Free Thought

The PC is Over The Last PC Laptop What if Libraries were the Problem? Annealing the Library Librarians Talk of Abandoning E-Books Re-Inventing Public Libraries For The Digital Age 5 Ways That edX Could Change Education The State of the Internet (ie. mobilemobilemobile) Does Open Access Tackle, Perpetuate, or Exacerbate the Matthew Effect? PeerJ: Could it Transform Open Access Publishing? Best Practices for Scientific Computing Publishers And Google Reach Agreement Preventing the Second Big Deal (etextbooks rather than ejounals) Failure, crisis, disruption: The (perpetual) end of higher ed How…
The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics was announced this morning, going to Serge Haroche and Dave Wineland, "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems". This isn't a pair that was getting much love from the prognosticators, but they're an excellent choice. And, in fact, commenter KSC correctly picked Wineland in the betting pool and narrowly missed also getting Haroche. Wineland has been on my mental list of people who ought to get a Nobel for a while, especially because he easily could've had a piece of the 1997 prize for laser…
The New Frontiers in Astronomy and Cosmology program included 20 awards for 2 year research projects on Big Questions. The winners are: Big Question IWhat was the earliest state of the universe? Detecting Cosmic Superstrings David Chernoff, Cornell University Co-Investigator: Henry Tye, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology CosmoArchaeology: Digging for the Initial State Richard Holman, Carnegie Mellon University Co-Investigators: Shirley Ho, Carnegie Mellon University; Sarah Shandera, The Pennsylvania State University; Nishant Agarwal, Carnegie Mellon University; Ross O’Connell,…
Having been on hiatus for a couple of months has made me forget my obligation for self-promotion via the blog, but I should note one fast approaching public appearance: I'll be at the University of Waterloo next weekend, where they are celebrating the opening of their shiny new Quantum and Nano Center with an Open House on Saturday, September 29, featuring a bunch of public events. Two of these involve me: first, at 12:30 pm, my "What Every Dog Should Know About Quantum Physics" talk: Chad Orzel, author of How to Teach Physics to Your Dog, will explore everything you — and your canine best…
And you thought the GW deniers were wacko. Well, yes, they are. But not as wacko as some of the physics nuts, and I'm not even talking about the string theorists. I mean the people who know that Einstein was wrong, and possibly part of a vast conspiracy. I'm sure everyone has their favourite, but just today I was happily browsing [[Classical unified field theories]] (why? I know I started at [[Alternatives to general relativity]] but I don't know why there) when I noticed a section entitled "Lancelot Law Whyte's unitary field theory" which read a bit oddly: This theory was based on an…
Anyone want to buy some telescopes? Heavily used. Free to a good home. The NSF has issued a preliminary response to the NSF Astronomy Portfolio Review. Game on. NSF MPS/AST Response to Portfolio Review Report (pdf) This is a 4 page response from NSF Astronomy Division Director Ulvestad to the Portfolio Review, from August 31st 2012. Implementation is pending current budget negotiations for next fiscal year budget and plan. Implementation requires acting by end of 2013. Small Grants: "...Given the constrained budget scenarios and the explicitly higher-priority recommendation for AAG and…
Science magazine seemed to imply there was some grousing about the new Fundamental Physics Prizes awarded by billionaire Yuri Milner, but we in Rehovot think it’s a good thing. While one can quibble about which fields are still underfunded, we believe that any support for truly basic research -- the kind whose applications, if they exist, will be decades in the future, but which enlightens today us about the universe we live in – is most welcome. It turns out that  two (at least) of the nine winners have ties to the Weizmann Institute, and, completely by chance, we had recently written about…
$3 million each for 9 theorists from Yuri Milner Foundation Fundamental Physics Prize IAS big winner. Milner Prize: Guth (MIT), Linde (Stanford); Arkani-Hamed, Maldacena, Seiberg and Witten (IAS); Kitaev (Caltech); Kontsevich (IASS); and, Sen (Chandra Institute). String theory, inflation and quantum computing. Heavy on IAS, the Techs and Russian expats. All good choices. Follows hard on the heels of the Simons Foundation Investigator awards. Aleiner (Columbia); Brenner (Harvard); Glotzer (Michigan); Hastings (Duke); Hirata (Caltech); Kane (UPenn); Ooguri (Caltech); Pretorius (Princeton);…
I'm on my annual summer hiatus for the month of July so I'll be only publishing my weekly Friday Fun posts as well as re-posting some of the interviews I did a few years ago on the old blog with people from the publishing, library and science worlds. Not that my posting of late has been particularly distinguishable from the hiatus state, but such is the blogging life after nearly ten years: filled with ups, downs, peaks, valleys. This interview with CJ Rayhill, then of Safari Books Online, is from September 27, 2007. ===================================== Welcome to the latest installment in…
I'm on my annual summer hiatus for the month of July so I'll be only publishing my weekly Friday Fun posts as well as re-posting some of the interviews I did a few years ago on the old blog with people from the publishing, library and science worlds. Not that my posting of late has been particularly distinguishable from the hiatus state, but such is the blogging life after nearly ten years: filled with ups, downs, peaks, valleys. This interview with Mike Morgan is from April 24, 2007. ===================================== It's time for another in my occasional series of scitech publishing/…
