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Biweekly links for 09/16/2008

by Michael Nielsen on September 16, 2008
  • Ellen Roche
    • Heartbreaking: “Ellen Roche was a healthy 24 year old lab technician at the Johns Hopkins (JH) Asthma Center. She volunteered to take part in an experiment to understand the natural defenses of healthy people against asthma. Roche was part of a group that inhaled hexamethonium, a drug which induced a mild asthma attack. Physicians stood by in case of complications and to measure how the subjects responded to the asthma attack. Within 24 hours of inhaling the drug, Roche had lost one-third of her lung capacity. Within a month she was dead… Dr. Alkis Togias, the director of the
      experiment, apparently limited his hexamethonium research to one contemporary textbook and PubMed… PubMed is a premier example of FOS, a contender for FOS at its best. So does the Ellen Roche case prove that FOS is inadequate, even hazardous? How just is this interpretation? What are the lessons of this case for FOS?”
  • Abū Rayhān Bīrūnī – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    • Extraordinary Persian polymath of the 11th century.
  • Caveat Lector » What do we want from IRs, and what are we doing to repository rats?
    • Dorothea Salo on the future of Institutional Repositories.
  • Confessions of a Science Librarian: Science in the 21st Century reading list
    • Really great list of books to read from John Dupuis.
  • A Blog Around The Clock : ScienceOnline’09 – Registration is Open!
    • Building on the very successful Science Blogging 2007 and 2008 events.
  • John Graham-Cumming: Dear Nature
    • “…you want to sell it [the paper] to me for $32. How do you justify selling a PDF of a 76 year old paper that contains just over 700 words for $32?”
  • Paint your roof white, save the planet – Machinist
    • The effects of making urban surfaces white are, apparently, significant. I’m not sure I buy this – the same argument should should that road surfaces have a major greenhouse effect, but I haven’t run the numbers.
  • Uncertain Principles: A Longitudinal Study of Blogging Traffic
    • Chad compares blog traffic for science vs non-science posts, and how they do over time. Do the science posts have greater staying power or not? The data are ambiguous, but if there’s an effect, it’s not large.
  • BarCamp Africa
  • iamelgringo: Mechanical Turk: Now with 25 percent more Awesome.
    • Using crowdsourcing to do data analysis.
  • gapingvoid: good ideas have lonely childhoods
  • Spore’s Piracy Problem – Forbes.com
    • Well, I was all set to go buy Spore this morning. But judging from the reviews the DRM in the game is getting, I think not.
  • Dancing death
    • “Sometime in mid-July 1518, in the city of Strasbourg, a woman stepped into the street and started to dance. She was still dancing several days later. Within a week about 100 people had been consumed by the same irresistible urge to dance.”
  • Peter Suber: More on the arguments to overturn the NIH [open access] policy
  • Internet Bots: Anatomy of a Stock Selling Frenzy
    • Much more about the massive automated United Airlines stock selloff triggered by Google News. Fascinating.
  • How long would it take the LHC to defrost a pizza?: Scientific American Blog
    • Scientific American tackles the big questions.
  • Google News and United Airlines’ share price
    • UAL lost 75% of its market cap over 15 minutes. It’s unclear what happened, but it looks like Google News may have played some role in driving the crash.
  • Has the Large Hadron Collider destroyed the earth yet?
    • Helpful.
  • Uncertain Principles: Micro-Blogging Conference Talks
    • Chad Orzel on the benefits of multiple people simultaneously micro-blogging conference talks.
  • FriendFeed room for “Science in the 21st Century”
  • Science in the 21st Century Talks
    • Video and slides for the talks.
  • Prospects in Theoretical Physics (PiTP) – 2008 | Video Lectures
  • When Academia Puts Profit Ahead of Wonder – NYTimes.com
    • About the Bayh-Dole act, one of the most important pieces of legislation in the 20th century.
  • Mememoir: Wiki For Science
  • Terry Tao’s blog book
  • Twitter / cern
    • Guess who has a Twitter feed?
