Michael Eisen doesn’t hold back when invited to vent. “It’s still ludicrous how much it costs to publish research — let alone what we pay,” he declares. The biggest travesty, he says, is that the scientific community carries out peer review — a major part of scholarly publishing — for free, yet subscription-journal publishers charge billions of dollars per year, all told, for scientists to read the final product. “It’s a ridiculous transaction,” he says.
Eisen, a molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that scientists can get much better value by publishing in open-access journals, which make articles free for everyone to read and which recoup their costs by charging authors or funders. Among the best-known examples are journals published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS), which Eisen co-founded in 2000. “The costs of research publishing can be much lower than people think,” agrees Peter Binfield, co-founder of one of the newest open-access journals, PeerJ, and formerly a publisher at PLoS.
But publishers of subscription journals insist that such views are misguided — born of a failure to appreciate the value they add to the papers they publish, and to the research community as a whole. They say that their commercial operations are in fact quite efficient, so that if a switch to open-access publishing led scientists to drive down fees by choosing cheaper journals, it would undermine important values such as editorial quality.
Data from the consulting firm Outsell in Burlingame, California, suggest that the science-publishing industry generated $9.4 billion in revenue in 2011 and published around 1.8 million English-language articles — an average revenue per article of roughly $5,000. Analysts estimate profit margins at 20–30% for the industry, so the average cost to the publisher of producing an article is likely to be around $3,500–4,000.
Most open-access publishers charge fees that are much lower than the industry’s average revenue, although there is a wide scatter between journals. The largest open-access publishers — BioMed Central and PLoS — charge $1,350–2,250 to publish peer-reviewed articles in many of their journals, although their most selective offerings charge $2,700–2,900. In a survey published last year2, economists Bo-Christer Björk of the Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki and David Solomon of Michigan State University in East Lansing looked at 100,697 articles published in 1,370 fee-charging open-access journals active in 2010 (about 40% of the fully open-access articles in that year), and found that charges ranged from $8 to $3,900. Higher charges tend to be found in ‘hybrid’ journals, in which publishers offer to make individual articles free in a publication that is otherwise paywalled (see ‘Price of prestige’). Outsell estimates that the average per-article charge for open-access publishers in 2011 was $660.
This is the raw data from the Planck mission of the intensity fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background. At the highest resolution it includes 50 million pixels of information.
For a selection of scientific papers on the subject see this paperscape graph. For some commentary on Planck’s results, try the blog entries here,here or here. See the Planck Chromoscope for flat 2D maps.
You can use your mouse to control the view: click-drag will change the latitude/longitude, double click zooms in, and mouse scroll-wheel zooms in and out.
The following key bindings are also available: left, right, up, down (scroll the view), +, – (zoom), r (reset view).
The raw data is tiled over a sphere using this scheme. WebGL and thethree.js library are used for rendering.
Today would be the 100th birthday of legendary Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős. Among his many accomplishments, Erdős is perhaps best known for being the most published mathematician of all time (1500+ papers), and his extensive collaborations with other mathematicians, which is reflected in the establishment of the Erdős number.
[He] was an influential mathematician, who spent a large portion of his later life living out of a suitcase and writing papers with those of his colleagues willing to give him room and board. He published more papers during his life (at least 1,525) than any other mathematician in history.
The idea of the Erdős number was created by the mathematician’s friends as a humorous tribute to his enormous output as one of the most prolific modern writers of mathematical papers. The Erdős number has become well known in scientific circles as a tongue-in-cheek measurement of mathematical prominence.
This exceptional image of the Horsehead nebula was taken at the National Science Foundation’s 0.9-meter telescope on Kitt Peak with the NOAO Mosaic CCD camera. Located in the constellation of Orion, the Hunter, the Horsehead is part of a dense cloud of gas in front of an active star-forming nebula known as IC434. The nebulosity of the Horsehead is believed to be excited by the bright star Sigma Orionis, which is located above the top of the image. Just off the left side of the image is the bright star Zeta Orionis, which is the easternmost of the three stars that form Orion’s belt. Zeta Orionis is a foreground star, and is not related to the nebula.
Back in the fall of 2008, the Large Hadron Collider experienced a setback when a section of the liquid helium coolant exploded. Aside from the damage caused by the explosion, there was damage to the electrical system. The lack of coolant resulted in a loss of superconductivity, which caused the temperature of the conductors to rise to damaging levels — the conductors were still carrying thousands of amps of current, but their resistance had increased by several orders of magnitude. Ohm, the humanity!
To help prevent such an occurrence in the future, the LHC team has begun installing special shunts, which will help lower the resistance of the conductors at non-cryo temperatures, in order to prevent similar damage from happening again.
On 19 September 2008, during powering tests on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a fault occurred in a superconducting interconnection between two magnets – a dipole and a quadrupole – resulting in mechanical damage and release of helium from the magnet cold mass into the tunnel. Proper safety procedures were in force, the safety systems performed as expected, and no-one was put at risk. But the fault did delay work on the LHC by six months.
After the incident, CERN engineers decided that such interconnections should be upgraded to avoid similar electrical faults in future. As a precaution, beams in the LHC were accelerated below the LHC’s design limit for the first three years of running. Upgrading the interconnections will be one of the main activities at the LHC during its two-year shutdown, allowing the LHC to run at 7 TeV per beam when it starts up again.
There are 10,000 “splices” – superconducting connections between magnets – on the LHC. Each splice carries 13,000 amps.
