Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Conversation on Competition in Science

There is some conversation going on in the science world about competition, so you may want to follow this discussion in the NYT this week and last.

What if scientists, instead of rushing to publish or perish, chose to cooperate? Sean Cutler decided to do “a little experiment,” as he calls it, and you can see the results in the forthcoming issue of Science. "I can already anticipate that a lot of people will say, “This is a bad message. You are painting an unflattering portrait of scientists.” To this I respond: Most of the scientists I know are very good, passionate and ethical people who behave. But some don’t, and these unethical types gain an unfair advantage that needs to be addressed so that competitive forces can work their magic most effectively. Good ethics = good competition. They are not in opposition."

John Tierney asks in his NYT blog called TierneyLab: "How widespread do you believe this problem is? Have you seen this sort of unethical competition in your field? Ever engaged in it yourself?"

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Journey to the Center of ....

I just watched Journey to the Center of the Earth where the scientists fall through volcanic tubes... and then saw this story about being sucked into a black hole! This is a great story, so read A. Pawlowski's story on CNN. Thank you to UCLA for the image.

"To be sucked in by a black hole, you need to reach its event horizon, the one-way boundary beyond which nothing can escape. The more massive a black hole, the bigger this point of no return around it, said Jeff McClintock, a senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Scientists can try to simulate a trip inside with the help of equations in Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, which make predictions about black hole behavior, said Andrew Hamilton, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

"Black holes are some of the simplest things in the universe. We think of them as being complicated things because they're described by complicated mathematics," Hamilton said.

"But as a practical matter, they are, in fact, much simpler than the sun, far simpler than stars and infinitely simpler than human beings."
"The same force ripping you apart would also concentrate the view of the universe into a thin band around your waist. It would cause the scene above and below you to appear redshifted, or dimmer, and the light around your waist to become blueshifted, or very bright, Hamilton said.
You may also regret that you only have two eyes. In a strange twist, Hamilton and Polhemus argue that three eyes would be needed to properly judge distances inside a black hole, where space-time is highly curved and our binocular vision would become confused."