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

Bertrand Russell, on Free Will

Happy New year !

The notion of free will is a very interesting one, and as we are living in a time where people are talking of robot intelligence and where people are still adamant about religion and what they call or perceive as “freedom”, I think it’s only fair to remind this brilliant excerpt from “Religion and Science” by the late Bertrand Russell, that among all the great things he wrote struck me with its clarity and depth.

russell_color(yeah, I’m bootstrapping on Maria Popova’s Brainpickings !)

Psychology and physiology, in so far as they bear upon the question of free will, tend to make it improbable. Work on internal secretions, increased knowledge of function of different part of the brain, Pavlov’s investigations of conditioned reflexes, and the psycho-analytic study of the effects of repressed memories and desires, have all contributed to the discovery of causal laws governing mental phenomena. None of them, of course, have disproved the possibility of free will, but the have made it highly probable that, if uncaused volitions do ever occur, they are very rare.

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.

Art by Art

Back in november, I met Art McDonald, who had bee recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (together with Takaaki Kajita), for its research in determining whether neutrinos have a mass or not– now we know they do, but we don’t know how much !

His big tool, the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) has a cool name, and I asked him to draw a snowflake. He wasn’t very sure how to do it, but he had a pin’s to help him :

Art MacDonald Drawing

Art MacDonald’s drawing

That’s a great addition to my collection ! I thought Jennifer Doudna would be promoted to the list too, but… not yet!

Gamification of terror ?

note : please do not take this post as an offense against facebook, the social network. I have great respect for their work, and I have many good friends working there. But sometimes, things get a little out of control due to emotion, and I want to make sure my non-French friends can visualize these things we’re being bombarded of, since facebook has territory bubbles.

Friday the 13th couldn’t be more nightmarish.

Synchronized attacks on locations of high cultural significance of Paris (one near France’s biggest stadium, while two national teams were playing- think of the playoffs, for soccer, at the scale of Europe- and another at very popular indie music venue) hit France really hard, for a third time this year, though now hitting citizens at random.

Promptly, my big brother Mark activated the “security check” feature of facebook :

Facebook telling me my friends have "checked in"

Facebook telling me my friends have “checked in”

It’s the same kind of feature that was deployed during the last Nepal earthquake. But let me explain why things are *subtly* different in the context.

Continue reading

When the rubber hits the fan

Things are starting to look stark

when empty promises
Hot Startup Theranos Has Struggled With Its Blood-Test Technology – WSJ

meet empty markets
Techpocalypse is coming. Two questions remain: When and who? – Pando

perfectly_swell

There is no greater importance in all the world like knowing you are right and that the wave of the world is wrong, yet the wave crashes upon you. – Norman Mailer

There should be an app for that

Some days, it is hard to make a sense of the current times…

adverstisement tech startup muni facebook

All these people trying to sell me things that I don’t need…

A million guys walk into a Silicon Valley bar.
No one buys anything.
Bar declared massive success.
– Paul Stamatiou

skype                       twilio         wash.io
gyft         spotify        arduino        wise.io
lyft         appify         vimeo
Shyp                        venmo
swyft     

uber         paypal         box            youtube
tumblr       drupal         dropbox        roku    
flickr                      virtualbox     heroku
grindr       yo                            akamai
tinder       what's app     quora             
happn        wechat         pandora        pando
             snapchat                      mongo

tilt         vmware         airbnb         misterbnb
affirm       yesware        wevorce        homobile
stripe       xendit         spoonrocket    readability
square       squarespace    braintree      salesforce
slack        lifesum        meerkat        splunk
Wag          taskrabbit     periscope

High on life

I’ve discovered the joy of roller skating in San Francisco. Truly amazing:)

You can get all the drugs, the alcohol, anything you want to get you high,  but no matter what, it’s gonna run its course, you’re gonna come down. When you get high on life, out there with dancing, you can go higher than you can even imagine, cause you can stay as long as you want to stay there. And when you do want to come down, there’s no side effects, and you didn’t pay a thing, it’s totally free.

It was a sunny day, I slowed down a little bit :

Crisper

The other day, I had the chance to stumble on Jennifer Doudna in Stanley Hall… And I asked her for a drawing !

Jennifer Doudna's drawing

Jennifer Doudna’s drawing

Jennifer Doudna is well-known for her discovery, with her postdoc Martin Jinek and Emmauelle Charpentier, of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology, that allows live gene editing.

It might not seem that crazy, but it’s a total game changer (Radiolab had a good story about it recently). The thing is that until now, to modify the genes, one had to change the germ cell and create a new living being : an already existing being could not have its DNA reprogrammed. But now, you can cure genetic diseases and target specific genes that you would like to change (I don’t know if you can change the colors of your eyes by that process, but who really cares ?)

This of course brings a lot of ethical questions that they try to tackle— I can’t help but to  imagine how terrible a biological weapon targeting a population through specific would be.

For her work, DouDNA and Charpentier were awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Science, a prestigious prize put together by Yuri Milner and others. She will probably be promoted to my Nobel Prize list soon:)

edit November 10th :

No Nobel Prize this year, but another Breakthrough prize, from optogenetics !
Watch the related Breakthrough Symposium talks
And another piece in the New Yor Times : the CRISPR quandary.