  • PLoS ONE: Targeted Development of Registries of Biological Parts
    • An analysis of useage patterns in the MIT’s Registry of Standard Biological Parts, which is a prototype for open source science.
  • CIA, FBI push ‘Facebook for spies’ – CNN
    • ‘”It’s a place where not only spies can meet but share data they’ve never been able to share before,” Wertheimer [assistant deputy director of national intelligence for analysis] said. “This is going to give them for the first time a chance to think out loud, think in public amongst their peers…’
  • Cosma Shalizi: Collective Cognition
    • A wonderful collection of links on collective cognition.
  • Mark Newman: The first-mover advantage in scientific publication
    • “Mathematical models of the scientific citation process predict a strong “first-mover” effect under which the first papers in a field will, essentially regardless of content, receive citations at a rate enormously higher than papers published later. Moreover papers are expected to retain this advantage in perpetuity – they should receive more citations indefinitely, no matter how many other papers are published after them. We test this conjecture against data from a selection of fields and in several cases find a first-mover effect of a magnitude similar to that predicted by the theory. Were we wearing our cynical hat today, we might say that the scientist who wants to become famous is better off — by a wide margin — writing a modest paper in next year’s hottest field than an outstanding paper in this year’s. On the other hand, there are some papers…that buck the trend and attract significantly more citations than theory predicts despite having relatively late publication dates…”
  • Rob Carlson :: “Biology is Technology”
    • Draft chapters of Rob Carlson’s book on synthetic biology.
  • Brad DeLong and Michael Froomkin: Speculative Microeconomics for Tomorrow’s Economy
    • “[the paper deconstructs] Adam Smith’s case for the market system. It points out three assumptions about production and distribution technologies that are necessary if the invisible hand is to work as Adam Smith claimed it did. We point out that these assumptions are being undermined more and more by the revolutions currently ongoing in data processing and data communications. “
  • LiveScience: Era of Scientific Secrecy Near End
    • An article on open science for a general audience.
  • Augmented Social Cognition: Long Tail of user participation in Wikipedia
    • The (very well-known) blog post which describes the distribution of user edits in Wikipedia. Based on an academic paper, but this observation seems to have been made _after_ the paper the author wrote was finalized, so it’s not actually in the paper.
  • William James – The PhD Octopus
    • “America is thus a nation rapidly drifting towards a state of things in which no man of science or letters will be accounted respectable unless some kind of badge or diploma is stamped upon him, and in which bare personality will be a mark of outcast estate. It seems to me high time to rouse ourselves to consciousness, and to cast a critical eye upon this decidedly grotesque tendency. Other nations suffer terribly from the Mandarin disease. Are we doomed to suffer like the rest? “
  • The world needs more foxes and fewer hedgehogs
    • Philip Tetlock, who has spent 20 years asking pundits to predict who will win elections, what countries will acquire nuclear weapons or enter the European Union and how the first Gulf war would end… his respondents are not very good. They do better than a chimp who answers at random, but not much, and worse than simple forecasting rules based on extrapolation. But some pundits are better than others. A little knowledge is helpful. Dilettantes – people with the information you will acquire from diligent reading of this newspaper – do much better than undergraduates who based their judgment on a one-page summary of the issues. But experts have little advantage over dilettantes. The reputation of the experts is a guide to which are worth following. But not in the way you might expect. Bad forecasters are consulted more frequently than good ones. The more famous the expert, the worse his prognostications. “
  • Freebase Parallax
    • Very interesting application capable of extracting complex information from Freebase. The video demo is worth watching.
  • Peering into PLoS One comment stats : Deepak Singh
    • Lots of statistics about PLoS One’s experiment with commenting.
