Author Archives: Martin Cothran

Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Lost Scrolls: Interview with Professor Brent Seales

Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Lost Scrolls

Can you explain what it is you do? Reading about you makes me think of Indiana Jones, except maybe without the chase scenes. Yes, well, certainly these things can sound more glamorous than they really are! As a computer scientist and a computer vision imaging specialist, I am interested in both increasing access to and […]

The Judgment of Thamus: Education Technology and the Outsourcing of Knowledge

The Judgment of Thamus

I was at a meeting of private educators in our state a couple of years ago, and afterwards an acquaintance, who was the superintendent of a local private school system, came up to me. He was very excited. He had gotten a grant to provide students in his schools with iPads. I didn’t have the […]

In Praise of Accidental Knowledge

In Praise of Accidental Knowledge

One of the few books we had in our house when I was young was a set of World Book Encyclopedias. When you looked up something in the encyclopedia you first had to find the volume which housed all the words beginning with the first letter of the word you were searching for. If you […]

On the Incarnation of Words

On the Incarnation of Words

It goes without saying that the greatest pleasure of books is in the reading of them. The reader who has learned to appreciate the exhilaration and heartbreak of Charles Dickens; the vibrancy of life and sweeping human vision of Leo Tolstoy; the human drama and poetic insight of Shakespeare; the whimsical humor of P. G. […]

Philosophers: 1, Scientists: 0

hilosophers: 1, Scientists: 0

There are some questions we ask of science that it is ill-equipped to answer. The question of how human beings are different from animals is one. I thought about this when I read Kevin Laland’s article in a recent issue of Scientific American. “[H]ard scientific data have been amassed across fields ranging from ecology to […]

Why Books Are Important

In 1929, children’s book author Anne Parrish was visiting Paris. She left her husband at a cafe to visit one of the city’s many bookstores. There she found a copy of Helen Wood’s Jack Frost and Other Stories, a favorite of hers from childhood. She returned to the cafe, sat down, and showed her husband […]

Scientific Hubris: Why Science Can’t Answer All the Big Questions


Big Think has printed another of a class of essays written by scientists, common these days, announcing in triumphant tones all the things that science can do outside its particular and limited domain. Almost without exception, these essays, which implicitly aspire to philosophical eloquence, fly too close to the sun. The only difference being that, while Icarus […]

Plant Blindness: Why Scientists Who Know Nature Are Becoming an Endangered Species

Plant Blindness Flower

“The U.S. is running short of people who can tell the forest from the trees.” So says a recent Wall Street Journal article that is at least partly indicative of the fate of science education in the U.S. in recent years. It tells of the growing problem of “plant blindness,” the term used among botanists […]