Monday, February 29, 2016

Numismatic Truthseekers

Joel J. Orosz is currently the Distinguished Professor of Philanthropic Studies at Johnson Center for Philanthropy of Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I know Joel through the Numismatic Bibliomania Society. His most recent effort in our hobby is his co-authoring Truthseeker: The Life of Eric P. Newman (Dallas: Ivy Press, 2015). Working with Leonard Augsburger and Roger W. Burdette, he outlined the lifetime achievements of one of the greatest names in numismatics, and certainly one of the most productive and innovative numismatists in our time.  

Eric P. Newman came to numismatics as most collectors do: a grandfather gave him a coin. Soon, he was saving his allowances and going downtown to a coin dealer's shop. Newman continued his hobby after he graduated from MIT and completed a law degree at Washington University in St. Louis. After the death of  "Colonel" Edward Howland Robinson Green, that estate's lawyers were challenged to dispose properly of a monstrous assortment of uncatalogued rarities. Working through them, and partnered with his old friend, coin dealer Burdette Johnson, Newman came to know the leaders of numismatics in the early middle of the 20th century. It was a wilderness, a no-man's-land of fables, rumors, and blue sky sales. Encouraged by Wayte Raymond, Newman began to dig in the available records.

Among his many achievements were the uncloaking of the 1804 Dollars, the discovery of the true origin of the U.S. Dollar Sign, and the organization and presentation of colonial and Revolutionary paper money in The Early Paper Money of America

But that is Newman. As for Joel, for all of his memberships, even though he graduated from Kalamazoo College (1975-1979), and works in Grand Rapids, Joel never joined the Michigan State Numismatic Society. When I edited the MSNS Mich-Matist 2004-2007, I ran a "Wanted" poster like this, but no  one took me up on it.  So, I asked the current editor, Mike Strub, to run this one.

This week, I will be in Dallas for the ANA "World's Fair of Money" national convention.  On Thursday and Friday, I will be judging exhibits. On Saturday, I am delivering a presentation, "From Texas to the Moon with John Leonard Riddell."  You can read the primary points on this blog, here. I expanded that work for the ANA Numismatist. They published it as "The Riddle of J. L. Riddell" in April 2014. My talk in Dallas will include material not presented elsewhere from his narrative of "Orrin Lindsay's Plan of Aerial Navigation" (1847).  Riddell was apparently the first working scientist to publish a science fiction story.

My review of the Newman biography is an ANA Website Blog article here. 

William Sheldon: Psychologist, Numismatist, Thief
John F. Jord: Forgery and Fraud in Numismatics
Numismatics: The Standard of Proof in Economics
Numismatics: History as Market

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Austin Energy Regional Science Festival

This was my fifth year judging the projects entered in the Behavioral and Social Sciences category.  The field was crowded. Eight teams of judges were assigned to the 57 entrants. Each team chose one participant to advance to the second round of judging. Among those eight, we chose first through fifth place awards. The top three were advanced to the state competition. In addition, a select committee of judges chose Best of Fair awards from all categories. Those also advanced, of course. Various organizations, including Austin Energy, granted special prizes to outstanding projects. Although we judges adhered to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair standards, the independents could apply their own metrics.
My Choice for 1st Place

With any large set, the elements can be sorted many ways. With years of experience, the process committee has a pretty good insight into the abstracts. So, the sets tend to be more or less even. It was the “less” side of that that I found difficult. We know that it is likely that any one group could have more projects that were superior to any projects from some other group. Yet, each conveniently chosen group in Behavioral had only one project allowed to advance to the next round.  The same method applied to other categories. On the other hand, computers and robotics were under-represented this year.

It is also clear that some schools invest a lot of resources in this. Over the past five years, I have seen interesting projects fall just a bit short for lack of mentoring. 
My choice for 2nd Place
Buried by the process

Judging begins with individuals. We then get together and seek consensus. If you advocate well for your choices, you can carry the day for your prodigies. On the other hand, social capital pays dividends; and a judge who is a psychology professor necessarily has more of it. Judging is a gestalt, not a tally.

The underlying problem is that all of these projects are winners. Eighty-five percent of success is showing up. Decisions are made by those who show up. These 2200 from 3rd through 12th grades in 12 counties representing 21 school districts, plus charter schools, private schools, and home schools, were the ones who did the work.  It is easy to say that the median grade is a C+, but the median grade at a science fair is really an A-minus.
A popular subject
handled with finesse
but lost in the process

Behavioral and Social Science Middle School Winners.
  • 1st Sophie Polidoro, Canyon Ridge, “How does text color affect retention?”
  • 2nd Cameron Ferweda, Canyon Ridge, “How do certain foods affect peoples' reaction time and memory?”
  • 3rdJessica Cummings, Canyon Ridge, “How does age affect how people focus on abnormalities in their environment?”
  • 4th Allie Cermak, Round Rock Christian Academy MS, “Circadian Rhythm Your Brain's Clock”
  • 5th Robinson Lopez, Dripping Springs, “Picture Perfect”

Behavioral and Social Science High School Winners.
So much talent crammed in
next to each other.
  • 1st Curtis Harrison and Nicole Deere, Vista Ridge, “The Effect of the Sensation of Fear versus Reward on Learning Capabilities, Short-Term and Long-Term Memory in Procambarus clarkii,”
  • 2nd Travis Cantwell, Veritas Academy, “The Fatigue Effect: Aural and Cognitive Exhaustion in Children with Cochlear Implants”
  • 3rd Joselyne Flores-Vivas and Aimee Heim, Vista Ridge, “Effects of Rubik's Cube Design on Speed”
  • 4th Sadaf Karim, Renaissance Academy, “How Do Fears Change By Age and Gender?”
  • 5th Kristin Hauck, Bowie High School, “The Effect of External Factors on Short Term Memory”
 The American Psychological Association gave a special award to Harrison and Deere for their work with the crayfish, Procambarus clarkii.  BioAustin recognized Cameron Ferweda’s research. Thomas Wintenburg of Vista Ridge entered a mathematics project on “Reducing the Cost of U.S. Military Bases.” He was singled out by the U.S. Air Force, Austin Energy, and the Mu Theta Alpha mathematics honor society.

