Monday, April 29, 2013

Rothman on graduate school decisions

Joshua Rothman has written an essay in the New Yorker about the decision to go, or not to go, to graduate school. It’s a topic that always comes up as graduating seniors plan for what is coming next (of course, it’s better if they think about this as first semester juniors, or even earlier). I like Rothman’s emphasis on the complexity of the decision, and the number of ways that it can turn out unexpectedly. He links to some recent columns and debates about grad school and the prospects for grad students, but his own piece emphasizes how difficult it is to judge ten years of one’s life. Perhaps that’s why I am sympathetic, because I spend all of the 1990s in graduate school. The statistic that was most interesting to me was this one: in English (which is a debatable but useful discipline to compare with Anthropology), oneout of every four PhD students ends up with tenure. One half drops out before getting their PhD, and another half of that don’t end up in tenured professorships. What I am trying to figure out this morning is whether this seems like a low number or a high number, compared with Anthropology.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The really Big picture

from Jason Ur's website at Harvard University

Bjoern Menze and Jason Ur have combined archaeological data, satellite imagery and spatial analysis in a way that really brings Big Data to settlement archaeology. The scope of their project is really staggering: 8,000 years of settlement history, about 14,000 sites, covering about 23,000 square kilometers at a 15 meter resolution. I am not going to claim any expertise on the big questions that relate to Mesopotamian archaeology, although I certainly am interested in them. What I like in particular about this article is that it puts the pressure on the rest of us to put these data sources (which are getting more and more accessible, and less and less expensive) together with the "traditional" archaeological data we already have. All I can come up with for an excuse as to why I don't have this kind of Big Data for the Llanos de Mojos is that there are more trees and more vegetation, but I am beginning to wonder if that excuse really works anymore.

photo of flooded forest near the confluence of the Iruyañez and Omi Rivers (John Walker)