Archive for category Books & Bibliography

Dear Elsevier Employees, With Love, From @FakeElsevier.

Came across this via the satirical twitter-stream http://twitter.com/#!/FakeElsevier – in part the argument is very much along the lines on CargoCult Science I wrote last year (i.e. https://cistronic.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/free-science-no-more-cargo-cult/)

Admittedly, this is my first attempt at reblogging … let’s see how this works out.

P.S.: See the comments for additional info …

The Real Fake Elsevier

An Open Letter.

A little background

As anyone who is reading this probably already knows, the publishing giant Elsevier has recently placed itself at the center of a shitstorm of animosity from the research community, thanks in part to its vocal (and financial) support of the Research Works Act (RWA). Currently, the National Institutes of Health mandate that the research products they fund with tax dollars must be made freely available to the public; the RWA would make such mandates illegal, enabling Elsevier to keep research papers resulting from taxpayer-funded research behind paywalls for as long as they like. There’s some douchey attempted subterfuge in the language of the bill about not locking up the research results themselves, but make no mistake: research papers are our output as researchers, and they are what makes up the scientific literature. While manipulating the legislative process for financial gain would be galling by itself…

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Green Tea, Free Textbooks, Free Thinking

At green tea press, publishers of “How to think like a computer scientist” (available in 3-4 different flavours including Python, Java and C++), “Learning Perl the Hard Way” and “Physical Modeling in MATLAB” a couple of new titles are available. Among them is “Complexity and Computation” by Allen B. Downey, who also wrote “Think Stats” and runs an interesting blog: Probably Overthinking It.

This book is about complexity science, data structures and algorithms, intermediate programming in Python, and the philosophy of science…

Sounds just like some of my favourite topics rolled up into one delicious package! If one insists on the classical DTF (DeadTreeFormat) version: printed hardcopies can be purchased from Lulu.com. But the best thing is that all the titles are all available as .PDFs for free, since the textbooks can be downloaded under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

It’s also worthwhile checking out their Textbook Manifesto, concluding with the statement: “There’s just no excuse for bad books.“, and the entry on “Free Books: Why Not?“. Maybe there is a lesson for scientific publishing in general? Enjoy!

(found via SchockWellenReiter)

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Hacking the software of life

I just came across Marcus Wohlsen‘s book “Biopunk – Kitchen-Counter Scientists Hack the Software of Life“. It’s already been out there for a couple of months, and was discussed at some depth on boingboing by Mark Frauenfelder.

Just added it here for general interest – something to go on my wishlist – and as a soothing reminder that one is not the only crazy geek who sees the convergence of life- and information science 😉

Just ask Bill Gates. If he were a teenager today, he says, he’d be hacking biology. “Creating artificial life with DNA synthesis. That’s sort of the equivalent of machine-language programming,” says Gates, whose work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has led him to develop his own expertise in disease and immunology. “If you want to change the world in some big way, that’s where you should start — biological molecules.”

(found on wired “Geek Power: Steven Levy Revisits Tech Titans, Hackers, Idealists” By Steven Levy)

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(Free) Philosophical Transactions

The Royal Society opened their digital archives, reaching back to the very first volume –

Giving some (account) of the present undertakings, studies, and labours of the INGENIOUS in many considerable parts of the WORLD.” I like this as a plain mission statement for a scientific journal, namely to describe what the (mad) scientists are up to. Of course, the first issues are

… very different from today’s journal, but in essence it served the same function; namely to inform the Fellows of the Society and other interested readers of the latest scientific discoveries. As such, Philosophical Transactions established the important principles of scientific priority and peer review, which have become the central foundations of scientific journals ever since.

(see http://rstl.royalsocietypublishing.org/) Just a little correction: Since the first installment of the “Journal des Sçavans” appeared a few month before the Philosophical Transactions, it’s is the second (not the first, obviously) scientific journal ever to be published in europe. While the Journal des Sçavans changed focus towards literature after the french revolution, the Philosophical Transactions now is definitely the oldest and still one of the most influential scientific journals around. (You wouldn’t find that info on the english speaking part of wikipedia, mind you).

In the now publicly available archives, there are many jewels waiting to be found – here are a few to get started (thanks for hints to heise.de) :

– Isaac Newton (1671) “New Theory of Light and Color”

– Charles Darwin (1839) “Observations on the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy, and of Other Parts of Lochaber in Scotland, with an Attempt to Prove That They Are of Marine Origin”

– James Clerk Maxwell (1865) “Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field”.

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Free Science Books

A collection of free science books is available (in .pdf format) at INTECHopen – among them are the following ones on experimental / computational aspects of systems biology and on HMMs which might be of interest:



(thanks to Zana Kadric for sharing via the group “Systems Biology” at LinkedIn)

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Rethinking the way we publish

In two weeks (15th September, 2011) there will be a webinar on the above topic:

“The scientific publishing world is witnessing rapid change, especially in the speed-of-light world of genetics and genomics. You are invited to join Professor Andre van Wijnen, Editor-in-Chief of GENE and Bart Wacek, Publisher (Elsevier), together with the wider genetics community to discuss how authors, reviewers, and editors can not only benefit from, but contribute to, the editorial process.”

See here for details and registration.
Read the rest of this entry »

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art is everything you get away with

Today is the hundredth anniversary of Marshall McLuhan, born July 21, 1911 in Edmonton, Alberta. A very interesting character and visionary, indeed, who coined several phrases in the sixties which are so familiar now. Sentences such as “The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village“, “art is everything you get away with” and “the medium is the message” – he is the guy who came up with it. With the rise of the internet and information society, his works, analysis and (stunningly accurate) predictions are increasingly gaining recognition. For example, he anticipated the conversion of TV and other forms of (electronic) communication. A classic case of a genius far ahead of his time, a heavily under-appreciated prophet in his own country?


Now Douglas Coupland (author of “GenerationX”, “Microserfs”) – who describes himself as a soulmate of McLuhan – has brought out this biography “Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!” (see here for a review).

Something to go onto my wishlist …

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