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Philip Mirowski on the Nobel (or Swedish Central Bank) prize in Economics

Philip Mirowski on the Nobel (or Swedish Central Bank) prize in Economics

Philip Mirowski in a free-flowing dialogue talks a little bit about his latest research: a history of the Nobel Prize in Economics (or rather, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel).  In his capsule summary, he suggests that the Nobel Prize was instituted at a time when the Swedish Central Bank was trying to free itself of democratic accountability, and that therefore, the Prize served to legitimate the Central Bank itself as a technical rather than a political body.  [The Central Bank is certainly one of the most politically puzzling institutions in modern capitalist democracies.  […]

5 Tips for Surviving Your Fieldwork Year

5 Tips for Surviving Your Fieldwork Year

Disclaimer: my fieldwork is all outside of the US, and primarily ethnographic. Staying local or doing archival research are bound to come with their own, unique demands. And/or you may be a better-adjusted individual than I am, and have had totally different experiences. So please do us all a favor and supplement this post with your own tips and tidbits on how to make your advisor proud and do fieldwork year right.   So you’ve survived your general exams. The dissertation proposal is done (well, almost…), and you’re finally ready to get out there and do what it is you came […]

A Theory of Key Points: What Tennis can tell us about Technological Change

A Theory of Key Points: What Tennis can tell us about Technological Change

One of the reasons for this blog is that it allows me to write speculative posts that no self-respecting journal would publish.  Consider this one of them.  I love watching tennis matches — and rewatching them on YouTube (typically when I have a deadline and I feel like doing anything but working on it).  And I often spend time thinking about technological determinism — or rather, how to avoid it in one’s work.  How can one tell stories of change without emphasizing the technological?  Or by folding the technological into the institutional?  It struck me once that telling a story […]

The problem with physicists

The problem with physicists

xkcd gets STS-ey:

Fun piece on the second coming of scurvy

Fun piece on the second coming of scurvy

There’s a good chance that, like me, you get a kick out of reading about explorers. There is probably less chance, however, that you share my opinion—my generals committee is sick of hearing this—that late 19th/early 20th century explorations, including those that ended in the deaths of some or all of the protagonists, are best understood as farce, rather than as tragedy.* My opinion has only been strengthened by learning that scurvy—far from being “conquered” at the end of the eighteenth century—had a “second coming” at the end of the nineteenth. A post on a blog called “Idle Words” has […]

More on severed heads

More on severed heads

My friend Josh, in the History & Philosophy of Science Department at Cambridge, directs me to this footage of Soviet experiments on reviving animals from an informational/propoganda film for Americans in 1940. (I tried to embed it but couldn’t. Not sure why.)

“Off with your heads: isolated organs in early Soviet science and fiction”

“Off with your heads: isolated organs in early Soviet science and fiction”

That is the title of a new article by Nikolai Krementsov in the June 2009 issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. The abstract is awesome enough to make me slaughter a tree and read it tonight: “…This paper examines the relationship between the literary and the scientific experiments with severed heads in post-revolutionary Russia, which reflected the anxieties about death, revival, and survival in the aftermath of the 1914–1923 ‘reign of death’ in that country….” But the real genius is the assigned keywords: “Aleksandr Beliaev; Sergei Briukhonenko; Death; Revival; Severed head; Russia.” What other […]