Archive January 2012

F1000 Research (squeee!), Higgs hyping and string theory aimee whitcroft Jan 31

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Huzzah, more open science news!

Plans were released today for the launch of F1000 Research, an F1000 initiative.

F1000, for those for whom the name doesn’t ring a bell, are the ‘Faculty of 1000, which release post-publication peer reviews of scientific literature. They often do big metareviews. And they are, at least to my knowledge, rather well respected.

The new F1000 Research service, which will begin publishing later this year, aims to “address three major issues afflicting scientific publishing today: timely dissemination of research, peer review and sharing of data.”

Apparently, F1000 Research will diverge substantially from traditional journal publishing (and hoorah to that, say I!) in the following ways:

  • Immediate publication (well, other than an initial sanity check)
  • Open, post-publication peer review
  • Revisioning of work
  • Raw data depository (squee!)
  • “Article” format is not predefined
  • “Article” content is not predetermined

They’re SO on top of things, indeed, that the default licenses will be the Creative Commons CC-BY, and CCo for data! More information on the above are contained in the release put out today.

It sounds like there will be similarities with pre-print services such as the very popular ArXiv.

And I couldn’t be much more chuffed – I think this is exactly the direction in which science and science publishing should be heading.  Of course, it’s worth noting that F1000 is not a journal, but rather a publishing programme. I can, however, see traditional journal execs clutching their hearts and attempting not to have minor strokes. And curious about why science publishing is an issue? Here’s an oldish post I wrote about it, and any amount of googling will update you on some of the newer stoushes.

And they welcome your thoughts and feedback on their blog or via their Twitter account.


And on the note of, well, science and sharing the information and so forth…

In this wonderful 4-some minute video, eminent physicist Michio Kaku talks about the Higgs boson was overhyped, whats discovery could mean for science, and why so many scientists still support string theory as a viable hypothesis.

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

I do have one small bone of contention here.  Physicists, at least those of which I am aware, seldom put out press releases _themselves_. They’re put out by the press offices of the organisations for which they work. And sometimes this works well, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Not least because said press offices can be under some interesting pressures. A great example of this is the recent adoption by the international media of a…particularly interesting…paper purporting to explain pretty much everything* through the use of a concept called ‘gyres’.  Not much maths in it, too, which is odd…


Don’t forget, this week’s edition of The Official Sciblogs Podcast is out, and Elf and i have Discussions:P


* How the moon was formed. How quantum physics and relativity can be unified (something string theorists are working on!). And no, I don’t think this shows any weakness in open access publishing, but instead in the review process taken on by some (desperate) journals, and the extent to which press officers get excited about things… I’m reminded of the hooha about the ‘bacteria which could live on arsenic!’ fuss last year.

The Internet in Numbers: 2011 aimee whitcroft Jan 27

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Uptime monitoring service Pingdom’s released its ‘internet 2011 in numbers’, and the numbers are, to say the least, pretty interesting!

Internet Users by Region (March 2011). Source: Pingdom

I’ve pulled out a few of my favourites below:


The number of websites out there more than doubled in 2011. From 255 million in 2010 to 555 million in 2011.

One wonders how many of those are Ryan Gosling ‘Hey Girl’ meme websites :P


There are 3.146 billion email accounts out there, it would seem. Also, corporate users were sending and receiving 112 emails a day.

And as for spam? Some 71% of worldwide email traffic apparently falls into this category.

[Thanks goodness for the excellent spam filter in my email accounts!]

Internet users

We now have 2.1 billion internet users worldwide (yay!), of which 922.2 million are in Asia.

China has 485 million internet users alone — more than any other country on Earth. Oceania/Australia, in comparison, has only 21.3 million users.

Since NZ’s internet penetration is 83.1% (one of the highest in the world!), that means we account for, um, 3,668,366 of those.

And the net’s denizens are a pretty young bunch — 45% of users are under the age of 25 :)

Social media

Some fascinating stuff here!

