Music: Joe Bonamassa / Bridge to Better Days

When was the last time you heard a song that completely blew you away? And on top of that introduced you to an artist you did not know before? That happened to me about a year ago with Joe Bonamassa’s “Bridge to Better Days”. You would be hard-pressed to find a better blues guitarist out there.

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Tardy Reading and Scientific Breakthroughs

A friend of mine who is also a scientist once told me: “the only time I read, is when I write”. What he meant was, that the only time he reads scientific literature, is when he writes his own papers, and needs to do the proper research to place his research in the context of the general happenings in his field. Of course that is an exaggeration, as he wouldn’t be as successful as he is without keeping up-to-date. Nevertheless there is something in what he says: in our line of work there is a strong tendency to gloss over or skip literature that is not of immediate interest.  We do most of our “scholarly reading” when we write, or prepare a seminar or a class. I read quite a bit when refereeing manuscript: not just the manuscript I received, but also several related papers, so I can assess the novelty of what I am reading. So refereeing is actually my chance to keep abreast of my field, and when treating it as such, it becomes less of a chore.

That being said, I finally got around to reading the December 18, 2008 Science issue that includes last year’s breakthroughs, according to Science‘s editors, with the intent to blog about what I find there. Then I thought, “OK, if I am always late at my reading, how about I blog not about last year’s breakthroughs, but about those of a decade ago”? It would be interesting to look what was hot 10 years ago and see if and how things have changed.

Continue reading Tardy Reading and Scientific Breakthroughs →

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Music: Supertheory of Supereverything

Their music is loud and lively, and their lyrics are always surprising. They also managed to solve some physics problems. Gogol Bordello, Supertheory of Supereverything.

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On Microbial Sequencing

This is the 9th year the NSF & USDA  hold  a workshop for their microbial sequencing program awardees. (Full disclosure: I am not one of them).  Most of the talks are by the awardees themselves, and there were some great talks. For me an interesting angle was it to see how software is being developed as an integral part of the research. The workshop was organized by Lita Proctor from the NSF and Ann Lichens-Park from the US Department of Agriculture,  and it was well worth getting up for at the ungodly hour of 6:45 am on two sunny San Diego weekend mornings. (Saturday and Sunday, 10-11/ January). Continue reading On Microbial Sequencing →

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Just “teach”

The celebrations of Darwin’s 200th birthday and 150 years for the publication of The Origin of the Species are in full swing. We are apes equipped with 10 digits on our forelimbs, which we use in just about everything we do. We like numbers that are multiples of 10; even better if they are 10 times 10.   Zelda Roland has assembled a collection of books in this month’s Wired magazine in honor of this celebration. Sadly, the collection of titles

It is sad that we ned a book such as this

It is sad that we need a book with such a title. But thanks for writing it, Prof. Coyne

selected reflects somewhat on the state of evolution by natural selection, at least in the USA, as a cultural controversy rather than as a scientific theory. Of the seven, two books are polemics, and one of those is a creationist polemic.  When the centennial of Einstein’s publication of  Special Relativity was celebrated in universities, museums and schools around the world, there was no “teach the controversy”; there was just “teach”. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case for the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Celebrate Darwin’s 200th Birthday With a Natural Selection of Books Zelda Roland / Wired

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Hello, world!

Well, the default WordPress title for the first blog post is “Hello, world!” I should probably leave it at that. “Hello, world!” is a phrase that for decades has been associated with learning something new; at least in computer programing circles. Customarily, the first program you try to write when learning a new programming language is one that will print “Hello, world!” to whatever output device is handy: used to be punched tape, then printers, then CRT screens; within the latter it could be a terminal window, or a GUI dialog; tomorrow it shall probably be your retina, or visual cortex.

So for a geek such. as myself, “Hello, world!” means the first step in learning something; something big. Like a new programming language. Or writing a blog.  “Hello, world!” is synonymous with the phrase “baby step”: A simple step, yet also a big step. The fist time a toddler learns to stand up, grinning as she lets go of the table she used to balance herself she is performing a “Hello, world!” of standing. She will probably find herself on her butt two seconds later, somewhat frustrated, but the initial step was taken. Later in her life she won’t remember the first time she stood up without any props; standing will become a triviality. But right now, at the age of a year and something, this triviality takes all the concentration and motor skills she can muster. Similarly, a programmer soon forgets that he looked through a dog-eared language reference book just to find out the proper command to write a string of characters to an output device.

Python:

 print "Hello, world"

C:

#include<stdio.h>

main()
{
    printf("Hello World");
}

Similarly a blogger would write something about themselves, their hobbies, passions, gripes and hatreds. Their work, family, loved ones, colleagues, acquaintances. Books or articles they read, movies they saw, other blogs, news, politics, science, music, the arts. But they have to write that first post; that “Hello, world!”

Or just avoid it all by writing a smart-ass self-referential post. This is a small step, after all.

Hello, world!

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