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.

great escape

March 24, 2011 at 10:49 am | | literature, science@home

Fun paper:

Harvey, A.; Zukoff, S. Wind-Powered Wheel Locomotion, Initiated by Leaping Somersaults, in Larvae of the Southeastern Beach Tiger Beetle (Cicindela dorsalis media). PLoS ONE 20116(3), e17746.

Escape mechanisms in the animal kingdom can be pretty cool. Or just downright entertaining. This little guy does a somersault, grabs his tail, and rolls away in the wind (see Video 1). Check out Video 4 for a slo-mo version.

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.

papers2 review

March 11, 2011 at 6:12 pm | | literature, software, wild web

Scientists have many options for organizing, reading, and syncing PDFs of articles: Papers, Mendeley, iPapers, Endnote, BibDesk, Zotero, and more.

My favorite is still Papers. It’s clean and simple and beautiful. It works awesome on my iPad: reading PDFs is more enjoyable on the Papers iPad app than on my laptop. Syncing to the iPad over wifi is simple and practically bug-free. Syncing libraries between my home and work computers is also possible by putting the Papers folder in Dropbox. (Although Dropbox syncing isn’t technically supported by Papers, many folks use it to sync across computers. I’ve been doing that for half a year without a problem.)

The major downside with Papers is that it works only on Mac OS. Papers2 is now on Windows, too. On my PC, I use Mendeley. Mendeley is nice because it is free and has native syncing to the web and between computers. The reason I’m not completely sold on Mendeley is that it’s just not as clean as Papers yet. Mendeley is not as buggy as it was a year ago, but it still doesn’t seem to find metadata as well as Papers. But, if you’re starting from scratch, Mendeley is a great option. (Edit: And I like the syncing to iPad/iPhone that Papers offers.)

And now Papers2 was just released! Honestly, Papers2 is a little disappointing, so far. But I suppose I was expecting a lot. But I still have high hopes for it. The support staff is working very hard to fix bugs and add functionality that users are screaming about on the discussion boards.

Some of the cool features of Papers2 include:

  • A quick way to add citations to Word (or any other application on your Mac) directly from Papers
  • Easier keyword tagging
  • Automatic metadata importing (although I haven’t seen this work, yet)
  • Linking supplemental info to the paper it corresponds to
  • Searching multiple databases (e.g. Pubmed and arXiv) simultaneously

The automatic metadata grabbing might be nice, if it ever works. Mendeley tries to do that, too, but I’ve never been impressed. I really liked that Papers1 made manual matching easy (by highlighting the DOI, for instance). The new interface and searching mechanism seems much clunkier in Papers2, and the support staff has already acknowledged as much.

There are several other issues, that make Papers2 feel very beta. Given that it’s brand-new, that’s not exactly surprising. But Papers1 was so refined, that Papers2 seems very clunky in comparison. But I think Papers2 does have a lot of potential.

For those worried about trying Papers2, have no fear: the new version doesn’t overwrite your Papers1 data and PDFs, so you can use both versions side-by-side until you’ve made up your mind. During the 30-day free trial, for instance.

For the Mac, Papers1 has been the cleanest, coolest, and bestest PDF organizer. Hopefully Papers2 cleans up nicely and becomes my new favorite. But right now, Papers2 is not clean enough for me to recommend anyone using Papers1 switch over to the new version.

UPDATE: In the last two weeks, Mekentosj has provided two updates to Papers2 that have made it significantly better. Papers2.0.2 has fixed a lot of the bugs and annoyances in the version I reviewed above. For instance matching is much much better. Like I expected, the folks behind the program are working really hard to make it the best program, evar!

UPDATE2: I use Papers2 daily and I love it. It still has some things on the wishlist that I look forward to, but I think it’s a great program. I guess it just had some bumps at the beginning.

UPDATE3: Papers2.1 is now out at better than ever. Definitely better than Papers1. I can recommend without hesitation that you get this software!

UPDATE4: A bookmarklet for JSTOR.

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.

anyone going to BPS?

March 2, 2011 at 11:40 am | | Uncategorized

I’ll be in Baltimore Saturday-Wednesday for the Biophysical Society meeting. If you’re going to be there, leave a comment with your poster or talk number and I’ll try to swing by!

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.

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