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Marc Abrahams visited Google’s office in Cambridge, MA to discuss his new book “This Is Improbable Too” and the Ig Nobel Prizes.
He has long collected odd, imaginative, and brilliantly improbable scientific discoveries from around the world. In his new book, he investigates research on the ins and outs of the very improbable evolutionary innovation that is the human body (brain included):
– What’s the best way to get a monkey to floss regularly?
– How much dandruff do soldiers in Pakistan’s army have?
– What is the real meaning of the finger?
Marc Abrahams is the editor and co-founder of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, a weekly columnist for the Guardian, and author of “This is Improbable: Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens, and Other WTF Research”. He is the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes ceremony, which are presented annually at Harvard. @MarcAbrahams www.improbable.com
Published on Oct 23, 2014
From Fox News Channel’s “Shepard Smith Reporting,” October 15
NASA has confirmed the existence of a real-universe analogue of Gallifrey, the fictional Time Lord planet that features in the BBC science-fiction drama series, Doctor Who.According to an article in theRegister, NASA came across what it calls a “transiting circumbinary multi-planet system” – in layman’s speak, “two worlds orbiting two suns” – using its Kepler planet-hunting telescope, and the Register likens to “Doctor Who’s Time Lord homeworld [of] Gallifrey – or alternatively the luxury-planet-builders’ planet Magrathea [from] The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy”!
Read the full article @ DigitalJournal.com.
A few passing students do a double take as Sayeed Choudhury waves his outstretched right arm. In his crisply pressed dress shirt and trousers, the engineer looks as if he is practising dance moves in slow motion. But he is really playing with astronomical data.
Standing in a US$32-million library building opened last year at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, Choudhury faces a 2-metre-by-4-metre ‘visualization wall’ of television screens. Pointing with his arm, he selects a picture of the Ring Nebula out of 40 images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Choudhury spreads his hands in a welcoming gesture and the nebula’s rim of glowing orange gas fills the frame.
This wall is the brainchild of computer scientist Greg Hager and Choudhury, who directs digital research and curation at the library. For $30,000, they and their team patched together monitors, processors and the Microsoft Kinect system that recognizes arm and body gestures. They placed the wall in the library last October as an experiment, allowing students and researchers to explore a few of the university’s data sets, from star systems to illustrated medieval manuscripts.
“As we create more and more digital content, there’s a question of how do you get people to even realize we have it and then interact with it in new ways,” says Choudhury, who thinks that the wall is starting to catch on. One chemical engineer wants to use it to visualize and manipulate molecules, and astronomers hope that it could help to train students in categorizing galaxies. By providing alternative ways to explore and share data, says Choudhury, the wall “is a new form of publishing”.
Around the world, university libraries are racing to reinvent themselves to keep up with rapid transformations in twenty-first-century scholarship. They still do a brisk business in purchasing books, licensing access to academic journals and providing study spaces and research training for students. And libraries are increasingly helping teachers to develop courses and adopt new technologies. But for working scientists, who can now browse scientific literature online without leaving their desks, much of this activity goes unseen. For many, libraries seem to be relics that no longer serve their needs.
Read the full article @ nature.com.
In most cases, paper books have more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open paperback presents a reader with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of eight corners with which to orient oneself. A reader can focus on a single page of a paper book without losing sight of the whole text: one can see where the book begins and ends and where one page is in relation to those borders. One can even feel the thickness of the pages read in one hand and pages to be read in the other. Turning the pages of a paper book is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail—there’s a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has traveled. All these features not only make text in a paper book easily navigable, they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text.
In contrast, most screens, e-readers, smartphones and tablets interfere with intuitive navigation of a text and inhibit people from mapping the journey in their minds. A reader of digital text might scroll through a seamless stream of words, tap forward one page at a time or use the search function to immediately locate a particular phrase—but it is difficult to see any one passage in the context of the entire text. As an analogy, imagine if Google Maps allowed people to navigate street by individual street, as well as to teleport to any specific address, but prevented them from zooming out to see a neighborhood, state or country. Although e-readers like the Kindle and tablets like the iPad re-create pagination—sometimes complete with page numbers, headers and illustrations—the screen only displays a single virtual page: it is there and then it is gone. Instead of hiking the trail yourself, the trees, rocks and moss move past you in flashes with no trace of what came before and no way to see what lies ahead.
Read the full article @ ScientificAmerican.com.