In the video above, Jean-Phillipe Tock of the Technology department explains how, over the next 18 months, technicians will add an additional piece – a “shunt” – to each splice. The shunt is a low-resistance connection that forms an alternative path for a portion of the current in the event that the splice loses its superconducting state. A total of 27,000 shunts will be installed in the 27-kilometre accelerator.
Reporting in the journal Nature Physics, William Irvine and Dustin Kleckner, physicists at the University of Chicago, describe the knotted fluid vortex they created in the lab — a scientific first, they say. The knots resemble smoke rings — except these are made of water, and they’re shaped like pretzels, not donuts. Understanding knottiness has extra-large applications, including untangling dynamics of the sun.
What!? How is this even possible? Because science, my friends. Brusspup’s (previously) latest video explores what happens when a stream of water is exposed to an audio speaker producing a loud 24hz sine wave. If I understand correctly the camera frame rate has been adjusted to the match the vibration of the air (so, 24fps) thus creating … magic zigzagging water. Or something. Here’s a little more detail:
Run the rubber hose down past the speaker so that the hose touches the speaker. Leave about 1 or 2 inches of the hose hanging past the bottom of the speaker. Secure the hose to the speaker with tape or whatever works best for you. The goal is to make sure the hose is touching the actual speaker so that when the speaker produces sound (vibrates) it will vibrate the hose.
Set up your camera and switch it to 24 fps. The higher the shutter speed the better the results. But also keep in the mind that the higher your shutter speed, the more light you need. Run an audio cable from your computer to the speaker. Set your tone generating software to 24hz and hit play. Turn on the water. Now look through the camera and watch the magic begin. If you want the water to look like it’s moving backward set the frequency to 23hz. If you want to look like it’s moving forward in slow motion set it to 25hz.
Brusspup did a similar experiment last year where it looked as if the water was flowing in reverse. Can somebody please make a water fountain that does this or would we all be deaf?
Ladyada gave me some ITO (indium tin oxide)-coated plastic and glass samples to play with, so I affixed some LEDs to this transparent conductive material! Watch the video on YouTube (please subscribe)!
A Spanish company called Tecnalia has developed a new type of fabric that can be made to go from soft to hard and back again. Called VarStiff, the material’s default state is soft, like regular fabric; but attaching a vacuum to an embedded valve and sucking all of the air out turns the material rigid, “[achieving] hardness equivalent to that of a conventional plastic.” To get it soft again, re-introduce air.
A 30-second video of a newborn baby shows the infant silently snoozing in its crib, his breathing barely perceptible. But when the video is run through an algorithm that can amplify both movement and color, the baby’s face blinks crimson with each tiny heartbeat.
The amplification process is called Eulerian Video Magnification, and is the brainchild of a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
The team originally developed the program to monitor neonatal babies without making physical contact. But they quickly learned that the algorithm can be applied to other videos to reveal changes imperceptible to the naked eye. Prof. William T. Freeman, a leader on the team, imagines its use in search and rescue, so that rescuers could tell from a distance if someone trapped on a ledge, say, is still breathing.
“Once we amplify these small motions, there’s like a whole new world you can look at,” he said.
The system works by homing in on specific pixels in a video over the course of time. Frame-by-frame, the program identifies minute changes in color and then amplifies them up to 100 times, turning, say, a subtle shift toward pink to a bright crimson. The scientists who developed it believe it could also have applications in industries like manufacturing and oil exploration. For example, a factory technician could film a machine to check for small movements in bolts that might indicate an impending breakdown. In one video presented by the scientists, a stationary crane sits on a construction site, so still it could be a photograph. But once run through the program, the crane appears to sway precariously in the wind, perhaps tipping workers off to a potential hazard.
It is important to note that the crane does not actually move as much as the video seems to show. It is the process of motion amplification that gives the crane its movement.
I have a problem. When I look at my brewery I think that if it is working, then it doesn’t have enough features. Certain parts of the brewing process suggest specific liquid flow rates, but without instantaneous feedback, how can anyone ever really judge if they’re doing it right? It seemed that commercial flow meters are complete garbage or are insanely expensive. Luckily, Adafruit had my back with an inexpensive flow sensor.
I slapped a couple quick disconnects on it, and replaced the screws that held it together with 3/4″ #4 brass wood screws to allow it to be mounted to a nice enclosure.
The rest of the parts were maybe $15-20, but I had them sitting around from my other projects. I need to get a 9V battery clip. Soldering wires onto a 9V battery because you’re more excited about getting it working than driving to Radio Shack is surprisingly difficult.
The PCB is custom made from OSH Park and drives the LCD, PWM backlight and contrast, and of course counts the sensor pulses. I went a slightly different way than the example sketch does it, because I found that the resolution at low flow rates was too coarse. I use Timer1 set to 62.5Khz and use the input capture interrupt to store the elapsed ticks between pulses.
The sensor works great, but is quite a bit off spec (450 pulses per liter) at flow rates less than 4 lpm. I calibrated by running hundreds of liters of water through it and creating some calibration points that I can LERP between. Flow rate accuracy now pretty tight, off by a couple percent. Careful calibration can take this sensor down below its minimum spec’ed flow rate, down to about 0.7 lpm, but the pulses-per-liter count at that rate changes dramatically.
Here’s some pictures of the device in action on the brewery, where it just snaps on to the existing pump infrastructure. Using sleep modes between pulses means the current draw is relatively low and the 9V battery should last roughly 30 hours in use….