March 29, 2005

Girls Get IT

Following up a bit on the previous post, this link from the Eductional Technology blog is about a Florida Dept of Education program to encourage girls to pursue IT careers. Here's a Cisco press release describing the program in more detail.

The Physics Pipeline

From Doug Lederman at InsideHigherEd on The Physics Pipeline. According to a study by the AIP, it seems that most women leave the physics career pipeline between high school and college, but once they get to college drop out of the pipeline at about the same rate as men. Interesting, and from the looks of it there may be a lively discussion on the InsideHigherEd comment section for the article.

March 28, 2005

SLA CHE/STS/PAM 2005 Toronto Conference Poster Session

Information here on the posters. The theme is "Better Understanding your Users" which is something we all strive to do better. It's interesting, but I just came back from checking out our 4th year engineering students' Design Fair where they present the result of their capstone project. I did an informal poll to see which teams used the library to help research the project. A little less than half the teams did and I'm not sure if that's good news or not. Probably good, especially since the ones that did said that they info they found was useful. Next year, I'm going to try and see if I can work with the course director to make the students more aware of what we have. Since this is the very first graduating year for the York engineering program, building the collections and services for the program is a work in progress.

Young scientists are perceptive readers of science fiction

That's a cute little quote from the article Science Fiction and Science Fact by literature professor John Sutherland. It's an interesting article exploring the reading habits of Caltech students and how those habits reveal their core assumptions about the relationship between science and society. via Locusmag.

March 24, 2005

More on Is Computer Science Science

I intend to follow up on my original post a few more times with little bits I've found here and there.

Via Richard Paul Gabriel's website, I found a couple interesting editorials he and Guy L. Steele Jr. wrote for Lisp and Symbolic Computation.

  • Gabriel RP; Steele GL. "Is computer science science or are computer scientists scientists." Lisp and symbolic computation. 2(2):101-104. 1989.
  • Gabriel RP. "The art of computer programming." Lisp and symbolic computation. 3(2):109-111. 1990.

Note to scholars: please put complete citations to all your publications. To find these, I literaly had to check all the issues edited by Gabriel & Steele.

Pearls Before Swine

Ok, not exactly like a conversation at the reference desk we've all had, but close enough. via Blog of a Bookslut.

Dangerous Visions

It's been quite some time since I last made a purely science fiction related post here, so I thought I'd point out this interview with Harlan Ellison. It's a great interview, giving a good feel for what the man and his work are like.via Locusmag.

March 22, 2005

Looks like Gorman had a point...

Not sure if this is something to brag about:

I've been lamenting lately how difficult it has become for me to read books these days because a) I think my brain is getting used to the shorter snippets of blog reading and b) because they don't have any links. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to click on a word to see what it means or get more information from a primary source.

Well, there looks like there might somewhat of a solution to problem b) from Atlantic Monthly which has woven the hypertext idea into the cover article about talk radio. If you're quick, you can see the entire .pdf of what it looks like. I like the concept, but I think I'm more into the digital book idea, with hypertext built in. I love reading on my tablet. But I haven't had a chance to do the digital book thing to any great degree yet. Probably should hurry up and get there before my brain starts shutting down on anything longer than 5 or 6 paragraphs...

My apologies for not including all the internal links, but I have a hard time concentrating on snippets more than one or two words long.

March 21, 2005

The Bug by Ellen Ullman

I don't usually have fiction book reviews here, but for this one I'll make an exception. The Bug by Ellen Ullman is quite simply, a novel about how crazy it is being a software developer. It revolves around the a software project in the mid-1980's and a huge, impossible bug that creeps into the user interface code. The bug only appears sporadically and unpredicably, make it very difficult to figure out the underlying cause. The main characters in the novel are the programmers, Ethan Levin, and the tester, Berta Walton. Each of them have troubled personal lives that parallel the progress of the bug, while the view each other with distrust and suspicion. The soap opera aspects of their lives doesn't work as well as the portrait of the programmer's life; at about page 300 (of 350) we learn something about Ethan's relationship with his girlfriend that totally changes our view of him and the root cause of their breakup, which I think is unfair to the reader. Nevertheless, the characters and plot are certainly strong enough to support the more interesting aspect of the novel from our point of view here. For those of you who want to understand what it's like to be a programmer, working with flakey systems, uncertain requirements, killer deadlines and and the limitations of the human capacity to understand very large and complex systems, this is the novel for you. Ullman is a former software developer and it shows. Having been a software developer myself for 12 years, it rings very true.

Latest from EEVL: CSA Hot Topics

EEVL Incarnate Roddy MacLeod informs me that EEVL will be publicizing (and hosting/mirroring on their own site) CSA's new Hot Topics feature. The press release giving more detail is here. The Hot Topics site itself is here. The CSA Hot Topics page is here, and it includes not just Engineering/Technology but Natural Sciences, Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences.