I'm on my annual summer hiatus for the month of July so I'll be only publishing my weekly Friday Fun posts as well as re-posting some of the interviews I did a few years ago on the old blog with people from the publishing, library and science worlds. Not that my posting of late has been particularly distinguishable from the hiatus state, but such is the blogging life after nearly ten years: filled with ups, downs, peaks, valleys. This interview, with Jane of See Jane Compute, is from February 20, 2007. It's worth noting that Jane moved to ScienceBlogs in 2008 where she continued blogging…
One major point I've tried to make over the last few years is that the so-called "individualization" or "personalization" of treatments claimed by practitioners of "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) is not "individualization" at all, but rather a sham that appears superficially like individualization but in reality is not. I say that because the "individualization" promoted by CAM practitioners is not based on science and clinical trials. Another point I've been trying to make is that the true "individualization" of treatments will require science, and it will not be easy. In fact…
In which physics tackles a burning question from the world of computing, a famous biologist says something idiotic, and the world's smallest violin plays for frequent fliers. ------------ Does Your Download Progress Bar Lie to You? | Wired Science | Wired.com Different browsers do this differently. Some show a little bar to indicate how much of the file you have downloaded as well as an estimate of how much longer you can expect to wait. Well, now the time has come. I am going to check these download progress bars. Why? I have no idea. "Was Einstein Right About Imagination?" - THE DAILY RIFF…
Welcome to the most recent installment in my very occasional series of interviews with people in the publishing/science blogging/computing communities. The latest is with Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt of PeerJ. PeerJ is a new startup in the scientific publishing industry, using a rather unique business model whereby authors will be able to pay one fee and they get a lifetime of publishing their articles in PeerJ. Please see my post with the PeerJ press release for more details. I recently had an opportunity to ask Peter and Jason some pre-announcement questions about PeerJ and I've included…
John MacCormick's new book, Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future: The Ingenious Ideas That Drive Today's Computers, is very good. You should buy it and read it. Among all the debates about whether or not absolutely everybody must without question learn to program (pro, con), it's perhaps a good idea to pause and take a look at exactly what programs do. Which is what this book does. It starts from the premise that people love computers and what they can do but don't have much of an idea about what goes on inside the little black box. And then, what MacCormick does is take nine general types…
I know of a couple of cases where high schools are switching to the use of iPads or other tablets, replacing existing computer infrastructure with the handy and very cool computing device. When it comes to technology, I've never been particularly impressed with school administrations, and K-12 technology departments tend to be a little under-resourced as well, so it does not surprise me that this decision is being made. It is, of course, the wrong thing to do. I'm not talking about using iPads, I'm taking about canceling funding for future hardware cycles of laptops and desktops so the…
Somebody on Twitter linked this article about "brogrammers", which is pretty much exactly as horrible as that godawful neologism suggests. In between descriptions of some fairly appalling behavior, though, they throw some stats at you, and that's where it gets weird: As it is, women remain acutely underrepresented in the coding and engineering professions. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study, in 2011 just 20 percent of all programmers were women. A smaller percentage of women are earning undergraduate computer science degrees today than they did in 1985, according to the National…
As I mentioned last week, on Tuesday, April 17 I was part of a workshop on Creative Commons our Scholarly Communications Committee put on for York library staff. My section was on open data and the Panton Principles. While not directly related to Creative Commons, we thought talking a bit about an application area for licensing in general and a specific case where CC is applied would be interesting for staff. We figured it would be the least engaging part of the workshop so I agreed to go last and use any time that was left. Rather unexpectedly, the idea of data licensing and in particular…
As part of a workshop on Creative Commons, I'm doing a short presentation on Open Data and The Panton Principles this week to various members of our staff. I thought I'd share some of the resources I've consulted during my preparations. I'm using textmining of journal articles as a example so I'm including a few resources along those lines as well. The Panton Principles Why does Dryad use CC0? #sparc2012 a manifesto in absentia for Open Data Information mining from Springer full-text: I ask for freedom Textmining Update: Max Haussler's Questions to publishers: They have a duty to reply The…
As part of a workshop on Creative Commons, I'm doing a short presentation on Open Data and The Panton Principles this week to various members of our staff. I thought I'd share some of the resources I've consulted during my preparations. I'm using textmining of journal articles as a example so I'm including a few resources along those lines as well. The Panton Principles Why does Dryad use CC0? #sparc2012 a manifesto in absentia for Open Data Information mining from Springer full-text: I ask for freedom Textmining Update: Max Haussler's Questions to publishers: They have a duty to reply The…