Saturday, October 30, 2010

The four principles of wikinomics: openness, peering, sharing and acting global

The word and prefix wiki means quick or fast. It has roots in the Hawaiian language or even deeper in Austronesian [1]. The term wikinomics is derived from the words wiki and economics. Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams introduced this word with their book in 2006 (now available as a paperback [2,3]), using this word as its title. They explain the concept of wikinomics and illustrate that wikinomics is something that is happening, ongoing and changing the business world based on the principles of openness, peering, sharing and global playfulness. The World Wide Web and its underlying software tools, including the LAMP stack, are the main drivers of wikinomics.

In the world of wikinomics, collaborative innovation is accelerating and deepening across borders and walls of traditional business networks. The open-kimono approach to creating internet platforms, knowledge and products advances around the globe like sushi bars. Wikinomists are quickly getting creative with words too: there is a wiki web site called Wikonomy [4].

Will there eventually be a Nobel Prize for Wikinomics?

[1] Ward Cunningham: Etymology of Wiki (letter to Mr. Ward, 2003).
[2] Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams: WikinomicsHow Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Portfolio/Penguin Books Ltd, London, Paperback edition 2010.
[3] Wikinomics blog inspired by [2]:

[4] Wikinomy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

E-readers present e-books on e-ink screens

The e for electronic became popular with terms such as e-mail. Today, the letter e, followed by a hyphen, precedes various nouns that name an electronically driven device or users thereof. An e-customer, for example, is a person shopping and buying online. An e-reader, however is not a human being reading electronically displayed text, but an electronic device providing that text—typically a page from an e-book.

Columnist David Pogue describes the rise and growing popularity of e-readers and e-books in a recent TechnoFiles article [1], but argues that printed books will not be replaced by e-books. First, he identifies existing technical problems such as the slowness of e-ink while “turning” a page on the screen. Further, an e-book may not be readable on e-readers from different companies. He points out that one will probably not be able to read an e-book in maybe twenty years or two-hundred years. Even if you are not around then, wouldn't it be nice if future generation can have access to the e-books you have written as an e-author?

Then there is the sensing and social networking issue. E-books don't smell, don't have beautiful front or back covers and also leave your library shelves empty. Due to copy-protection you cannot even borrow them to your e-friends.

[1] David Pogue: The Trouble with E-readersElectronic books are still far too crude to replace ink and paper. Scientific American November 2010, 303 (5), page 36.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nebulosa hermani, a dioptine moth named after Lee H. Herman, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History

Nebulosa hermani is a moth species of the Dioptinae subfamily. James S. Miller describes how he caught it in the Andean cloud forest of Ecuador [1]. Years later he realized that he had discovered a species new to science. He named it after his colleague Lee H. Herman, who had accompanied him on that cloud forest expedition. Lee H. Herman is the curator of beetles at the American Museum of Natural History.

James S. Miller is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In 2009 he published a major generic revision of the entire moth subfamily Dioptinae [1]. Dioptinae images by him can be found on pages of the “The Tree of Life web project” at

Keywords: entomology, Noctuoidea, Notodontidae, South America, Andes Mountains

Reference and more on moth taxonomy
[1] James S. Miller: Moth Masquerade • Parallel lives come to light. Natural History November 2010, Volume 119, Number 2, pp. 14-15.

Velvet belly lantern shark, a dogfish shark species named after its velvet-black, bioluminescent belly

The velvet belly lantern shark (Etmopterus spinax) is named after its velvet-black belly [1]. Shorter names for this dogfish shark species are velvet belly or lantern shark. The velvet belly is a cartilaginous fish (order Chondrichthyes). The blue-light-emitting organs are intrinsic photophores, which do not employ luminescent bacteria. Fish-intrinsic bioluminescence of that kind is known to bone fish (order Osteichthyes) , but has until now not been studied in cartilaginous fish [1].

Velvet bellies, with a typical body length of less than two feet, live in deep water of the Atlantic Ocean, preferring the slopes of the outer continental shelves. They have been caught at a depth about 6,000 feet below the water surface. Squids and crabs are their main diet [2].

Velvet belly names in other languages [2]:
German: Schwarzer Dornhai
French: Sagre

Keywords: ichthyology, Etmopteridae, Squaliformes, deep-sea fish, hormone-controlled bioluminescence


[1] S. R: Glow in the Shark. Natural History November 2010, Volume 119, Number 2, page 10.
[2] Grzimeks Tierleben Vierter BandFische 1, page 122 and 516.

Friday, October 22, 2010

LAMP stack: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP and Perl bundle

A lamp is a lamp. But written with all letters in upper-case, LAMP is an acronym in information technology, standing for the collection of the following open-source software products: the Linux operating system, the Apache server, the MySQL database, and the PHP and Perl scripting languages [1-3].

