Five short links

Photo by Chris in Plymouth

Extraordinary Claims – An in-depth look at the methodology behind both Daryl Bem’s research claiming evidence of precognition, and the critical responses to it. I’m deeply sceptical that his claims are correct myself, but Peter clearly lays out how the critics are trying to change the rules to dismiss them, rather than having a fair fight. As the Climategate coverage shows, science isn’t just about getting the right answer. Like justice it has to be seen to be done, having a transparent and even-handed process for dealing with heretics is important.

25 Commandments for Journalists – I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘sensationalism’ in writing, engaging the reader and how to square that with truth, justice and the American Way (of journalism). It’s been one of the most controversial topics I’ve tackled, provoking some insightful push back from regulars like Emily Cunningham. This manifesto from Tim Radford articulates the British position far better than I’ve managed to so far, with key phrases like “Nobody has to read this crap” and “Words like ‘sensational’ and ‘trivial’ are not insults to a journalist”. The final commandment is the most important though, about the balancing act we all need to do.

25. Writers have a responsibility, not just in law. So aim for the truth. If that’s elusive, and it often is, at least aim for fairness, the awareness that there is always another side to the story. Beware of all claims to objectivity. This one is the dodgiest of all. You may report that the Royal Society says that genetic modification is a good thing, and that depleted uranium is mostly harmless. But you should remember that genetic modification was invented by people who were immediately elected to the Royal Society for their cleverness, by people already in there because they knew how to enrich uranium fuel rods and deplete the rest. So to paraphrase Miss Mandy Rice-Davies (1963) “They would say that, wouldn’t they?”

Cuatro años de ejecuciones en México (Four years of executions in Mexico) – This is exactly the sort of important story I hoped OpenHeatMap could help tell. A sobering read, even through a stuttering automatic translation.

Gremlin – A screencast introducing Gremlin, a Groovy-based graph processing language. Uses analysis of Grateful Dead playlists as the example, and makes dealing with graph traversal look easy. Thanks to Chris Diehl for the heads-up.

Wolfram Alpha’s API is free, but is it open? – Wolfram has assembled an awesome collection of knowledge and aims to make it ‘computable’, but their API only returns images and textual descriptions of their data. If we’re going to do more than just display supplemental search results to users, we’ll need a machine-readable version. Anybody know folks there that I can quiz about that? Email me if you do, thanks (or if you have any other thoughts too of course!).

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