Of the 800+ million users on Facebook by the end of 2011, 200 million had joined in that year.

There are also 225 million Twitter accounts, and 100 million active Twitter users. Also, Lady Gaga is Twitter’s most favouritest person, with 18.1 million followers!

#egypt was 2011′s number one hashtag (awesome).

And $50,000 was raised for charity by the most retweeted tweet of 2011, by @Wendys: ’RT for a good cause. Each retweet sends 50¢ to help kids in foster care. #TreatItFwd’

There were 39 million Tumblr blogs by the end of the year, and 70 million WordPress blogs (happy to be contibuting to those numbers!).

Oh yeah, and there were 2.4 billion social networking accounts worldwide. I’d certainly love to know what the breakdown was, after Twitter and Google :)

Domain names

At the end of 2011, there were 95.5 million .com domain names. I’m afraid they didn’t show stats for .nz domains — anyone have those? UPDATE: Thanks to @IanTLS for pointing me to the right page on the .nz domain name commission, which says there were 466,192 .nz domain names registered at 31 Dec 2011 :) I’m responsible for, um, two (well, three technically) of those. Yay!

Also, by Q3 of 2011, there were 220 million registered domain names, and 324 top-level domains!

And a fun little figure: the most expensive domain name sold in 2011 — — went for $2.6 million. An awful lot less than I pay for my domain names, I can freely vouchsafe :P

Web browsers

IE has the largest market share of web browsers, at 39%. Urg.

Google’s Chrome has 28%, followed by Mozilla Firefox at 25%.

Safari has 6% :P


There were an estimated 5.9 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide in 2011, and 1.2 billion active mobile broadband subscriptions worldwide.

85% of mobile phones (‘handsets’) shipped worldwide included a web browser :)


There were 1 trillion video playbacks on Youtube. That’s 140 video playbacks per person on Earth…

48 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute.

In the ‘please god let the aliens nuke us from orbit’ bucket, the most-viewed video on YouTube, during 2001 was Rebecka Black’s ‘Friday’. And no,

I’m not going to link to it. Ew. It’d get my site all sticky…

Over 4 million users signed up to Vimeo.

And, at least as of October 2011, 201.4 billion videoes were viewed online per month. It appears we like to watch things :)


14 million Instagram accounts were created in 2011, with on 60 photos (on average) being uploaded per second.

There were an estimated 100 billion photos on Facebook by mid-2011.

Flickr had 51 million registered users, hosting 6 billion photos (Aug 2011) and seeing 4.5 millions photos uploaded to its service every day.

And the most popular camera on Flickr? The Apple iPhone 4 :)

Web servers

Apache websites saw the largest growth in numbers, at 239.1%. Google websites saw a growth of 80.9%, and IIS and NGINX websites saw, well, less than that at 68.7% and 34.4%, respectively.

Awesome stuff! You can see even _more_ numbers (and their sources) on the Pingdom website, and you can also look at their numbers for 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Happy analysis!

OMG! Earth photography pr0n aimee whitcroft Jan 26


Thank you, NASA, for once again providing really beautiful imagery.

Fresh off the boat off the orbiting device*, a gorgeous ‘blue marble’ photograph of the little planet upon the surface of which we sail through our ever-expanding universe**.

'Blue Marble'. Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

'Blue Marble'. Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

As NASA says:

This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.

The best bit? You can look at it in a bunch of different resolutions. My favourite being, of course, 8000 x 8000.


And yes, to those of you who point out that this is a puny 64 megapixel image – we do, indeed, have gigapixel images.  Being used, if nothing else, for crowd surveillance (oh, goody) as well as nature/landscape/cityscape photography.  But that doesn’t detract at all, in my opinion, from the beauty of _this_ image.

