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Information Availability

  1. Sep 3, 2008 #1

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    The purpose of this forum is to explain, discuss and disseminate information on cosmology and it does that very well. But there are areas (on this forum or anywhere on the web)that are not covered (that I'm aware of) as well as it might be for those of us who are not as bright nor as well educated as many on this forum are. And that's the area of the multitude of papers availlable on Cornell's arXiv.org web site. I (and I assume many others) can read them, even study them, but get lost part way through and so miss most (or all of) the point of the paper.

    Is there a source (a web site would be great) where at least some of these papers are summarized in language, and in a way, that a first semester college freshman physics major could understand well enough to grasp the idea being presented?

    Frank
     
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  3. Sep 3, 2008 #2

    marcus

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    I think there is a discussion board devoted to new preprint postings on the arxiv, where anybody can read but only academics (presumed experts) can post. I'm not sure about this. But someone here probably knows and can give a link. However that would not necessarily satisfy the need you indicate anyway. the world is definitely not perfect!

    Although I don't have a link to offer, I would like to comment:

    1. I know what you mean. A website like that would be wonderful.
    2. There is a huge volume of preprints on arxiv and only a tiny percentage would be worthwhile to explicate for general audience. But we can only guess which those are.
    3. do you know "EUREKA.NET" ? they are a website that aggregates University PR department press releases on what their scientists are doing.
    4. If a scientist has just posted something on arxiv that he thinks is important and of general interest, then he has a motive to go to his University's outreach/publicity department and tell them---and the PR people are PAID to crank out explanatory press releases---and if they think it might be picked up by ScienceDaily or NatureNews or something then they have a motive to interview the scientist and get some additional comment and crank out the release and circulate it.
    5. so in some sense we have already machine set-up to do this, and at least some of the people in the machine are being paid, or are career-motivated. And it kind of works. But admittedly it, as they say, sucks. It doesn't work very thoroughly or well.
    6. So I for one would be very open to hearing anybody's suggestions as to how this machine could be improved.

    ===================

    In priciple you can write email to the author of the paper. that is why preprints on arxiv have the email address of the author! but he may not have time or motivation to reply.
    (sometimes they do though)

    One thing the existing system does not have is a slot where you can put in questions. If you have a question about something on arxiv and it has NOT gone thru the mill and shown up on Eureka.net then there is no place (except some place like Physicsforums) where you can post a question and say Hey I saw this on arxiv, what is it saying?

    If a new research paper has gone thru the mill and you see a link to a University press release, say in ScienceDaily or on eureka.net, then you can click on it and read the press release and it will have the publicity office email. Then you can write email to the author of the email and ask them to clarify something. And they are being paid to sit in the publicity office and do that kind of thing, so you aren't invading their time. But they may not actually be terrifically knowledgeable.

    So everything has its upsides and downsides. Basically the system is not overly responsive to questions from the public. but there are many blogs and discussion boards. Scientific American even has its own discussion board where people ask questions and talk about recent news and articles. that kind of thing SHOULD work. I don't follow it because I assume it is clogged with uninteresting communications

    Anyway. I wish you the courage and fortitude to keep looking and if you find some good websites that do what you have in mind please come here and tell the rest of us. this is a good thread idea and hopefully will get some results right here immediately with this thread!
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2008
  4. Sep 3, 2008 #3

    George Jones

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    Unfortunately, I don't know of any such site. You can try asking questions here, but there is no guarantee that anyone will (be able to) answer.
    You might be thinking of cosmocoffe,

    http://cosmocoffee.info/.

    Sometimes the discussion is general, but often the discussion is quite technical.
     
  5. Sep 3, 2008 #4

    chroot

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    You're asking for a website where brand-new research can be boiled down so it's so simple that a first-semester college student can understand it? That's ridiculous, unfortunately. Freshmen lack concepts, and concepts are the very tools that permit further learning.

    If a freshman only understands two physical concepts, then anything immediately comprehensible to him must require no more than those two concepts. You quickly arrive at a pigeonhole problem: how can you possibly express hundreds or thousands of different high-level papers with only two concepts? It's not possible, and would be a waste of time for everyone involved, authors and audience.

    - Warren
     
  6. Sep 3, 2008 #5

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    Warren,

    Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Why so harsh?

    Boiling down an interesting paper so that it's basic premise can be understood by more people is certainly not ridiculous. People learn by having their minds expanded which generally means being exposed to concepts that they find a bit above their present level of understanding.

    I must presume that you wrote your post without having read the first reply which was from Marcus, who, as usual, was right on the mark and also very helpful, again as usual.

    Negative posts such as yours in this thread really have no place on the PF in my opinion.

    Frank
     
  7. Sep 3, 2008 #6

    chroot

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    So, Frank, I shouldn't be entitled to express an opinion that differs from yours, if you deem that opinion "negative?"

    - Warren
     
  8. Sep 3, 2008 #7

    atyy

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  9. Sep 3, 2008 #8

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    Warren,

    I apologize. The last sentence in my post (# 5) was inappropriate and I'll try not to repeat such a thing in the future. Thanks for pointing out my shortcoming (I have lots of them).

    I was going to try to explain further in this post but I'd rather that we get back to trying to find sources, or some means, that might help me, and others, understand arXiv papers a little better. There's so much of interest there that I'm not able to understand as well as I'd like.

    Frank
     
  10. Sep 3, 2008 #9

    Chronos

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    Part of the problem is budding physicists first learn classical physics, which is merely an approximation. Upon entering college, they discover relativity has changed all the rules. This is not an easy adjustment. It's sort of like being told there is no Santa when you are 18.
     
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