How to be a modern scientist by Jeffrey Leek [Leanpub]

A book on how to be a scientist the modern way.

Source: How to be a modern… by Jeffrey Leek [Leanpub PDF/iPad/Kindle]

Book cover image

This book looks very useful for PhD students and also to some extent for more experienced researchers willing to get up-to-speed with the use of modern communication tools and on-line media and forums.

It covers a lot of subjects concisely and is very up-to-date. It is an easy read but full of useful information and ideas.

The e-book has a suggested price, but you can chose to get it for free or pay less if you are on a tight budget. Payment is fully voluntary, so you can also pay more than the suggested price if you want to support the author.


Happy New Year!


Photographing fireworks

I took a few photographs two days ago. I used a mirror-less camera mounted on a tripod in my balcony. Manual settings, ISO 200, f/8 or f/11 and long exposure (from 1 second to 4 seconds). Two seconds worked best around midnight, four seconds allowed more “hits” earlier in the night. I controlled the camera from the sitting room with a tablet connected through Wifi (stepping on the boards in the balcony would have shaken the camera, and it was rather cold!). It is just a question of luck, you have to trigger the shutter before the fireworks are visible and hope for the best.




Our difficulties in dealing with big numbers

Did you, like myself earlier today, also receive the pop up offering Windows 10 free upgrade and telling that 100M users have already upgraded? Did you feel that you were one of those few sticking with good old Windows 7? Well, think twice. Our brain’s ability to deal with big numbers is rather limited when comparing them in absolute terms, at some point every number feels like very big and that’s it. So, let’s look at these numbers a bit more carefully. According to Microsoft 1500M persons use Windows everyday. I would expect that there are quite a few people that either use Windows in more than one device (home and work computer, tablet, phone, etc.), and people that do not use Windows everyday. Of course some people may share devices. So probably there are 3000M or more copies of Windows installed in different devices (Windows 10 comes in many different versions, even for Raspberry Pi 2 and similar boards). Then let’s get the ratio 100M / 3000M, 3.3 %. Now you can feel that you are one of the 96.6% of Windows users that think that it is too early to upgrade. The numbers a quite imprecise, but the point I want to make is not about Windows 10, but about how big numbers can blur our capacity to look at things in context. Our brain has not evolved to quickly make sense of such big numbers because our ancestors most probably would have gained no advantage from such a trait. So, when dealing with big numbers we need to take extra care before jumping to conclusions. As I am writing this, I am well aware of the problem, but still, the first thought that came to my mind when reading the pop-up was: so many users have already upgraded! Should I rethink my decision to wait? Of course, this is what Microsoft hoped I would think… but now I can keep peacefully waiting together with the rest of the crowd.

Source: Microsoft (2014) Microsoft by the numbers.