Tuesday, October 23, 2012

EasyBib Just Got Easier! Now Available for Google Chrome!

From www.easybib.com

Attention EasyBib users!  Citations have gotten even easier since the company just released their browser extension for Google Chrome!  Click here to read more!  New to EasyBib?  Click here on our Library's website to learn more about the amazing citation tools available through this service.

                                         - Kerry Vash, Online Librarian, Blog Co-editor -

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Attention Science Majors!

Websites That Help Answer Your Scientific Inquiries!

From Wikimedia Commons
Click here for the specific File URL.
"Currently living on earth organismes mixture"
Amalgamation of photos by the following authors:
  Fir0002, John Severns = Severnjc, NASA,
w:en:User:Dmcdevit, Deutsch: Dr. Ralf Wagner
Uploaded by Mike Kr├╝ger at de.wikiped
(For individual attibution of each photo, click here):
[CC-BY-SA-3.0
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
If you are looking for websites that will help you answer a variety of scientific inquiries, then this MakeUseOf article by Saikat Basu, "For the Scientific Spirit:  7 Websites for Science Questions & Answers", will be sure to steer you in the right direction!  

Basu highlights the following websites in his article:

How Stuff Works

More than just a depot for fun facts (although, certainly, there is much fun to be found on this site; just click on the "Random Article" option at the top right of the menu bar to generate an interesting article on a completely random subject), most of the articles on this website are based on pure science.  To read more about the reliability of this amazing source, click here.  To focus solely on scientific topics, choose the "Science" tab from the menu bar and then choose from the list of subtopics which appear on a submenu bar.  Make sure to also check out the many science videos available!

Mad Sci Network

A network for those of all ages to ask scientific inquiries of all kinds, Mad Sci Network is "staffed and maintained by volunteer scientists and engineers from around the world." Basu also points out that "All questions are graded and range from K-3 to professorial levels." Search through the archives of the 36,000 questions already answered via the website's Search Engine or if you feel you have a frequently asked inquiry, check out the MadSci FAQs. If you don't find your inquiry answered in these areas, you may also address your question to Ask-A-Scientist. Before submitting your question, you might also want to review their stipulations for inquiries.

 
New Scientist

A science forum for inquistive minds of all ages that aims to provide "The Last Word" on "The science of everyday things", New Scientist online contains "an archive of over 76,000 content pieces" from New Scientist magazine.  According to the Open Directory Project, New Scientist is a "weekly science and technology news magazine, considered by some to be the world's best, with diverse subject matter." This website would be a great resource to answer a general scientific inquiry or spark your interest in a new facet of the ever-evolving world of science.  Basu points out that "You can search for anything without logging in, but if you want to ask a question, do the free registration...".   Just keep in mind that for academic research purposes however, the information on this website stems from a magazine as opposed to a scientific journal which would most likely be peer-reviewed, thus helping to preserve standards and reliability.  To find more suitable sources for your academic research, check out our Library's Subject Research Guides for Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science.    

The New York Times

The New York Times Science Q&A page provides excellent information online from their highly reputable newspaper. You can find out the answers to inquiries ranging from, "Do Germs Have Germs?" to "Can Animals Get Sunburn, Too?". Search the archives via the search box at the bottom of the page (just be mindful that the further back you go, the more you will need to consider the importance of currency to your specific topic). As it states near the end of every article, you may also email your inquiry to question@nytimes.com.



This incredibly unique "computational knowledge engine", designed by Stephen Wolfram and originally based on his computational software system, Mathematica, establishes the following prominent goal:  "to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries."  Wolfram Alpha strives to provide "expert-level knowledge", drawing upon its own database to deliver an organized collection of data in response to each inquiry, rather than the typical search engine’s response of a list of web resources.  A distinct answer engine indeed, Wolfram Alpha accepts inquiries in both natural ("What is five plus five?") and computational ("5+5") language. Click on the “Examples” link which appears below the search box to see the types of inquiries you might ask within the various fields of science.  Choose your area of interest (Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Astronomy, Earth Sciences, Life Sciences, Computational Sciences, Health and Medicine are listed as options) to see specific examples.  For example, clicking on the “Physics” link, gives you examples of the types of search terms you might enter (such as if you want to find out about Newton’s laws, you might just enter “Newton’s laws” or perhaps, you might have a question about Thermodynamics, specifically involving computations with Joule’s law, in which case you would enter your computation:  “Joule's law u=3V, R=1ohm for 10s”).  Although you may use Wolfpram|Alpha's free service without signing in, there are benefits to creating an account (click on the "Sign in" link at the top right of the home page to create an account; alternatively, you may use your Facebook ID) such as being able to set favorites, view your search history and customize settings.   A paid service, WolframAlpha|Pro, is also available with extended options (such as the opportunity to go beyond “text input” and enter “images, files and tabular data” into your search query for analysis).  

