Sunday, February 26, 2006

The value of academic research papers

What is the value of academic publishing? The purpose is to document new discovery or to contribute to the body of knowledge. Recent years, we have seen some efforts to quantify and measure these values. One of such metric is the "impact factor" for academic journals:
However, the correctness of these metrics are still subject to debate. Most of them are measurements of citations, and pretty much limited to English language pulications. There are many concerns about such a practice:
Ultimately, what is the impact factor of the journals who published Einstein's paper on relativity?

Monday, February 13, 2006

ban smoking

California, being a progressive state, is the first to ban smoking in bars and restaurants for the entire state. Now that ban has been expanded to many public places. More and more states are also moving in similar directions.

One would imagine, perhaps in a distant future, that smoking would be prohibited just like drugs, with few exceptions for mitigating circumstances.

Perhaps this idea is far too extreme for now. A significant portion of our population is still addicted to smoking. But everybody would agree that, in general, smoking is bad to our health. It is bad to the people who smoke, and even worse to those who had to suffer from second hand smoke.

Remember the 18th constitutional ammendment?
  • "... the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited. ..."
This ammendment was ratified on 1/16/1919 but repealed on 12/5/1933. This law was not very popular under the circumstances.

However, smoking is quite different from drinking alcohol. While some might argue that drinking a small glass of red whine (e.g. on a daily basis) may contribute to health, similar argument cannot be applied to smoking. By now, it is generally acknowledged that smoking is bad for our health. Also, enforcement is much easier for a smoking ban than alcohol ban. The smell of the smoke would simply give away the smoker. It is easy to catch this type of stuff.

So if the anti-smoking campaign keeps moving forward, perhaps we will (in a distant future) be able to enjoy a smoke free environment.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

HDTV and Big Screen TV

America is moving towards the next generation TV: high definition television (HDTV). Since I am also planning on getting a big screen TV, it seems the following should be considered:
  1. LCD vs. Plasma (other technologies are not so desirable)
  2. HDTV
  3. screen size
There are some web commentaries (including this one) that seems to provide some insights on HDTV. As for screen size, the bigger the better, as long as the price is right. There are also a lot of debate on LCD vs. plasma TVs. So far, it seems that LCD is popular for 32" or smaller TVs, whereas plasma has much lower pricing over competitive LCD for 42" or larger TVs.

Finally: never buy anything unless you really need it. Technology products depreciate very quickly.