Genius, Science Blogs, and News Decay

In Wired, Daniel H. Pink’s “What Kind of Genius Are You?” discusses an economist’s study of artists and the ages at which they created their best-known works. David Galenson found that some did their best work when young, and then faded away, while others plodded onward and only met with great success later in life.

What he has found is that genius – whether in art or architecture or even business – is not the sole province of 17-year-old Picassos and 22-year-old Andreessens. Instead, it comes in two very different forms, embodied by two very different types of people. “Conceptual innovators,” as Galenson calls them, make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young. Think Edvard Munch, Herman Melville, and Orson Welles. They make the rest of us feel like also-rans. Then there’s a second character type, someone who’s just as significant but trudging by comparison. Galenson calls this group “experimental innovators.” Geniuses like Auguste Rodin, Mark Twain, and Alfred Hitchcock proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and thus do their important work much later in their careers. Galenson maintains that this duality – conceptualists are from Mars, experimentalists are from Venus – is the core of the creative process. And it applies to virtually every field of intellectual endeavor, from painters and poets to economists.

There are some problems with his dichotomy, of course (some of the early-bloomers died early being one of the biggest), but the article does a good job of pointing them out. I would have liked to see a clearer link between the *type* of innovaters – conceptual vs experimental – and the age at which they innovate. Most of the examples are from art history, which I’m unfamiliar with, so I can’t judge the accuracy of breakthroughs in concept versus more gradual ideas.

Nature lists the top-ranked science blogs. None of them are about materials science, but I’ll post the link anyway.

Anyone know of any materials science blogs?

From PhysicsWeb, a report on the study of the decay of news on the web.

The average half-life of a news item is just 36 hours, or one and a half days after it is released. While this is short, it is longer than predicted by simple exponential models, which assume that web page browsing is less random than it actually is.

The short life of a news item — combined with random visiting patterns of readers — implies that people could miss a significant fraction of news by not visiting the portal when a new document is first displayed, which is why publishers like to provide e-mail news alerts.

One could argue that if users aren’t hunting for the news they’re missing, they don’t want to know about it anyway. With the proliferation of news sources on the internet, it’s almost harder to not know something.

And finally, it is International Blog Against Racism Week. [info]rilina has a roundup of people’s posts on the subject.

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