Field of Science

Ghangelog

You may have noticed our tribe has grown in November. New to our ranks: Sex, Genes & Evolution, The Curious Wavefunction and Games with Words.

We grew so much in fact that we outgrew feedburner. Subscribers to the combined feed may have noticed the interruption in service. Good news, however, is the issue has been resolved and the combined feed is back up and running.

I'd like to also make a stink over a new way to follow FoS -- via badge.

Lastly, since I don't suppose it is necessarily obvious and I realize it requires an expertise than isn't reasonable to expect, a bit more about Field of Reddit. To begin, it exists in two places:

http://fos.fieldofscience.com/
http://www.reddit.com/r/FoS/

The ideas behind FoR are:

1. That the so inclined readers of FoS use it as a forum. Regrettably, not enough readers just yet to property test the viability of this implementation. But, there it is nonetheless.

2. To add a little dynamic, crowd sourced content to the front page of FoS.

3. Most of what I do is behind the scenes. Nevertheless, I do cover a lot of ground pretty much daily, and so FoR is a quick and easy way for me to signal, by way of submitting select links, that I'm active and that my kung fu is strong.

Invitation (Special)

Welcome science bloggers. Please take a few minutes to look around Field of Science and to watch this short introduction.

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to post them here in the comments or email them to me. Otherwise, thanks for taking the time and I hope to hear from you.

Field of Reddit...

FoR is Field of Science's online forum. Vote on links that you like or dislike and help decide what's popular, or submit your own!

640 Style Guide: Wider Videos and Images

YouTube video and Blogger image uploading and formatting specifications.

[Note: These instructions are written for the classic Blogger post editor, composing in the Edit Html tab.]

Instructions for posting wide screen YouTube videos.


To embed wide screen videos, go to the video's url on YouTube. To the right of the Embed code, click on the Customize button. In the menu that expands below the Embed code, select 640x385. Copy the Embed code and paste it into your post.



Instructions for uploading images to be 640 pixels wide.

[Note: These instructions work for images that are wider than they are tall.]

In the image uploader, Choose a layout: "None", Image size: "Medium"



To upsize images, double the width and height specifications of the image (width: 640px; height: XXXpx;) and change s320 to s640 in the image url.

Advanced Image Editing:

  • To place two "Medium" images side-by-side, delete the return break between them.


  • Blogger's picture uploader defaults to three sizes - Small (200), Medium (320), and Large (400), but there are many more possible sizes: 32, 48, 64, 72, 94, 104, 110, 128, 144, 150, 160, 200, 220, 288, 320, 400, 512, 576, 640, 720, 800, 912, 1024 ,1152, 1280, 1440, 1600.


  • By uploading your images at Medium size (320), you can simply double the height and width specifications Blogger assigns your image to fit the 640 specifications.


  • The "s320" in the image url (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_R_fTYHVWAzI/St4Cqq0g_xI/AAAAAAAAAoQ/RkeEhAc8Fwg/s320/x2.JPG) applies to the height or width of the image depending on which is the greater of the two. This means if the image you are uploading is taller than it is wide, the above steps will not result in an image 640 pixels wide, but rather an image 640 pixels tall.

Well damn, my experiment in democracy nears an end

I suppose it still remains to be seen, but if healthcare reform ultimately tracks along the outlines in Obama's speech--and specifically, if I am mandated to pay a for profit middleman (whose profit margin just so happens to be guaranteed by the government) for my healthcare needs--I'll go back to not voting.

Hunch.com answers "No" to the Question: Should I believe in God?

Hunch, the newest brainchild of Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake, "is a decision-making site, customized for you. Which means Hunch gets to know you, then asks you 10 questions about a topic (usually fewer!), and provides a result -- a Hunch, if you will. It gives you results it wouldn't give other people."

Hunch marries a decision tree model with machine learning algorithm which gets smarter. The resulting intelligence can make better decisions customized for you.

One of Hunch's early beta testers created the Super Question, "Should I believe in God?" The question caught on with a large number of Hunch's power users and has become a focal point of fierce debate within the closed beta. It turns out that no matter who asked Hunch if they should believe in God, Hunch's answer was always "No," even in cases where the power user's Christian faith was known to Hunch.

Christians within the closed community were quick to note this error to Hunch's developers, but instead of adjusting Hunch's intelligence to affirm a user's faith, the error was classified as user generated. This classification resulted in an uproar within the power user community and a particularly vocal group beta testers had their accounts suspended.

