Monday, November 24, 2008

Is peer-review broken?

Maverick physicist Garrett Lisi thinks it is. In a fascinating article in Seed Magazine Lisi defends not only his physical viewpoint, but also his decision to upload his latest scholarly work to the open-access forum of choice for more and more publishing scientists.
    "I think peer review is important, but the journal-operated system is severely broken. I suspected this paper would get some attention, and I chose not to support any academic journal by submitting it. Under the current system, authors (who aren't paid) give ownership of their papers to journals that have reviewers (who aren't paid) approve them before publishing the papers and charging exorbitant fees to view them. These reviewers don't always do a great job, and the journals aren't providing much value in exchange for their fees. This old system persists because academic career advancement often depends on which journals scientists can get their papers into, and it comes at a high cost — in money, time, and stress. I think a better peer-review system could evolve from reviewers with good reputations picking the papers they find interesting out of an open pool, such as the physics arXiv, and commenting on them. This is essentially what happened with my paper, which received a lot of attention from physics bloggers — it's been an example of open, collaborative peer review."

And, a related article here: Reviewing Peer Review

Fascinating personal library

Internet entrepreneur Jay Walker, founder of Walker Digital and best known for creating, has created a fascinating personal library. His house was designed around the 3,600 square foot three story library that houses his eclectic collection. From an original Sputnik to an Apollo V manual, from Chaucer to "Things" hand, signed by the Adams Family cast, his collection is meant to stretch the mind and promote thinking.

Jay Walkers Amazing Library

Friday, November 21, 2008

Another reason to get a Mac

Have you ever been reading a long article and wished you could somehow magically make it shorter or at least get to the point? With "Summarize", a Mac OSX service, you can do this easily. In many Mac applications such as Safari, Pages, and TextEdit, you can select a block of text and click the application name in the menu bar > Services > Summarize.

Once you're in the service, you can easily shorten the selected text by moving the slider between 1% and 100%. As you move it, the text will magically get shorter, while at the same time keeping the basic meaning of the text that you originally selected. The service is amazingly accurate.

Now, if only we can figure out a way to apply it to meetings.

Thanks to The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Neat video of Leo Laporte demonstrating it here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

iMac in every room

Mama Shelter is a Paris hotel that puts a 24-inch Apple iMac multimedia center in every room and has additional computers available in columns and tables in common spaces in the hotel. You have to wonder about the choice of bedside lamps, but maybe you'll be so busy working and writing love letters (Mama Shelter's suggesion of uses for the iMac) you won't have time for reading.

It's an interesting concept and at an affordable price. It demonstrates the growing role of the computer as a replacement for older media forms. Who needs a TV in the hotel room if you can have free internet access and without bringing a laptop! Cool.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Search millions of Life Magazine's historic photos

Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1850s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The sad, sad state of college English

Some people collect sports memorabilia, or rare coins, or sea shells from the beach at Ocean City. Wilson Watson collects sentences.

He taught local community college students for 35 years and has now slipped gently into retirement. But his students’ sentences trail behind him like ship’s anchors, evidence of the sinking of American writing skills.

Or, as one of Watson’s scholars wrote so succinctly: “Some people use bad language and is not even aware of the fact.”

Article here

A few more gems:

• “The person was an innocent by standard, who just happened to be the victim of your friend’s careless responsibility.”
• “Society has moved toward cereal killers.”
• “Romeo and Juliet exchanged their vowels.”
• “Willie Loman put Biff on a petal stool.”
• “Another effect of smoking is it may give you cancer of the thought.”
• “The children of lesbian couples receive as much neutering as those of other couples."

Or, when asked to use the past tense of “fly” in a sentence: “I flought to Chicago.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Apple's in-house style and usage guide

Apple’s in-house style and usage guide, first update since January 2006 is an excellent resource for technical writers of any sort.