“Baloney Detection” in the era of “fake news”
In attempting to help my students (and extended family) recognize these categories more responsibly — preferably before they share them — I think it’s useful to remember Carl Sagan’s chapter on “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” from 1996. December 2013
Universities UK, sex segregation, and the public-private distinction
Misunderstanding the different balances required in private vs. public spheres was one of the fundamental misunderstandings of the recent Universities UK guidance, which argued that speakers’ freedom of religion and speech could trump anti-discrimination laws at on-campus debates — meaning that audiences might be segregated by sex. July 2013
Of MOOCs and Luddites: teaching and the limits of technology
It seems like everyone is talking about MOOCs. According to proponents, massive open online courses will revolutionize higher education and turn traditional academics into the hand weavers (and potential Luddites) of the twenty-first century. But can the efficient delivery of talking heads to far larger audiences than permitted by even the largest lecture halls, all without the geographical constraints of physical buildings, really replace today’s in-person classrooms? February 2012
Lecture on 19th-Century Legal History Before the Civil War
I gave a lecture the other day to an undergraduate history class on the topic of 19th-century legal history, mostly before the start of the Civil War (with hints to the future, of course).
Civil law’s influence on early United States law
It is a law-school maxim today that the United States is a common-law country, while most of Europe uses civil law: English-derived common law has as its most basic tenet the binding nature of judicial precedent, while Roman-derived civil law privileges statutes. But the more I investigate the history and details of each, the more clear it becomes to me that the United States, at least, owes (almost?) as much of its legal system to civil law as it does to “pure” common law.
Privacy and the silo/filter/echo problem
The push for “privacy” that demands an ability to allow us to restrict who sees what–enabled, for example, by new tools in Facebook and Google+–also creates and reinforces silos (filter bubbles, echo chambers) that prevent our exposure to different ideas. But this move highlights potential conflicts between a number of rights: freedom of association and freedom of speech and the press (both from the First Amendment) and rights to privacy (from the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments). What is this conflict? Is it real? How can we (begin) to resolve it? September 2011
Access to federal court records gets less free
I had always hoped that PACER–which I hear runs a surplus anyway–would trend downward in price as the cost of delivering electronic access decreases. Instead comes the news that the price will rise by 25%, from 8 to 10 cents per page.
Further reflections on the nature of scientific evidence
For two weeks this July, I participated in a conference/summer session in Vienna (VISU) on the nature of scientific evidence. The program brought together students and lecturers from a number of disciplines.
Legal reasoning by analogy
My VISU presentation on reasoning in analogy in Warren and Brandeis’ famous 1890 law review article on privacy.