A Data Science Analysis Finds Beethoven's Style In His String Quartets

What is it that makes Beethoven sound like Beethoven? Fans of his music can recognize his style, and music theorists have thoroughly studied his pieces, but data scientists in Switzerland have now taken this one step further. They used data science techniques to systematically look at the musical signatures of Beethoven’s string quartets.

Classical music, like Beethoven’s, is encoded in a very structured way. There is a defined set of available notes that can be combined in various combinations to form chords or melodies. Western music theory puts some limitations on the combinations that are allowed. If you regularly listen to classical, pop or rock music, you intuitively know some of these rules, even if you’ve never explicitly learned them. Besides the overarching music theory shared between all these styles, they also each have their own specific sets of commonly used chords, chord progressions, instruments, dynamics or melodies.

To get even more specific, each composer has their own unique characteristic style as well. Some pieces are just “typical Beethoven” or “typical Mozart”, and composers can get inspired by each other’s styles as well. This isn’t just true for classical music either. Many bands, from The Beatles to Green Day, all have their own characteristic sounds.

Because music is so systematic, the patterns that make up these unique sounds can be defined as combinations of data, and these can be studied using some of the same statistical methods that scientists would use to analyse other datasets.

Source: www.forbes.com

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Boreal Light GmbH has announced that it will build 19 desalination units in several counties of Kenya

The German company Boreal Light GmbH has recently inaugurated a drinking water kiosk on the Pate Island, Lamu Archipelagi, a county in Kenya, off the Indian Ocean. To obtain this consumable water, it had to go through the desalination of brackish water. “Pate Island and all of Lamu County suffer from salt leaks in their boreholes as well as bacterial contamination. This water salinity affects not only households and businesses, but also farmers,” says Hamed Beheshti, co-founder and CEO of Boreal Light.

The company has built a desalination unit on the Pate Island that uses solar energy. It is capable of supplying 2,500 litres of purified water. On site, in its kiosks, the company sells 20 litres of drinking water for 10 Kenyan shillings, less than one euro cent. Affordable! The facility also provides water for drip irrigation in plantations where garlic, bananas, tomatoes and cabbage are grown. It has decided to install other desalination units in other counties of the country.

More kiosks to provide clean drinking water

Boreal Light plans to build 19 additional desalination units in Kenya in the coming months. The Berlin-based company recently announced that it has selected several counties to install these units. These are Turkana, Wajir, Kwale, Naivasha and Mombasa. They all have common features: they are dry or seaside areas where it is difficult to find fresh water. “After desalination and purification, we are taking another step towards mineralisation,” explains Boreal Light’s CEO.

Boreal Light’s desalinated water kiosks are currently available in Kitengela, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, in addition to the Lamu Archipelago. The project for new desalination units is a foretaste for the inhabitants of Mombasa County. The water it will consume in the future will come from desalination since a large factory is being built in its capital city. The work is being carried out by the Spanish company Almar Water Solutions and the Swiss company Aqua Swiss. The plant, which will be commissioned in 2021, will have a production capacity of 100,000 m3 per day.

Source: www.afrik21.africa

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A revolution in building roads

Think of it as a real-life LEGO set. Dutch-based construction company VolkerWessels announced plans to develop a recycled plastic surfacing material that is more durable than asphalt, which the city of Rotterdam is considering testing out on its streets. The project is a part of a larger initiative to rid the seas of “plastic soup.”

Asphalt, according to VolkerWessels, contributes 1.6 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year, which constitutes 2% of all road transport emissions, reports the Guardian.

The material is still but a concept on paper, but the company told the Guardian its aim is to lay its first fully plastic road within the next three years. As illustrated by the rendering below, the designed material would be hollow, making it a lighter and cheaper material than asphalt to haul and install (partly because the plastic segments would be pre-fabricated in a factory before laying them on the road).

The plastic road material, according to VolkerWessels, would require less maintenance and last three times longer than conventional asphalt.  And it would also be able to withstand more extreme temperatures, between -40 to 176 degrees Farenheit (-40 to 80 degrees Celsius).

When the material is fully developed, VolkerWessels will be able to test the project in a ”street lab” provided by Rotterdam, a section of city roads designated for testing. If the project is a success, Rotterdam will begin installing plastic roads throughout the city.

Rotterdam is known for its green initiatives. In 2013 the low-lying delta city worked to become flood proof  with a climate change adaptation strategy that covered building facades and rooftops with plants to help absorb rain water. In 2014 it created a waste-to-energy plant that converted trash at a plant 12 miles outside the city into energy, transported into the city by a pipeline dubbed a ”heatway.”

