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October 2014

"The Amish Farmers Reinventing Organic Agriculture"

Dang clever.

Kempf is the unlikely founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, a consulting firm established in 2006 to promote science-intensive organic agriculture. The entrepreneur’s story is almost identical to Zook’s. A series of crop failures on his own farm drove the 8th grade-educated Kempf to school himself in the sciences. For two years, he pored over research in biology, chemistry, and agronomy in pursuit of a way to save his fields. The breakthrough came from the study of plant immune systems which, in healthy plants, produce an array of compounds that are toxic to intruders. “The immune response in plants is dependent on well-balanced nutrition,” Kempf concluded, “in much the same way as our own immune system.” Modern agriculture uses fertilizer specifically to increase yields, he added, with little awareness of the nutritional needs of other organic functions. Through plant sap analysis, Kempf has been able to discover deficiencies in important trace minerals which he can then introduce into the soil. With plants able to defend themselves, pesticides can be avoided, allowing the natural predators of pests to flourish.


"Yes, the Deficit Is Smaller. But That Wasn’t the Main Problem."

Absolutely. Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

What was needed then and is still needed now is a plan–not for short-term austerity but to address our medium- and long-term debt situation. Policies need to be phased in gradually and designed to support the country’s economic recovery. Unfortunately, we got the opposite: spending reductions that focused on the short term and cuts to discretionary spending instead of tax reforms and entitlement reforms to generate permanent and growing savings. 

See also Erskine Bowles:

I wish I could believe the recent decline in the deficit is sustainable. The temporary factors related to the recession — which caused the deficit to increase dramatically — are now receding, but the structural problems with our budget remain.


Two on teaching math

"How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math: Sorry, education reformers, it’s still memorization and repetition we need.

"The best way to teach kids math is not in a classroom".

Lists of independent facts without a network of connections are hard to follow and harder to retain. The problem reminds me of trying to dig a deep, narrow hole in dry sand. As the hole goes down, the sides collapse and fill it back in. It is possible to dig a deep hole, but only if it stretches out to the sides. 

I gave a graduation speech many years ago. When asked, “What is the biggest thing you learned after you left school and became a practicing engineer?” my response was that in school, when you have an exam, you at least know what subject you are taking the exam in. In real life, you don’t know if the solution of the day will come from math, physics, chemistry, or just as likely human behavior or the quality of product instructions.

 


". . . troubling, disturbing and shocking"

What NCAA President Mark Emmert said about the Wainstein report on the troubles at UNC-Chapel Hill.

And see "President of Macalester College Calls for University of North Carolina to Lose its Accreditation Over Academic Fraud Scandal".

I'm not convinced anything really bad will happen to UNC-CH. But it seems more likely than I first thought. 

And I agree with this: "Did Wainstein Report Whitewash High-Level Culprits In UNC Cheating Scandal?"


"21 Days: An expert in biological warfare warns against complacency in public measures against Ebola"

Interesting. Apparently, as has been the case in other instances recently--proper diet, climate change, among others--the science is not "settled"

For one objection, Hatfill wants it known that, while it must be emphasized that airborne droplet and particle transmission between humans has not been evident in this outbreak, aerosol droplet transmission of Ebola virus has been shown in animal studies. “It is therefore irresponsible for government health officials to emphatically state that aerosol transmission does not occur,” he writes. He also believes the argument against a national quarantine is “inexcusable in light of the size of the current West African epidemic.”

But the politics are the same as almost always: "Life-saving drugs and deadly delays".

Related: "Ten Ways The Public Sector Is Failing And The Private Sector Is Succeeding Against Ebola".