And, for those interested, here’s a 26 gigapixel image.  Enjoy :)


Related note: hooray to NASA for releasing work like this under a Creative Commons license! Well done, guys – you’re on the Light side of the Force :)


* The VIIRS instrument aboard Suomi NPP, which is NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite. The satellite’s purpose is to collect data for improving our understanding of both short-term weather and long-term climactic change, amongst other things, and the VIIRS (Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite) is the ‘biggest and most important’ of the five instruments aboard.

** Yup, it’s not, as some of you have already surmised, this.

Open Culture: The (internet) keys to the city, and beyond aimee whitcroft Jan 25

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I wrote this post for the Retake the Net site, where it first appeared. See the RtN website for more details about our work/projects, and how you can get involved!


It’s a brand new year, and now that everyone’s back and refreshed, it’s time once again to work on the Open Culture project.

Late last year, we got wonderful news.  CityLink, one of the premier providers of internet services in Wellington, would like to contribute to Wellington’s development, and is offering the use of its infrastructure to that end. It was originally part of Wellington City Council, and so understands civic commitment!

For those of you wondering why the name sounds so familiar, CityLink are the providers of cbdfree (free WiFi access around Wellington CBD) and cafenet (paid WiFi around Wellington CDB). And what they’re offering is, basically, the keys to the city internet-wise.  For projects they think are worthwhile, they are willing to ensure that anyone in Wellington can upload and download as much content as they want, free.  And they’re willing to help pay for the development of software and apps to do so, too!

So, yeah, this is brilliant news for Retake the Net and Open Culture!  And we’ve been putting our heads together to think of ways to use this offer to the best of our abilities. It seems we’re bounded only by our imaginations :)

Hence the next Retake the Net meeting on February 18th.  Unlike the barcamp last year, this will be focussed on this project specifically, and over a 2-hour period we want to gather ideas for what we can do, as well as get an idea of who wants to get involved, and in what capacity.  It’s like we’ll be talking around a couple of ideas, we’ve had, too!

The first isn’t so much one idea as it’s a number of ideas for smaller projects which are very strongly Wellington-focussed, and aimed at putting Wellingtonians more easily in touch with each other, and also with the city in which they live.

The second idea is around a global competition to encourage content creation. We’re keen to explore this further with you at the meetup.

We hope to see you there!  And, given that it’s Webstock week, perhaps we can entice a number of Webstockers to come and give their feedback, too :P

Please do RSVP if you’re going to come, as knowing numbers of people is important :) ANd should you have ideas in the meantime, please do give us a shout!

Retake the Net team

Citizen Science — Globe at Night aimee whitcroft Jan 20


Ah, citizen science.  How we love you so :)

For those not familiar with the concept, citizen science is what we call distributed science projects in which members of the public contribute to the science being done: they help collect the data, for example, or analyse it. Examples include Galaxy Zoo, as well as a host of others.

And now there’s a beautiful new project in which to get involved, and it’s far from time-heavy: Globe at Night.

As part of this project – which runs over four different periods this year – one takes naked eye observations of the night sky, the idea being to track the effect of light pollution all over the world.  From their website:

The GLOBE at Night program is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure their night sky brightness and submit their observations to a website from a computer or smart phone. Light pollution threatens not only our ’right to starlight’, but can affect energy consumption, wildlife and health. The GLOBE at Night campaign has run for two weeks each winter/spring for the last six years. People in 115 countries have contributed 66,000 measurements, making GLOBE at Night one of the most successful light pollution awareness campaigns.

I remember, growing up in Johannesburg (South Africa) – the night sky was never even close to black.  In fact, it was generally closer to a dark, bruised mauve.  In Wellington, though, where I live now, the sky’s beautiful.  We have so few people here, and the winds are so hectic (keeping dust out of the air) that our night skies are pretty crisp and, of course, it’s even better outside the city!

In order to take part, one has to:

1) Find one’s latitude and longitude.

2) Find Orion, Leo or Crux by going outside more than an hour after sunset (about 8-10pm local time).

