- Peter Woit informs us that the Journal of Number Theory is planning on introducing video abstracts for papers that they publish. I have previously discussed this question in an earlier post about SciVee.
To just repeat what I said there: As much as I like watching videos myself, I am afraid this can bias people’s opinions towards those who have the possibilities to come up with great videos. One would expect that the first some videos are low key, but if this becomes an established procedure and gains in importance, researchers and their institutions will try to produce the most convincing videos they can possibly come up with. The analogy to commercials and their influence on the ‘free marketplace’ lies at hand.
The quality of a video and how well one can sell oneself or the topic does greatly depend on professional support. If the journal doesn’t provide a service that ensures videos can be produced with roughly equal quality, this will just widen the gap between the scientists in institution where there is such a support (e.g. by the public outreach department or by a hired contractor) and where there isn’t.
- Today's Globe and Mail has a very interesting article on how the Presidential race magnifies Internet's growing role in media. It goes very well with my previous post The Spirits that we Called, in which I argue that the internet does influence our political decision making processes and this poses a challenge for our democratic system that we have to face rather sooner than later.
"This transformation of the media has transformed many of you, from passive readers to active investigators: researching and digesting information from a variety of sources as you seek your own understanding of what is happening in the world.
In some ways, this is all very exciting. In other ways, it's frightening. Whatever it is, it's here.
Today, the role of the Internet in shaping election campaigns is exponentially greater. Ninety per cent of the money Illinois Senator Barack Obama is raising consists of online donations of $100 or less. No doubt many of those donors went to YouTube to listen to the incendiary sermons of Mr. Obama's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. John McCain's supporters can network with each other through Facebook or MySpace.
The correlation between the decline of printed newspapers and the growth of online news sources is not exact, but it is real. Just as the growth in viewers and profits of 24-hour cable news shows coincides with the steady decline in network news ratings, so too the rise of the Internet presages the demise of the daily broadsheet.
One thing is clear: As newspapers cut back on staff and budgets, the quality of journalism suffers. Bureaus close, there are fewer investigative reports and fewer reporters covering elections.
No one knows where this is going. Pessimists believe that the decline of newspapers will lead to an erosion of knowledge, as political spin and Web-fuelled rumour replace objective (well, more objective) journalism."
Well, the question isn't whether you're a pessimist or an optimist, but what you do to ensure your democratic system doesn't suffer. Information is one of the most important resources in our societies. Sitting around and waiting to see whether knowledge will 'erode' and we'll be left with rumors and gossips isn't helpful.
- For the German readers: Spiegel Online has an interesting article Wie die Wissensgesellschaft betrogen wird (How the Knowledge-Society is cheated on) that reports on Robert B. Laughlin's contribution to the "Edition Unseld", a collection of essays published by Suhrkamp, in which researcher and writers 'define the relation between men and research' ("definieren Forscher und Schriftsteller das Verhältnis zwischen Mensch und Forschung"). According to the Spiegel article, Laughlin warns we might be facing 'new dark ages of disinformation and ignorance' ("warnt [...] vor einem neuen dunklen Zeitalter der Desinformation und Ignoranz").
Upon reading the article, his concerns admittedly didn't become so clear to me. But it seems he is worried about patent rights which hinder research, as well as not publicising research results because it can have financial drawbacks, or there is a danger the knowledge will be abused.
- Picture of the week: bullet shooting four sticks of chalk
Couldn't find out who made the photo, found it via this site. More photos of things being shot to pieces at BoredStop. See also this video.
- Quotation of the week:
- "Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge."