Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An article about doctoral degrees hits a nerve

Sometimes it is easy to predict the articles will be popular, and sometimes an article unexpectedly hits a nerve. The essay composed for the Christmas edition of The Economist about doctoral degrees was always going to attract a little interest, but no idea how wildly popular it would be.

I think the reasons for this speak to an underlying problem: the commoditisation of academic research work. It looks at what happens to those who are hoovered up by academia to work on projects where a future career is unlikely.

In less than a month, this piece has had over 700,000 hits on the web page alone. It has featured in our list of the top ten most read articles for three weeks, and as of today still remains one of the ten most recommended items on the website. To put the phenomenal success of this article in context, well read articles can generally expect around 150K hits online in a week.

In the first week this article received about twice this number of hits, and has continued to maintain high levels of interest. In only a week this article became the highest hitting article of the entire year (maybe longer if we actually had looked back any further).

The disposable academic
Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time
Dec 16th 2010

Monday, January 24, 2011

Increase of tuberculosis linked with sin?

I find this moderately depressing. If I do a Google search on "antibiotic resistance in bacteria", the top hit is from a website called 'Answers', made to look a bit like but with the easily missable subtitle 'building a biblical worldview'.

Most of the text is deceptively informative and harmless and you might read the entire thing oblivious until reaching the final line:

"Mutation and natural selection, thought to be the driving forces of evolution, only lead to a loss of functional systems. Therefore, antibiotic resistance of bacteria is not an example of evolution in action but rather variation within a bacterial kind. It is also a testimony to the wonderful design God gave bacteria, master adapters and survivors in a sin-cursed world."

If you've ever wondered why the world is struggling to contain antibiotic resistance, look no further than the accursed sinners afflicting our planet. Presumably Zsa Zsa Gabor's could have avoided a leg amputation if she had prayed more?