Archive for category Science & Society
A message from space to our blue marble:
And here is the executive summary: “Our Story in 1 Minute” (somewhat reminiscent of the BigBangTheory Intro Sequence) by melodysheep
Not that he won’t mind it was already yesterday. Since there are a couple of posts related to him on this site there is probably no need re-iterate how inspirational he was and even over 2 decades after his death still is. Just a welcome occasion to point out richard-feynman.net which has a great collection of videos, a photo gallery and quotes like this one on the ignorance of experts:
Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers in the preceding generation … Learn from science that you must doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts…
Let me refer you to this post with a bit more physics in it while leaving you with this scene from the movie “Infinity”, showing Feynman at the tender age of 6 learning a few things about science from his father.
For several years I’ve been a big fan of Top Gear – the guys have been entertaining my inner child. Seen rationally, the petrol-based internal combustion engine is a dead end, but getting from A to B is hardly the point, or is it? I like the irreverent, playful and fun approach to how things actually work – by taking them apart, blowing them up or whatever else seems suitable – they have an immense imagination in that department. You know, what distinguishes the men from the boys is the size of their toys. In this regard, the top gear presenters are the real grown-ups, thinking big and out of the box. Some of their projects on science and engineering are among my all-time favourites, so I am happy to see Richard “Hamster” Hammond back on the screen again.
First, there’s the recently launched “Crash Course” :
And then I have to mention his series “Engineering Connections” on the National Geographic Channel where Hammond
looks at how engineers and designers use historic inventions and clues from the natural world in ingenious ways to develop new buildings and machines.
And if you still can take some more, there is some really stunning footage in the “Invisible worlds” – series (2010). Definitely something to go into my DVD collection, here’s a teaser:
The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Learning Technologies Program (pre-)launched the Science Game Center “to demonstrate to teachers, scientists, museums, and parents the myriad ways games can be used to improve education in math and science“. Next to Phylo and Fold.it (which I mentioned around here before) are several entries listed I haven’t seen yet. It may be due to the movie “Fantastic Voyage” that made a lasting impression on me as a kid that “Immune attack” immediately caught my attention. After all, I’d rather kick some pathogenic butt than blowing up poor aliens in space. Good hunting!
P.S.: Reminds me of this quote by 137th Gebirg on battlestarforum.com
“I may appear unoccupied to you, but at the molecular level, I’m really quite busy.”
After I mentioned theScienceNetwork in the previous post and you might already be aware of sites such as SciVee.tv, labtube.tv and iTunes U it’s time to share some recent links in the area of online-courses:
On the computational side, there is udacity which was started by former Stanford professor and Google fellow Sebastian Thrun. He developed a vision for “University 2.0” under the motto of “democratizing higher education”. After having experienced that he could reach out to more people in a better way by a single online course than he could have by traditional teaching (even in huuuge overcrowded lecture halls) during the next couple of years he just couldn’t go back to the olden ways. He really has a point in dumping his professorship I heartily agree with, and that’s an understatement. I highly recommend to check out his talk at DLD (hosted by the gorgeous Maria Furtwängler), here is a teaser-trailer for the CS101-class “Building a Search Engine”:
(You might want to check out this previous post on the online courses at Stanford)
To round things up, at the moment there is a free introductory course on Machine Learning “Learning from Data” ongoing at Caltech by Professor Yaser Abu-Mostafa covering basic theory, algorithms, and applications. Registration is still possible, the previous lectures are available here.
Video et studio, ergo sum.
If anything, then it’s the MultipleSequenceAlignment (MSA) problem (in combination with the folding problem) which defines the core of bioinformatics. At least from my perspective, since that’s from where I started out my adventures in the field. Already fold.it successfully demonstrated for protein folding that it is possible to tackle hard problems by crowd-sourcing, a.k.a. Citizen Science. After all, the pattern recognition software installed on the wetware between your ears is highly evolved and can complement pure in-silico calculations. With Phylo researchers from McGill university have taken this approach to the sequence level:
Phylo is a challenging flash game in which every puzzle completed contributes to mapping diseases within human DNA.
Although the call for CitizenScience is not entirely new, it is boosted by such developments over the internet significantly. Who said that science and fun do not go together and can only be done while wearing a labcoat and operating extremely expensive machinery (?) – quite the opposite!
Biochemist Erwin Chargaff advocated a return to science by nature-loving amateurs in the tradition of Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Buffon, and Darwin — science dominated by “amateurship instead of money-biased technical bureaucrats”.
Now that’s some company to be proud of. And I can’t say I completely disagree, albeit I’d like to think the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive (for-the-love-of-it vs. for-profit). If you’d like to get started, check out the tutorial video below and have fun aligning!
Reference: “Phylo: A Citizen Science Approach for Improving Multiple Sequence Alignment” by Alexander Kawrykow, Gary Roumanis, Alfred Kam, Daniel Kwak, Clarence Leung, Chu Wu, Eleyine Zarour, Phylo players, Luis Sarmenta, Mathieu Blanchette and Jérôme Waldispühl (2012) PLoS ONE 7(3): e31362. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031362
“HHblits: lightning-fast iterative protein sequence searching by HMM-HMM alignment” by Michael Remmert, Andreas Biegert, Andreas Hauser & Johannes Söding (Nature Methods 9, 173–175 (2012) doi:10.1038/nmeth.1818)
“HHblits is the first iterative method based on the pairwise comparison of profile Hidden Markov Models. In benchmarks it achieves better runtimes than other iterative sequence search methods such as PSI-BLAST or HMMER3 by using a fast prefilter based on profile-profile comparison. Furthermore, HHblits greatly improves upon PSI-BLAST and HMMER3 in terms of sensitivity/selectivity and alignment quality.”
The entire suite of programs is available for all major OSs.