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:: By Amy M. Braverman

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Chicago Journal ::

Birdwatching: U of C in the news

Trials of a scholar blogger

“So Friday was a pretty bad day,” assistant professor of political science Daniel Drezner began his popular blog Saturday, October 8. Announcing he was denied tenure at the University, Drezner—who wrote “Confessions of a Scholar Blogger” for the February/05 Magazine—prompted several news outlets to ponder whether blogging hurts an academic career.

Drezner considered the question himself on, concluding, “It’s just impossible to parse out well-justified motivations from poorly justified motivations.” Chicago Tribune reporter Steve Johnson, meanwhile, spoke with department chair Dali Yang. “Bogging per se is not considered either good or bad at the University of Chicago,” Yang said. He pointed out that Gary Becker, AM’53, PhD’55, Richard Posner, and Steven Levitt also blog, but they all have tenure, Johnson noted.

In the New York Sun, Drezner said he was “confident that his blog did not play a major role in the decision.” The most common problem academic bloggers face, wrote reporter Jacob Gershman, AB'01, “is convincing their colleagues that their online activity does not come at the expense of scholarly research.”

Most of the reports, including the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education, mentioned that Sean Carroll, an assistant professor of physics who blogs on Cosmic Variance, also was denied tenure this year. “It’s not the blog,” Carroll titled his October 11 entry after receiving questions about his and Drezner’s situations. Meanwhile, Drezner has announced that he’ll become an associate professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Carroll is still on the market.

All fields lead to baseball

Before the South Side reveled in the White Sox winning their first World Series in 88 years, fans and foes debated the 9th-inning call in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. Did Angels catcher Josh Paul catch that third-strike pitch? Should he have tagged Sox batter A. J. Pierzynski so he couldn’t run to first base and set up the winning runs? The Chicago Tribune lined up a list of experts to analyze the case, including two Chicago faculty.

Umpire Doug Eddings, said economist Allen Sanderson, had two options. “The low-cost, easy way out would be to watch the body language of the catcher and the batter,” Sanderson said. That option likely would have yielded an out. As a Sox fan, the Trib noted, Sanderson came to rationalize the call: “The Angels allowed a stolen base. Then the Angels’ pitcher hung a ball to [Joe] Crede on the 0–2 count. Those other two things weren’t a judgment call.”

Cosmologist Edward W. Kolb noted that in such a “complicated experiment, it’s very easy to pull out of it what you want to” and harder to discover what you “don’t want to see.” He reflected, “That could have been the first time quantum physics has entered a baseball game,” before suggesting that the ball was both caught and not caught.

“Two opposite things can happen at once in quantum physics,” wrote reporter James Janega. “But not in baseball.”

This entry was corrected on January 23, 2006.—Ed.