readcube and deepdyve update

June 6, 2013 at 7:48 am | | literature, science community, software

I just wanted to reiterate how great the ReadCube recommendations are. I imported all my PDFs and now check the recommendations every day. I often find great papers (and then later find them popping up in my RSS feeds).

Also, I wanted to let folks know that DeepDyve, the article rental site, is now allowing free 5-min rental of journal articles. Try it out!

google reader alternatives

April 3, 2013 at 8:12 am | | everyday science, literature, science community, software

Now that Google Reader is going the way of the dodo Google Gears, how am I going to keep up with the literature?!? I read RSS feeds of many journal table of contents, because it’s one of the best ways to keep up with all the articles out there (and see the awesome TOC art). So what am I to do?

There are many RSS readers out there (one of my favorites was Feeddler for iOS), but the real problem is syncing! Google servers took care of all the syncing when I read RSS feeds on my phone and then want to continue reading at home on my computer. The RSS readers out there are simply pretty faces on top of Google Reader’s guts.

But now those RSS programs are scrambling to build their own syncing databases. Feedly, one of the frontrunners to come out of the Google Reader retirement, claims that their project Normandy will take care of everything seamlessly. Reeder, another very popular reader, also claims that syncing will continue, probably using Feedbin. Feeddler also says they’re not going away, but with no details. After July 1, we’ll see how many of these programs actually work!

So what am I doing? I’ve tried Feedly and really like how pretty it is and easy it is to use. The real problem with Feedly is that its designed for beauty, not necessarily utility. For instance look how pretty it displays on my iPad:

feedly

But note that its hard to distinguish the journal from the authors and the abstract. And it doesn’t show the full TOC image. Feedly might be faster (you can swipe to move to the next articles), but you may not get as much full information in your brain and might miss articles that might actually interest you.

Here’s Reeder, which displays the title, journal, authors, and TOC art all differently, making it easy to quickly scan each  article:

reeder

 

And Feeddler:

feeddler

I love that Feeddler lets me put the navigation arrow on the bottom right or left, and that it displays a lot of information in nice formatting for each entry. That way, I can quickly flip through many articles and get the full information. The major problem is that it doesn’t have a Mac or PC version, so you’ll be stuck on your phone.

I think I’ll drop Feeddler and keep demoing Reedler and Feedly until July 1 rolls around.

slate

October 3, 2012 at 2:39 pm | | news, nobel, science and the public, science community

Paul and I were interviewed for a Slate.com article about Nobel Prize predictions. More details back at my original post on the 2012 Prize.

2012 nobel prize predictions

September 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm | | nobel, science community

It’s time again for my annual blog post Nobel Prize predictions. This year I’m limiting to the chemistry prizes. Of course there are many more individuals and discoveries that should be listed below and even more who deserve a Nobel Prize!

 

Single-Molecule Spectroscopy

Moerner, Orrit

Single-molecule imaging has matured to an important technique in biophysics. Just go to a Biophysical Society meeting and see all the talks and posters with “single molecule” in the title! Single-molecule techniques have begun to answer biological questions that would be obscured in traditional imaging. Moreover, super-resolution techniques such as PALM and STORM rely directly on detecting single molecules and the spectroscopic techniques developed in the late 80s and 90s. W.E. Moerner won the 2008 Wolf Prize in Chemistry.

 

Electrochemistry/Bioinorganic Electron Transfer

Bard, Gray

Al Bard won the 2008 Wolf Prize in Chemistry; Harry Gray won it in 2004.

 

Polymer Synthesis

Matyjaszewski, Frechet

Jean Frechet invented chemically-amplified photoresists and developed dendrimer synthesis. Kris Matyjaszewski won the 2011 Wolf Prize in Chemistry for ATRP polymerization. Of course, others were involved in both discoveries.

