Category Archives: projects

Open Access

My article for the Berkeley Science Review on Open Access is out, and it is available here (for free, of course!): Science to the people.

“Astronomers and physicists have been sharing pre-prints since before the web existed,” says Alberto Pepe, founder of the authoring and pre-printing platform Authorea. “Pre-prints are an effective (and fully legal) way to make open access a reality in all scholarly fields.” Within hours, articles are available online, and scientists can interact with the author, leaving comments and feedback. Importantly, submission, storage, and access are all free. The pre-printing model ensures that an author’s work is visible and properly indexed by a number of tools, such as Google Scholar.

Special thanks to Rachael Samberg from thee UC Library and Alberto Pepe from Authorea.

Things seems to change quickly in that field, thanks to institutional efforts:

Here’s a list of resources that I’ve compiled from the talk by Laurence Bianchini from MyScienceWork when I invited at LBL, and a piece written by Nils Zimmerman on Open Access at LBNL: Open Access publishing at Berkeley Lab.

Farewell to BPEP!

Yesterday, I’ve organized my last event with the Berkeley Postdoc Entrepreneurial Program (, an association dedicated to helping young researchers turning their science into companies that can benefit the economy directly. I served for about two years as the liaison for Berkeley Lab, and helped organize over a dozen events, directly responsible for four of them (on government funding, intellectual property, the art of pitch, and lastly a job fair.)

BPEP team with UC Berkeley vice-chancellor for reasearch, Paul Alivisatos

BPEP team with UC Berkeley vice-chancellor for research, Paul Alivisatos

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Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association

Dear reader,

I haven’t been very communicative lately, for I was kept busy by a very cool new venture : the birth of the Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association. The new association is meant to bring together over a thousand postdocs at Berkeley Lab, and provide them with support, career advice and bring feedback to the lab management about issues encountered by postdocs.logo_blpaNow that the association is alive and well (see the blog), I can tell a little about its story.

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Wanted : science tools for the digital age

The internet may still be less than 10,000-days old, it still fails to deliver for scientists.

By empowering institutions to efficiently track down the number of publications, pushing even further the drive to publish many half-baked ideas and follow the hype instead of long-term research. It is true that it had never been as simple to get access to a paper and makes life easier on many aspects– collaboration often just requires sending an email, but new hurdles have appeared, and these should be removed.05e2e400dd1165870b3787a527e4e753Here is a bunch of ideas on how to use the new digital tools we have at hand to make research easier and thus more efficient, and a limited overview of what we have now. Continue reading

Seminar & Luminaries

Here’s a bunch of resource where you can find cool seminars by some hardcore scientists (I mean not the kind of pseudo-scientific, inspirational talks that you’ll find over the web).

While I'm about to ask a question to Leon:)

yup, that’s me

In English

Feynman’s talk are an endless source of excitment. Project Tuva are a must-see, but many other videos are available on Youtube (Fun to Imagine, the pleasure of finding things out)

The Chua’s Lecture – Very recent lectures on memristors and chaos– fascinating !

The Royal Institution – very cool videos about science

Edge –  There’s a lot of cool videos on a wide variety of subjects

In French – En Français

Les Ernest – L’ENS offre un grand nombre video (15 min) sur toute sorte de sujets, par les plus grands experts du domaine.

Seminaire General du departement de Physique de l’Ecole Polytechnique – traitement nettement plus poussé (1h) sur un sujet particulier de la physique.

Enjoy !

Cyclotron Valley

I wrote a feature article for the Fall issue of the Berkeley Science Review (BSR) about the resources available for PhDs when they want to turn their research into companies.

Here it is : Cyclotron Valley

Cyclotron Valley (intial design)

One of the proposed cover designed (credit: Indrasen Bhattacharya)

Both research and entrepreneurship also require another crucial skill—flexibility. The academic must choose from many potential research paths and be prepared to alter his or her plans when experiments predictably don’t work. In the parlance of Silicon Valley, this is known as the pivot—an attempt to assess the validity of your current direction and then use that knowledge to devise another idea that works better.

This is part of my involvement with the Berkeley Postdoc Entrepreneurial Program (BPEP), the first association promoting entrepreneurship among skilled researchers, run by volunteers.

edit 12/20/15 : I’ve just read The Entrepreneurial State by Mariana Mazzucato. Quite interesting discussion on the (true) origin of innovation. Here’s a video that roughly summarizes the book.

