Category Archives: The life of μ

Conference: Association for the Philosophy of Mathematical Practice

There’s a very interesting conference in Paris right now. Such a pity I’m not there. In fact, this post only appears now, because I only just found out about it. Looking forward to reading the papers.

3rd Congress of the Association for the Philosophy of Mathematical Practice (APMP) Paris, Institut Henri Poincaré, 2-4 November 2015


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George Boole’s was born 200 years ago todaythe

Today is the 200th anniversary of George Boole‘s birth.  Boole (1815-1864), born in Lincoln, England, was a self-taught mathematician. In 1849 he became the first Professor of Mathematics at University of Cork, Ireland where he wrote his most important work, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought. But I didn’t know much about him.  I remember being taught about булева логика in year 5 of school by my favourite maths and computer science teacher (and being amused ten years later that this term was the same in English, “boolean logic”). Now I know a bit more! So thanks Google for this random mathematical history fact!


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This new way of finding articles is cool. Three people sent me this link in the last few days (two mathematicians and one social scientist). It’s not new, but it is the first sign of organisation spreading beyond social scientists’ personal friendship lines.

But it is a piecemeal approach, a laborious micro-rebellion. Seriously, when will we in the social studies and humanities realise that what we really need is a much larger, concerted movement against the outrageous system of academic journals? What we need is our own version of the ArXiV which is currently used by everyone in the mathematical and computer sciences, physics, statistics, quantitative biology and quantitative finance.  We aren’t children. We must make the rules, not break them.


But hey, they just need to learn how to sell themselves!

I read this cheery post on the careers blog at my university this morning and it made my porridge taste sour. What better way to start your working week (well, start isn’t the right word since most academics I know do at least some, and sometimes most, of their work over the weekend): let’s all join hands engage in some gleeful unreflective apology of our pernicious labour market system. 

Sure, I get it. You live in a market place, you must sell yourself, stupid. In this context, some of the advice in this blogpost is useful. It makes sense. We all do it. We all do it, whether we are good at it, whether we hate or enjoy it. But under the cheery businessy tone of such publications lies the creepy reality of academic marketisation gone out of control.

Oh and by the way, when will I have time to do some research, find/create/acquire/share some knowledge? After my market pitch. In my copious spare time. Over the weekend. Hey there, I am for sale, brains, research ethics and all. Who is buying?

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Is “embracing ordinariliness” really the only way to cope with the impossible demands of contemporary universities?

Another depressing article: astute analysis of the problems in contemporary academia (which affect both women and men, but the average man tends to have better invisible support in coping with them)…sadly followed by a call to “embrace ordinariliness”.

“Given that women still bear the brunt of responsibility for running households and organising the school schedules of children and so on, the question I was asking myself was how can women academics ever hope to achieve success in their working lives when this kind of pattern is seen as not just normal but entirely unremarkable, especially in a sector deemed by and large to be well-disposed towards working parents? Deciding not to have children, and having a partner who is also an academic or at least very familiar with these kinds of schedules would seem like the obvious answer.

the ideal career track in the academy especially one which carried all the laurels of prizes, awards, fellowships and a high volume of grants seemed to have been tailored around the image of the brilliant young man untrammelled by any of the fine details of domestic life. And if the young woman was to follow this pathway and plan the right time to have a child, then when would this right time be? The first few years of full time work (34-38) are marked by all kinds of expectations, and so it may be that just before getting to 40 having children could be embarked upon.”

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Academic job insecurity and psychological well-being: new study

At long last, here is a new-(ish, from last summer) study about the psychological effects of job insecurity on non-tenured academic staff.  Unfortunately, it is only about psychology academics.  The fact that it is published in the journal called Frontiers in Psychology is crazy…As the authors themselves stress, “[t]he study of psychological well-being among contingent faculty is uncharted territory.” More research needed!

Gretchen M. Reevy and Grace Deason (2014) Predictors of depression, stress, and anxiety among non-tenure track faculty, Front. Psychol., 08 July 2014

You can read the full text here (updated link, free access):


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I can’t get my head around the grammar of the opening sentence of this document I found on the EPSRC webpage:

“A clearly thought through and acceptable pathways to impact is an essential component of a research proposal and a condition of funding.”

“Pathways to Impact – guidance for applicants and reviewers”, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council,

On research impact and grammar

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