Issue 35

Mindboggling: Preliminaries to a science of the mind   by Roy Harris.  Do you have a mind?  Answers to this question have divided Western thinkers for centuries, and still do.  Mindboggling sets out to identify a nucleus of basic issues about the mind, and present the main arguments for and against in each case.  Targeted to a lay readership, each chapter discusses a different theory, myth or idea about the mind.  Anticipate wails from theorists whose theories have been given short shrift.  Mindboggling is available on Amazon, from Bookshops or direct from Publishers.


Science on Television by Bienvenido León.

The book is a clear and systematic guide to the narrative and rhetorical techniques used by science documentary filmmakers. The book is priced at £18.50, but for direct orders we are offering a 20% discount.


Motivating Science is a collection of articles from the first five years of The Pantaneto Forum.  We are offering a 20% discount for direct orders.




Galileo showed that the distance an object travels when it falls is proportional to the square of the time of fall.  Of course, this simple formula fails miserably after the object has hit the ground! – Just try jumping out of an aeroplane without a parachute!

This is an example of a mathematical formula which can be inappropriately applied to a real world situation.  Other examples with equally devastating results are the mathematical formulae behind “hedge fund” trading which initiated the recent world credit crunch.


According to Jerry Ravetz in “Faith and Reason in the Maths of the Credit Crunch”, Mathematics provided an “enabling technology” and “legitimation for the runaway speculation” the toxic results of which enabled greed and irresponsibility to wreak their destructive way”.


But you cannot blame the Mathematics.  It is the responsibility of Mathematicians to communicate the risk uncertainty and inapplicability of numbers they produce.  If you jump out of an aeroplane eventually you will hit the ground!


Academic integrity is of fundamental importance throughout the whole spectrum of activity in a University.  Trying to achieve a balance and fairness in dealing with people is extremely important but should not be used as an excuse for pretending that problems do not exist.  Unfortunately, one of the negative aspects of the Internet is the increased opportunities for cheating by students and in Jennifer Hodges article: “Unofficial Student Online Discussion Boards: Enhancing Learning or Encouraging Cheating”, Hodges examines the use of unmonitored online discussion boards.


Her study found “cheating” but accepted that there were “grey areas” and so was not able to give concrete answers.  Furthermore, Hodges highlighted the need for a clear debate on the ethical issues involving the Internet beyond the issue of plagiarism.


Most research students who complete their Ph. D’s and take up a post which involves teaching have had little or no experience of teaching, other than having been on the receiving end of lectures.


Quentin Vicens and Philip Barnes offer “Ten Simple Rules to Combine Teaching and Research”.  It is a “don’t panic” type guide to those that are thrown in at the deep end.


We have published many articles on the subject of women in science.  In “Men, women and ghosts”, Peter Lawrence argues that gender equality of opportunity should not imply a denial of gender diversity.


The proceedings of the Science Matters conference, which we reported in Issue 28, October 2007, have just been published and are available from the publishers – World Scientific.


Nigel Sanitt

ISSN 1741-1572



Faith and Reason in the Mathematics of the Credit Crunch, Jerome Ravetz

Unofficial Student Online Discussion Boards: Enhancing Learning or Encouraging Cheating?, Jennifer P. Hodges

Ten Simple Rules To Combine Teaching and Research, Quentin Vicens and Philip E. Bourne

Men, Women, and Ghosts in Science, Peter A. Lawrence