According to a source, not only have Hunch's developers refused to make modifications that bypass or alter Hunch's algorithmic intelligence, but they are preparing to use Hunch's complete rejection of "God" to market Hunch as a super intelligence with the tagline, Why pray for guidance when you can just ask Hunch?

Caterina Fake did not respond to our request for an interview and despite repeated attempts, we have yet to receive in invitation to join Hunch.

The Evolution of Field of Science: Circa Late March 2009 - Signs of Life Era

The occasional series marking significant changes in the state of affairs around these here parts.

What's special about now? Well, as of last weekend, Field of Science has successfully assimilated its second otherwise preexisting (read: formerly of blogspot) established science blogger.

PLEKTIXSecond, you say? When was the first? Well, the FIRST (future bragging rights) to leap was Ben Allen who brought his blog PLEKTIX over to FOS back on February 25, 2009. Being the first, there was a lot that could have gone wrong--you'd think--but a month has passed and Ben is still with us. I think he might even be happy to be here. So say hello to Ben if you haven't already. And while you're over there, maybe ask him for some stocks picks. He's a natural when it comes to spotting future potential.

Genomics, Evolution, and PseudoscienceThe SECOND mad scientist to dive in is Steven Salzberg who added his blog Genomics, Evolution, and Pseudoscience to Field of Science this past Sunday. You'll find Steven's blog in the header quick links under "GenoEvoPseudo", and its new url is http://genome.fieldofscience.com/.

I also want to welcome both Ben's and Steven's constant readers. I hope you find the new surroundings complimentary to Ben's and Steven's blogs.

Reddit Field of Science

Edit: This project has moved to its reddit url: http://www.reddit.com/r/FoS/

If you're wondering what I do all day (like I sometimes do), I'm often tinkering under the hood of Field of Science. More often than not it's stuff that doesn't amount to much, or stuff that no one but me is likely to notice or care about. Yesterday, however, my tinkering resulted in something that is worth sharing if only because it will give you some insight into how I think and how I see FOS as constantly evolving.

I forget how exactly, but I ended up on reddit. You'll no doubt recognize their little alien mascot. Reddit, it turns out, allows you to create your own reddit and host it on your own domain. What for? Worry about that later. What's important is it can be done, so under the hood I go. Fast forward a few hours and... fos.fieldofscience.com. Not perfect--reddit runs its ads and I still need to customize the look a bit--but functionally (once you figure out what to do with it), reddit-dot-field-of-science works like a charm.

So back to the what for? The way I see it, a community bookmarking/rating/commenting tool (which is what reddit is) could be a great way for a science tribe to collaborate and enrich itself. But it's a bit too soon for that. Our science tribe is not big enough (yet). Nevertheless, Field of Reddit is a good example of the types of projects I naturally gravitate toward (when left to my own devices). It also gives you some insight into how I imagine Field of Science. FOS is not a static website with preset round and square holes that you either fit into or you don't. Rather, FOS is an amorphous, evolving, fluid collection of tools and experiments and projects and ideas... In other words, FOS exists to serve its tribe, and what it is at any given moment is a reflection of the collective and individual needs of its tribe. So when I say FOS is evolving, I really mean it. My role is that of occasional catalyst and constant enabler.

Anyway, back to the nuts and bolts. A quick outline and some instructions before I can put this on the back burner.
I've set reddit fieldofscience as Restricted (anyone can view, but only contributors can submit links) for now. If you want to become a contributor, register per the instructions below and send me your reddit username.

1. Register.


2. Create your account.


3. Install the bookmarklets.


4. Be sure to select the subreddit FoS when submitting new links.

ScienceBlogs Head Scratcher

ScienceBlogs newest addition did the strangest thing today. Eruptions migrated all his old posts from his beautiful WordPress blog over to his ScienceBlog Archives:
I've finished migrating my archives of the ol' Wordpress Eruptions (since May 2008), so if you're looking for more information, try clicking "Archives" at the top of the page and wander through there. I will be updating the archives with category linked for each volcano, but that might take a while to retrofit. Enjoy!
Curious what "migrating" meant, I went to Erik's old blog and my jaw dropped at what I found. Apparently migrate meant deleting all your posts on your original blog and republish them on the back pages of your new blog. But when you delete those posts from their original location you throw away all those hard earned links and not unsubstantial search engine mojo in the process. And for what, an archive that no one will ever read?

