, coming in at just over 1000 pages is easily as long as 3-4 regular books. Given the length, I will discuss the book in a bit more detail than normal.
The Count of Monte Cristo was originally published in French and in serialised form from 1844 to 1846. Since I do not know French, I got an English version which appears to be the anonymous 1846 translation. While I can not comment on the French writing (A French colleague of mine tells me that it’s good.), I can say that I really liked the way that this translation is written. You can tell that it’s an older style but, apart from a few sentences, it’s still really easy to read.
As a slight digression, I couldn’t help noticing I’ve read many great books which were originally written in French, but not so many from other languages. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence.
When I was a kid and visited rock pools, I’d always look carefully, hoping to see an octopus in the wild. It never happened. This would have been the dream!
This article looks at conservation and animal distributions and suggests that, maybe, we’re trying to save animals in the wrong places. Perhaps where animals are now is only where they have been pushed by human expansion, rather than being the best places for them. It shows the complications of dealing things in the real world and how our desire for a “correct” world clashes with the reality that the world is always changing. Conservation is important but what are you conserving and when is your conservation harming more than its helping? These sort of questions are not limited to animals but are also applicable to humans. It’s difficult to say who belongs where because human history is a history of migration. Who is “supposed” to live where will change depending at what time you choose.
This time we’re doing two weeks together. Why? I got infected with covid and so all my plans and normal activities have completely gone out the window. It was not a particularly severe case though but it’s still been quite disruptive.
This week we’re starting off with an impressive picture of a snow leopard which was taken in Mongolia.
AI tools like chatGPT are pretty cool. But they are not exactly reliable and, even worse, it’s difficult to know how reliable they are. When you hear a person you don’t know, you can look into what they do or what qualifications they have. With AI, it’s giving you answers which are a mix of all sorts of information; some true, some false. In the following Twitter thread, you can learn how it can construct that false information.
I’ve seen this in quite a few places, it’s a piece arguing that PhD training needs to be reformed. Now I’m not saying that PhD training (or universities in general) are perfect, they’re not. There are many things that can be improved but I don’t think this article is on the right track. In my opinion, many of the sort of issues that the article talks about are neither failings of PhD nor university education but a failure of society and expectations. A degree at any level is not supposed to prepare people for jobs. It’s supposed to provide domain-specific knowledge while building general skills in critical thinking, research and learning. It’s up to employers to provide job-specific training. There is also a problem of credential inflation where even basic jobs now require a degree, no matter how unnecessary that is. Furthermore, while I fully agree that we should value PhD graduates and that they can help find solutions to various problems, I think framing that as a key role of PhD training is sorely misguided. I say that because we don’t need more solutions! Look at the biggest problem of today – global warming. We already have renewable energy options, we know how to build public transport, we know how to make food more sustainable, we know we can cut back on consumption. The problems are not scientific, they are political. There is no political will to make the necessary changes. Most other big problems, from Russia’s war in Ukraine, censorship, human rights, equality and so on, those are all political problems that we can, in principle, solve today.