The current list of technolgy topics is:

  • Columbia Shuttle Tragedy
  • Nanomaterials: It's a Small, Small World
  • Rapid Manufacturing
  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS) Technology and Cars
  • The Space Shuttle and Its Replacement
  • Titanium
  • Plastic Highway Bridges
  • MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS)
  • Solid Oxide Fuel Cells
  • Hydrogen Storage
  • Quantum Cryptography: Privacy Through Uncertainty
  • Lost in Cyberspace : The BBC Domesday Project and the Challenge of Digital Preservation

The only one I read in detail was the space shuttle one, and I have to say I'm impressed with the solid overview and the range of resources. Each topic has a very good list of refernces, mostly journals, conferences and magazines. Fortunately, they also offer a bunch of web resources without the access barriers common to the above mentioned formats.

March 18, 2005

Is Computer Science Science?

A must read article from the latest Communications of the ACM (v4i8) is this one by Peter J. Denning. He makes the case that, yes, CS is a science and it investigates natural and man-made information processes. This issue also has an extensive feature section on IT in China. Oh yeah, and an "interesting" little piece Self-plagiarism in computer science by Christian Collberg and Stephen Kobourov. It tackles the issue of scholars "reusing" their ideas and basically publishing the same result over and over with slight modification.

March 15, 2005

Computer Science Roundtable at SLA Toronto Conference

I posted the following on PAMNET today:

Hello everyone,

I’m the moderator of the Computer Science Roundtable this year at the Toronto conference.

This year we will all be sitting in a circle to facilitate an open and lively discussion on topics that CS librarians feel are important. I would certainly encourage anyone who has a topic they would like to discuss to let me know so I can add it to the agenda.

To get the ball rolling, some of my ideas for topics are:

1. The incredible shrinking Computer Science Department: the effect of declining enrollments on collections and services

2. Information Literacy Instruction for Computer Science students: is it needed, how to convince faculty and students of its value

3. Open Access, Google and CS scholars’ information seeking behavior

A couple of topics from previous RT’s that people might want to revisit:

1. Safari and other technology ebook packages
2. Lecture Notes in CS: print or online only?

Please feel free to make all the suggestions you want. In particular I would welcome ideas from outside the academic world.

Vendors: I don’t plan on having formal vendor presentations, but if you would like to make specific short announcements, they will certainly be welcome. As well, please feel free to suggest topics for discussion if they are relevant or if you want some quick and dirty input on a fairly broad issue. Just let me know.

We will have an overhead projector available.

For suggestions, you can either post as a comment here or email me at jdupuis at yorku dot ca. Don't feel you have to attend the event to suggest topics. The RT is on Monday June 6, 2005 from 11:30am to 1pm. I hope to see you all there. The conference website is here.

March 11, 2005

Latest from Inside Higher Ed

A couple of good ones:

  • New Honor Codes for a New Generation By Donald L. McCabe and Gary Pavela. Can making students promise not to cheat make a difference in how often they actually do? It seems that it just might.
  • The Lecturer's Tale By Scott McLemee. Is the academic lecture dead? Recent wisdom suggests that active learning techniques and a more open and less static classroom are good things, but is there still a place for those long-winded, formal, boring lectures? Maybe so, this article suggests. From our own experience, we can all remember profs whose lectures were electrifying as well as those who were spiritually deadening. Most, of course, were average: neither terminially dull nor unbelievably facinating. Is there a real answer to this question, or does each situation/personality/subject need to find there own solution. Personally, I'm not convinced either way. My favourite (somewhat cruel) line from the article: "The abolition of lecturing is not simply a matter of meeting the expectation of students for whom the talk-show host is the embodiment of discursive authority." It goes on to explain that life is easier on the profs too if lectures don't need preparing.

March 8, 2005

Women in Computer Science & Engineering

Today I thought I'd highlight the WiCSE page here at York. Also worth mentioning is the book Doing IT: Women Working in Information Technology by York faculty member Krista Scott-Dixon.

March 7, 2005

NASA image of the day

Wandering around the CNN Science & Space area, I noticed a link to a NASA Image of the Day site. It is as cool as you would expect, but I sort of wonder why they feel they need to have a swanky Image of the Day site and a plain jane Astronomy Picture of the Day site.

March 4, 2005

SciTech library recruiting

The STS-L list has an extremely interesting thread going right now about recruiting non-librarians with science degrees into library careens. It's a very wide-ranging discussion with many posters talking about their own career paths. You can follow the discussion so far in the February and March archives.

March 3, 2005

Darwin stickers & bookmarks

Just got an email addressed to "science librarians" from Colin Purrington of Swarthmore College. He's created a series of pdf and jpeg sticker and bookmark templates that you can download and print out as a way of promoting science literacy amongst the general public, particularly of Darwin and evolution. I think this is a great idea that should be promoted as widely as possible. Any other sources of this sort of thing out there -- freely available materials that can be used to promote science literacy?

BTW, Colin informs me that he built his initial mailing list just by googling "science librarian" and "biology librarian" and looking for email addresses.

March 1, 2005

Number calculations & conversions server

This cool little calculator takes any positive, whole number you input and outputs the sine, cosine, tangent, square, cube, natural log and square root. It also converts the number into binary, hex and (oh! the memories) octal. A few others too. via ResearchBuzz