Information in optics

Dear reader,

I’ve compiled here, just for you, three old article that I’ve OCRed and revamped a little bit. They are article with a lot of style and insight, that people sometimes cite without ever reading them… mostly because they’re not readily available. That’s the silly situation I wanted to fix.
– Enjoy !

Zernike – Physica IX, no 7 (1942)
Phase Contrast, A New Method for the Microscopic Observation of Transparent Object

Gerchberg and Saxton – Optik Vol. 35, No.2 (1972)
A Practical Algorithm for the Determination of Phase from Image and Diffraction Plane Pictures

Gabor – Progress in Optics Vol. 1 (1951)
Light and information” (still under revision)

Here’s a blissful excerpt from Gabor’s piece :

Light is our most powerful source of information on the physical world. Anthropologists have often emphasized that the privileged position of Man is due as much to his exceptionally perfect eye, as to his large brain. I was much impressed by a remark of Aldous Huxley, that we owe our civilization largely to the fact that vision is an objective sense. An animal with an olfactory sense or with hearing, however well developed, could never have created science. A smell is either good or bad, and even hearing is never entirely neutral; music can convey emotions with an immediateness of which the sober visual arts are incapable. No wonder that the very word “objective” has been appropriated by optics. But on the other hand it is probably the peculiar character of vision which is chiefly responsible for one of the most deep-rooted of scientific prejudices; that the world can be divided into an outer world and into an “objective” observer, who observes “what there is”, without influencing the phenomena in the slightest.

Tukey – Annals of Statistical Mathematics
The future of data analysis” (1961) — still working on it

Zernike – Physica I, pp. 689-704 (1932)
Diffraction theory of the knife-edge test and its improved form“,
translation by Anthony Yen (who went all in by redrawing all the figures !)


A gedankenexperiment by Gabor, to discuss the nature of information contained in light


— Thanks to Martin Burkhardt for sharing some of these pieces !

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Strawberry fields forever

Today, I was lucky enough to go to the screening of “How I Came to Hate Maths” in Berkeley, where I had the occasion to ask Jean-Pierre Bourguigon and Cedric Villani for a drawing.

Here’s what came out of it.

First, I asked Cedric for a drawing of a spider in a truck, for he his well known for his work on optimal transport, and because he has the habit of wearing a spider broach. He added his signature, a marsupilami– not bad for a Fields medal recipient !

Then, I asked Jean-Pierre to draw me a spectrum, since it is, to me, what relates physics and mathematics the most

A spectrum, by Jean-Pierre Bourguigon and a spider in a truck by Cedric Villani

A spectrum, by Jean-Pierre Bourguigon and a spider in a truck by Cedric Villani

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L’art et la science (VII) – Addendum

Cela fait longtemps que
1) je n’ai pas écrit en français
2) je n’ai pas ajouté de matériel nouveau sur l’Art et la Science.

Je vous propose de relancer la Z-Machine et de corriger tout cela dans ce post !


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Two new Nobel drawings ! (… and uncharted drawings)

I’ve been working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab for a year now, and I wanted to get drawings from the two Nobel prizes that are still active in the lab : George Smoot (N2006) and Saul Perlmutter (N2011).

They both proved very difficult to find, since they are often travelling. But today, the day before Thanksgiving, I was particularly in luck : I spotted these two guys at the cafeteria !

The time I came back to my office to grab my notebook, Saul Perlmutter was gone, but George Smoot was still here !
I asked him to draw me a picture of the Cosmic Microwave Background. Here’s the result :

Smoot's drawing

Smoot’s drawing

However, Saul Perlmutter had left. But… I knew where his office was. I went there; we talked a little bit.
A little earlier on, my friend Josquin told me that I would rather ask him a picture of a Supernova, probably easier to draw that the idea of universe expansion. Saul told me that this picture wouldn’t be personal, since his mind has been infused by the commonly accepted picture, and proposed to draw me a chart of the accelerating universe :

Perlmutter's drawing

Perlmutter’s drawing

There we go ! (You can check my collection of noble drawings here)

Last month, I had the occasion to attend Uncharted, advertised as the local SXSW, thanks to a scholarship.

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