Source: www.qz.com

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Speed of light: Toward a future quantum internet

Engineering researchers have demonstrated proof-of-principle for a device that could serve as the backbone of a future quantum Internet. University of Toronto Engineering professor Hoi-Kwong Lo and his collaborators have developed a prototype for a key element for all-photonic quantum repeaters, a critical step in long-distance quantum communication.

A quantum Internet is the 'Holy Grail' of quantum information processing, enabling many novel applications including information-theoretic secure communication. Today's Internet was not specifically designed for security, and it shows: hacking, break-ins and computer espionage are common challenges. Nefarious hackers are constantly poking holes in sophisticated layers of defence erected by individuals, corporations and governments.

In light of this, researchers have proposed other ways of transmitting data that would leverage key features of quantum physics to provide virtually unbreakable encryption. One of the most promising technologies involves a technique known as quantum key distribution (QKD). QKD exploits the fact that the simple act of sensing or measuring the state of a quantum system disturbs that system. Because of this, any third-party eavesdropping would leave behind a clearly detectable trace, and the communication can be aborted before any sensitive information is lost.

Until now, this type of quantum security has been demonstrated in small-scale systems. Lo and his team are among a group of researchers around the world who are laying the groundwork for a future quantum Internet by working to address some of the challenges in transmitting quantum information over great distances, using optical fibre communication.

Because light signals lose potency as they travel long distances through fibre-optic cables, devices called repeaters are inserted at regular intervals along the line. These repeaters boost and amplify the signals to help transmit the information along the line.

But quantum information is different, and existing repeaters for quantum information are highly problematic. They require storage of the quantum state at the repeater sites, making the repeaters much more error prone, difficult to build, and very expensive because they often operate at cryogenic temperatures.

Lo and his team have proposed a different approach. They are working on the development of the next generation of repeaters, called all-photonic quantum repeaters, that would eliminate or reduce many of the shortcomings of standard quantum repeaters. With collaborators at Osaka University, Toyama University and NTT Corporation in Japan, Lo and his team have demonstrated proof-of-concept of their work in a paper recently published in Nature Communications.

"We have developed all-photonic repeaters that allow time-reversed adaptive Bell measurement," says Lo. "Because these repeaters are all-optical, they offer advantages that traditional -- quantum-memory-based matter -- repeaters do not. For example, this method could work at room temperature."

A quantum Internet could offer applications that are impossible to implement in the conventional Internet, such as impenetrable security and quantum teleportation.

"An all-optical network is a promising form of infrastructure for fast and energy-efficient communication that is required for a future quantum internet," says Lo. "Our work helps pave the way toward this future."

Source: www.sciencedaily.com/

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Dubai’s Emirates in $40m partnership for world’s largest vertical farm

Dubai airline Emirates has said its catering division will co-invest in a $40m join venture to build the world’s largest vertical farming facility.

The partnership between Emirates Flight Catering and US-based Crop One Holdings will see the construction of a 130,000sqft vertical farm facility near Dubai’s southern airport Al Maktoum International.

It will have a production output equivalent to 900 acres of farmland and harvest 3 US tonnes (2,700 kg) of “high-quality”, herbicide and pesticide-free leafy greens daily when at full production, according to the announcement.

Emirates said the project would produce crops using 99 per cent less water than outdoor fields and its proximity to the airport would cut carbon emissions for transport.

“This investment to build and operate the world’s largest vertical farming facility aligns with the UAE’s drive for more agricultural self-sufficiency, a vision which began with the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founding father,” said Emirates Group chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

“The introduction of ground-breaking technology at the facility also enhances Dubai’s position as a global innovation hub.”

Construction is scheduled to start in November and take around one year.

The first products will be delivered to Emirates Flight Catering customers, including 105 airlines and 25 airport lounges, in December 2019.

Crop One Holdings CEO Sonia Lo said the company was chosen after a 10-month search by Emirates.

“Our proven business model has demonstrated profitable commercial production longer than any other major vertical farmer,” she said.

Despite its seemingly inhospitable climate for farming, the UAE has a growing agricultural market.

New technologies that are less water intensive are being tested by several start-ups including Pure Harvest to grow crops including tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries.

Read: UAE-based Pure Harvest closes $4.5m seed funding round

This comes as the government seeks to improve the country’s food security by reducing its reliance on imports from a current rate of 80-90 per cent.

