word munger writes: "Yesterday we launched an important new version of an significant website. ResearchBlogging.org has collected over 1,700 blog posts from hundreds of scientists and other researchers, giving readers an expert take on cutting-edge research. It's different from other "science blogging" sites because every post on the site is written by someone who's actually read the original peer-reviewed study, instead of just passing along a press release or an abstract. Registered users can "flag" posts that don't meet our guidelines, so we ensure that only the best stuff gets published on our site."
word munger writes: "Commercial scholarly publishers are beginning to get afraid of the open access movement. They've hired a high-priced consultant to help them sway public opinion in favor of copyright restrictions on taxpayer-funded research. Funny thing is, their own website contains several copyright violations. It seems they pulled their images directly from the Getty Images website — watermark and all — without paying for their use!
Clearly their agenda is simply to make using copyrighted materials inconvenient and expensive for everyone but THEMSELVES."
word munger writes: "The F-word is censored from nearly all U.S. broadcast TV (except when someone like Bono slips it into a live telecast), but people use it every day in casual conversation. Meanwhile vicious insults like "nappy-headed ho," while they did result in Don Imus's firing, are repeated ad nauseum on every newscast covering the event. What curse words are truly offensive, and who do they offend the most? On Cognitive Daily, we surveyed over 700 readers to find out. The results? The F-word is only mildly offensive — not even as offensive as "ho." What's more, as people get older, they react more negatively to some words, like "suck" and "ho," but other words bother them less. It all suggests that censoring particular words makes less sense than evaluating words in context. Depending on who is watching and when, the FCC might want to reassess its censorship policy."
word munger writes: "Publishers send me a lot of science books to review. Nearly all of them get tossed in the trash within 60 seconds of opening the package. But some books seem interesting enough based on the cover and blurbs that I'll sit down and start to read. Very few are worth reading through to the finish. Yesterday I persisted in reading one a little longer than usual, just to see how bad things would get. Oh, boy, did they get bad! The book was actually painful to read. I realized that this book actually exemplified everything I hate about bad science writing, so I decided to write a post summing up the ways science writers almost always screw things up. Here it is."
word munger writes: "On Cognitive Daily we get a lot of complaints that our graphs aren't complete. We always omit error bars because we have found that most people misunderstand them. But perhaps our readers are more sophisticated than that. We put them to the test — and they failed, unable to correctly interpret the error bars on two sample graphs. Think you can do better? The polls are still open. But beware, you're not likely to succeed — even most scientists published in peer-reviewed journals don't get it right.
But we wonder: If sites like Cognitive Daily took more time to present and explain error bars, perhaps more people would understand them, and in the end, that would be a good thing. What do Slashdot readers think? Should mainstream media report scientific data, complete with messy error bars? Would that help the general public understand science better?"
word munger writes: "The cover story in this month's Scientific American, written by Bill Gates, discusses one of the toughest problems in robotics: "how to simultaneously handle all the data coming in from multiple sensors and send the appropriate commands to the robot's motors, a challenge known as concurrency."
Gates believes that robotics today is like the world of computers 30 years ago. Robots, like computers in the 1970s, have widespread applications in industry, but the models available for home users tend to be expensive and have appeal mainly for tinkerers and hobbyists. Microsoft's solution to the problem is to design a proprietary operating system for robots, built for everything from home surveillance to mars rovers. Could this be the world's next mega-monopoly? I discuss some of the implications at Cognitive Daily."
word munger writes: "A few weeks ago, Chad Orzel read a New York Times article which analyzed the best high school writing on the new SAT test. The Times' writer appeared surprised that the best high school writing was so... bad. So did I.
Chad, on the other hand, wondered if the best bloggers could do any better under the same conditions, so we decided to put it to the test. Over 500 people tried our timed online test, but just 109 scoreable responses resulted. We had professionals grade all the responses, and now we've created a web site where readers can rate the essays themselves, as well as find out the professional score.
So who's a better writer, a blogger or a high schooler? You can read my or Chad's analysis — or better yet, you can decide for yourself...."