Eruptions.wordpress.com went from a virtual neon signpost that would send a regular stream of new readers to Erik's ScienceBlog for years to come, to a virtual black hole.

The Kepler Mission

Kepler lifts off tonight at 10:48 pm EST. Everything you could possibly want to know about it can be found at Kepler.NASA.gov. The basic idea behind Kepler is that it will look at that » same spot of Milky Way (Cygnus Region) for the next 3 years, taking an observation every half hour. If any of the stars in its field of vision dime during that time as a result of exoplanets crossing between the star and Kepler, they'll use those measurements to determine the size of the planet and its distance from the star it orbits. Using that data they can possibly discover extrasolar earth-size planets in the Goldilocks Zone.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that for Kepler to find a planet, the planet has to be orbiting its star along the axis of Kepler's observation. If not, the planet will never transit its sun from our field of view.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of space-based telescopes. Worth far more than the weight of their delivery vesicles in gold as far as I'm concerned.

To date, we have discovered over 300 extra-solar planets, but they've all been of the massive gas giant type due to the limitations of the instruments used to find them. Kepler changes that.

The Large Picture Blog

Introducing The Large Picture Blog. Inspired by The Big Picture, the LPB is also an example of how an individual blog's unique design, theme, character, function, etc. can be incorporated into Field of Science.

In addition to the wider main section to accommodate large pictures, other hacks include a label cloud (which I've placed below the header and will come into its own over time) and a » More Pictures... link which allows for a featured picture to be displayed on the main blog with a full set of pictures to be displayed when the post is selected. I also added a unique favicon which replaces the default fos question mark favicon.

Another note regarding how an FOS blog could differ from a blog on blogspot is the url possibilities. lpb.blogspot.com was not available, so I created LPD at http://largepictureblog.blogspot.com/. Clicking on that url, notice how the blogspot address automatically forwards you to the lpb.fieldofscience.com address (this is what happens when you forward an existing blogspot blog to fieldofscience.com), but also note that unlike blogspot.com, lpb.fieldofscience.com was available. This is the case for all possible domainnames.fieldofscience.com (with the exception of the few already taken: labs., forum., ...). So if you're a science blogger who had to settle for second best in your choice of blogspot.com domain names, your first choice remains available at fieldofscience.com.

My God, It's Full Of Scarlet A's

A popular bit of flare among science blogs is the Out Campaign's scarlet 'A'. I don't have a serious issue with advertising one's atheism. I can even imagine circumstances under which a scarlet A's presence on a blog might result in a positive outcome--such as disabusing someone of certain negative stereotypes... But as an atheist who blogs, my gut reaction to the campaign was ...no thanks. I wondered why that was since I couldn't honestly say I knew what the Out Campaign was all about, and what that scarlet A--beyond identifying the blogger as an atheist--was supposed to accomplish. So off to the Out Campaign I went to read all about it.

What I found was a curious mix of silliness and exhortation anchored to a few otherwise harmless and worthwhile ideas. Those ideas were straightforward enough--that stuff about raising the level of awareness of atheism I alluded to above--but there's this bit about feeling liberated? Really? Then the part about emboldening people to not feel intimidated by religion... Um, if you are so spineless or dense that religion has you by the scruff of the neck, you're probably better off believing in a supernatural big brother whose got your back and who is keeping you honest and on the straight and narrow (not to mention we're all probably better off with you worrying about him too). And are there really any atheists out there who will honestly admit to being bullied?

So question answered. The Out Campaign's rhetoric reveals them to be guilty of failing to resist the temptation of creating a bogyman for the purpose of organizing to confront and defeat it. Ugh. How very unoriginal. How about instead we embrace our exclusivity. Not just anyone can be an atheist... If religion is getting the better of you, pray for strength, guidance, God's blessing. If you find you're laughing at religion and its minions, and not with them, congratulations, you're in on the joke. Full stop. End transmission.

There, I've staked out a position, dared an opinion. I won't be sporting a scarlet 'A' on my blog except in this post. Which puts me in a mind to run a little test. With this post I've complied with the Out Campaign's requirements to be added to their "list of websites that are displaying the Scarlet Letter, or have written something about The OUT Campaign." I'll be emailing them posthaste after I publish this post and I'll be watching to see if rational thinking governs their decision on whether to add Labs to their blogroll, or whether their agenda bullies them into dissing me back.