Robert Anderson (Source: Gulfbusiness.com)

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Arsenal's Emirates Stadium inks deal to source 100% renewable energy

Arsenal Football Club's 60,000-seater stadium in North London has become the first Premier League stadium to source 100% of its electricity needs from renewables, after the club extended its supplier deal with Octopus Energy.

The deal will see Octopus Energy power Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium using renewable energy generated across an array of solar farms operated by the energy start-up firm.

The move follows a year-long trial at Arsenal which boosted the club’s use of renewable energy. Arsenal’s chief executive Ivan Gazidis noted that it was “important” that football clubs take steps in this area.

Octopus Energy’s chief executive Greg Jackson added: “The technology to create electricity from renewable sources is now so efficient, that we can offer 'green' energy to our customers which is cheaper than many 'non-green' tariffs. Being green doesn't have to cost the earth.

"We have been delighted to work with such an awesome club as Arsenal, and are looking forward to continuing our partnership into the future."

While the deal with Octopus Energy makes Arsenal the first Premier League club to switch to 100% renewables to power a stadium, the club has previously implemented various sustainability initiatives at the ground in Ashburton Grove.

The Emirates Stadium is fitted with water recycling systems, while all surplus or waste food is sent to an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant, which is turned into energy that is then fed back to the club. The use of voltage optimisation equipment and LED lights have also reduced power use by up to 20%.

Gunning for green

The club’s former midfielder Mathieu Flamini is also making waves in the low-carbon market, after revealing an eight-year secret plan that has seen him set up a market-leading biofuel technology firm in a sector worth up to £20bn.

The French footballer set up GF Biochemicals in 2008, and it is reportedly a leader in developing levulinic acid (LA) – a green alternative to oil that can be used in biofuels, cosmetics, plastics and food preservatives.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, newly-promoted Newcastle United is pursuing a “carbon positive” status and recently installed a combined heat and power (CHP) system at its own St James Park Stadium, to reduce the football club’s emissions by more than 390 tonnes every year.

On the back of Manchester City Football Club partnering with an energy storage company earlier this year, edie took a closer look at how the club incorporated sustainable business practices into its multi-billion pound transformation, in line with its rise up the Premier League table.

Matt Mace (Source: Edie.net)

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Stephen Hawking, modern cosmology's brightest star, dies aged 76

Stephen Hawking died Wednesday after complications due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease. He was 76.

The world-renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist was best known for his work on black holes. Hawking theorized that, contrary to the prevailing scientific belief that black holes were inescapable for all forms of matter and energy, they actually emitted a form of radiation ― now known as Hawking radiation. He also played a key role in the mathematical effort to unify Einstein’s general theory of relativity with the emergent field of quantum physics.

Hawking used his position as one of the world’s most famous scientists as a platform to discuss a wide range of issues, from the existence of extraterrestrial life to the nature of philosophy. He skyrocketed to public prominence in 1988, when he published his first general-audience book, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. The cosmology treatise has sold approximately 10 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling science books of all time.

In 1963, when he was just 21 years old, Hawking was famously diagnosed with the debilitating motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Though 80 percent of those with ALS die within five years of diagnosis, and Hawking’s own doctors gave him roughly two years to live, he survived for decades, perhaps longer than any other patient with the disease in medical history. Hawking used a wheelchair to move around and a sophisticated computer system to speak for much of his time as a public figure.

The physicist’s inspiring ― and turbulent ― personal story was dramatized in the 2014 movie “The Theory of Everything,” which was based on a memoir by Hawking’s first wife, Jane Wilde. Actor Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Hawking in the film won him an Oscar for best actor.

Hawking was born on Jan. 8, 1942 ― the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death ― in Oxford, England, to Frank, a physician specializing in tropical disease, and Isobel, a medical secretary. He and his three younger siblings grew up mostly in the town of St. Albans, just north of London, in what has been described as a highly intellectually-engaged home.

At the St. Albans School, Hawking was an indifferent student, preferring to spend his time playing board games and tinkering with computers. But he nonetheless gained admittance to his father’s alma mater, University College at Oxford University, in 1959, at the age of 17.

Upon arriving at Oxford, Hawking toyed with the idea of studying either math or medicine before eventually settling on physics. His attitude toward academic work remained lackadaisical in college. He rarely attended lectures and has said that he spent only 1,000 hours on studies during his three years at Oxford, or just an hour a day.

Still, Hawking’s natural brilliance started to shine through as an undergraduate ― and he apparently felt that his tutors resented him for doing so well with so little work. When he submitted his final thesis, it was given a grade on the border between first-class honors and second-class honors, so Hawking had to face an oral exam that would determine his grade. Knowing his reputation, he reportedly told his examiners, “If you award me a First, I will go to Cambridge. If I receive a Second, I shall stay in Oxford, so I expect you will give me a First.”