The LAMP stack is the foundation for plug-and-play development in the Web 2.0 world. Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams [1] describe the LAMP stack as the plumbing of the Internet. It made up the essential components of the first wave of the open-source software movement. Today, we experience the second wave, which brings true collaboration and integration between applications—a stable stack gets surrounded by busy dynamics.

[1] Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams: WikinomicsHow Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Portfolio/Penguin Books Ltd, London, Paperback edition 2010; pages 43 and 84.
[2] Setting up a LAMP stack:
[3] LAMP Stack. An Open-source Architecture for Web Based Applications:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Weltwissen, a German compositum directing attention to a science exhibition in Berlin

The German word Weltwissen is composed of the two nouns Welt and Wissen meaning world and knowledge, respectively. The meaning of the composed noun depends on the context in which it is used. A literal translation is knowledge of the world. But the term Weltwissen is not frequently used in every-day communication. Instead, it appears in philosophical and theoretical texts elaborating on complex processes such as human perception, cognition, and realization. With less ambiguity, the word Weltwissen became the title of an exhibition in Berlin's Martin Gropius Bau [1-3]. This show celebrates 300 years of science in Berlin by displaying real historic objects and curiosities from different historical eras—mediating Geschichtswissen, knowledge of history, in addition to the scientific themes.

Keywords: science history, research institutions, progress, abuse of science, ethics

The high points of the Berlin Year of Science:
[2] Alsison Abbott:
The light and shade of German science. Nature 7 October 2010, 467 (7316), page 660.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kurzarbeit, a German compositum referring to employee retainment during times of recession

The German term Kurzarbeit is composed of the adjective kurz, meaning short, and the noun Arbeit, meaning work or employment. For an employee, Kurzarbeit means staying employed, but working for a reduced number of hours. The employer pays the salary gap (up to two-thirds), which, however, is covered by the Bundesagentur für Arbeit or Arbeitsagentur, by most Germans simply called Arbeitsamt (German Federal Employment Agency). During a downturn or short recession the advantage for all sides is clear: The employee keeps his job and often receives special training, which improves his career prospects. The company, then, has a skilled workforce ready as soon as production is taking off again. And the government can show off better-looking statistical data of unemployment. A recent article in C&EN describes how the chemical industry in Germany managed a brief period of difficult times with the Kurzarbeit program [1].

The program has frequently been praised. Of course, there also is criticism for this type of costly public subsidy and a biased support of already established businesses. What about the seeding of new innovative start-ups? For most Kurzarbeiter, though, the program worked and they are back to Vollarbeit, full-time work.

[1] Paige Marie Morse: German Industry's Special Edge. Chemical & Engineering News October 4,
2010, 88 (40), pp.20-21.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The mineral name cryolite derived from Greek terms

Cryolite is commonly associated with the industrial electrolysis of alumina to obtain aluminum (Hall-Héroult process): addition of cryolite lowers the production cost by lowering alumina's melting point by over 1,000 degrees. Cryolite is a rare mineral, whose name is derived from the Greek words for frost or ice and stone, referring to the allusion of its frozen-water appearance (

Cryolite is mainly composed of sodium hexafluoroaluminate: Na3[AlF6]. Commercial mining of a huge deposit of this mineral started in the late 1850s near the town of Ivittuut in southwest Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat, meaning “Land of the Kalaallit people”). Cryolite and its mining site is depicted in a stamp issued in Greenland on October 19, 2009 [1,2]: Aatsitassanik ilisimatuutut misissuineq, kryolit, Mineralforskning, kryolit.

Link and reference to Kalaallit Nunaat's cryolite stamp
[2] Daniel Rabinovich: The Stone that Came in from the Cold. Chemistry International September-October 2010, page 33.

Denotations of the word “language”: native, foreign, and subject-specific

The noun “language” often refers to a natural language that a group of people have in common and use to communicate with each other and to understand each other (at least, linguistically). This language, then, is their native language. Unless born in a bilingual society, a child grows up to speak and write in its native language and may learn one or more foreign languages.

A student of an academic discipline or subdiscipline—from macroeconomics to microbiology—acquires knowledge in a particluar field of study through either her native or a foreign language. The latter is the case in class rooms and lecture halls, where disciples with different language backgrounds come together to plunge into the same field of study. This content and language integrated learning (CLIL) approach focuses on combined learning of curriculum material and skills in the mediating academic language.