But on to the most critical question…Can you trust Wolfram|Alpha’s results?  According to their, “Frequently AskedQuestions (FAQ)” page, they "certainly hope so", citing their "automated testing, expert review, and checking external data...".  They also mention that their “data is continually being updated…”.  To learn more about the origins of their data, click here.  On their “About” page, they cite their "world-class team and participation from top outside experts in countless fields...."  Although they primarily retrieve answers from their own database, they do offer some unique search options as well that pull data from outside websites (such as their option to create personal “facebookreports” or for example, relying on data from businesses such as Best Buy to list product information for shopping queries).  So returning to the original question...Can you trust Wolfram|Alpha's results?   While many praises have been sung about this unique answer engine's accuracy, ultimately, it is really a similar answer as to many of these websites:  it is best that as a critical user, you verify the results via additional reliable sources, especially when conducting academic research.

Don’t forget to have fun exploring the wonders of Wolfram|Alpha as questions about Culture, Sports, History, Money & Finance, Socioeconomic Data, as well as many more categories (even Shopping!), are fair game as well!  Wolfram Alpha has the answers to questions as wide-ranging as “What was Green Day’s first album?”, “How old was Babe Ruth in 1942?”, “Where was Abraham Lincoln born?”, “What is the second largest country by GDP per capita?” Clicking on the “Random” option below the search box is also a fun way to learn about a totally new and surprising topic!  While factual inquiries with "a mathematical or physical answer" are Wolfram Alpha's main concern, Basu also points out that this one of a kind answer engine is not adverse to pondering more philosophical questions from time to time:  "...go ahead, ask what is life too!”

**

In addition, Basu highlights the following sites which may also contain very helpful information, however they should be examined with increased scrutiny as they are run by open communities where anyone may answer a question.  In these types of online communities, it is up to each respondent to prove his or her own credibility with their answer which is then ranked by the community of users.  Therefore, it is important that you consider each answer from a critical viewpoint where you must first verify the following: 
  • the credibility of each respondent (as well as the resources they might cite in their answer)
  •  the accuracy of the answer itself determined by checking against other reliable resources
  • the objectivity of the answer (is this fact or opinion?)
  • how current the information is. 
Our Library Tutorial by Faculty Development Librarian, Doris Van Kampen, on "Verifying and Evaluating Online Sources" can further assist you in making those critical resource decisions. 

Here are the open community websites Basu recommends: 

Reddit

According to their own description, Reddit is "a type of online community where users vote on content." Registered users (to register, click on the "want to join? login or register" tab to the top right of the page under the menu bar) may post links or write their own entries on any subject they wish, as well as vote on posts which impacts their ranking in order of importance, and thus their positioning on the page. In regards to science, Basu recommends "Reddit" as a resource which "can probably answer all your science questions as there are sub-Reddits [specific subject areas] on every branch of science". Click here to be taken to their question / answer AskScience page with a list of Science-based Sub-Reddits (including Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psych/Cog/Neuro, Earth Sciences, Applied Sciences, Formal Sciences, just to name a few...) found in chart-form to the middle of the column at the right of the page (you will need to scroll down the page to find it). Just click on the science sub-reddit link of your choice to be taken to that subject's individual page. In addition to having a question / answer Science Reddit, there is also a Science Reddit page where members write posts on scientific topics or link to outside scientific articles (also broken down into sub-Reddits; see the chart of science sub-topics located towards the middle of the right-hand column).  Although the "Science" area of Reddit attempts to establish a level of authenticity regarding their content, asking their users to keep their discussions "Scientific (i.e. based on repeatable anaylsis published in a peer reviewed journal)", it is of course, up to you as a critical user, to determine if the source (remember, Reddit is an open source community, where any registered user, expert or novice, may write a post) and information offered in each post can be considered reliable and accurate. Keep in mind also, that ranking may NOT be an indicator of reliabity or accuracy, as it will not be clear what terms were used in each user's voting process to determine ranking. 