 

GPCR Structure

Kobilka, Stevens, and Palczewski

Biomolecule structures have won chemistry Nobels in the past, so I’m including G-protein coupled receptors here. A lot of buzz in the last couple years about GPCRs and Nobel. Good article here.

Update 10/10/12: Kobilka wins.

 

Chaperonins

Horwich, Hartl

Although these are biological molecules, they are still molecules. And many Chemistry Nobels have gone to bio-related discoveries in the last couple decades. Both won the Lasker Award in 2011.

 

Biomolecular Motors

Vale, Spudich, Sheetz

Another bio subject, but you really never know with the Chemistry prize. All three just won the Lasker Award this year.

 

(BTW, check out other predictions at ChemBark and The Curious Wavefunction and Thompson. And my prior predictions.)

(P.S. W.E. Moerner was my PhD advisor. Also, I worked in a collaboration with Kris Matyjaszewski when I was an undergrad.)

Update 9/11/12: I added chaperonins and biomolecular motors because I figure this year’s Chemistry Nobel might be more biological.

Update 10/3/12: Paul and I were interviewed for a Slate.com piece on Nobel Prize predictions. I like Paul’s section, especially about Djerassi. Anyway, here is what I said:

The line between chemistry and other fields (especially biology) is often blurred, and that’s a wonderful thing; but this fact sometimes results in a chemistry Nobel Prize being awarded for a decidedly biological discovery (like the 2009 prize for the structure of the ribosome). This may be exacerbated by the fact that the physiology or medicine prize tends to go to things directly related to health, and the chemistry prize often is used to cover the more basic biological science feats. Personally, I think it is a testament to the central position the field of chemistry holds in the Venn diagram of science.

My top prediction is for single-molecule spectroscopy. In 1989, W.E. Moerner at IBM (now at Stanford) was the first to use light (lasers) to perform measurements on single molecules. Before this, millions or trillions of molecules or more were measured together to detect an average signal. His amazingly difficult feat required ultrasensitive detection techniques, perfect samples, and temperatures just above absolute zero! A year later, Michel Orrit in France observed the fluorescent photons from a single molecule. With those early experiments, Moerner and others laid the experimental groundwork for imaging single molecules.

Single-molecule spectroscopy and imaging has become a subfield unto itself. I performed my Ph.D. research in the Moerner lab, and I know firsthand that the technique reveals events that would otherwise be hidden in averages of “bulk” measurements. Biophysics, the field of understanding how cells and biomolecules operate on a physical level, is particularly aided because rare events can have major effects in biology. (Think of a single cell mutating and then dividing into a tumor.) For example, Sunney Xie at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (now at Harvard) performed the early work on how individual enzymes experience multiple states, which otherwise would be averaged away in a bulk experiment. More recently, imaging single molecules has been instrumental in novel “super-resolution” techniques that reveal structures in cells at tenfold higher resolution than ever available before. Several companies (Pacific Biosciences, Helicos, Illumina, Life Technologies) have either released or are developing products that use single-molecule imaging to sequence individual strands of DNA. My prediction is bolstered by others along the same vein. In 2008, Moerner won the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, which is often considered a harbinger for the Nobel. More importantly, The Simpsons were betting on Moerner in 2010. Of course, that was Milhouse’s prediction, and maybe it’s more reasonable to go with Lisa.

My other prediction is for biomolecular motors (aka molecular motors). These are proteins in cells that move important cargo around, and on a more practical level, make muscles contract. Ron Vale (now at University of California, San Francisco) and Michael Sheetz (now at Columbia) discovered kinesin, a protein that walks along tiny tubes and pulls cargo to different parts of the cell. This is supremely important because it would take far too long (months in some cases) for diffusion alone to bring nutrients and signaling molecules to all parts of the cell. (Interestingly, kinesin was discovered from the neurons of squids because they are extraordinarily long cells!) Jim Spudich (at Stanford), Sheetz, Vale, and others have developed many important techniques for studying the actions of these tiny machines. Spudich shared this year’s Lasker Award, which many see portending a Nobel, with Vale and Sheetz.