3) Match one’s nighttime sky to one of the provided magnitude charts.

4) Report one’s observation.

5) Compare one’s observation to thousands around the world (heh, this seems more of an ‘if you like’, but yes).

Happy skywatching!

UPDATE: And now, this! A british television audience has discovered a potential new planet.  Awesome :)


More on citizen science, written in email form to some colleagues in december 2011:

Absolutely perfect timing given the orca sighting this morning, Scientist American and have released Here, you can help researchers match and group hundreds of calls taken from pilot and orca whales (well, yes, dolphins), the communication of which animals are still poorly understood.  The results will also help identify whether sonar communications, for example, affect pilot whales. And, for those who’re not only auditorily-inclined, you can also see the sonograms, which are very, very cool :)

Other citizen science projects like this, which allow anyone interested in science to contribute to humanity’s knowledge using only their time and a computer, include:

  • Galaxy Zoo (using Sloan Digital Sky Survey images) — classification of astronomical bodies such as universes, pulsar mirrors, etc. The site has now ben archived (you cans till go and have a look, though, at the results!) and the project moved to Galaxy Zoo: Hubble.
  • Galaxy Zoo: Hubble — the newest version of Galaxy Zoo, in which players will be helping to classify over 250,000 images of galaxies drawn from the Hubble*.
  • foldit — a game in which players can contribute to the enormous challenge presented by protein structure prediction and protein design
  • Mapper — another classification game in which you can ‘help NASA find life on Mars by exploring the lakes of British Columbia’

It’s worth noting these games have led to significant scientific advances (and publications), and huge use: Galaxy Zoo had some 200,000 players, and foldit has some 75,000, of which one of the best is a Kiwi (his handle is Aotearoa).

Science “programming” aimee whitcroft Jan 18


Or should that be “science” programming?

I just saw this wonderful graphic showing how science is treated by some of the major TV networks – y’know, National Geographic, The Discovery Channel, The History Channel and the ‘Science’ channel.

science programming

via PhD comics*

Sigh.  Quite.  I suppose we should be grateful that there’s at least _something_ vaguely science-related in there, but I still wanna put my big stompy science-related boots firmly on someone’s backside for the sheer venality of much of this content.  News flash, programme people – PEOPLE LIKE TO BE EDUCATED. YOU CAN DO EET.

Anecdote – my father recently popped me an email to the effect that ‘I thought there weren’t any dangerous animals in NZ?!’.  He’d seen an ad, on the Discovery Channel, for some completely-not-sensationalised-looking programme called River Monsters and in particular, an episode on longfin eels.  Apparently, Brave Guy Presenter wades bravely into the water and bravely sees whether he will bravely emerge in one piece or in tatters.

At this juncture, after I’d carefully wiped up the coffee I’d sprayed across my desk (in pure horror, I might add, not terror), I went and had a look at the Te Ara entry on longfin eels, just to check.  After all, living here, I’m sure I’d have heard if they were a Menace!  You will notice, nowhere, accounts of them ripping grown men limb from limb. Bites are, it would seem, unusual. (Fun fact – they’re actually an important species here, but more on that in an upcoming blog post)

Now, I see why programmes descend into this sort of sensationalism, but I also think it’s unnecessary – the amazing organisms and events are generally able to carry their own weight, and the constant shouting, excitement, posturing and hoohaa generated by the programmes’ hosts and editors etc in fact detract.  It’s why we love David Attenborough and the BBC so much.  And why, at least in my case, I cannot stomach the other sorts of programmes at all.

UPDATE: A new Symphony of Science is out, and it features ol’ Dave himself!

YouTube Preview Image


On another, but related note.  That image that I just shared?  Under the draconian SOPA** (Stop Online Piracy Act) law which some…people…are trying to get passed in the United States, I could have my entire blog removed, in effect, from the internet simply for posting that image.

