Tag Archives: future

The future of scientific papers

The more sophisticated science becomes, the harder it is to communicate results. Papers today are longer than ever and full of jargon and symbols. They depend on chains of computer programs that generate data, and clean up data, and plot data, and run statistical models on data. These programs tend to be both so sloppily written and so central to the results that it’s contributed to a replication crisis, or put another way, a failure of the paper to perform its most basic task: to report what you’ve actually discovered, clearly enough that someone else can discover it for themselves.

Perhaps the paper itself is to blame. Scientific methods evolve now at the speed of software; the skill most in demand among physicists, biologists, chemists, geologists, even anthropologists and research psychologists, is facility with programming languages and “data science” packages. And yet the basic means of communicating scientific results hasn’t changed for 400 years. Papers may be posted online, but they’re still text and pictures on a page.

Source: The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete. Here's What's Next. - The Atlantic

The scientific paper is definitely currently being strained in it's ability to vet ideas. The article gives a nice narrative through the invention of Mathematica and then Jupyter as the path forward. The digital notebook is incredibly useful way to share data analysis as long as the data sets are made easily available. The DAT project has some thoughts on making that easier.

The one gripe I've got with it is being a bit more clear that Mathematic was never going to be the future here. Wolfram has tons of great ideas, and Mathematic is some really great stuff. I loved using it in college 20 years ago on SGI Irix systems. But one of the critical parts of science is sharing and longevity, and doing that on top of a proprietary software platform is not a foundation for building the next 400 years of science. A driving force behind Jupyter is that being open source all the way down, it's reasonably future proof.

Never known an open web

Recently, a lot of people that I admire and look up to have raised their voices, advocating for getting the Internet back to what it once was. An open web. A web we shared and owned together. The old web was awesome.

It sure sounds awesome. Currently, our networks and our personal data are controlled by major corporations with no respect for privacy. Silicon Valley, that so-called tech hotbed of “innovation” and “disruption,” is by most reports becoming a culture of inequality and vapidity. Getting back to the founding open standards the web is, I’m told, a solution to all of this. The web should be a place where we can own our data, where our best developers focus on solving the problems we need to solve as a democratic society. An open web accepts all people and creates a culture of inclusion.

Again, sounds great. As a webmaker, I want an open web. But as someone who has never experienced that, I don’t know where to begin in making it. I’m not sure simply reverting back to what we had is the right path if we want to include people who have never experienced the open web or understand its principles.

via I’m 22 years old and what is this. — Medium.

It's interesting to realize that the digital natives have basically only known a SaaS web, and how we can move forward when the expectations are that the platform is closed and controlled by a small number of interests.

Timeline of the far future

This wikipedia page is just great, and includes such hits as:

Five Pointed Star Solid.svg 1 million Highest estimated time until the red supergiant star Betelgeuse explodes in a supernova. The explosion is expected to be easily visible in daylight.[11][12]
Five Pointed Star Solid.svg 1.4 million Gliese 710 passes within 1.1 light years of the Sun, potentially disturbing the Solar System's Oort cloud and increasing the likelihood of a comet impact in the inner Solar System.[13]
Noun project 528.svg 10 million The widening East African Rift valley is flooded by the Red Sea, causing a new ocean basin to divide the continent of Africa.[14]
Noun project 528.svg 11 million The moon Phobos collides with the surface of Mars.[15]

Makes you think in a slightly longer time frame than what's for dinner on Tuesday.

The Future of Libraries

The metafilter comment that's been circling about what the massive cut to library funding in California really means:

Every day at my job I helped people just barely survive. Forget trying to form grass roots political activism by creating a society of computer users, forget trying to be the 'people's university' and create a body of well informed citizens. Instead I helped people navigate through the degrading hoops of modern online society, fighting for scraps from the plate, and then kicking back afterwards by pretending to have a farm on Facebook (well, that is if they had any of their 2 hours left when they were done). What were we doing during the nineties? What were we doing during the boom that we've been left so ill served during the bust? No one seems to know. They come in to our classes and ask us if we have any ideas, and I do, but those ideas take money, and political will, and guts, and the closer I get to graduation the less and less I suspect that any of those things exist.

I'm a big supporter of libraries. We give annually to our local library (both financially and books and DVDs). I think Librarians are some of the few folks that really get what Copyright should be, and are very reliable advocates for sane copyright policy.

But at the same time I've got substantial frustration with parts of our libraries. I'm involved with multiple organizations that create really high quality educational content (MHLVUG and the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association being the topic examples). For 9 years we used the Mid-Hudson Library System space (for a fee) with MHVLUG. It was a great space, but there was a huge missed opportunity, as our relationship with MHLS was always just that of a tenant. At the end, MHLS cutbacks meant we had to find another space, where we moved to Vassar College.

Contrast this with the Astronomy events I've led at Vassar College's Farm Preserve. Not only were we given space, but we were wrapped into their series of events on the Farm Preserve, with joint advertising by the College. That led to huge turn out, and lots of positive feedback for both the College and our group.

The Library could be this kind of thing. And if it was, it would have the Hubble effect, where the citizenry were so invested in the organization that they wouldn't let it get cut. There are some libraries that are thinking about, and embracing these kinds of ideas. The Fayetteville Free Library is doing some amazing things with setting up a Fab Lab. Lauren Smedley is an inspiration to what the future library could be, and lots of kudos to FFL for hiring her to try to make this happen.

I'm hopeful by nature, and I think our libraries will transform, eventually. But I do think it's going to take a new generation of librarians to think past just books, and think about community at a broader level.

In the future...

In the future, you will take a picture of a wedding announcement with your phone, which will automatically scan and transcribe the text, which you can click on to search for the location of the event, and then automatically be prompted to get directions from your current location to said location (including estimated drive time).

And by you, I mean me. And by the future, I mean this morning.

We are clearly living in the future

2010 is still an odd year for me to write, much more so than 2000 was.  2010 is clearly the future in my head.  If you had any doubt we are now living in the future here are things that will happen in 2010 (bits of this already announced / demoed at CES).

  • In 2010 you'll be able to have a universal translator in your pocket (voice to voice translation in at least a dozen languages).  For this you can thank Google and their Android phones.
  • In 2010 you'll be able to buy a 3D television for your living room, and 3D TV broadcasts start in June.
  • In 2010 you'll be able to read your newspaper on tablet like they had in star trek (yes, I realize a lot of this tech is out there now, but Hearst's ereader shows how much the industry is embracing this.)