Category Archives: Science & Technology

The Rise of the New Groupthink – NYTimes.com

The Rise of the New Groupthink – NYTimes.com.

Opinion

The Rise of the New Groupthink

SOLITUDE is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in.

But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They’re not joiners by nature.

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Read the full story here: The New York Times

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Drillers must employ best practices to keep ‘fracking’ boom alive – Houston Chronicle

Drillers must employ best practices to keep ‘fracking’ boom alive – Houston Chronicle.

Drillers must employ best practices to keep ‘fracking’ boom alive

Updated 02:30 p.m., Saturday, January 7, 2012

As recently as 2001, the production of gas naturally occurring deep inside shale rock provided less than 2 percent of total U.S. natural gas production. Today, it is approaching 30 percent. As late as 2007, it was commonly assumed that the United States would be importing large amounts of liquefied natural gas from the Middle East and other areas.

Today, almost overnight in natural-resource years, we are not only self-sufficient in natural gas, we have enough natural gas for the rest of this century on the basis of current demand. This same horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology is now being used in liquids-rich shales to increase oil production. These resource plays are in their infancy and can clearly improve the energy security of the United States.

Nonetheless, the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale rock to release gas trapped deep beneath the Earth’s surface has inspired public fear-mongering, mostly around presumed threats to air quality and water quality. Most of that fear is unfounded.

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Read the full story here: The Houston Chronicle

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An Engineered Doomsday – NYTimes.com

An Engineered Doomsday – NYTimes.com.

Editorial

An Engineered Doomsday

Scientists have long worried that an influenza virus that has ravaged poultry and wild birds in Asia might evolve to pose a threat to humans. Now scientists financed by the National Institutes of Health have shown in a laboratory how that could happen. In the process they created a virus that could kill tens or hundreds of millions of people if it escaped confinement or was stolen by terrorists.

We nearly always champion unfettered scientific research and open publication of the results. In this case it looks like the research should never have been undertaken because the potential harm is so catastrophic and the potential benefits from studying the virus so speculative.

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Read the full article here: The New York Times

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The gender gap in politics: Why do women vote differently than men? – Slate Magazine

The gender gap in politics: Why do women vote differently than men? – Slate Magazine.

Why Do Women Vote Differently Than Men?

Despite stereotypes, men are actually more fickle at the voting booth.

This election cycle, as with just about every other, there is considerable handwringing about where the women voters will land. Which candidate will alienate women and which one will say just the right things? (And what do women want to hear, anyway?) Among the GOP candidates, Newt Gingrich’s woman problem has been especially chewed over; there’s the matter of his cheating and his three marriages, not to mention the condescending way he’s spoken of Michele Bachmann. Perhaps in desperation to connect with that mysterious species of voter, the Woman, the candidate’s efforts recently yielded the headline: “Gingrich Sheds Tears in Meeting with Iowa Mothers.”

But why do women vote differently than men? For decades women have been more closely aligned with the Democratic Party and men more likely to identify as Republicans. And even among a single-party electorate, there is variation between the sexes. We know from Iowa entrance polls, for instance, that Ron Paul placed third despite having much more support from male voters, whereas Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney achieved their virtual tie by winning over more women than men. As predicted, Gingrich fared poorly with women, though in fairness he faired almost as poorly with men.

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Read the full story here: Slate Magazine

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The Frontier of Classroom Technology – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com

The Frontier of Classroom Technology – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com.

The Frontier of Classroom Technology

Lately educators are bringing social networks, interactive whiteboards, mobile devices and other technology into the classroom, with mixed results. Do these technologies benefit students? What are the downsides?

Follow the debate here: The New York Times – Room for Debate

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Why is the Freedom app so popular? – Slate Magazine

Why is the Freedom app so popular? – Slate Magazine.

Can We Really Unplug?

The illusion of Internet freedom.

How many people made New Year’s resolutions to spend less time on the Internet? Yet another friend recently recommended that I try Freedom, the popular program that “locks” you off the Internet. The ubiquitousness of this program, which calls itself “a simple productivity application,” feels ominous to me. It somehow brings to mind the Ionesco play, Rhinoceros, where one by one the townspeople turn into rhinoceroses.

I don’t in any way question why anyone would want Freedom. The addictive, mindless thrill of the Internet is clear: Why work when you can go on email or check the weather? We are, in Eliot’s words, “distracted from distraction by distraction.” With this program, the longest you can be barred from the Internet is eight hours, so the particular freedom it is offering is not crazy or excessive. You do not, in the reassuring world of Freedom, spend, say, an entire day offline

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Read the full article here: Slate Magazine

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Reef poured, Port Mansfield hopes big fish are on the way – San Antonio Express-News

Reef poured, Port Mansfield hopes big fish are on the way – San Antonio Express-News.