It’s hard not to allow hope to creep into almost anything we humans do, and I have clearly failed to prevent my own desires from influencing my predictions: I would be thrilled to see either of the above discoveries—or any that I list on my blog—win a prize. But there are many, many deserving scientists who have discovered amazing things and helped millions of people. Unfortunately, only a handful of these amazing individuals will be awarded the ultimate recognition in science. So it goes.

PeerJ

June 8, 2012 at 9:39 am | | literature, science and the public, science community

This is an interesting idea. PeerJ sounds like it’s going to be an open access journal, with a cheap publication fee ($99 for a lifetime membership). I wonder if it will be selective?

I’m more excited about HHMI’s new journal eLife.

self-plagiarism and JACS

April 25, 2012 at 7:52 am | | literature, science community, scientific integrity

Hi all! I’m back! Well, not exactly: I won’t be posting nearly as much as I did a few years ago, but I do hope to start posting more than once a year. Sorry for my absence. There’s no real excuse except my laziness, a new postdoc position, commuting, and a new baby. I suppose those are good excuses, really. Also, I’m sorry to say, that I’ve been cheating on you, posting on another blog. We love each other, and I won’t stop, but I want to keep you Everyday Scientist readers in my live, too. I’m just not going to pay as much attention to you as I used to. You’re cool with that, right?


Anyway, I thought I’d comment on the recent blogstorm regarding Ronald Breslow’s apparently self-plagiarized JACS paper. Read the full stories here (1, 2, 3, etc.).

I feel bad for Breslow, because I like him and I respect his work and I think his paper in JACS is valuable. However, I think he should retract his paper. Sorry, but if some no-name had been caught completely copying and pasting his or her previously published paper(s) and submitting that to JACS as an ostensibly novel manuscript, that paper would be retracted when found out. If he had just copied the intro paragraph, I’d be more forgiving, but the entire document is copied (except, that is, the name of the journal)!

That said, it might be possible to save the JACS paper, but the editors would have to label the article as an Editorial or Perspective or something, and explicitly state that the article is reprinted from previous sources. I know that might not be fair, to give Breslow special treatment, but life isn’t fair. Famous scientists might get away with more than peons. And, honestly, Breslow’s paper remaining in JACS might be good for future humanity, because JACS archive will probably be more accessible than other sources. That way, we’ll be able to look up what to do when space dinosaurs visit us!

wtf?! acs fall meeting deadline is already passed?

March 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm | | conferences, news, science community

Before the Spring meeting has even started? This is not cool.

It’s almost impossible to actually find out, but the deadline for submitting an abstract to the ACS Fall meeting in Denver has already passed. This is how I tried to find out:

First, I went to the ACS website, and clicked on the “Meetings” tab. The Fall 2011 meeting isn’t even listed there (see screenshot on the left). OK, that’s silly.

Next, I searched “deadline” from the ACS homepage and clicked on the top link, “Events & Deadlines.” That brings me to the Events & Deadlines page. Where the Denver meeting doesn’t even have a link. The Anaheim meeting’s link is live, but you can’t click on the Denver meeting. OK, maybe that means the deadline is so far away that you don’t need to worry about it. Wrong. Apparently, the Events & Deadlines page is only for past deadlines. Why have a deadlines page only for past deadlines?!? Wouldn’t future deadlines be a bit more helpful? I guess, the “Events & Deadlines” page is more a shrine to the deadlines you’ve already missed, not intended to help you meet future deadlines.

OK, let’s try going directly to the Denver meeting homepage. Not a lot of info there. But it turns out that, if you click on the symposia link, you’ll find that many of the deadlines have already passed!!! And the Spring meeting hasn’t even started yet! (There’s also this strange PDF I found somewhere on the ACS website; it list different deadlines.)