Update: 02/27/09 I received a response from the Out Campaign today notifying me that Labs has been added to their blogroll. Their email was thoughtful and reasoned and measured. So score one for the Out Campaign. While they may be treading a fine line with their rhetoric, they've yet to be enslaved by it.

Field of Science According To Wordle

"Word cloud" using Wordle.
I borrowed select text from the Wikipedia article for Fields of Science, added a bunch of Field of Science's to the mix as well as increased the number of instances of major categories of sciences. From there I pasted it into the Wordle text field and hit go. I also had to select Do Not Remove Common Words under the Language menu in order for "of" to show up, and having done the initial setup in a Word document, I knew the quantity of Maximum words...(418) under the Layout menu.

My two favored fonts were Steelfish and Superclarendon Black, and I ended up selecting between the two until I got a result I could live with. Trouble is, once you get going, it's hard to stop, thinking the perfect word cloud is always just one variable change away.

Anyway, too much fun, mildly addictive, and I recommend it to anyone. Should you need a reason, consider following my lead, only with your own unique spin and the aim of creating a header image for Field of Science.

The Science Blogospheric

Scenic points on my journey into and through the scientific blogosphere.

Exploring the science blogosphere comes with the territory when founding and editing a science website whose aim is to elevate the profile of science bloggers. My initial suspicion that the search for good science blogs might become a not-so-looked-forward-to ritual chore has instead turned into what I can honestly describe as a regular pleasure. Simply put, the science blogosphere is proving to be the antithesis of the rest of blogosphere in that where you would expect to sift through mountains of dreck in order to find the occasional gem; you instead find mountains of riches with only the occasional vein of intellectual sloth trying to worm its way in. As an experienced blog surfer, I've actually had to retrain myself to assume the unexpected and reorient myself to the atypical, parallel blogosphere science bloggers have made for themselves. The bad news is there's precious little time in the day to devote to the never-ending procession of science blog that are thoughtful, smart, honest and above all, interesting. But then that's the good news too.

Darwin Day Excerpts

Participating bloggers around the world are celebrating the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth (February 12th, 1809) with a BLOG SWARM through February 15th. Participants' posts (submitted via BlogCarnival.com) are being aggregated here (in fits and starts) throughout this 4-day event. After the 15th, they will be categorized for easier reference, and BLOG FOR DARWIN will remain a resource for educators, students, and others. CLICK HERE to learn how you can participate!
Now, what was I doing? thinks young Darwin is way more interesting (and other quibbles).

Google recognizes Charles Darwin 09 with this image. Another reason for some Christians to boycott Google? Speaking of Google, you can use it to put into some context the following two memorable (to me), quasi-anonymous quotes on Darwin and evolution.

The reaction to Darwinism is no less a puzzle. Of course it contradicts the literal account of Genesis, but we have long abandoned Biblical literalism in law and social mores, and it would be impossible anyway due to the internal contradictions generated by a literal reading. Darwinism is eminently compatible with a deistic conception of God. Indeed, a creator operating through a Darwinian mechanism to infuse complex life forms into the universe seems more glorious. He possesses the aesthetic virtue of parsimony, and the elegant avoidance of micro-management. Once again, one is led to the conclusion that Darwin pricked a hole in our ego, not God's.
In any event, a fun perspective for you: I don't know whether you've ever thought enough to encounter it, but abstract truth excites the human sense of beauty very strongly. It's a phenomenon that is most pronounced in mathematics, but evolution is probably the most beautiful truth that I know. It is an astonishing and wonderful thing that such a work of art (I mean all the intellectual labors that expand on the meaning of "evolution") should be more accessible to you than most (say, pure math). If you believe in God, this would be a gift from him to you - the fullest use of your mind to understand his work. Your behavior is sacrilege. (In fairness, I'll state the obvious that I'm an atheist, but I'm not being manipulative here - few things make me empathize more with a religious sense of wonder than contemplation of evolution).

If You Build It,...

Field of Science is a science blog network.

FoS is so named because Field of Science is a good, practical name for a website about science, but also--thanks to a certain movie--said name evokes illusions that are, more or less, analogous to what FoS is all about . . .

FoS is home to bloggers who are doing actual science and whose blogging is clearly informed by their work.

