October 22, 2014
Sean Carroll is a research physicist at the California Institute of Technology specialising in general relativity and cosmology. He’s written a number of well-received popular books on the subject (eg The Particle at the End of the Universe) and is certainly media savvy.
In an interesting development, he’s currently trying to raise private funding for interdisciplinary research projects in his areas of expertise.
Your contributions will support Dr. Carroll’s research as he investigates fundamental challenges in theoretical physics. Funding will allow him to bring together researchers to tackle interdisciplinary questions that are not funded by traditional funding sources, and pioneer new and risky approaches to big questions. All contributions are useful – a few thousand dollars would support graduate students, while hundreds of thousands could fund postdoctoral researchers at a crucial stage in their career.
It’ll be interesting to see if this type of approach takes off as it may lead to viable new ways of carrying out leading edge scientific research.
Again, from Benefunder:
Benefunder is a marketplace that allows donors to find, fund, and follow researchers and other university initiatives in a simple, efficient way.
Benefunder partners with top universities to gain access to top researchers and initiatives across all disciplines to ensure that your donations go to the intended use. Researchers create and manage their profiles on our site, which must be approved internally prior to getting published. This way you always get the most up to date information regarding their work and can rest assured knowing that all our causes are in fact vetted.
See also Ten Things About Time You May Not Know.
September 12, 2014
Interesting article by Ben McNeil in Ars Technica on creativity, age profiles and funding systems including:
Although unconventional and risky research can be pursued at any age, it seems to come much easier to younger scientists. That may be because they have more time to allocate to one idea and are less susceptible to the “curse of knowledge”—the cognitive bias that tends to make experience stifle one’s ability to come up with or accept new, unconventional, or creative ideas.
The 30- to 40-year-old period has often been described as “the golden years” for creative discovery, a perfect mix of time, enthusiasm, naivety, and just enough experience to produce optimal creativity.
Whether the age correlation is widely true or not, I like the list of ingredients, especially the inclusion of the word ‘naivety’. It’s probably true that after a certain age, cynicism and a ‘been there/seen it’ attitude all too easily creep in and innocence and naivety make a rapid exit.
However, as mentioned in the quote above, the continual ability to learn and change is also an important factor – not to mention luck of course!
On a related theme, there’s a discussion of ‘lean periods’ in research here.
Picture credit here.
July 3, 2014
The red squares represent the area that would be enough for solar power plants to produce a quantity of electricity consumed by the world today, in Europe (EU-25) and Germany (De).
Amazing fact/quote: ‘in just six hours, the world’s deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes in a year.’
From Wikipedia (which gives the history of the associated project plus it’s pros and cons as well as the remarkable graphic above):
“The DESERTEC concept was originated with Dr Gerhard Knies, a German particle physicist and founder of the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) network of researchers. In 1986, in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, he was searching for a potential alternative source of clean energy and arrived at the following remarkable conclusion: in just six hours, the world’s deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes in a year.
The DESERTEC concept was developed further by Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) – an international network of scientists, experts and politicians from the field of renewable energies – founded in 2003 by the Club of Rome and the National Energy Research Center Jordan. One of the most famous members was Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. In 2009, TREC emerged to the non-profit DESERTEC Foundation.”
Official site, for additional info: DESERTEC Foundation.
June 16, 2014
Interesting and lengthy post by Jon Gruber, motivated by the recent Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), which discusses Apple’s CEO Tim Cook’s assertion that:
“Apple engineers platforms, devices, and services together. We do this so that we can create a seamless experience for our users that is unparalleled in the industry. This is something only Apple can do.”
Is this true, though? Is Apple the only company that can do this? I think it’s inarguable that they’re the only company that is doing it, but Cook is saying they’re the only company that can.
Apple, Google, and Microsoft each offer all three things: devices, services, and platforms. But each has a different starting point. With Apple it’s the device. With Microsoft it’s the platform. With Google it’s the services.
And thus all three companies can brag about things that only they can achieve. What Cook is arguing, and which I would say last week’s WWDC exemplified more so than at any point since the original iPhone in 2007, is that there are more advantages to Apple’s approach.
Or, better put, there are potentially more advantages to Apple’s approach, and Tim Cook seems maniacally focused on tapping into that potential.
April 30, 2014
More on the above graphic can be found here, including:
The vast majority of people will get their science news from online news site articles, and rarely delve into the research that the article is based on. Personally, I think it’s therefore important that people are capable of spotting bad scientific methods, or realising when articles are being economical with the conclusions drawn from research, and that’s what this graphic aims to do. Note that this is not a comprehensive overview…
February 22, 2014
I was fascinated to read that (see here):
More than 10,000 people have signed up for an online course to study the work of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Professor Peter Higgs.
The free seven-week course, called The Discovery of the Higgs boson, begins this week and is being run by the University of Edinburgh where Prof Higgs worked when he developed the “God particle” theory.
The course is being run on the FutureLearn platform, a partnership of 23 universities.
The requirements seem quite modest: The course requires a basic level of mathematical skills, at the level of a final-year school pupil. A basic knowledge of physics is helpful, but not required.
Although it’s already started, it may be worthwhile joining if you’re interested in the topic as just 2 hours a week is needed. The link to the course is here.
I’ve previously written about the Higgs here and here (I did academic research in this area for over 10 years before moving to the commercial sector).
Picture credit: LiveScience.
December 29, 2013
In case you’ve not seen this before, be patient and wait until the end, just 2 mins, and you’ll be very surprised! It shows just how easily you can get (cleverly) fooled.
More on optical illusions here.