sci_hub (1)

The New Napster: How Sci-Hub is Blowing Up the Academic Publishing Industry

There has been an explosive new development in how scientific research is read and distributed. It’s name is Sci-Hub.

Founded in 2011 by Alexandra Elbakyan (who was, at the time, a 22 year-old graduate student based in Kazakhstan), the site has seen a major uptick in the last year. In February 2016, 6M+ scientific papers were downloaded from Sci-Hub, including articles from major journals like Nature and Science, to more niche titles across many fields, by hundreds of thousands of researchers all across the globe [1]. Simply by punching in a paper title or a DOI (document object identifier), which is a kind of ID number for scientific papers, researchers can get immediate, free access to 50M+ articles on the site. Continue reading…


How Startup Ideas Can Be Modeled Like Chemical Reactions

I’m sometimes envious of people who studied subjects in college that correspond to their actual careers. Finance majors who become bankers. Computer Science majors who become software engineers. Must be nice to actually *use* the knowledge you spent four or more years studying. As a guy with two biology degrees, a career in marketing and (non biotech), startups is a fairly orthogonal direction.

However, I have discovered a few ideas from my academic studies that come in handy when thinking about startups. One of them is how a chemical reaction is a great model for a startup idea. But let’s first take a step back.

The Four Key Points Needed to Discuss a Startup Idea

I was recently in a conversation with a coworker about some of her startup ideas. She had one idea around revitalizing musicals that, while not her main startup idea, got me thinking about the best way intelligently discuss these types of ideas. [1] It boils down to four major questions / answers. Continue reading…

A response to Stein’s documentary on Intelligent Design

After watching a trailer for Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed trailer, I had a few responses to some of the points he is making. I agree that we should not allow people to bury free inquiry and stifle discussion on established ideas. I also think it’s completely to ask these serious questions about the meaning of life and the nature of the universe. Finally, I think there is a lot of dogma on both sides of the table and no one is left without blame.

However, I find three things wrong with just this movie trailer (beyond the techniques that all documentaries use – cutting people off when they say something that sounds bad out of context, and using negative words like “dumb luck” and ”mud” to describe the other side’s views)

1) Free Speech or Bad Research?
Stein is trying
to frame this as an issue of free speech. It’s ok to say whatever you want, but not every journal will publish you, and not every institution will hire you. I’m sure most newspapers or universities wouldn’t publish/hire you if you said that US national policy should be that all white people face 40% income taxes. This is not a violation of free speech.

2) Are All Nervous Suspects Guilty?
By emphasizing that “Darwinists are afraid”, Stein is trying to suggest that they are hiding something. I think what it means is that many scientists are concerned that since the theory of evolution runs counter to many of our “instinctual” ideas about life – the improbability of life (or as he calls it mud) leading to humanity – that it’s easy for people fall prey to common-sensical and at-first-glance convincing theories of intelligent design.

However, many of our instinctual ideas about other things are also wrong – earth revolves around the sun, humans are 99.9% the same as chimpanzees, centrifigual force does not exist… All these theories have been tested time and time again and shown to be correct. Like evolution.

3) How Established is Evolution Anyway?
Evolution is not something you choose to believe. It’s like saying you believe in gravity. Evolution and gravity are both fact and theory (wikipedia)and both are widely accepted by the scientific community as being true. However only evolution hits home for many religious people and I think that is why there are more people interested in attempting reconciling the two through intelligent design.

In Conclusion
This article is long, and I apologize. This is a topic I’ve been very passionate about since I arrived at Stanford and learned that only 15% of Americans think evolution is true. There is a lot more out there to learn – some stuff will be true, some won’t.

One place I think you can start at is Talk Origins – 29+ Evidence for Macroevolution It’s a bit dense, but the evidence is solid, with lots of links and best of all “Potential for Falsification” (what science is based on) is given for every piece of evidence.

Finally, a cool video that validates Darwin’s prediction of a moth with a 12 in tongue (Herg, I know what you’re thinking you sicko) living in the jungle.

Watson on Genetics and IQ – Is this really that racist? (quote)

“As we find the human genes whose malfunctioning gives rise to such devastating developmental failures schizophrenia and autism, we may well discover that sequence differences within many of them also lead to much of the observable variation in human IQs. A priori, there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so. Rather than face up to facts that will likely change the way we look at ourselves, many persons of goodwill may see only harm in our looking too closely at individual genetic essences.”