Hiatus for exams.
Ah, I didn’t want to do this, but it looks like I’ll be going on hiatus for the exam period (through mid June). After two more weeks in Cambridge, I’ll then move on to my next adventure in the UK, studying at the Centre for Particle Theory at Durham University.
In the mean while, I’ve been spending time thinking about what the “Web 2.0” can do for physics research. Until recently, the arXiv has been a relatively simple database of e-prints. The IOP’s eprintweb.org added some personalization features and RSS feeds on top of this. What’s the next step? There currently exists very powerful tools in the commercial sector that, I think, could really improve scientific discourse.
Every generation of physicist—perhaps particle theorists in particular—lament the fortune of previous generations. Nature had fascinating surprises waiting for them at every experiment, and all their brilliant insights are now explained simply to us in textbooks. Shucks, we could have thought of that! But with every new era we’re required to learn the techniques and insights of every previous generation before we can make new progress. The arXiv and online databases have helped us here, making information accessible to those not within walking distance of a science library. But the body of pre-requisite background knowledge is growing at a much faster rate than we are able to condense it into pedagogical packages. Students are older and older (or require more initiative at younger stages) before they can reach the front lines of research. I think the nature of the “Web 2.0” is ripe for a new generation of physicists to try to level the playing field. Using social networking, nerual-network analysis of databases, and a wiki-based structure for background research, I suspect there is a lot that can be done to facilitate the art of research. More on this when I get back in June.
Here’s a nice introduction to the Web 2.0 for those who are a bit older. 🙂
See you in June! (I may decide to post sections of my Part III essay on neutrino masses in RS1 if I feel like cobwebs are gathering.)
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