Roundup of missed stories – May 23, 2015

I’ve missed writing/commenting on so many science papers/articles in the two weeks following the launch of The Wire. The concepts in many of them would’ve made fun explainers, some required a takedown or two, and one had surprising ethical and philosophical implications. I think it might be a bit late to write about them myself (read: too tired), so I’m going to lay those I think are the best among them out here for you to take on in ways you see fit.

  1. Disrupting the subscription journals’ business model for the necessary large-scale transformation to open access – An OA whitepaper from a big proponent of OA, the Max Planck Digital Library. Has data to support argument that money locked in the currently dominant publishing paradigm needs to be repurposed for OA, which the whitepaper reasons is very viable. Finally, suggests that for OA to become the dominant paradigm, it must happen en masse instead of in piecemeal fashion.
  2. Self-assembling Sierpinski triangles – Sierpinski triangles are a prominent kind of fractal. So, “Defect-free Sierpiński triangles can be self-assembled on a silver surface through a combination of molecular design and thermal annealing” suggests some interesting chemical and physical reactions at play.
  3. The moral challenge of invisibility – A new optical technique allows people to look at their bodies and see nothing, thanks to an apparatus developed by a team of researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Cool as it is, physicist Philip Ball writes that users of the technique felt their social anxieties reduce. This appears to be a curious axiom of VS Ramachandran’s mirror-box technique to reduce phantom-limb pain in amputees.
  4. Open Science decoded – “Granting access to publications and data may be a step towards open science, but it’s not enough to ensure reproducibility. Making computer code available is also necessary — but the emphasis must be on the quality of the programming.” Given the role computing and statistics are playing in validating or invalidating scientific results, I wholeheartedly agree.
  5. EPR Paradox: Nonlocal legacy – I haven’t read this article yet but it already sounds interesting.
  6. In the beginning – A long piece in Aeon discusses if cosmology is suffering a drought of creativity these days. The piece’s peg is on the BICEP2 fiasco so maybe there are some juicy inside-stories there. It also ends on a well-crafted note of hopelessness (that’s one thing I’ve noticed about longform – the graf is often the last para).

We might be trapped in this snow globe of photons forever. The expansion of the Universe is pulling light away from us at a furious pace. And even if it weren’t, not everything that exists can be observed. There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. There always will be. Science has limits. One day, we might feel ourselves pressing up against those limits, and at that point, it might be necessary to retreat into the realm of ideas. It might be necessary to ‘dispense with the starry heavens’, as Plato suggested. It might be necessary to settle for untestable theories. But not yet. Not when we have just begun to build telescopes. Not when we have just awakened into this cosmos, as from a dream.

Last: I foresee I’ll continue to miss writing on these pieces in the future, so maybe these roundups could become a regular feature.

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