Friday, April 22, 2011

Euroblogging question

Does anyone know about, or blog at paperblog, either in english or a European language?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dear Hypothesis

Dear Hypothesis,

It’s after midnight, and I’m sitting all alone in the lab, thinking of you. I recall fondly how in the rush of spring meetings, you first revealed yourself to me though the coy implications of supposedly unrelated talks. I remember the passionate nights that followed, chasing up all the relevant studies, and probing the mysterious gaps in the literature with the passion of youthful expectation and optimism. The revelation that we had the analytical setup necessary to cement our relationship thrilled me to no end, and I wasted no time devising a scientific protocol. While I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I threw myself into the challenges and groundwork. Those were the days, when your geoanalytical implications beckoned with wild abandon.

Even then, I realized that confirmation could be testing, and though I was naive to the ion optical prowess necessary to perform the analysis, I none-the-less soldiered on. We all fantasize about the beauty of supporting experimental data, and I was obviously setting myself up in this regard. While our dataset can be called many things, beautiful isn’t one of them. Mass spectrometry is hard, and the scars can be disfiguring. Never-the-less, it was a learning experience. And while it isn’t perfectly clear cut, it is clear enough to tell me that we’re through.

I know this hard. It isn’t what I wanted either. But at this point, there isn’t much choice. Even our fat, round error curves are not broad enough to cover the observed scatter. You could show me perfect spots of countrate-limited beauty from now until dawn, and our probability of fit would still be negligible in the morning. I might as well just shut down the instrument.

I won’t, of course. I have a reputation to maintain, and even if I know our relationship is doomed, we’re booked in here for the rest of the night. So I’ll keep going through the motions until morning. The boys would think less of me if I packed up now, and I don’t want to come across as a wimp. But really, it’s over.

Please don’t be one of those hypotheses who keeps hanging around after your time. I’ll admit that I haven’t come up with a new hypothesis yet. As long as I thought there was a chance for us, I was loyal. But even if you do hide in the error bars and keep calling from the shelter of hypothetical artifacts, I don’t fancy your chances. I’m on the lookout for someone new, and you’ll only beat yourself up watching us go. I do wish you all the best, of course. You’re a very attractive hypothesis, and I’m sure there are lots of theorists out there willing to overlook your lack of actual data. And while I hope you don’t rebound into the eye of a delusional crackpot, it’s a bit awkward for me to give advice at this point in time.

In fact, you have every right to be angry. We were in love, and I really thought it would work out. Had the data allowed, I was ready to give you my name make you my Theory. It just wasn’t to be. Despite all that, I do need to stress that I am faultless in this matter. Science is to blame.
your EX-perimentalist

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Note to anonymous reviewers

The practice of citenapping is incompatible with anonymity. So, for example, if you state that a paper’s introduction needs to discuss the basic state of the literature, and you then ignore all the contributions from five of the half-dozen labs working on the topic in favor of a pile of papers all from, say, the University of Chicago meteoritics group, then the probability distribution of your identity over all people in the field is no longer flat.

So if you are using said anonymity to be condescending, dismissive, sloppy, or some combination of the above, it is less likely to hide you.

That being said, the stack of papers suggested are all quite good, if a bit repetitive. So the author appreciates the tip, even if they aren’t terribly pertinent to the topic at hand.

Just saying.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Radiation: reactor vs space

This plot, from exomaria, compares the relative radiation doses from various reactor accidents to that found on the surface of the Jovian moon Europa.

Anyone wondering why a mission to the Jupiter system needs radiation hardened electronics should look at this picture. For many scientists, Europa is the solar system's next best hope for hosting life. Fortunately for any would-be inhabitants, the icy crust of the moon should shield against all of this radiation.

For comparison, the daily dose on the International Space Station is similar to the Three Mile Island or Fukushima "3o km downwind" dose.