Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This and That

  • We discussed several times on this blog the question how plausible metrics for scientific success are, see for example my posts Science Metrics and Against Measure. This week, the NYT reports an amusing fact from the recent Times Higher Education university ranking in the article Questionable Science Behind Academic Rankings: Alexandria University in Egypt made it on the list on rank 147 (together with Uppsala) as the only Arab university. Just that, upon closer inspection, this success goes back to the enormous productivity of one researcher... and that is no other than Mohamed El Naschie. If you recall, two years ago we mentioned El Naschie's amazing publication record of more than 300 papers within a few years, published in a journal of which he also was editor-in-chief. He retired from his position a few weeks later. The NYT reports:
    “But the news that Alexandria University in Egypt had placed 147th on the list — just below the University of Birmingham and ahead of such academic powerhouses as Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands (151st) or Georgetown in the United States (164th) — was cause for both celebration and puzzlement. Alexandria’s Web site was quick to boast of its newfound status as the only Arab university among the top 200...

    Like most university rankings, the list is made up of several different indicators, which are given weighted scores and combined to produce a final number or ranking...

    Phil Baty, deputy editor of Times Higher Education, acknowledged that Alexandria’s surprising prominence was actually due to “the high output from one scholar in one journal” — soon identified on various blogs as Mohamed El Naschie, an Egyptian academic who published over 320 of his own articles in a scientific journal of which he was also the editor. In November 2009, Dr. El Naschie sued the British journal Nature for libel over an article alleging his “apparent misuse of editorial privileges.” The case is still in court.”

  • El Naschie commented the following on the university ranking:
    “I do not believe at all in this ranking business and do not consider it anyway indicatory of any merit of the corresponding university.”

  • Somehow scary:
    “In this edition, we have added, for the first time, annotated references in the text to provide the beginning of an evidence based approach to clinical methods.”

    From the preface of “Clinical Examination,” by Nicholas J Talley & Simon O'Connor, 4th Edition, 2001.

  • The results from our recent poll: Is the scientific process one of discovery or invention? A total of 167 people took the poll. To my surprise, most them shared my opinion. The replies were: Both - 52.1%, Discovery - 33.7%, Invention -10.4%, Neither - 1.8%, Don't know - 1.8%.

  • Chad Orzel discusses the statistic on the initial employment of new PhDs in physics from 1979 to 2008 in his post Physics Job Market: Same As It Ever Was. Slightly more than 50% of new PhDs presently go on to make a postdoc...

    You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack... and you may find yourself in another part of the world... You may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?"... Same as it ever was... Same as it ever was... (Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime).

  • And if you think that statistic doesn't look so bad, you may want to watch this:

    [Via Dynamics of Cats]

    You may ask yourself... How do I work this?


  1. Basing management upon empirical reality is silly, for the universe may dissent. US banking abandoned earning interest against risk when Benjamin "BS" Bernanke dumped $600 billion on it. Chancellor Angela "Iron Frau" Merkel's actions have been overall brilliant. EU socialism will criticize, then feed until Weimar wheelbarrows return.

    When a discipline is obsessed with examining itself, it is lost. Managers earn productivity bonuses by maximizing metrics. Management is about process not product, hence ISO 900x and LHC's brazed joins.

    Hell's Bells Laboratories: A miracle of discovery and application. Bell Labs: impressive then non-productive. Lucent carefully optimized DCF/ROI by ending it.

    Don't look, do. Harvard Business Review 61(6) 195 (1983) "The R&D Function"

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  3. Bee, given that the video seems to apply to the American job market only, it has one noticeable error which leads me to question the veracity of the rest of the video, namely there were 8-9 tenure track positions at top Physics research institutions in the US last year, not 5 per the video.

    Chad's graph is cool. Quite a range. The worst in that time period appears to be 1993, with only 20% of PhD's finding potentially permanent positions, as opposed to 58% in 1980, with another minimum low of 26% in 2004. Nice to see the unemployed %age was no higher than 6%, both in 1993 and in the local minimum year of 2004.

    So you can't say a degree in Physics makes one unemployable. :-)

  4. Bee, we broke El Naschie/Alexandria University ranking story. The New York Times stole it from El Naschie Watch. They cite as as source "various blogs" which is bull.

  5. Hi Jason,

    Thanks for letting me know!

    Hi Steven,

    Yes, I thought the same thing, the number seems somewhat exaggerated, see my comment to the post at Dynamics of Cats. Best,


  6. Bee,

    Check Moderation Comments of "Interna" Any "past post" of yours other then current is allocating my comment to spam detection. If this is so and your wish let me know and I will adjust accordingly.


  7. You asked Arun the other day:

    "What happens to the black hole/big-bang singularity in the quantum graphity model?"

    This could be a good example of a wrong answer...

    I tried modelling the Schwarzschild black hole as a complete graph of n = E vertices in R3, radius of coordinate length r_s = 2n.

    Assuming that the Schwarzschild black hole event horizon is not actually physically singular, and that its complete graph edges aren't just for looks, then edge coordinate length becomes universally fixed at roughly l = 1/sqrt(1 - r_s/r), edge proper length at L = l^2. A universal minimum edge coordinate length of 1 (e.g., the Planck length) is automatically implied for r >> r_s. One is not free to arbitrarily choose the fineness of the discretization, and so the metric becomes geodesically complete by definition, not by choice.

    Also, if the black hole entropy S is taken to be related to the number of complete graph edges n^2 - n, then the entropy of the exterior field becomes roughly defined as well. Total entropy became S ~ n^2 - n + NonCompleteGraphEdgesWithinVolume(4pi r^2).

    The C++ code is not optimal, but works.

  8. Pseudo-science

    "Given Dr. Rahman's prominent place in Pakistani science, and that he is Fellow of the Royal Society, one must consider seriously his claim that HAARP can cause earthquakes and floods. But even the briefest examination makes clear his claims make no scientific sense."

  9. Arun, pseudo-science is born of ignorance, which is either in the mind of the crackpot, or a crackpot used by a politician promoting an agenda, for example the case you presented blaming America for trying to destroy Pakistan via Alaska (?!?!), and all the worlds' ills.

    That IS a classic, though. I'm going to rank that right up there with Greece's #2 blaming Hitler for Greece's 2010 economic woes. Crikey!

    The sad truth is that sheeple buy into this garbage, which wouldn't be a problem except sheeple can vote. Doesn't take a lot to stir them up. Here Daisy, there's some better grass right over here. Oh, don't worry about the cliff. Take a plunge every now and then! Worked for the lemmings, right?

    I'm still bothered by that cartoon clip, and openly question what the agenda is and who wrote that? The International Brotherhood of Custodial Engineers? Don't be a physicist, be a janitor, it seems to say to me. The young woman (with the husky Brenda Vaccaro voice) is full of hope and dreams and promise; the man is a dream killer.

    The truth is, there are tons of available jobs in the physical sciences. You may have to dig a bit, and settle for a position that one might consider "beneath your skill level", but so what?! First, it's a job, which comes in handy in paying the bills, and b) think of it as an entry-level position. Use it to ratchet up to a better position down the line. Any future employer will be more likely to hire you if you have a lousy job as opposed to no job. Been my experience, anyway. There's worse things in life than being a lab rat (human version).

    Off topic, Bee you tweeted:

    So my roommate in the hospital is evidently being treated with several antibiotics for infections. Do I want to use the restroom again?

    Depends. Has she been treated for 3 days? If so I'd say you're good, but don't take my word for it. Damn it Jim, I'm an Engineer, not a Doctor.


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