Reef poured, Port Mansfield hopes big fish are on the way

Recycled culverts to provide habitat for fish and marine life.
Updated 02:20 a.m., Friday, December 30, 2011

PORT MANSFIELD — Peak season may be half a year away, but local fishing guide Terry Neal already is envisioning taking charters offshore for the first time in years, to what promises to become one of the Texas coast’s favorite saltwater fishing destinations.

And it’s all thanks to more than 4,000 unwanted concrete culverts.

In a project sponsored by the Coastal Conservation Association, Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow, and Texas Parks and Wildlife, a 200-foot barge loaded with the culverts in July was unloaded some seven nautical miles from Port Mansfield.

Dumping giant concrete tubes into the ocean may not seem very fish-friendly, but artificial reefs create habitat that to finned creatures may as well be the hottest new condos. Once barnacles start to attach and smaller fish start to feed, it won’t be long before the big game fish, including snapper, marlin, kingfish, and wahoo, follow.

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Eagle Ford construction is booming – San Antonio Express-News

Eagle Ford construction is booming – San Antonio Express-News.

Eagle Ford construction is booming

Updated 08:44 p.m., Thursday, December 29, 2011

The housing business remains emphatically average across the major cities in Texas, as home builders continue to pull themselves up from the recession.

But in many small South Texas communities, where oil and gas drilling is booming, housing — of any sort, be it RVs or single-family homes — can’t be added quickly enough.

Then there’s the commercial space — or, more accurately, the lack of space for lease or purchase.

Now more developers and builders from San Antonio and beyond are moving into the sparsely populated Eagle Ford Shale counties to build everything from housing to pipe yards to warehouses.

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Read the full story here: San Antonio Express-News

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From Fidel Castro to Hugo Chavez: with great power comes truly great paranoia – Telegraph

From Fidel Castro to Hugo Chavez: with great power comes truly great paranoia – Telegraph.

From Fidel Castro to Hugo Chavez: with great power comes truly great paranoia

Plainly lunatic ideas can take on serious importance when no one contradicts you.

8:10PM GMT 29 Dec 2011

I have been reading Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s comments about his cancer. It is, apparently, an assassination attempt by America. I wonder if that’s what happened to me last week. I had the norovirus and spent Christmas in bed. I had put it down to bad luck. But maybe there was something more sinister at work. While you wouldn’t call me a dictator as such, maybe there are people out there who want to stop me writing…

When you’re a totalitarian, nothing is ever as straightforward as falling ill. This week, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the president of Argentina, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, has had cancer, as has her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva. And Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo. These South American leaders are all democrats, however. And not one has attributed their cancer to anything other than the fact that people do, unfortunately, get cancer.

Dictators, though, think differently. Dictators live in a bubble of paranoia. So when Hugo Chávez was diagnosed with cancer last June, he considered it not an act of God or poor luck, but imperialist aggression. An assassination attempt, in fact, by the US. “It’s very difficult to explain, even with the law of probabilities, what has been happening to some of us in Latin America,” he said in a speech this week. “Would it be so strange that they’ve invented technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years? I’m just sharing my thoughts, but it’s very, very, very strange.”

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But it’s not just dictators who suffer. Few leaders have ever been more paranoid than Richard Nixon. “Never forget,” he told Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig in a taped conversation in 1972, “the press is the enemy, the press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy, the professors are the enemy. Write that on a blackboard 100 times.”

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Read the full story here: The Telegraph

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In Louisiana, Twist in Fight Over Texaco Drilling Lease – NYTimes.com

In Louisiana, Twist in Fight Over Texaco Drilling Lease – NYTimes.com.

Bitter Twist in Louisiana Family’s Long Drilling Fight

ERATH, La. — It began as a landlord-tenant dispute, Louisiana style.

The tenant was Texaco; the landlord the Broussard family, heirs of a Cajun rancher, who claimed that Texaco’s operation of a gas plant on its property had left the land contaminated. The lawsuit, of a kind not all that rare in these industry-heavy parts, had dragged on so long that 13 of the heirs had died.

But it took a sudden and bitter turn in recent months, when another company — a company that, like Texaco, is a subsidiary of Chevronsued to condemn most of the disputed land and expropriate it, arguing that it was acting in the national interest.

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Read the full story here: The New York Times

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