Friday, October 24, 2014

What is a survery?

Presumably a survery is a survey that is stored electronically on a surver (like the rack mount one shown above. Actually it’s a humorous typo that shows up occasionally, like in a blog post on April 15th from the Eliot Management Group titled Crafting a Customer Survery. It also popped up on February 10th in a news article on the web site for the Independent (Ireland) which noted:

“In a worldwide survery of 9,417 internet users from France, Germany, India, Singapore, the US and the UK, around 14pc of users in India said they spent 12 hours a day or more on the internet.”

Servery is a real word that refers to a room or area from which meals are served. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary more specifically says it is either a butler's pantry or:

“a service alcove with counter or buffet between dining room and kitchen.” 

The related phony George Bush-ism, strategery, is shown in a brief YouTube video.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sombreros and proxemics

Today’s F Minus cartoon by Tony Carrillo shows a man sitting on the bench seat of a bus while wearing a sombrero with a very broad brim. Adjacent passengers are moving away, and the caption amusingly but incorrectly claims that:

“It’s called a sombrero. I believe that is Spanish for ‘personal space’.”

It made me chuckle, since I haven’t written about proxemics in a long time. Back on September 9, 2009 I blogged about Closeness, proxemics, and graphics. In that post I noted that there were four spaces or distances:

Public space - greater than 12 feet
Social space - 4 to 12 feet
Personal space - 1.5 to 4 feet
Intimate space - less than 1.5 feet

Perhaps Tony should have said intimate space.

The sombrero image was derived from this one at Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

10 Simple Rules for Better Figures

In the September 2014 issue of PLoS Computational Biology there is an excellent brief tutorial article titled Ten Simple Rules for Better Figures by Nicholas P. Rougier, Michael Droettboom, and Philip E. Bourne. You can read it here.

Their rules are:

1. Know Your Audience

2. Identify Your Message

3. Adapt the Figure to the Support Medium

4. Captions Are Not Optional

5. Do Not Trust The Defaults

6. Use Color Effectively

7. Do Not Mislead the Reader

8. Avoid “Chartjunk”

9. Message Trumps Beauty

10. Get the Right Tool

Their discussion on how to use color effectively references another article (Ref. 6) by Okabe and Ito titled Color Universal Design (CUD) - How to make figures and presentations that are friendly to colorblind people.

Before today I never had heard of PLoS Computational Biology. How did I find that article then? I went to the wonderful PubMed Central (PMC) full-text free magazine article database, and did a search on the key word storytelling. Then I changed the Display Settings to sort the results by Electronic Pub (publication) Date, and reveal the most recent articles. 

The image of a drawing class in 1916 came from the photo collection at the Library of Congress.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Top 10 things the average guy fears the most

Since Halloween is at the end of the month, magazines like to print scary articles in their October issues. In the back of Men’s Health (USA), on page 164, is one titled Sum of All Fears  - we scare up the terrifying truth about what makes men afraid, very afraid. The version posted on their web site is titled The Truth About Fear.

They include the following Top 10 Fears List

1. Heights
2. Being maimed
3. Snakes
4. Dental treatments
5. Injections
6. Spiders
7. Enclosed spaces
8. Flying
9. Sight of blood
10. Thunder

Curiously it does not list any percentages, and it doesn’t include fear of public speaking. (However, there is a paragraph titled Stave Off Stage Fright).

Elsewhere on the page there are the following eleven percentages:

46% say seeing their doctor is enough to scare them silly

37% worry their hairline will vanish faster than a camp counselor in Friday the 13th

27% of men survived a health scare

26% who as boys slept with the lights on

19% of men have been so startled they felt they were having a heart attack

18% of fathers said the birth of their child was the scariest day of their life

14% of men say they’re in constant fear of unemployment

11% of men think no villain would be scarier to face than Chucky

10% find life so starling they take antianxiety meds

10% are afraid their six-pack (abs) will disappear

3% still want the lights on, perhaps hoping for wicked-good sex 

There is no byline, and they don’t refer to where any of this stuff came from. I’d trust it only as far as I could throw that page (after tearing it out and folding it into a paper airplane).