That really, really sucks. I feel like, with all the stupid emails I get from ACS every day, I’d have seen this deadline coming. I suppose it’s all my own fault: I should have been paying attention. But I figured that the deadline for the next meeting wouldn’t be before the current meeting starts. And I do blame the ACS website: I’ve been looking at the “meetings” tab for info on Denver, but it isn’t even there yet.

My suggestion: Why doesn’t ACS have one deadline for all the divisions, have it after the current meeting is finished, and actually announce that deadline on their webpage?

I am annoyed.

why is author ID taking so long?

March 22, 2011 at 11:13 am | | literature, science community

DOI is magical. Why is it taking so long for the same thing to happen with authors? Arguably, having unique author IDs is more important and helpful than document identifiers. Yet it’s 2011 and there’s no standard way to ID an author.

Thompson has it’s ResearcherID, but it hasn’t really seem to have caught on. And it’s certainly not a open or universal standard, given it’s based off of ISI. ORCID seems to be (slowly) working on a solution to that. NIH claims that it’s working on a Pubmed Author ID project, but what’s the holdup? Hasn’t the problem of multiple authors with the same or similar name been recognized for years?

There must be some technical and economic hurdles that I don’t quite understand. DOI seemed to arrive on the scene pretty early after the internet started becoming mainstream. That was a few years ago.

chemistry should not focus on the origin of life

March 18, 2011 at 10:16 am | | science and the public, science community

Several chemists (e.g. here and here) have recently suggested that the origin of life (OOL) should be the next big question the field of chemistry could tackle.

Here’s why I disagree:

  • OOL research is not (directly) practical. Studying OOL won’t directly result in new technologies, products, or cures that the public can use. I prefer the Deutch and Whitesides approach. There are more pressing challenges that chemists can contribute to solving (cancer, disease, chemistry of biology, global warming, alternative energy sources, etc.). OOL comes across as an intellectual pursuit for armchair chemists.
  • OOL is politically, emotionally, and religiously charged. The last thing we need is idiots trying to cut chemistry funding because their faith says something different than the science. Studying OOL is the perfect way to offend a bunch of folks and make the field of chemistry a target of religious nuts. I don’t think we should guide our research on what religious nuts want, but why kick the beehive?
  • OOL is basically unanswerable. We might be able to test theories of the OOL, but we won’t be able to observe the true origins of life on this planet. Until we invent a time machine. That makes OOL research speculative and uninteresting to me. And even if we could find out, who really cares? Will that change our day-to-day life? OOL seems like more of a religious question than one of science.

Of course, some chemists should work on OOL. Just like some physicists should work on counting the number of alternate universes. But I don’t think chemistry as a whole should devote a major portion of its efforts to the “big questions” like OOL and what the universe was before the Big Bang. Chemistry is a practical science that answers questions about our everyday life. Let’s harness that power instead of trying to be as “cool” and big-question oriented as physics.

There. I hope I offended everyone who works on OOL. :)

P.S. Harry Gray and Jay Labringer have a recent editorial in Science stating that the Big Questions in chemistry are harder to see. They suggest understanding photosynthesis as one of those Questions.

what your laser pointer says about you

March 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm | | conferences, hardware, nerd, science community

Red: You either don’t really care if anyone can see what you’re pointing at or you’re cheap and you use the free pointer you got from a vendor at the expo. Of course, you could be one of those considerate folks who buy very bright red pointers, because you stubbornly like what red looks like even though human eyes are not sensitive to 633 nm. That’s fine.

Green: You want your audience to see what you’re pointing at. Unless you bought a 5+ mW laser (either because you’re showing off or because you didn’t realize how sensitive the human eye is to 532 and bought the brightest laser you could find). In that case, you’re blinding your audience. If you’re going to get a 5 mW laser, get it in red. That’s classy and visible!