  • Vernor Vinge’s View of the Future – Is Technology That Outthinks Us a Partner or a Master ? – John Tierney
  • Offloading Cognition onto Cognitive Technology: Itiel Dror and Stevan Harnad
    • “Cognitive technology allows cognizers to offload some of the functions they would otherwise have had to execute with their own brains and bodies alone; it also extends cognizers’ performance powers beyond those of brains and bodies alone. Language itself is a form of cognitive technology that allows cognizers to offload some of their brain functions onto the brains of other cognizers. Language also extends cognizers’ individual and joint performance powers, distributing the load through interactive and collaborative cognition. Reading, writing, print, telecommunications and computing further extend cognizers’ capacities. And now the web, with its distributed network of cognizers, digital databases and sofware agents, has become the Cognitive Commons in which cognizers and cognitive technology can interact globally with a speed, scope and degree of interactivity that yield performance powers inconceivable with unaided individual cognition alone. “
  • American lawbreaking: Tim Wu – Slate Magazine
    • “The importance of understanding why and when we will tolerate lawbreaking cannot be overstated. Lawyers and journalists spend most of their time watching the president, Congress, and the courts as they make law. But tolerance of lawbreaking constitutes one of the nation’s other major—yet most poorly understood—ways of creating social and legal policy. Almost as much as the laws that we enact, the lawbreaking to which we shut our eyes reflects how tolerant U.S. society really is to individual or group difference. It forms a major part of our understanding of how the nation deals with what was once called “vice.” While messy, strange, hypocritical, and in a sense dishonest, widespread tolerance of lawbreaking forms a critical part of the U.S. legal system as it functions. “
  • Dani Rodrik’s weblog: Why the econ-blogosphere is here to stay
    • “one of the unexpected scholarly benefits of having a blog is that it is like keeping an intellectual journal. You get an idea, you jot it down in your blog. Some months later, you vaguely remember having had the idea and you google your own blog to recover it. I am not kidding: I google my own blog all the time… “
  • The Value of Openness in Scientific Problem Solving
    • “Openness and free information sharing…are supposed to be core norms of the scientific community… these norms are not universally followed. Lack of openness and transparency means… problem solving is constrained to a few scientists… who typically fail to leverage the entire accumulation of scientific knowledge… We present evidence of the efficacy of problem solving when disclosing problem information. The method’s application to 166 discrete scientific problems from the research laboratories of 26 firms is illustrated. Problems were disclosed to over 80,000 independent scientists… approach solved one-third of a sample of problems that large…R & D-intensive firms had been unsuccessful in solving internally… success was…associated with the ability to attract specialized solvers with…diverse scientific interests…. successful solvers solved problems at the boundary or outside of their fields of expertise, indicating a transfer of knowledge from one field to others. “
  • The Quantum Pontiff : Self-Correcting Quantum Computers, Part I
    • The first of Dave Bacon’s excellent multi-part series about how quantum computers can correct themselves.
  • Uncommon Knowledge and Open Innovation – john wilbanks’ blog – john wilbanks’ blog on Nature Network
    • “We are seeing the transformation of knowledge from something that is primarily conveyed in paper formats into something else: a computable graph, in which the knowledge is written in formats that computers can understand and interconnect, based on the same technologies that underlie the internet and web. Paper technology simply contains expressions of ideas, but the very technology of paper makes integration of ideas very difficult, if not impossible… the idea of “the paper” as the core container for knowledge is dying, and technology will be the killer. This transformation is happening first, like the transformation of documents to the Web, in the sciences.”
  • PolishMyWriting.com
    • Checks your writing against more than 7000 rules of plain language. I put a couple of draft essays through it, and found about half the suggestions helpful, which is a pretty good batting average.
  • Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
    • It’s curious that often the last people to really grok that a profession is disappearing is people within the profession itself. This quote of Sinclair’s summarizes a part of why that is.
  • Dorothea Salo: Innkeeper at the Roach Motel
    • ‘Trapped by faculty apathy and library uncertainty, institutional repositories face a crossroads: adapt or die. The “build it and they will come” proposition has been decisively proven wrong. Citation advantages and preservation have not attracted faculty participants, though current-generation software and services offer faculty little else. Academic librarianship has not supported repositories or their managers. Most libraries consistently under-resource and understaff repositories, further worsening the participation gap. Software and services are wildly out of touch with faculty needs and the realities of repository management. These problems are not insoluble, but they demand serious reconsideration of repository missions, goals, and means.’

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