Travis Cantwell's original research deserves special attention. Children with certain hearing deficits are give cochlear implants. It solves the hearing problem. The secondary consequence is cognitive fatigue. Even as a child, Cantwell noticed that his sister tired easily. We judges argued his research project back and forth. The problem was that we could not have two first places. So, push came to shove. The bottom line was that his advocate pushed when I shoved. The crayfish won. It was not fair. We should call them science un-fairs.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Retraction Watch

Let me tell you: 20% of scientists are crooks - and that includes me.  They lie about facts and figures. They steal from their graduate and post-graduate and post-doctoral assistants. They fail to inform subjects of consequences (because, in fact, they invented the subjects).

Retraction Watch reports the facts. (See  here:

My own sins: fewer and far between.  I publish the "same" article in multiple venues. Cognizant of the difficulty, I always make some small change and (usually) reference that fact. But I am aware of the fact. With informal writing, it is not a big deal. With Federally-funded scientific research it is a big deal. Even if the writing is new, re-using an illustration will force a retraction.

People have done to prison. Just put "researcher went to prison" in your search engine.

On my passive blog, CSI:Flint 2010, I was inspired to bring the Office of Research Integrity to middle school students who were interested in science and police work. "Don't waste your motivation on CSI," I said. "That is like the physics of Star Trek.  If you love science and want to do police work, go for the Office of Research Integrity."

Science Fair Science Fraud
An Abundance of Talent
Monsters from the Id
Biobash: Chamber Replicates Success

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mardi Gras Doubloons Celebrate Life

Mardi Gras is the last party before Lent. In New Orleans, among other kinds of trinkets such as necklaces, the krewes of floats throw doubloons. 
From left to right: 
American Ingenuity, Atlas, Triumphs of Arts and Sciences, Love that American Money
One side announces the krewe. The other usually is in line with a theme for the year. Many of the krewes are named for pagan gods and goddesses. Many are anodized for the liturgical colors of Easter: white, gold, red, green, and purple. They also can be found in blue, etc.

Coin of the Realm, Inventions and Discoveries, The Sciences
As my username is often "Mercury" I have a lot of those, as well as his analogs, Hermes and Thoth. 
All Things Beautiful and the Krewe of Pegasus
I also have Atlases. Overall, having bought mixed lots from dealers over the years, I have assembled a box of good wishes, celebrations, and honors that are meaningful to me.  They make nice hand-outs at parties and meetings, especially among my Objectivist friends.

Industrial Medals: the Currency of Fame 
Numismatics: History as Market 
Numismatics: the Standard of Proof in Economics 
The Objective Virtues of Stamp Collecting

Monday, February 8, 2016

Green Lantern Outshines Green Hornet

The Green Lantern (2011, Martin Campbell) not only kept to the story line, it took itself seriously.  The Green Hornet (2011, Michel Gondry) failed to make use of a rich story line, and was a joke on itself. 

Movies like these are always made for the fans. Many of those - perhaps most- are established followers to some degree or other.  In addition, the producers always hope to draw upon the millions who do not know the story, and who are looking for something new. They will become the new fans for next release. 

 Of those who enjoyed Lord of the Rings, only a minority slogged through three volumes of elvish poetry and grammar, and only a minority of them read The Silmarillion.  I know for a fact that many of my conservative comrades on did not read Atlas Shrugged either before or after seeing the movies. And few who did have read The Virtue of Selfishness. 

While I knew about Kato, I did not know Lenore Case (a constant as Britt Reid’s secretary), or Michael Axford (a reporter in two movies in 1940 and 1941, now the editor, played by Edward James Olmos.)  However, Wikipedia is our common memory. That said, when I was about three, we had a Hudson Hornet and being green, I called it The Green Hornet, so I must have known the radio show. And, as a young adult, I learned that Britt Reid was a grandnephew of John Reid, the Lone Ranger.  I had some other tangential exposures to the story over the years.

When they first were on the market, I had the presence of mind to buy the Dark Knight series as gifts for my wife. But it was only a couple of years ago that I picked up on the Green Lantern and several other comics, and only because of Big Bang Theory. The library and comic stores were both big helps. So, I am not a trufan, I confess.

Not only did Michel Gondry and Seth Rogen (star and writer with Evan Goldberg) fail to make the best use of a developed narrative, they besmirched it. From radio into movies, television, and several comic publishers, the Green Hornet has had a complex career, and several incarnations. In this version, Britt Reid’s contempt for everyone around him, especially Kato, and Kato’s servility were sickening. Given the recorded history of Lenore Case since 1936, Cameron Diaz’s talent was wasted. In the year 2011, she could have come out early as the brains of the group. And she should not have needed to kick Britt in the nuts. By 2011, he should have been a better person.

The Green Lantern held true to the story, and was written and played as seriously as a comic book can be. Although Hal Jordan is a swaggering jet jockey, he is not an idiot. And he is not mean. And his serious side is evident from the first, so that when he is called upon to be heroic on an inter-galactic scale, it is believable in the context of the story.

"In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might,

Beware my power, Green Lantern's light !"