Saturday, 22 November 2008

Wonderful material universe

For all those doomsayers who proclaim the nearing end of science - the Universe has more surprises than anyone can think of. So if the science would come to an end, it would not be because of the lack of wonders to discover, but because either we cease to look for them (because of lack of funds and public understanding and support) or that the humanity loses the capability to do science...

But back to the interesting part: I always thought material science (especially inorganic) to be a bit boring. Even discoveries of fullerenes, nanotubes and graphene was not a surprise: these were all forms of the `most flexible' of elements, carbon. But then there are the mysterious High Tc ceramic superconductors, where we still do not know what causes the current to flow without resistance.

A recent piece of news has caught my attentions: a new material, ceramic alloy of boron, aluminium and magnesium (AlMgB_14) with titanium boride (TiB_2). It is extremely hard - in fact one of the hardest substances ever discovers/made. But it has also a very, very low friction coefficient, 2.5 times smaller than the previous record holder - teflon, and 8 times smaller than lubricated steel. Such discovery can bring real changes in the efficiency of machinery, energy coonservation etc.

So, even the traditional, down-to-earth, just another compound to be tested physics can be refreshing and important.

Dumb or not so dumb?

One of the recent issues of New Scientist has published a popular piece called Dumb eco-questions you were afraid to ask.

What has interested me the most was the last one, which I quote here in entriety, because it's just co much contrary to the philosophy of the New Scientist that I am shocked.

What is the single most effective thing I can do for the environment?

Over a 75-year lifespan, the average European will be responsible for about 900 tonnes of CO2 emissions. For Americans and Australians, the figure is more like 1500 tonnes. Add to that all of humanity's other environmentally damaging activities and, draconian as it may sound, the answer must surely be to avoid reproducing.

Candidness leaves me speechless.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Link to an article on arXiv

In a spur of dissatisfaction I have posted a short paper on the arxiv, Peer-review in the Internet age

The importance of peer-review in the scientific process can not be overestimated. Yet, due to increasing pressures of research and exponentially growing number of publications the task faced by the referees becomes ever more difficult. We discuss here a few possible improvements that would enable more efficient review of the scientific literature, using the growing Internet connectivity. In particular, a practical automated model for providing the referees with references to papers that might have strong relationship with the work under review, based on general network properties of citations is proposed.

Comments are more than welcome.