Blog of Random Thoughts and Pictures

The pencil so simple, so ubiquitous and so much history

June 28th, 2009

I recently finished an intriguing book with the history of the pencil … yes the pencil.

Maybe it doesn’t sound too exciting but really the story touches on the pencil as it emerges as a new writing technology, to the over-mining of plumbago and over-cutting of cedar trees its base components.
The need for research, development and innovation in the creation of new writing lead, the centuries of secrecy around that combination of graphite & clay mixture in the lead (Conte).
How the industrial revolution created a situation were there was 10 pencils for everyone on earth, the subsequent price fixing, international trade wars, standardisation (of lead grading), regulations and industrial consolidation.
To the threat of the mechanical pencil and ink pens, then typewriters, computers and many others and yet 4 centuries later I look at my desk at work and see 5 pencils, I’ve no idea were they have come from, who made them or how, but I know why they are there, I’ll continue to use them for scribbling transient notes and now at least I have a little more insight on the pencils history.

The greatest scientific impact from Ireland in the past 5 years is in…..

June 21st, 2009

…. Agricultural Sciences.
Photo Credit NZMonkey on Flickr
And that’s according to Thomson Reuters National Science Indicators, 1981-2007.
This is were Thomson Reuters have taken

Ireland’s world share of science and social-science papers over a recent five-year period, expressed as a percentage of papers in each of 21 fields in the Thomson Reuters database.

Ireland’s citation impact compared to the world average in each field, is also highlighted were

Ireland exceeded the world average by 15% (3.38 citations per paper for Ireland versus a world mark of 2.93 citations) [in Agricultural Sciences]. Ireland also scored well in relative impact in immunology (26% above the world mark), physics (23% above), materials science (+22%), and chemistry (+15%).

Looks like Ireland will have to pull its socks up when it comes to Computer Science and Mathematics and when it comes to Economics & Business, well it looks like this report came too late!
But when I look at this topic of impact factors, citations and the h-index a little closer, things are not so clear cut, to a point of being fairly questionable.
Which has lead me to this very interesting paper by Allen L, Jones C, Dolby K, Lynn D, Walport M (2009) Looking for Landmarks: The Role of Expert Review and Bibliometric Analysis in Evaluating Scientific Publication Outputs. PLoS ONE 4(6): e5910. were the authors were looking

To compare expert assessment with bibliometric indicators as tools to assess the quality and importance of scientific research papers.

And they found that

When attempting to assess the quality and importance of research papers, we found that sole reliance on bibliometric indicators would have led us to miss papers containing important results as judged by expert review. In particular, some papers that were highly rated by experts were not highly cited during the first three years after publication. Tools that link expert peer reviews of research paper quality and importance to more quantitative indicators, such as citation analysis would be valuable additions to the field of research assessment and evaluation.

After all of that I’m left wondering, have you got the h-Factor?

The Internet of things, but where do they go?

June 15th, 2009

The Chumby, an interactive mediaplayer that streams content from the Internet into chumby widgets. They’re not offically shipped to my home location so I picked one up from ebay and I must admit it got here quick flash (excuse the pun Chumby uses FlashLite for the widgets).
Now you can read the hype over and over, and I did and starting to believe it, until I got my hands one.
Now don’t get me wrong, it looks great, and you can connect it to accounts on flickr, twitter, facebook, picasa, urban quotes of the day and you can stream internet radio and I thought all these features would be great ….. but the first problem I found is that it is really a glorified alarm clock, and with the fact that there is some distance between my wifi router and the bedroom the Chumby just wouldn’t connect to the network and when the Chumby cannot connect to the network its just unusable ….. even as an alarm clock.
I moved things around, got a signal in the bedroom and after a week I realised the Chumby was getting no eye time …… I go to sleep in the bedroom, read books/magazines if I get the chance but sitting beside my bed waiting for the Chumby channels to change just isn’t compelling enough, so I decided to move it to the living area.
First to the living room …. after 1 week nope, no good the TV already takes all the attention.
Second to the hall beside the phone … after 2 weeks nope, very passing glances but no eyeball time
In a corner in the Kitchen …. after 2 days nope too far away to read anything on the screen, to see what’s worth reading
On top of the microwave in the Kitchen ….. perfect it’s lasted 2 months and gets more passing glances morning, evening and late at night.
Photo Credit miguelpdl on Flickr
And for me the best widgets on Chumby, are the FaceBook photo feature, which displays friends pictures once they push them out and the Yo Mama is So Fat jokes widget.

There are no communication research topics in J, Y or Z

June 6th, 2009

At the start of each year (usually the January issue) I have a little look at the full subject index page for the previous years articles in the IEEE Communcations magazine, just in case I missed an article I was interested in, and something pops out at me. In carrying out this task recently I noticed for 2008 there were no communication research topics under the alphabet heading of J, Y or Z. So I’ve checked the 2007 index and the same again, no topics under J, Y or Z.
Shouldn’t there be a paper on “Jitterless yobibyte service bus for a ZSL” or “Zoning of jumbo frame networks: Yobibyting more than you can chew”. Hey I might trademark that last one!
Photo Credit: on Flickr