As Vikram Kumar of Internet NZ explains:

The Acts would enable the US Government and Intellectual Property holders to force US ISPs to block ’rogue’ websites; stop services to them (advertising, and payment processing); and prevent search providers (like Google) displaying links to them. All that would be required would be for someone to contact the relevant US authorities to say that the image had been ‘stolen’ (i.e. was under copyright, without a license for redistribution under something like Creative Commons), and my website would summarily disappear.

As currently written, SOPA requires court orders while PROTECT IP doesn’t. Both focus on Internet intermediaries based in the USA to target and block non-US websites.

Much of the criticism about these Acts are around the low barriers to shut down websites without due process based on allegations alone; the disproportionate response; and the way ’rogue’ websites are blocked. Also, the inflated and made-up Intellectual Property losses due to the Internet trotted out by Hollywood and others that we are familiar with in New Zealand and around the world.

I could decide whether to engage in a ruinous battle with US lawyers, or to try and reigster the site somewhere else, or…you get my drift.

And this could apply to ANY site.  Sound scary? Read the rest of Vikram’s article, explaining why even us Kiwis should be worried.  And Jan 18th marks the day that worldwide protests begin.  You can take part.  Wikipedia, reddit and boing boig, for example, are going dark to protest these Acts – after all, they will ‘break the internet’.  And here and here are some resources for if you, too, would like to register your disapproval.

I know I have.

Wikipedia‘s protest

Boing Boing‘s protest

Reddit‘s protest

OpenDNS‘s protest

Mozilla and a number of other large online services are also protesting (WordPress, TwitPic, MoveOn, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Scribd) too!


*HT to Sheril Kirschenbaum, of Culture of Science, for posting this on Google+.

** And PIPA.  Don’t forget PIPA, too – It stands for PROTECT IP Act, or Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act

Greetings, 2012ers aimee whitcroft Jan 18


Hello, everyone!

Yep, I realise I’m somewhat late back to the fold – but looks are deceiving.  Ive been back at work since Jan 4th (urg), but, well, there’s been a lot on.

On top of the usual summer goings-on – cycling home into gale-force (well, almost) northerlies on sunny days, watching the harbour become jellyfish party central, and seeing Wellington become the ideal version of itself (everyone’s gone elsewhere) – I’ve also been to the inaugural AdaCamp.

ada lovelace

Ada Lovelace - sometimes called the world's first computer programmer

AdaCamp‘s a barcamp, founded by the Ada Initiative*, aimed at getting women in open culture/tech etc to talk about their experiences and find ways to encourage each other and, hopefully, to start getting more women into these fields.

Interesting stuff, and I discuss it a little more on this week’s The Official Sciblogs Podcast.  I also plan to write something full length in the very near future, once everything’s percolated through. I hear tell there’s a long weekend on the way*.

And, because I love you guys, I thought I’d give you some beautiful imagery geekiness – The Best Data Visualisation Projects of 2011, as decided by Flowing Data.  nom.


* After Ada Lovelace, who designed the first algorithm meant to be processed by a machine.  Brilliant girl, in other words :) And thanks to the ladies for helping me get over there ito costs!

Which is awesome, as I still also need to write my review of Michael Nielsen’s Reinventing Discovery (I did promise is publishers…), and it looks to be interesting, given that I think I’m gonna be weaving in some other stuff, too :P  Post-scarcity blah blah, here we come!

TOSP Episode 17: January 16th 2012 aimee whitcroft Jan 16

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Greetings, listeners!

This week, aimee was away in Melbourne at the inagural AdaCamp barcamp.  So Elf brought in his good friend Haritina Mogosanu, who works with KiwiSpace and World Space Week, to co-host with him.

They talked about the number of planets in our galaxy, molecular time travel, calculating what’s in the universe, ‘getting’ science (or not), KiwiMars 2012, and aimee reports back from AdaCamp.


You can read the rest of this entry on the Sciblogs The Official Sciblogs Podcast site

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