13 Dec

BBC News – Cambridge University puts Isaac Newton papers online

The notebooks in which Sir Isaac Newton worked out the theories on which much classical science is based have been put online by Cambridge University.

More than 4,000 pages have been scanned, including his annotated copy of Principia Mathematica, containing Newton’s laws of motion and gravity.

Newton wrote mainly in Latin and Greek, the scientific language of his time, and was reluctant to publish.

The university plans to put almost all of its Newton collection online.

The papers mark the launch of the Cambridge Digital Library project to digitise its collections.

As well as Principia and Newton’s college notebooks, the Newton Papers section of the online library contains his “Waste Book”.

The large notebook was inherited from his stepfather, and scholars believe it helped Newton to make significant breakthroughs in the field of calculus.

via BBC News – Cambridge University puts Isaac Newton papers online. One of the geniuses of all time.

27 Sep

APOD – Flying over Planet Earth

Have you ever dreamed of flying high above the Earth? Astronauts visiting the International Space Station do this every day, circling our restless planet twice every three hours. A dramatic example of their view was compiled in the above time-lapse video from images taken earlier this month. As the ISS speeds into the nighttime half of the globe, familiar constellations of stars remain visible above. An aerosol haze of Earth’s thin atmosphere is visible on the horizon as an thin multi-colored ring. Many wonders whiz by below, including vast banks of white clouds, large stretches of deep blue sea, land lit up by the lights of big cities and small towns, and storm clouds flashing with lightning. The video starts over the northern Pacific Ocean and then passes from western North America to western South America, ending near Antarctica as daylight finally approaches.

via APOD – Flying over Planet Earth. Wow!

27 Sep

Vivek Haldar – Size is the best predictor of code quality

A long paper trail of software engineering studies has shown that many internal code metrics (such as methods per class, depth of inheritance tree, coupling among classes etc.) are correlated with external attributes, the most important of which is bugs. What the authors of this paper show is that when they introduce a second variable, namely, the total size of the program, into the statistical analysis and control for it, the correlation between all these code metrics and bugs disappears.

via Vivek Haldar – Size is the best predictor of code quality. Essentially length of code tied with code metrics becomes a reasonable predictor of bugs.

24 Aug

NYTimes.com – Its Gene Patents Upheld, Myriad Genetics Moves to Protect Its Secrets

Myriad Genetics retained its monopoly on a lucrative genetic test for breast cancer risk when a federal appeals court recently upheld the company’s patents on two human genes — and the validity of gene patents in general.

But it is only a matter of time before the company’s business faces severe challenges, some experts say, because that $3,340 test is technologically outmoded, incomplete and too costly.

“Science has moved beyond what these folks do,” said Mary-Claire King, a professor of genome sciences and medicine at the University of Washington. “It’s not good for the science and it’s not good for the patients and their clinicians if they cannot have the most complete, up-to-date information.”

via NYTimes.com – Its Gene Patents Upheld, Myriad Genetics Moves to Protect Its Secrets. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the idea of patents on genes, the fact that these patents are forcing patients to undergo a more expensive and less effective procedure should give anyone concern.

01 Aug

Messy Matters – This Post Won’t Go Viral

In a recent study, Duncan Watts, Dan Goldstein, and I examined the adoption patterns of several different types of products diffusing over various online platforms — including Twitter, Facebook, and the Yahoo! IM network — comprising millions of individual adopters. The figure below shows the structure and frequency of the five most commonly seen diffusion trees in each case. In all six domains the dominant diffusion event, accounting for between 70% to 95% of cascades, is the trivial one: an individual adopts the product in question and doesn’t convert any of their contacts. The next most common event, again in all six domains, is an independent adopter who attracts a single additional adopter. In fact, across domains only 1%-4% of diffusion trees extend beyond one degree.

via Messy Matters – This Post Won’t Go Viral. Perhaps the more interesting aspect is that most adoptions occur without a peer-to-peer influence or within one step of the original peer.

12 Apr

Spaceflight Now – Discovery heads into retirement

Technicians in bay No. 2 of Kennedy Space Center’s Orbiter Processing Facility remove shuttle Discovery’s forward reaction control system (FRCS) on March 22 as part of the ship’s transition and retirement processing. The FRCS will be completely cleaned of all toxic fuel and oxidizer chemicals, which are used for the steering jet system while a shuttle is in orbit. NASA says the FRCS will then be put back into Discovery to help prepare the shuttle for future public display.

via Spaceflight Now – Discovery heads into retirementt. Incredibly cool photographs and just a little bit sad.

27 Mar

NYTimes.com – Radiation + Cable Anchor + Science = ?

Nancy Grace’s behavior on Monday could be seen as simply laughable. But I think it’s far more serious than that, particularly as long as this channel called HLN includes the word news in its description.

She’s smart enough, with a New York University master’s degree in law, to know what she’s doing. I do think she’d benefit, if she wants to keep analyzing news related to science, to spend some time at the university’s great Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting program.

Particularly in situations like this one, where there is an implicit tendency toward emotional reactions and away from rational consideration of hazards, there is a heightened need for the media to remain anchored in reality.Another option for CNN would be to drop the word news from this channel’s description and seek out Charlie Sheen as a co-host.

via NYTimes.com – Radiation + Cable Anchor + Science = ?. Cable news no matter the network typically is a pile of fail when it comes to science.

26 Mar

NYTimes.com – Next-Generation Scientists

The research paper they submitted for the school expo was 30 pages of code and 60 pages of writing to explain it. “Emotion is innately meta information,” Matt says, “and that’s why it’s a real challenge. A lot of people base their algorithms off of speech-recognition systems because those have been established. But emotion is a really different task, and it’s a different goal.” For one, in speech recognition, sequence is essential; get the sounds out of order, and you mess up the words. In emotion recognition, the order isn’t nearly as important as various measures of energy and pitch. Determining what information to pay attention to in the audio signal and how to process it involves imagination, some sticky calculus and a lot of trial and error. “We tried to think of something new,” Akash says of the algorithm they built, “instead of using what other people tried to do.” The algorithm they came up with allows them to determine the emotion of a speaker by measuring 57 different features of an audio signal against a prerecorded signal that’s already been defined by a human listener as, say, “happy” or “angry.” Their algorithm doesn’t yet recognize confidence, or sarcasm, but what it does do (imperfectly, but better than the rest of the field) is detect fear, anger, joy and sadness in real time, without eating up so much processing power as to be impractical in a handheld device.

Their project won the team competition at last year’s expo, and they went on to represent O.E.S. at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, where they received the team award in physical sciences. In the fall, now juniors, they entered the Siemens Competition, one of two premier science competitions in the nation, and made it to the nationals in Washington, where they won the team grand prize. With the honor came $100,000 in scholarship money and two thick glass plaques — one sits above the fireplace in Matt’s house, the other in the dining room of Akash’s. When I met them last month, they had just returned from ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. “Someone gave us his card,” Akash says, “and said, ‘When you make your company, be sure to give us a call.’ ”

via NYTimes.com – Next-Generation Scientists. Impressive work.

24 Mar

Bad Astronomy – Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity

Today, House Republicans made it clear just how antiscience they are (as if we didn’t know already): they voted down a simple amendment declaring the reality of climate change. Not that it was human-caused, or dangerous, just that it existed. Which it does.

Y’know, whenever I use the term denier (as in "global warming denier") I get lots of comments accusing me of using a loaded word. But it’s not: it’s precise, and given what we’re seeing in Congress, it’s the exact word to use.

via Bad Astronomy – Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity. I’ve been trying thing of something to put here but can’t.