A particular field of study typically comes along with a large and, depending on the discipline, rapidly growing dictionary of subject-specific terms. Such terms often have their roots in a language different from that in which the subject is taught. A subject-specific language, also called terminology, includes words and phrases to which the grammar of the chosen academic language applies as well as strongly subject-associated notations and codes. In chemistry, for example, the symbols of the chemical elements or the short notations for α-amino acids (one- and three-letter code) can be thought of as basic language particles. Words or names for other objects and concepts in chemistry are derived on the basis of a large and evolving set of nomenclature recommendations and from designed encoding languages such as CurlySMILES.

Keywords: linguistics, academic communication, terminology, nomenclature, linear notations

Friday, October 8, 2010

Acronym in education: CLIL for content and language integrated learning

CLIL stands for an umbrella term in teaching and education: content and language integrated learning. CLIL started as pedagogical project implemented in foreign language learning [1]. The European Commission emphasizes CLIL's multi-facted approach, which can benefit students on various learning levels including oral communication competence, intercultural knowledge skills and development of multilingual interests and attitudes [2].

Teachers working with CLIL are not language teachers, but specialist in other disciplines such as history, geography, social studies, the arts or science. Typically, they teach their subject in their native language (mother tongue) to students for which this particular class-room language is foreign (a second language). The CLIL concept is focused on cooperative learning within a special field of study, rather than speaking and writing in the mediating language. A recent article discusses the implications of CLIL-based teaching and learning of chemistry, while chemistry lesson are held in English to students, for which English is a foreign language [3].

Keywords: learning, teaching, foreign language, classroom context

References and further reading
[1] Sonia Casal: Cooperative Learning in CLIL Contexts: Ways to improve Student's Competence in the foreign Language Classroom. Universidad Pablo de Olavide (Sevilla-Spain). Pdf.
[2] European Commission Multilingualism: Content and language integrated learning. Htm.
[3] Keith Kelly: A New Challenge for Chemistry Education. Chemistry International September-October 2010, pp. 4-7.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

An acronym in sustainable energy collaboration: Desertec for desert technology

The term Desertec stands for desert technology [1], which is somewhat of a misnomer since it refers to a solar energy concept. The noun “desert” in this phrase hints to the location where the technology is going to be installed, but not how it will work. The idea of Desertec is to generate solar electricity in sunny North Africa and move it across the Mediterranean Sea to less-sunny and higher populated European countries.

Desertec is now an ambitious multinational renewable energy project, going back to the vision of DESY particle physicist Gerhard Knies, who was rethinking energy production after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident in the Ukraine in April 1986 [2].

The Desertec concept envisions generation of electricity by concentration of solar power, not photovoltaics. However, the integration of PV installations, wind energy, and other renewable energy production sites in regions north of Africa is planned. The clean technology expertise is at hand, but certain political and security questions—concerning both the solar-concentrating plants and the extensive electricity grid— still need to be solved.

Out-of-Africa dispersion, a strong hypothesis in anthropology, will become reality for electrical current.

Keywords: clean technology, sustainable development, multinational cooperation, energy politics

References and further reading
[1] Energy from the desert: Desertec & Solar City 2050.
[2] Daniel Clery: Sending African Sunlight to Europe, Special Delivery. Science August 13, 2010, 329, pp. 782-783.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The term “Web 2.0” and its synonyms

The Web 2.0 is something that is still happening and hence difficult to define. The term goes back to the year 2005, when web pioneer and vice president Dale Dougherty of O'Reilly brought up this term during a brainstorming session [1]. Then, the Web 2.0 conference was born as well. The next Web 2.0 Summit is scheduled for November of this year.

In their bestselling Wikinomics book [2], Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams refer to some other names for Web 2.0: the living Web, the Hypernet, the active Web, the read/write Web. Today's Web surfers usually don't care much about the name of this technology, they just use it. Programming and mark-up languages such as HTML, XML, CSS and JavaScript belong to the technical core knowledge for Web 2.0 designers [3]. But there is not a single Web 2.0 technology and expansion into new schemes and schemas is ongoing.

It has become popular to attach the “2.0 suffix” to concepts and applications nurtured by Web 2.0 technology. For example, Joel Comm uses “twitter power 2.0” as the title for his latest book edition on social networking and online marketing with Twitter [4].

Keywords: Web design, Internet, information technology, digital networking

[1] Tim O'Reilly: What is Web 2.0Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. 09/30/2005. HTML version.
[2] Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams: WikinomicsHow Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Portfolio/Penguin Books Ltd, London, Paperback edition 2010; page 19.
[3] Eric van der Vist, Danny Ayers, Erik Bruchez, Joe Fawcett and Allessandro Vernet:
Professional Web 2.0 Programming. Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, 2007.
[4] Joel Comm: twitter power 2.0
How to dominate your market one tweet at a time . John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, New Jersey, 2010.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Acronym in astronomy and space technology: JWST for James Webb Space Telescope

James E. Webb (1906-1992) was a NASA administrator (1961-1968) [1]. A new infrared telescope, which was originally coined the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), is now named after him: the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) [2]. The JWST is scheduled to be launched in 2014 to carry on as a successor to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope [3].