If you are a science blogger and your blog is powered by Blogger (or you wouldn't mind switching over to Blogger), and you are interested in joining FoS, complete an application and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. If you want to know more about the nuts, bolts and actuals, watch this presentation.

The Evolution of Field of Science: Circa January 2009 - Humble Beginnings Era

The first in a series of posts that will chronicle the development of Field of Science.

SITEMAP:

General: Home Page, Forum

Blog Count (2): Microarray Macrodisarray, Labs

Further explanation: Field of Science is evolving. From the number of blogs and their individual designs, to the various features and tools, to the overall look, functionality and organization, nothing is off limits, and everything is subject to review, revision, upgrade, downgrade, revamp, retirement, etc. For that reason, big redesigns won't be announced, undertaken, tested and unveiled on some arbitrary basis. Instead, Field of Science will be nimble, flexible, attuned to the constantly changing internet, the changing needs, wants and desires of its community and the demands of its own growth. Field of Science will mix a deliberate, thoughtful, realistic approach with a healthy perspective that's not afraid to change, to experiment, to fail...

p.s. If you're curious about how to get those website thumbnails, see: http://www.webshotspro.com/

Sent Folder

I sent out the first two invitations to bloggers today. It's a bit early--graphics still need to be sorted out among other design tweaks--but it would be immensely helpful to plug a few active blogs into the works, as well as work through the adoption process. But mostly, I just can't wait.

Some excerpts from the (similar) invitations, modified as necessary:
I'm starting a science website--Field of Science--and I'd like to invite you to join the project. The quickest way to convey the basic idea behind Field of Science is to compare it to something you're likely familiar with, Science Blogs. Like Science Blogs, Field of Science is (will be) a network of scientist bloggers...with all the inherent benefits a network entails--greater exposure, increased audience, etc. But Field of Science is not a clone of Science Blogs. In fact, the differences are many and important. I'll begin with perhaps the most important difference: Field of Science is powered by Blogger just like your blog. Because of this, I can use Blogger's custom domain option to redirect your blogspot blog to publish at FieldofScience.com. This means you bring your blog (and your readers/links/pagerank) with you, and you don't have to learn any new tricks. Quite literally, the process of posting to Field of Science is exactly the same as the familiar process of posting to Blogger: same account, same login, same everything. The only difference is where the blog will publish. From http://fieldofsciencelabs.blogspot.com/ to http://labs.fieldofscience.com/...
  1. Your blog will remain your own in every respect (including monetizing), and you will retain the option to move Your blog back to blogspot.com at any time.
  2. Your blog will continue to be hosted by Google.
  3. My web design services, expertise, experience will be at your disposal. I've been playing with Blogger and website development for a long time. It's a passion of mine. A compulsion even.
  4. Other goodies consistent with publishing at a .com, such as an email address at fieldofscience.com gmail account if you want, as well as the increased respect (authority) Your blog will garner simply by virtue of the change of address...
If you've had a look at Field of Science you'll see that I am in the very early stages. In fact, your blog is among the very first I am inviting. I'm breaking new ground, but I've been developing the concept and testing the mechanics for Field of Science for years. The only thing left to do is find a few intrepid scientist Bloggers to form a core group of contributors/developers with whom I can formalize the adoption process, flesh out the details of the magazine and ultimately point to as examples of the benefits of joining Field of Science...
One thing I'm cognizant of is the high degree of reluctance I'm likely to encounter among bloggers I'm inviting. What's more, I'm assuming a dismal success rate for these initial invitations because no one has gone before. In spite of this, I intend to remain very selective about the bloggers I invite.  I'm also leaving the invitations open ended.

The two blogs I invited: Dechronization and Evolutionary Novelties.

A Site Map In Brief

Beginning with a very basic structure.

One home page: Field of Science. This page will aggregate content from the subblogs, forum, etc. Also useful links, etc. Everything you need to navigate and check for new content. Design #1.

Multiple subblogs: Labs. The developers blog and an example of a subblog. Design #2.

One forum: Forum. What's a website without a forum? It is what it is. The forum is expandable (or scalable) with the addition of sub-forums, etc. Sending comments to a blog owners own forum as opposed to regular blog comments will be an option. Design #3.
So there are the three basic designs I need to develop. I need to incorporate consistent elements across all three, while leaving room for each to be individualized (specifically the subblogs) per the blog owner's preferences. Think mannequins. They need to be both plan and attractive for bloggers to want to hang their ideas on.