Monday, July 28, 2014

A book, + NNIN

Sorry for the posting drought.  There is a good reason:  I'm in the final stages of a textbook based on courses I developed about nanostructures and nanotechnology.  It's been an embarrassingly long time in the making, but I'm finally to the index-plus-final-touches stage.  I'll say more when it's in to the publisher.

One other thing:  I'm going to a 1.5 day workshop at NSF in three weeks about the next steps regarding the NNIN.  I've been given copies of the feedback that NSF received in their request for comment period, but if you have additional opinions or information that you'd like aired there, please let me know, either in the comments or via email.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Nerd Nite talk - video

I mentioned back in February that I'd had the chance to speak at Nerd Nite Houston (facebook link - it's updated more frequently than the website).  It was a blast, and I encourage people in the area to check it out on the last Thursday of each month, location announced on the page, though so far they've all been at Notsuoh

Thanks to the fantastic videographic efforts of Jon Martensen, the video of my talk is now available on youtube here.  The talk is about 20 minutes and the rest is the audience Q&A.   All in all, a very fun experience - thanks again to Amado Guloy and the rest of the Nerd Nite folks for giving me the opportunity.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Interesting links: peer review, falsifiability

Slow blogging - I've got the usual papers plus working on finishing a really big writing project (more about that soon), combined w/ summer travel.  The posting rate will pick up again in another week and a half.  In the meantime, here are a few interesting links from the last couple of weeks.
  • A thoroughly dishonest scientist (and I guess a couple of other people) were exposed as running an awful peer review scam.  More about this here.  The scam involved creating fake email addresses and identities to mask people essentially reviewing their own and friends' papers.  The worst thing about this whole mess is that it gives ammunition to the anti-science crowd who are convinced that scientific research is a corrupt enterprise - people like the person I wrote about here.
  • Peter Woit has written an interesting review of a book about string theory and whether the scientific method needs to be revised to deal with "post-emprical" theory verification, whatever that means.  I haven't read the book, but the idea of post-empiricism is pretty sketchy to me.
  • Natalie Wolchover has written an article about some fluid droplet experiments that show quantum-like behavior of droplets (e.g., interference-fringe-like distributions, for example).  The physics here is that the droplets are interacting with associated surface waves of an underlying fluid, and the mechanics of those waves self-consistently guides the droplets.  This is similar in spirit to Bohm's ideas about pilot waves as a way of thinking about quantum mechanics.  The authors of the fluid paper are clearly high on this idea.  These are clearly very cool experiments, but it's a huge stretch to say that they should motivate re-thinking our interpretations of quantum mechanics. 

Friday, July 04, 2014

An expression of concern about an expression of concern

There has been a big kerfluffle about Facebook conducting a mass social psychology experiment.  At heart is the issue of informed consent.  By clicking "ok" on a vaguely worded license agreement, did users really give true informed consent to participate in experiments designed to manipulate them?  The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences here.  Now, in hindsight, PNAS has published an "Expression of Concern" here about whether the study was in compliance with the Common Rule regarding informed consent by human subjects.  The PNAS editors point out that as a privately funded, for-profit corporation not taking federal funding for this work, Facebook isn't technically bound by this constraint.

This is technically correct (the best kind of correct), but doesn't this have frightening implications?  Does this mean that private companies are free to perform experiments on human subjects without asking for informed consent, so long as they don't violate obvious laws like killing people?  Seems like there must be some statutes out there about human experimentation, right?  Perhaps one of my readers knows this issue....