The JWST's ultralight, shape-adjusting mirrors will have six times the light-collecting power of those of the Hubble Space Telescope. New vistas on the earliest ages of our universe are expected to be accessible by detecting infrared radiation after the telescope and its giant heat shields will have successfully been unfurled out of the earth-to-orbit rocket. For more details see the narrative and the “IN BRIEF” box at the bottom of page 50 of the “Origami Observatory” article [3].

References and more to explore
[1] Interviews: James E. Webb Oral History.
[2] National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): The James Webb Space Telescope.
[3] Robert Irion:
Origami Observatory. Sci. Am. October 2010, 302 (4), pp. 48-55. Abstract.

Acronym in genomics: SNP for single-nucleotide polymorphism

SNP stands for single-nucleotide polymorphism, a phrase in genetics, that is frequently used in the context of genome analysis and the study of natural selection.

The term SNP denotes a point of difference (mismatching nucleotide pair), when detected while comparing the genomes of two individuals (two humans, Homo sapiens, or two individuals of another species). The genomes of any two people differ at only approximately one out of every 1,000 pairs of DNA nucleotides, or “letters,” along the human genome sequence, which consists of about three billion pairs of such DNA letters [1].

The study of SNP patterns is critical in understanding the evolution of diseases [2] such as cancer [3].

Note: The plural form SNPs is pronounced “snips.”

Keywords: genetics, evolutionary biology, biological adaption, genetic mutations, selective sweep, alleles

References and further reading
[1] J. K. Pritchard: How we are evolving. Sci. Am. October 2010, 302 (4), pp. 41-47. Abstract.
[2] Technology Feature: Genomics: SNPs and human disease. Nature 16 June 2005, 435, 993. DOI: 10.1038/435993a.
[3] R. Mei et al.: Genome-wide detection of allelic imbalance using human SNPs and high-density DNA arrays. Genome Res. 2000, 10, pp. 1126-1137. DOI: 10.1101/gr.10.8.1126.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Look-up and how-to questions answered via informational crowdsourcing?

What's on your mind? A question? Well, you can send it to your facebook friends and wait for answers. Or, you may transform your question into a “What's happening?” twitter tweet and wait for replying Twitterers. Before doing so, you probably want to use Google, Wikipedia or any of your other bookmarked Web wizards to get—at least—an idea of what the answer might be.

No success? What about informational crowdsourcing? A crowdsourcing service connects you with real and yet virtual human beings, who will hopefully answer your questions [1]: Yahoo answers and work this way. There will be no guarantee that an answer is correct. Do your own backcheck!

The critical point is the type of your question. To answer a look-up question is mostly a matter of finding the appropriate dictionary, encyclopedia, library or accessible database. Some person sitting in that adequately stuffed knowledge center or at a fittingly linked electronic device should be your friend in the crowd (whom you might never go to lunch with).

A how-to question makes a different story. There usually is no instant answer. For domain-specific question you need to find the right crowd. For example, if the nature of your questions lies embedded within a field of science, you could try ResearchGATE: There you'll find a “What's on your mind?” form as well and, in addition, a multitude of specialist groups to join, to follow and to consult.

Also, think of how to formulate your question and make it obvious whether you expect a yes or no, a multiple-choice-like answer or a concise narrative.

Finally, there are still those question that only you can answer yourself—always password-free.

[1] David Pogue:
Question TimeTo find the best answers, digital services are turning to actual humans. Scientific American October 2010, Volume 302, Number 4, page 38.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Twitter and all those TwitXXXs

The social networking and microblogging service Twitter offers, according to its page head, “the best way to discover what's new in your world.” Noticeable is the phrase “your world” instead of “our world,” hinting at Twitter's effortless use for self-expression and its functionality in broadcasting personal “my-world-view” news.

Real-time news, trivial as well as history-making, can be found on Twitter while the story of interest is happening and evolving. Although typically wrapped keyword-style within the tweet format, an included URL—also typically shortened—may connect the reader with more detailed resources. These tiny URLs are derived by employing URL-shortening services. Further, Twitter add-ons are available to integrate Twitter service with web-page design.

There exists an array of third-party tools, whose names start with “Twit” that support customization of Twitter applicability and performance. Some are specific and device-dependent, such as Twitterrific, adhering to the Mac and iPhone community. TwitThis comes in handy if you want to place buttons on your pages and blog posts, which enable your visitors to forward, via click, a site-link to the Twitterverse. TwitterCounter tracks statistics of your and other people's twittering activity. And while I am writing, the next great TwitXXX is already in the making—for sure!