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15 February 2013  |  Posted in General  |  Comment on this post »

According to legend there was once a time when all people lived in a land called Babel and spoke the same language. Because of their arrogance they were punished by having their speech confused, and they scattered and dispersed into the thousands of mutually unintelligible tongues of today.

Throughout history there always seems to have been a default language for the convenience of international diplomacy and commerce. Greek once served this role in the ancient Mediterranean until it was displaced by the Latin of the expanding Roman Empire. Latin held sway throughout Europe until the Renaissance when the growing power and enviable culture of France made French the language of the ambitious and the trendy. English is now the default language of international commerce and science, not because it is any better for this role than any other language but because of a combination of historical factors that made first Great Britain and then the United States dominant presences on the world stage.

Presenting_in_a_Second_Language02Anyone who has had to give a presentation in a language other than his own might look back with longing to the days of Babel, but there is no reason why this should prevent an effective and memorable presentation. I’ve heard plenty of native English speakers give bad presentations—rambling and convoluted—and just as many non-native speakers give outstanding presentations that were focused and powerful.

While listening to a Russian émigré give a particularly good talk, it struck me that having a limited grasp of English was almost an advantage for him: he was forced to prepare what he was going to say well in advance, practice it repeatedly, and use simple, clear language that anyone could understand.

On the other hand I recall more than one American with potentially excellent speaking skills squander them because he was afflicted with the Babel syndrome—the arrogance of the speaker who is proud of his grasp of a language, uses as many big words as possible, and doesn’t prepare, since he imagines he can ad lib his way through his talk.

Which would you rather hear? A well organized, well rehearsed presentation with clear, simple language or a rambling, semi-coherent talk by a “Babeler.” The ultimate example of this paradox was described by a scientist who said that one of the best presentations he ever witnessed was given by a Japanese researcher who spoke no English at all except to call out “hon!” to advance to the next slide. He didn’t need to talk: his vu-graphs were so well organized and so well illustrated and so clearly captioned that they were self-explanatory. The visuals aid did the talking for him.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

09 January 2013  |  Posted in General  |  1 Comment »

The English language has always been a promiscuous borrower of words from other countries, and in scientific writing Latin is one of the most common sources. Standard publishing style italicizes foreign words but when a Latin loan word has been used long enough it becomes a naturalized citizen of the English language and is printed like any other word. Examples include such commonly used terms as ab initio, et al., in situ, in vitro, and of course, vs. None of these terms should be italicized, according to the American Chemical Society Style Guide, and most other publishers agree.

The only reason to use different fonts in a manuscript is for clarity. The term Streptococcus pneumoniae should be italicized but not because it is derived from Latin. Seeing these two words italicized with the first one capitalized, we instantly know this is the genus and species name of some organism. Italic print aids in comprehension here. But it adds nothing to such common terms as ab initio, e.g., or i.e.

In fact, repeated italicizing of such common terms detracts from readability, since the words that ought to be italicized are now harder to pick out when they are surrounded by so many unnecessary slants. It also takes longer to read manuscripts with too many special fonts. Imagine trying to read an article in which words were randomly italicized, boldfaced, and underlined. Too much useless information for the brain to process. Plain Roman type is easier on the eyes and the mind.

Unfortunately, journals are not consistent in their policy towards italicizing Latin loan words. For example, in its Instructions to Authors, the Journal of Electron Microscopy (yes, periodical titles are italicized) does not specifically address the question of italicizing foreign loan words. However, the instructions state that where there are more than three authors in a reference, “the citation in the text should use the formulation ‘et al.’” and gives the example “This observation has been reported by Shackelford et al.” Does this mean that these italicized forms are required or at least optional? I sent an email to the journal concerning this point and five days later they responded with the statement, “Latin phrases such as et al and in situ should be italicised for this journal.” Nevertheless, lacking specific instructions the best policy for an author concerning italicizing Latin derived words is “when in doubt, leave it out.” This will make most journal editors and all readers happy.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

18 December 2012  |  Posted in General, Impact of article  |  Comment on this post »

For maximum impact, a researcher would like to publish articles in the most prestigious journals

*data in the above figure is only indicative and may or may not represent exact values

 

How are journals rated? One simple but controversial method is Impact Factor (IF), published by Thomson Reuters, which calculates the average number of citations per article during the previous two years. The more citations the articles receive from other researchers, the more important they are considered to be and the more prestigious the journal that publishes them.

There are some obvious problems with this calculation. Does the number of citations really indicate the significance of an article? Remember the debacle over cold fusion? In the year following its 1989 publication, a supposedly revolutionary paper by Pons and Fleischmann was the most cited paper in the world. But soon afterwards the cold fusion bubble burst—no one could reproduce the reported results. But during the heyday of the cold fusion mania, anyone consulting the IF would conclude that Pons and Fleischmann had written the most important paper of the year and the journal that published their paper was the most prestigious in the world.