Blue: You’re a bad-ass. You don’t care that blue lasers are more expensive and slightly harder to see, you want the audience to know that you’re a real laser jock. (Or maybe you’re worried about leaking 1064 nm from green laser pointers.)

Purple: You’re so bad-ass you’re crazy. You don’t care that the human eye can hardly detect and can’t focus on 405 nm. You want to show that you support Blu-ray.

Yellow: You think blue lasers are soooooo 2009.

Invisible: You have a UV or IR laser pointer? Maybe a tripled or undoubled Nd:YAG? You’re nuts.

Maser pointer: I want one.

interrupting student

March 1, 2011 at 1:11 pm | | science community

A (grad?) student walked into a seminar lecture, went up the the speaker in mid-sentence, and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but can I borrow some chalk?”

Everyone in the seminar room started chuckling at the kid. It was strange and awkward.

What a dumdum.

f1000

February 11, 2011 at 12:10 pm | | literature, science community, stupid technology, wild web

UPDATE2: OK, it turns out that the daily(ish) email isn’t too terrible. I now use it and I’m no longer upset that they don’t have an RSS feed. I correct myself and now fully endorse F1000!

Faculty of 1000 is extremely powerful with a lot of potential, but simultaneously completely worthless.

F1000 is like mini-peer-review post-publishing: it uses its “Faculty,” experts in various fields, to rate publications that those experts think are worth reading. It’s like … nay, it is … getting suggestions on what to read in the recent literature from a large group of experts. That is very cool. Of course, there are various databases like Cite-U-Like and Mendeley that are trying to mine their data to find interesting papers, but there’s something great about getting little mini-reviews from actual people.

OK, so why am I annoyed? F1000 doesn’t have an RSS feed! So I have to remember to go and check the website every week. Even if I happen to remember, there’s no way to mark which reviews I’ve already seen and the new ones. What is this, 2002?

UPDATE: rpg comments below with some good news: F1000 is actively trying to get RSS on the site. The comments also explain why it’s a challenge. I eagerly await RSS.

new chemistry dictionary for Word and OO.o

January 20, 2011 at 9:40 am | | science community, software

Check it out: azmanam has a new version of the chemistry dictionary for Word:

http://www.chemistry-blog.com/2011/01/19/chemistry-dictionary-for-word-processors-version-3-0/

Now you can eliminate all those red squiggly lines under half the words in your document.

Enjoy!

royce makes a funny

January 13, 2011 at 9:16 am | | literature, nerd, science community

Prof. Royce Murray’s recent editorial in AC is fun. I actually do find these type of sarcastic instructions for writing a paper helpful. To an extent. These devices are great reminders of the essentials to making a paper readable. I might find even more helpful a template of a paper that tells you what each paragraph and caption should say. Maybe I’ll make that someday for teaching purposes…

My fav line is: “Diagrams are worth a thousand words, so in the interest of writing a concise paper, omit all words that explain the diagram, including labels. Let the reader use his/her fertile imagination.”

Another anti-suggestion from Royce is: “It should be anathema to use any original phrasing or humor in your language, so as to adhere to the principle that scientific writing must be stiff and formal and without personality.” Which reminds me of this line from an old Chem. Rev. paper: “Evans boldly put 50 atm of ethylene (C2H4, trans-C2H2D2, or C2D4) in a cell with 25 atm of O2. The apparatus subsequently blew up, but luckily not before he had obtained the spectra shown in Figure 8.”

I think Royce should have added another rule: Make sure your TOC art is unreadable, phallic, or filled with math formulas (or even just “Maths“).

P.S. I see that CBC scooped me on Royce’s editorial!

CV of failures

December 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm | | postdoc life, science community, scientific integrity

Nature Jobs has encouraged folks to spread the word of their failures, as well as their successes. So I made a CV of my failures. I’m probably forgetting a lot of failures, but I’m not really motivated to spend a lot of time trying to remember. Anyone else want to air their dirty laundry?

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