Entries for January 2008

January 22, 2008

Wii Preparation for Surgeons

Years ago we had reports that our Desert Storm pilots were better than their former colleagues, due to being raised as children with video games. Now, we a have a study that shows surgeons that warm up or train on Wii perform better in surgeries.

Game players scored nearly 50% higher on tool control and overall performance than other trainees.
Source: 'Wii warm-up' good for surgeons from BBC News (January 17, 2008)

January 21, 2008

From the File of Where Else Did They Look

I found this video about Gmail discussed in a Walking Paper blog entry. In general the video is Gmail engineers reading emails they receive from happy users. The last one in the video was a freshman chemical engineering student who was working on a group project and the answer the group needed appeared in the targeted Gmail ads. The Google engineer said "this person was able to use gmail ads to find something she couldn’t find anywhere else".

Really? I did a similar project on photoremediation during my undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and I found all the necessary information from the library.

I have two concerns with this video and the suggestions made. First, I question where else did these students look. Second, Google is doing some wonderful things but they are not the only source. It leads me to challenge are libraries doing enough to be in front of the users eyes.

January 20, 2008

Mathematical Biology Now Covered by Biology Direct

Biology Direct considers original research articles, hypotheses, comments, discovery notes and reviews in selected subject areas, and will eventually cover the full spectrum of biology. Subject areas already launched include Genomics, Bioinformatics and Systems Biology, Immunology, and Mathematical Biology.

Andrei Yakovlev wrote an editorial that kicked off the new commitment to Mathematical Biology.

Modern mathematics offers a much richer arsenal of tools and ideas than those that are frequently employed to describe the enormous diversity of biological phenomena.

Google 2008 Anita Borg Scholarship

The Google 2008 Anita Borg Scholarship is open for application until Friday, February 1, 2008.

As part of Google's ongoing commitment to furthering Anita's vision, we are pleased to announce the 2008 Google Anita Borg Scholarship, through which we hope to encourage women to excel in computing and technology and become active role models and leaders.

January 19, 2008

Large Hadron Collider at CERN

Here is an example of science on YouTube - tour of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva. YouTube has become so mainstream it is nice to see educational and informative videos like this mixed in with all the humor, video blogs, birthday parties, and other uses of YouTube.

January 17, 2008

Reminder: Older Versions of SciFinder Retired

Please note that on January 2nd, 2008 CAS retired the following versions
of SciFinder/SciFinder Scholar, as communicated to customers in mid June

  • SciFinder and SciFinder Scholar 2004.2 (MAC OS 9 and Windows)
  • SciFinder and SciFinder Scholar MAC OS X 1.0
  • SciFinder 2007.0 for Windows

Animator vs. Animation

Here is a nice little break from my traditional posts.

Animator vs. Animation by *alanbecker on deviantART

January 06, 2008

Other Kindle Information

Reverse Engineer Finds Kindle's Hidden Features from Slashdot (January 4, 2008)
Things were found such as Google Maps, minesweeper game, and other features.

A New Jersey Library Starts Lending Kindles from Library Journal (12/13/2007)
The Sparta Public Library, NJ bought two $399 Kindles and loans them to patrons.

Kindling? Amazon's eBook Reader, Kindle, Is Latest Device To Fire Up the Market from Library Journal Academic Newswire (11/20/2007)
Includes some quotes from a discussion on the Web4Lib Electronic Discussion list.

Amazon Kindle - Academic Uses

Since I work in an academic library, I want to discuss how I think Amazon's Kindle has opportunities to explore in academia.

I get students all the time that want the opportunity to download electronic versions of their textbooks to their laptop or other device. The size and sometimes the number of textbooks in a given semester makes them practical in a dorm room, but not in the classroom. Students often already carry laptops or other materials and
do not want to lug books as well. If they could include all their text books on a Kindle for in the classroom usage or studying when away from their dorms, it can be a great market to pursue.

Textbooks in the Library
Many libraries do not buy textbooks for their collections. There is an expectation that students purchase their needed books. Textbooks become dated too quick and would gather dust on library shelves that could be used for other materials. To be fair a library would be forced to keep textbooks on reserve so they are always available for usage. Keeping hundreds of textbooks on reserve causes many space concerns. What if libraries had a few Kindles available that contain the current e-versions of the school's textbooks?

Best Sellers, Leisure Books, or Other Rarely Used Materials
Many academic libraries provided limited access to best sellers or other leisure reading materials. Students are often forced to locate the local public library or purchase online from companies like Amazon. What if libraries had Kindles available and the library staff purchased patron-requested items? Many libraries already spend money on interlibrary loan, so would this be any different?

Departmental Training Tool
Many departments circulate books or journals for their staff to read as a professional development or awareness tool. Could a Kindle serve a similar role?

Laboratory or Clinical Usage
Would researchers use a Kindle with all their reference manuals, books, and data loaded on it?

Roving Reference
We have seen many libraries that now offer "roving reference" where the librarians come to the user rather than sitting behind a desk. Would a Kindle with the standard reference books be used to support this type of service?

Amazon Kindle - User Experience

I was able to get my hands on a Amazon Kindle for a few days. I will write at least a couple of posts on what I think. First, I will write on the user's experience and than my thoughts on the Kindle in academia.

I was very impressed with the overall usability. The text reads just like traditional print text. It has none of the glare or backlighting of other electronic devices. The size is that of an average book, and the weight is only slightly more.


  • Readability - Reads likes traditional printed media.
  • Portability - Has built-in memory, plus can uses SD memory cards.
  • Extras: Plays MP3s from built-in speaker or headphone jack.
  • Does not require wifi access points as it uses Sprint's network at no additional cost to the user.
  • Includes QWERTY keyboard that can be used for searching within text, annotations, and other uses.
  • Adjustable text size should be a strong selling point for those with eye problems that may have trouble getting access to other print materials.
  • Purchase books, magazines, and newspapers.


  • Price: $400 - Do I need to say more?
  • Carrying case - Designed to imitate a book cover, but I do not think it will last long. It does press on the keys and I think over time the Kindle will start to slide out.
  • Only back and white text, no color.
  • Scroll wheel and the menu system assumes everyone is familiar with an iPod-like system. I showed it to a small group of people in a meeting and only 2 of the 6 instinctively understood how to use it.
  • Requires two hands to hold, unless you have fairly large hands.
  • Only uses a single cellular network for online access - Sprint. How good is Sprint's coverage in all areas? I do not know personally.
  • Limited to Amazon's selections for purchases with rights restrictions in place.
  • Charged to read blogs and there are only specific ones available.
  • 10 cents to send files to your Kindle and I have heard that not all file formats cooperate.


  • Construction - Will it hold up over long-term use?
  • Availability - Amazon constantly lists it as sold out.

I do think it has a future. As the prices falls over time, it will gain popularity. I think it can be a strong sell in certain user markets, such as travelers, people that do not purchase books for their own collection, and techies. At $400, I will not be buying one anytime soon.