He got a First. And, as promised, Hawking enrolled in graduate school at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1962, studying under the physicist Dennis Sciama and the famed astronomer Fred Hoyle. He became interested in the then-nascent study of black holes and singularities, the existence of which had been implied by Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

While studying at Cambridge, Hawking met Wilde, a fellow St. Albans native who was a student in modern languages at Westfield College in London at the time. Before the two started dating, Hawking collapsed while ice skating and couldn’t get up. His mother made him go to the doctor, who diagnosed him with ALS and estimated he had just over two years to live.

Years later, during a symposium at Cambridge on his 70th birthday, Hawking reflected on how much he struggled to stay motivated after his diagnosis. Why work so hard for a Ph.D. when you could be dead in two years?

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up. Stephen Hawking, as he celebrated his 70th birthday

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet,” he said. “Try to make sense of what you see and about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

Hawking’s motor control deteriorated rapidly; he was soon walking to class on crutches. Yet the disease spurred him to deepen his relationship with Wilde quickly. They married in 1965.

After receiving his doctorate in cosmology, Hawking stayed at Cambridge to continue studying some of the most essential questions about the structure of the universe. In 1968, a year after Jane gave birth their eldest son, Roger, Hawking took a post at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge and began the mature phase of his academic career.

Over the next decade, Hawking published a string of groundbreaking papers on cosmology and theoretical physics that made him a celebrity in the scientific community.

He and English mathematician Roger Penrose wrote key papers in the late 1960s that related the Big Bang ― the event that created the universe ― and black holes, proving that both were the result of singularities in the fabric of space-time. In the early 1970s, Hawking and several other physicists co-wrote a proof of the hypothesis that all black holes can be described in terms of just their mass, angular momentum and electric charge.

It was in 1974 that Hawking proposed what is widely considered his most significant theory: that black holes can emit subatomic particles, now known as Hawking radiation. Prior to his paper, physicists had been sure that nothing could escape the crushing gravity of a black hole. The existence of Hawking radiation also implies that black holes can eventually wither away and die, something that had previously been inconceivable to scientists.

Soon after publishing his paper, Hawking, just 32 years old, was named a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society. He briefly taught at the California Institute of Technology before assuming the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a post dating back more than 400 years that was once held by Isaac Newton.

Though Hawking’s family life flourished during this time ― he and Jane Hawking went on to have two more children ― his health did not. He reluctantly started using a wheelchair in 1969, and by the mid-70s, he could no longer feed or clothe himself.

In 1985, Hawking contracted pneumonia while on a trip to Switzerland. Doctors performed a tracheotomy that allowed him to breathe but rendered him unable to speak naturally. At first, he communicated using word cards, which was agonizingly slow. But in 1986, computer scientist Walter Woltosz gave him a device that would vocalize words he typed using a joystick. Hawking called this system, which has since been upgraded several times, “The Computer.” Its electronic voice was an integral part of the physicist’s public image.

Hawking first came up with the idea of writing a book about cosmology for a general audience in 1982. He said he conceived of the project to “earn money to pay [his] daughter’s school fees.” The first draft of A Brief History of Time was finished in 1984, but Hawking’s publisher felt it was too difficult for laypeople to understand, so he went back to work. The revision process became more complicated after Hawking lost his voice in 1985, but he managed to publish the book in 1988.

It was a massive hit: The book was on The New York Times’ best-seller list for three years and The Sunday Times’ U.K. best-seller list for nearly five. Its publication propelled Hawking to international fame that’s endured to this day. He published five additional general-audience books on science, plus one memoir and four children’s books. He also guest-starred on both “The Simpsons” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Stephen and Jane Hawking separated after several years of tension in 1990, which Jane said was exacerbated by her husband’s newfound “fame and fortune.” The physicist began a relationship with Elaine Mason, one of his nurses. After his divorce from Jane Hawking, he married Mason in 1995.

Hawking and his ex-wife did not speak for several years, but they started communicating again after he and Mason got divorced in 2007. Stephen and Jane Hawking later began living around the corner from one another in Cambridge.

In 2011, Hawking appeared on the Discovery Channel TV series “Curiosity,” in which he reflected on the origins of the universe and rejected the likelihood of both a God and an afterlife. (He once dismissed the latter as “a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”) Only in confronting the finite nature of death, he said, do we appreciate the remarkable beauty of life in the present.

