In Lieu of Substance

* Margaret pointed me to the Chord Hat video

* Micah pointed me to the “Le Grand Content” video as an example of visual communication of data. . . in a way. . .

* I was reminiscing about the rediscovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker the other day (OK, so I’m peculiar when it comes to day-dreaming nostalgia) and a chain of links led me to this fascinating paper by Jan Swart (sorry, it’s posted in PDF only). Swart argues that scholarly certainty that the ivorybill had become extinct suppressed evidence that the ivorybill was being sighted more or less regularly during the half century it was reputed to be extinct. Now, I don’t know how the ornithological guild has received Swart’s paper, but even if it’s only partly sound, he’s exposing a vitally important riposte to the empiricists’ insistence that they deal in facts and observations not subject to “social construction.” Evidently, to some extent (am I qualifying this enough?), scientists knew that the ivorybill had to be extinct, so they explained away reports that it had been sighted.

Sure, there are absolutely “facts” that subsist apart from human “construction.” It’s never clear to me, however, how we can tell when we’re dealing with one of those or one of the more elusive kind. Last I checked, facts don’t come with consumer safety tags that specify whether this is the indisputable, immutable, eternal truth, or a considered conclusion for which I should trust the pertinent experts, or what.

* There’ll always be an England. In the controversy over contestants’ repellent treatment of Big Brother adversary Shilpa Shetty, the Telegraph contributes the characterization of her squabbling rivals as “has-been pop star Jo ‘S Club 7’ O’Meara, wannabe model Danielle Lloyd, and has-been wannabe Jade Goody” (it was even better in NPR’s more concise formulation, “a has-been pop star, a wannabe model, and a has-been wannabe”).

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