Archive

Posts Tagged ‘paper’

Why You Should Always READ Papers You Cite…

July 21, 2011 1 comment

Also, why anti-gay activists need to do a little more reading.

Al Franken is awesome.

 

Advertisements

The Journal of Cosmology Strikes Back

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

So the Journal of Cosmology (JoC) has written a response to the criticisms of Richard Hoover’s paper claiming to have found fossilized alien bacteria in a meteorite.

They begin by stating that they are, indeed, a prestigious scientific journal.

The Journal of Cosmology is a Prestigious Scientific Journal

I dunno, but if you have to say that you are prestigious, then you probably aren’t. It’s kind of like Milhouse Van Houten saying that his mom thinks he is cool, or Ron Burgandy arguing his importance by stating he has “many leather-bound books”.

The paper itself has been very heavily criticized. Scientists at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference this year in Texas, regard it as “a dubious controversy that will do science little good”.

Meteoriticist Edward Anders, retired from the University of Chicago in Illinois stated in Science that

Despite [Hoover’s] generous sprinkling of fancy names, these structures are in a morphological no man’s land,

The blogosphere is responding in a similar fashion (including yours truly), with the consensus being that these claims are at best premature, and at worst they are outright bogus.

So in light of the large number of scientists showing doubt over the quality of Hoover’s research, the JoC felt it was necessary to respond directly to its critics. The title of their response is “Have the Terrorists Won?”

Umm…WHAT!?

You are comparing legitimate scientific criticism to terrorist attacks!? I’m already starting to feel sick, but let’s go further.

Only a few crackpots and charlatans have denounced the Hoover study…Tremendous efforts have been made to shout down the truth, and the same crackpots, self-promoters, liars, and failures, are quoted repeatedly in the media. However, where is the evidence the Hoover study is not accurate?

To paraphrase, the JoC is saying “prove to us its NOT true!” It is becoming abundantly clear that the editors of the JoC are hell-bent on believing this paper and are not willing to listen to any one else’s opinions.

Following the publication of Richard Hoover’s paper, what ensued could be likened to a rein [sic] of terror, a witch hunt, an inquisition designed to crush all discussion of his findings. There were even calls to “hang” Richard Hoover. Three hundred years ago, they would have burned us all at the stake.

Can you say “melodramatic”? The discussions on the legitimacy of Hoover’s work are somehow similar to a reign of terror or the with trials of the 16th to 18th centuries?

The silence is deafening. What prominent scientist would dare to publicly support Hoover’s findings, when they know that raving lunatics will be unleashed to destroy their reputation?

How can science advance in this country if NASA and the media promotes frothing-at the-mouth-attacks on legitimate scientists and scientific periodicals who dare to publish new discoveries or new ideas?

The Journal of Cosmology sought to promote science and scientific debate, but the scientific community is too frightened and terrorized to speak up.

It took courage to publish the Hoover discoveries. The Journal of Cosmology will continue to publish great theories and new discoveries.

The terrorists and the lunatic fringe have lost.

These sound more like the ravings of a conspiracy theorist than the commentary of a “prestigious” journal editor.

Their use of the historical references  in which the scientific consensus was proved wrong is the kind of faulty logic that many proponents of pseudoscience fall victim to. How many times have you heard the anti-vaxxers say that “tobacco was once considered safe”? That doesn’t mean vaccines cause autism, and just because there have been times in the past when scientists were proved wrong, doesn’t mean that every article published in the JoC is right.

Calling those who oppose your views “raving lunatics” and “frothing-at-the-mouth attacks” does not improve the JoC’s credibility, and only shows that they are set to believe this paper, whether we like it or not.

If I may channel the great Ron Burgandy once again: “Stay classy JoC. Stay classy.”

 

How to Plug an Oil Leak with Corn Starch

February 1, 2011 3 comments

NASA'S Terra Satellite captured this image of the Deepwater Horizon oil slick on May 24, 2010. (Photo: NASA/GSFC)

ResearchBlogging.org
One of the biggest, if not THE biggest news story of 2010 was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The spill released over 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the biggest man-made natural disasters in history.

The spill lasted for nearly 3 months due to the high difficulty of plugging the well. One such attempt to plug the leak was the “top-kill” method, which involves releasing a heavy fluid (“mud”) into the well in hopes that it would sink to the bottom and stem the flow of oil. BP’s attempt at this failed, and a paper published online yesterday in Physical Review Letters entitled “Viscoelastic Suppression of Gravity-Driven Counterflow Instability” explains why, and how they could have done better.

