30 September, 2009

The Communist Thesis Competition

A PhD student of the MSU Physics Faculty, young communist V. L. Ginzburg, made a commitment to defend his thesis prior to the university's anniversary.


I don't know exactly, which anniversary is meant there: Ginzburg defended his thesis in 1940, while the MSU was founded in 1755. This might be the 185-years one.

P.S. Don't ask me what the famous theorist is doing in the lab.

29 September, 2009

Sample Cover Letter for Journal Manuscript Resubmissions

A funny thing by Roy F. Baumeister:

"...As you may recall (that is, if you even bother reading the reviews before doing your decision letter), that reviewer listed 16 works that he/she felt we should cite in this paper. These were on a variety of different topics, none of which had any relevance to our work that we could see.

Indeed, one was an essay on the Spanish-American War from a high school literary magazine. The only common thread was that all 16 were by the same author, presumably someone whom Reviewer B greatly admires and feels should be more widely cited.

To handle this, we have modified the Introduction and added, after the review of relevant literature, a subsection entitled "Review of Irrelevant Literature" that discusses these articles and also duly addresses some of the more asinine suggestions in the other reviews..."

28 September, 2009

More Nobel prize predictions

Chaz Orzel organized a "Nobel Prize Betting Pool" - if you want a guest spot in his blog you may submit your guess as well.

Thomson Reuters came up with some quantitative predictions, based on the citation count.

Let's see what is going to happen next Tuesday, when the prize in Physics will be announced.

Color figures for free

It turned out that since the 1st of August the Journal of Chemical Physics publishes color figures in print for free: here is the Editor's announcement.

Not sure I ever read a printed version of any journal...

27 September, 2009

A city in 140 symbols: Budapest

Budapest: a fusion of Europe and the Soviet Union. The castle is gorgeous, but the atmosphere is quite scary: we have seen a hold-up there.

Links for 27.09.2009

1) There is no single future for scientific journals - by Michael Nilsen

2) A speech for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences - by Terry Tao

3) Buying success, Saudi style - Physicsworld.com

4) A bad time to get sick? - NHS reports that a number of hospital deaths rises on the day junior doctors join wards (they call it black Wednesday)

25 September, 2009

Politics and scientific misconduct

It turned out that a paper, published in 2009 by Iranian science minister Kamran Daneshjou has plagiarized a 2002 paper by W. Lee et al. Here is a blog post about it. Later, Nature published a long news article, where other cases of plagiarism are revealed.

This is not a very recent story, somehow: a month ago the Los Angeles Times was doubting the validity of Daneshjou's PhD degree.

This is kind of popular among politicians: a few years ago Russian president Putin was accused in plagiarizing his PhD thesis.

P.S. According to Nature's new investigation there are two Iranian ministers involved.

20 September, 2009

A city in 140 symbols: Berlin

Berlin: a large city with empty streets and not so many tourist attractions. Very multicultural, green and comfortable for living, though.

A city in 140 symbols

My wife an I very much like to travel, so it would be nice to come up with a "travel guide for twitterers". We propose it to be the following: the city should be described in 140 symbols, including the city name, with no more than two sentences. The next post will be about the city we live in, namely Berlin. If you would like to describe any cities within the format, please leave a comment.

18 September, 2009

Papers don't need paper anymore

Here is an interesting essay by Paul Graham about the future of publishing, shared on twitter by Michael Nilsen. The main idea is that "economically, the print media are in the business of marking up paper", in other words they do not sell content, but gain money solely for production. This might be a problem in the era of online publishing.

Today is of no doubt that paper versions of scientific journals will not last for long time. The process has already started: the American Chemical Society has basically interrupted printing anything, except for JACS and two review journals. The New Journal of Physics has no paper version from the very beginning.

An application

Today I've got an application for a PhD position by e-mail. Well, this is probably not the best idea to send those to PhD students...

16 September, 2009

The candle problem

If you are an experimentalist, please just skip it. I'll post something for you tomorrow.

Here is a famous test by Karl Duncker, he created it to study the "functional fixedness". So, you have a candle, a box of thumb-tacks and a book of matches:

The task is to attach the candle to the wall, in such a way that the wax doesn't drip onto the table (or the wall).

This is not kind of complicated, or is it? However the results of Duncker's studies were amazing - people solving the problem just to make fun were much faster than those, who were promised a reward (say, 50 dollars) for being the fastest.

15 September, 2009

Who will be the future Nobel laureates?

The Wall Street Journal listed possible winners for this year and the future. There is also one scientist from Atomic, Molecular and Optical physics community - Daniel Kleppner (MIT).

14 September, 2009

Peer-review reviewed

Most of you have probably seen the recent peer-review survey, and the post in Nature blog about it. Well, some scientists are satisfied by referees of their papers, some are not.

What looks a bit weird to me is the "how to improve peer-review" part. Usually there are two ideas:
i) to make the referee's name open, and
ii) to make the review process double-blind, with both names of authors and reviewers hidden from each other.

Well, if we take "a spherical society in a vacuum", say, an ideal one with no politics involved in research, then the first point might probably work. But I don't understand how can one hide the authors' names: people are used to cite their own work, such as an experimental machine they have built or a code they have written. So, the authors will not be obvious only when submitting their first contribution to the field.

That is surprising that 76% of researchers are favoring the double blind system.

13 September, 2009

How far can you go to get cited?

That's amazing how hard some authors work on promoting their own papers.

Here is a number of submissions to the astro-ph section of the arXive, by time of day, in 10 minute bins:

I took it from the recent investigation by Haque and Ginsparg.

The thing is that 16:00 (US eastern time) is the deadline for the daily submission to the arxive. So, the papers submitted at 16:01 will be the first for the next day and will appear on the top of the daily mailing. You are probably wondering why is that important? Recent research by Dietrich and also the preprint I cited above show that articles appearing the first are more visible and far better cited than others.

No matter how good your work is, just put it on the top of the list.

12 September, 2009

The greatest math problem ever. Part 2.

As a comment to one of my posts, Dave proposed the following puzzle:


what's the next line?

11 September, 2009

Links for 11.09.2009

1) Smoking - the blog of John D. Cook

2) Where do the best mathematicians come from - Daniel Lemire's blog

3) How do geeks propose? Male and female viewpoints.

Some metastable states live pretty long

Usually, speaking about metastable states in atoms we assume that those decay very fast, say, faster than a microsecond. But not in a Helium atom - its metastable state lives for extremely long time.

In the ground state helium has two electrons on the 1s shell, one of which can be excited to the 2s shell, using inelastic electron scattering. In such a way the metastable helium He* is obtained. The thing is that the transition 2s->1s is dipole forbidden, and the lifetime becomes huge: a recent investigation of Hodgman with colleagues shows it to be 7870 seconds, which is longer than 2 hours.

Well, that's a good opportunity to take some sleep during the experiment.

05 September, 2009

Project Eureka

Robert Benea left a comment to "The greatest math problem ever" post, with a link to the Project Eureka website, featuring a huge number of different math and logical puzzles. He also added the problem there, in the "very easy" section.

Two atoms meet in the street...

I've heard a funny anecdote in one of the recent Car Talk shows:

Two atoms meet in the street. One says:
- I feel myself so bad... It looks like I've lost an electron.
- Are you sure?
- Yes, I'm positive!

Sorry guys who already know it.