Stack Exchange

Stack Exchange encompasses an incredibly broad range of information.  Basu describes it as a "network of specialized communities, each on separate subjects...."  Their Science link offers community options for many different areas including "Biology", "Chemistry", "Physics" and others...  Each area includes a multitude of questions and answers which are further organized by subtopic tags at the right of the "Questions" page.  For the most part, Stack Exchange's communities are open at this time where anyone can ask or answer questions, or recommend editing changes without logging in (however, to vote on the credibility of a respondent, one must log in or create an account). Be sure to check out each area's "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)" section (you can find the link in the yellow "Welcome!" box to the right of page; the "faq" link is at the bottom of the box; here is an example of the "Biology" community's FAQ page) to determine each community's ground rules, including how they determine the "reputation" of respondents which is based on community ranking (you of course, as a critical user, would still be wise to scrutinize on your own terms). 

There is so much to wonder about our world...Here's hoping these websites spark your scientific spirit!

                                               - Kerry Vash, Online Librarian, Blog Co-editor -

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

CHOICE(R)-Recommended Online Resources!

CHOICE® “is a publishing unit of the Association of College & Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association."  The following online resources were featured in the July 2012, Volume 49, No. 11 issue of Choice magazine (pages 5, 9, and 77, respectively) and are included here as items of potential interest for your future research:

General

The National Park Service:  U.S. Department of the Interior website provides valid information on "the history, current events, and culture pertaining to national parks in the US."  General subjects "related to nature and science" are also included.  Maintained by The National Park Service, this "well-organized and easy to navigate" site is intended for "general readers, students of all ages, and educators".  In addition, the site is a visual feast with "images, virtual tours, web cams, and multimedia presentations..." galore. 

Udemy, known as "'the academy of you'", provides "thousands of courses in a range of subject areas, from traditional topics like business and psychology to more timely topics such as developing iPhone apps."  It is important to note, however, that while most courses are free, "some have a $5 - $250 fee, based on individual instructors' pricing".  To access the free courses, you must "log in through a Udemy account or via Facebook."  The use of Udemy via Facebook offers the best of social media possibilities:  "students may connect with others in a class,...and with the individual who created the course."  The scope of materials available for each course is impressive and include "lectures, PowerPoint presentations, videos, audio files, and PDF documents."  The site is well-organized and "easy to browse" with courses arranged by categories.  Even better, if you are interested in creating your own course, you "may use the Udemy platform to design a course for free and then decide whether to make it available to students at no charge or for a fee." 

Social & Behavioral Sciences

Global Resource Directory, created by "globalEDGE...at Michigan State University serves as a digital library to several thousand high-quality online global business resources."  This very well-organized site is a favorite among "business professionals because most of its resources are freely available and would be challenging to locate by other means."  Each resource includes a "brief annotation and a review date...", while items considered to be "superior have a 'globalEDGE Recommended' logo,..., and appear at the top of entry lists."  Be sure to check out "the Multi-Country subheading under Research, which provides access to country profile resources, including a popular in-house product titled globalEDGE Country Insights...".  This product allows you to compare data and statistics for over 200 different countries.

                                                                     -Kerry Vash, Online Librarian, Blog Co-editor -

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Uh-oh! My Cell Phone Just Went for a Swim!

From www.makeuseof.com
A practical MakeUseOf article by Christian Cawley, "How to Save a Wet Cell Phone or Tablet," helps you realize that all may not be lost when your cell
                                                         phone or tablet takes a sudden
                                                         underwater plunge. 
                                        
So let's get the bad news out of the way:  Dropping your cell phone or tablet in any accumulation of water or accidentally exposing it to the relentless downpour of a Florida summer storm is likely to leave your device damaged beyond repair.  This scenario is nearly 100% likely to play out given one critical factor:  that you keep your device turned on after the damage.  Fortunately, even the rain clouds that wreak havoc on your electronic devices offer the possibility for silver linings.  You still have a fighting chance to reverse the damage, beginning with turning your device OFF immediately following the incident, especially as we all know that water and electricity don't mix, leaving the potential for electric shock.   As Cawley emphasizes, time is of the essence when it comes to trying to resuscitate your device and it is necessary that you "act as quickly as possible."  Click here to read more about some suggested courses of action for when your cell phone decides to take that dive. 

                                                -Kerry Vash, Online Librarian, Blog Co-editor -