For balance, elsewhere on the web site site is a web page with a list of 13 Things a Man Should Never Fear

1. Yoga
2. Having Her Drive
3. Black-and=White Movies
4. Superhero Cartoons

5. Small Dogs
6. Snuggling
7. French Cheese
8. Makeover Shows
9. Tea
10.Video Games
11. Country Music
12. Street-Cart Food
13. Staying Home Alone on a Saturday Night

The image was derived from this one on the Library of Congress web site.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A tenth presentation tip that will make you really stand out

On October 8, 2014 at her PPT POP web site Clemence Lepers posted an article titled 9 Actionable Presentation Tips That’ll Make You Stand Out. Gavin Meikle blogged about it containing Another Great Presentation Skills Infographic.   

Most of the Clemence’s article is an infographic that unfortunately makes a poor first impression since her title:


contains an extra word OF (or FOR).

My tenth tip (or commandment) is just to slow down. Set aside what you have done for a day. Go back and proofread it one last time. (Or ask someone else to look at it). Then send it out. When you don’t, you probably will miss that extra OF.

Clemence also quoted the statistic from a recent Prezi survey that:

 “...70% of employed Americans who give presentations say presentation skills are critical to their success at work.” 

I’d discussed that survey in a blog post where I noted that it was spun upward from less than 50% in the original press release headline which instead said:

“Presentations Are Critical to Success According to Nearly 1 in 2 of Employed Americans.”

On the other hand, 46% of employed Americans admitted doing something else rather than listening during presentations by a co-worker.

Back in 2009 I blogged about the popularity of top lists with various numbers of items and found that ten items would give you about 50 times more Google hits than nine items. 

The Ten Commandments image came from siervo on Openclipart.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The 2104 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, STED Microscopy, and the Donut of Darkness

This month I was a bit puzzled when comparing how journalists described this year’s winners of the Nobel prizes for physics and chemistry. They had an easy time with physics. For example CNET said Efficient, useful blue-light LED draws Nobel Prize in Physics. But, many fumbled on headlines for chemistry, like the Associated Press with 3 win chemistry Nobel for super-zoom microscopes, and the New York Times with Nobel Laureates Pushed Limits of Microscopes. At Wikipedia there is a jargon-laden article covering the broad topic of Super-resolution microscopy.   

The optical microscopes that won the Nobel prize were rather different from the brightfield transmitted light microscope (shown above) that you encountered in a school biology or science class. That type of microscope has a resolution of about half the wavelength of visible light. What’s different about the new ones?

First, these are fluorescence microscopes. The sample is illuminated using ultraviolet (black) light, which makes molecules glow (fluoresce) when observed.

Second, these are scanning microscopes. The sample is lit by moving a very narrow laser beam across the surface. The popular Nobel article titled How the optical microscope became a nanoscope described it as being like a nano flashlight.

One of the techniques that won the prize is Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) microscopy, which was developed by Stefan Hell. The depletion part of the acronym describes a very clever trick, which is the third difference. The sample is scanned by two coaxial beams: an inner ultraviolet one, and an outer depletion one that prevents fluorescence and thus creates a “Donut of Darkness” as shown above. I instantly thought of donuts when I saw Figure 2 from the Nobel article on the principle of STED microscopy. Apparently that wouldn’t have occurred to those Swedish authors, since donuts aren’t as common of a breakfast food there as in America. (Sweden just got Dunkin’ Donuts shops in May 2014).

You can watch a 39-minute YouTube video from the iBiology Microscopy Course in which Stefan Hell explains Super-Resolution: Overview and Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) Microscopy.

The image of an optical microscope came from the National Cancer Institute.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Is it time for National Face Your Ears Day?

No, that’s just a typo. Yesterday (the second Tuesday in October) was National Face Your Fears Day (which I blogged about back in 2012). For that occasion at Sims Wyeth just had an article with 17 Inspiring Quotes to Help You Face Your Fears.

You’d need to use a mirror (or something similar, like a still pond) to face your ears, as shown above in Edward Burne-Jones’s 1875 painting The Mirror of Venus.

Where can you find out about all those obscure days & weeks? Just look in the reference section at your friendly local public library for the latest edition of Chase’s Calendar of Events, which calls itself:

 “the authoritative guide to special occurrences, holidays, anniversaries, celebrity birthdates, religious observances, sporting events, and more from around the world.”