So you can imagine the problem like this: you have a well gushing oil upwards. You want to slow down this flow of oil, so you release a dense fluid down into the well and hope it will flow downwards, against the pressure of the oil.

When two different fluids come into contact at different velocities it generates turbulence at the interface. This is called the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability. You have seen it before when you look out onto the ocean or a body of water and the wind creates ripples and small waves on the water. Turbulence is being generated at the interface of the water and the air causing those ripples.

A similar thing happens when oil meets a dense fluid. If the turbulence generated at the interface of the two fluids is high enough to break the “mud” into tiny droplets, then the top-kill method will fail because the mud simply breaks apart and won’t plug the well.

In this paper, the authors demonstrate a fluid which overcomes the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability under conditions similar to those at the site of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

First, however, they theoretically study the effect of using a typical water-based mud in a top kill method for conditions similar to those at Deepwater. What they found was that a typical mud would not have descended quickly enough into the mud to be effective. In other words, the velocity of the oil shooting up the well was much greater than the rate at which the mud would have descended into the oil, resulting in the mud simply being washed out of the well. This would explain why BP’s top-kill attempt had failed.

The authors then tested their own recipe for a mud which may have worked. They introduced a “dilatant polymer with shear-thickening and viscoelastic properties”. What this means is they added a material which would actually get harder under stress (shear-thickening) and resist breaking apart when in contact with the oil. In fact, the force of the oil moving upwards is what would cause it to get harder.

A fluid like this is made of a corn-starch water emulsion. Under high shear stress this fluid gains a “tramponlinelike” behaviour, helping it resist the turbulent flow of the oil.

To test their fluid, they “filled a transparent column 1.6 m tall and 63 mm in internal diameter with a transparent light mineral oil”. They then released their mud into the oil and observed the effects. Using a plunger they simulated the movement of oil over the mud. They found that their corn-starch mixture did not break apart and descended as a coherent “slug”.

The also found that the slug descended at a rate fast enough that it would have overcome the upward velocity of the oil from the Deepwater well. However, they did note that the experiment would have to be repeated at a larger scale to gain a better idea if this would be a useful approach for an actual oil spill.

Beiersdorfer, P., Layne, D., Magee, E., & Katz, J. (2011). Viscoelastic Suppression of Gravity-Driven Counterflow Instability Physical Review Letters, 106 (5) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.058301

The Science Hall of Fame

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment

There is one for pretty much every sport, a Walk of Fame for Hollywood stars, and one for Rock and Roll stars.

But there has never been a Science Hall of Fame, even though scientists have had a larger impact on our world than all the people in them other Halls of Fame put together!

Until now.

A few weeks ago, a paper was published online (and appears in print this week) in Science entitled “Quantitative Analysis of Culture using Millions of Digitized Books”. What these researchers did was use Google’s effort to digitize books (Google Books) which has currently digitized about 15 million books, roughly 12% of all books ever printed.

They used a subset of these already digitized books, 5.2 million, and were able to create a corpus of data wherein you could search for a particular word or group of words (i.e. “slavery” or “The Great War”) and see how often those words appeared in print as a function of the year. The years available are between 1800 and 2000.

This ability to study how often certain names and subjects appear in print allow researchers to study human history and culture in a new quantitative fashion. The authors of the study call it “culturomics”.

The authors  found some pretty interesting results, including finding that the English language has grown by 70% in the last 50 years; they were able to see the decline in use of certain words (who says “chide” anymore?) and found that the average age of peak prominence for a celebrity is 75.

After this study was published, John Bohannon, writer for Science, and an author of the culturomics paper Adrian Veres, teamed up to find which scientists were most popular in literature, and create this Science Hall of Fame. It is highly quantitative in nature, which is quite poetic for a science hall of fame if you think about it.

Scientific fame is measured in units of milliDarwins, one-thousandth of the average annual frequency that Charles Darwin’s name appears in English-language books from the year he was 30 years old (1839) until 2000. Here are the top 25:

You can go to the site and look up your favourite scientists, or you can also play with the raw data yourself and do your own studies, which has already caused me to be very unproductive at work today.

I’d also like to point out that the first 3 Nobel Prize Winners on that list are all physicists. Just sayin…