Does IF measure the impact of a paper? Or does it measure the “buzz” created by a sensational find, which may be overblown? There are also possibilities of abuse from editors and authors who have found ways to game the system to publish papers that generate high levels of citations. An editor might require an author to insert unnecessary self-citations before accepting the paper. Some authors have a habit of giving courtesy citations to colleagues as a professional favor. On the flip side, some authors vengefully refuse to cite competitors, either through pique or in an attempt to skew IF numbers in their favor. The latter practice goes back at least as far as Isaac Newton, who 300 years before IF, revised one of his manuscripts to delete references to his hated rival Robert Hooke.

Nevertheless IF is here to stay, because the alternatives are no better. How about setting up a team of impartial experts to evaluate journal articles for their quality? But where do you find impartial experts? Will a reviewer be tempted to favor a journal edited by a friend and colleague, or one in which he publishes regularly? What about the specter of bribery? IF dispenses with a small number of elites in favor of letting the scientific community as a whole decide the value of a paper. The community can be fooled in the short run, but gets it right eventually. When Gregor Mendel published his 1866 paper “Experiments on Plant Hybridization,” it was almost ignored by the scientific community and was cited only three times in the next 35 years. During this time IF would have given this paper a near zero rating, but today Mendel’s paper is one of the most consistently cited in genetics and is justly considered a seminal work in the history of the field.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

01 November 2012  |  Posted in General  |  Comment on this post »

Thinking about age-old problems in unconventional ways stimulates the brain and provides a fresh perspective to solve these problems. We recently came across a fascinating book by Dan Correnti, appropriately titled “New Physics Framework.” The book provides new models for the atomic particles and photons, and explains observed physical phenomena on the basis of the models. We thought the book would be beneficial to the scientists visiting our site. Hence, we decided to get it reviewed by one of our experienced physics peer reviewer. We hope that the review presented below is useful to you. Please feel free to leave your comments.

New Physics Framework, a book by Dan S. Correnti

New Physics Framework, a book by Dan S. Correnti

 
I have read the book New Physics Framework with great interest, as the model and math presented in it are novel and very fascinating. It presents a novel way to look at physics concepts.

It is not every day that such an original piece of work is presented. The explanations and examples are all unique and quite cogent. The author makes his arguments in an understandable manner. The way that he looks at different subjects of Physics that have been explained before by the concepts of either atoms and molecules or waves and particles and discusses them within a wholly new framework is extremely commendable. The search for a new physics explanation is a never ending quest, and this paper makes a worthwhile contribution to that quest. I believe that this paper is a significant step in understanding different fundamental issues of Physics.

The author has basically torn up and rebuilt the basic elements of Physics; as such, it may arouse skepticism in some quarters. However, the explanations are quite lucid, and a careful perusal of the paper could provide you with new ways of thinking about age old problems. Maybe some physical enigmas will be solved as a result of the reasoning explained in the book. This work shows that even the world’s best minds have plenty more to learn about seemingly simple concepts.

The author has presented a rather complicated explanation for the decades-old physics concepts that we are familiar with. In a way, he has created an alternative physical universe that should pry open the solution and inherent secrets of many other outstanding enigmas. It is thus exciting to hope that this book will lead to a totally new understanding of the basics of Physics.

Since the concepts introduced are so different from conventional explanations, it may be a while before people can have a clear idea of what the author has done. At first look, you feel a bit like you might be reading a document from the future. However, the reason why it might seem alien is because it probes deep questions about the foundations of physics. People and other physicists are aware that many natural physics formulations are not really explained by the concepts that are now popular. The new insights presented here lead to whole new conjectures on modern physics. The way the author manages to come back to the usual universal laws in a concrete way is very interesting.

Because of its fundamental nature, New Physics Framework should set off a chain reaction, opening up the solutions to many other problems and deepening our understanding of the relationships between different aspects of physics. The author’s methods are completely unexpected, providing new tools for physical exploration. I hope that physicists will comb through the author’s work line-by-line to check that the logic of each step holds true. Although this process is arduous, it will be good to take his claims seriously, in spite of the unusual nature of the framework he has developed. This paper is thus likely to yield a completely new way of thinking about physics.

About the reviewer:

The reviewer is an Enago editor with a D.Phil from University of Oxford, United Kingdom. Her primary field of research is Condensed Matter Physics.

Author of New Physics Framework

Dan S. Correnti, Author of 'New Physics Framework'


About the author of New Physics Framework:

Dan S. Correnti; Reg. Prof. Eng. in Ill. & Reg. Str. Eng. in Ill.; Consulting Engineer in Multiple Fields; Trade Journal Author; Wisconsin State University.

Interested readers can buy this book at Amazon

15 October 2010  |  Posted in General, Scientific conventions  |  2 Comments »

Accuracy or precision is probably the most critical characteristic of measured or collected data. The nature of conclusions derived from the data, and eventually the quality of the work is determined by the extent of precision in both measurements and analyses. This post describes some of the sources of error (both random and systematic), how these can be isolated, and the statistical distributions used to characterize them. This is followed by a short discussion on how errors in multiple measured quantities affect the final measured or calculated values.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.



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