“There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either,” Hawking said. “We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

In addition to his two former wives, Hawking is survived by three children and three grandchildren.

Source: HuffingtonPost

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Baring Asia And Onex Complete Acquisition Of Thomson Reuters’ Intellectual Property & Science Business For $3.55 Billion

Onex Corporation (“Onex”) (TSX: OCX) and Baring Private Equity Asia (“Baring Asia”) today announced their respective private equity funds completed the acquisition of the Intellectual Property & Science business from Thomson Reuters, for $3.55 billion.

The newly independent company will be known as Clarivate Analytics (beginning in early 2017), and will continue to own and operate a collection of leading subscription-based businesses focused on scientific and academic research, patent analytics and regulatory standards, pharmaceutical and biotech intelligence, trademark protection, domain brand protection and intellectual property management. The company’s many well‐known brands include Web of Science, Cortellis, Thomson Innovation, Derwent World Patents Index, Thomson CompuMark, MarkMonitor, Techstreet and Thomson IP Manager, among others.

The Onex and Baring Asia groups made an equity investment of $1.6 billion for 100% ownership of Clarivate Analytics, of which $1.2 billion was from Onex’ flagship fund, Onex Partners IV, and certain limited partners as co-investors. Onex’ share of the investment as a Limited Partner in the Fund and as a co-investor was approximately $420 million.

About Onex

Onex is one of the oldest and most successful private equity firms. Through its Onex Partners and ONCAP private equity funds, Onex acquires and builds high-quality businesses in partnership with talented management teams. At Onex Credit, Onex manages and invests in leveraged loans, collateralized loan obligations and other credit securities. The Company has approximately $23 billion of assets under management, including $6 billion of Onex proprietary capital, in private equity and credit securities. With offices in Toronto, New York, New Jersey and London, Onex invests alongside its fund investors and is the largest limited partner in each of its private equity funds.

Onex’ businesses have assets of $36 billion, generate annual revenues of $23 billion and employ approximately 145,000 people worldwide. Onex shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the stock symbol OCX. For more information on Onex, visit its website at www.onex.com. The Company’s security filings can also be accessed at www.sedar.com.

About Baring Private Equity Asia

Baring Private Equity Asia is one of the largest and most established independent alternative asset management firms in Asia, with total investments and committed capital of over $10 billion. The firm runs a pan-Asian investment program, sponsoring buyouts and providing growth capital to companies for expansion or acquisitions, as well as a private credit and a pan-Asian real estate private equity investment program. The firm has been investing in Asia since its formation in 1997 and has over 140 employees located across offices in Hong Kong, China, India, Japan and Singapore. Baring Asia currently has over 35 portfolio companies active across Asia with a total of 150,000 employees and revenue of approximately $31 billion in 2015. For more information, please visit www.bpeasia.com.

This news release may contain forward-looking statements that are based on current expectations and are subject to known and unknown uncertainties and risks, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated or implied by such forward-looking statements. Onex and Baring Asia are under no obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained herein should material facts change due to new information, future events or otherwise.

Source: BPEA

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Stephen Hawking Says Earth Only Has 600 Years Left, For Some Reason

Iconic cosmologist Stephen Hawking pulled out a rather extreme sales technique in Beijing on Saturday: trying to literally scare up support for a plan to send tiny ships into deep space by raising the specter of the apocalypse.

Speaking at the Tencent WE Summit Sunday, Hawking warned that overpopulation and extreme energy consumption will turn Earth into a fire ball by the year 2600. It's unclear what Hawking is basing this timeline on, or how exactly our air conditioners will melt an entire planet.

Given the famed physicist's record of concern with climate change, it's likely he's using a little hyperbole to make a point here about the need for a more sustainable approach to the use of our limited terrestrial resources. But to be clear, while rampant drought and desertification is a very real threat in the coming decades and centuries, it would probably take a catastrophic collision with a massive comet or dwarf planet to literally turn our planet into a fireball.

(I know you may have heard about just such a threat lurking behind the sun, but I promise you that one is a hoax.)

Hawking's latest bit of existential scare-mongering comes within hours of warning attendees of the Web Summit in Portugal about the apocalyptic dangers of artificial intelligence.

His message of doom in China, however, was merely the preface for a pitch to support Breakthrough Starshot, a Hawking-supported effort to send laser-propelled nanocraft to explore the nearest star system beyond our sun, Alpha Centauri.  Hawking says such a tiny craft could fly-by Mars in just an hour, reach Pluto in a few days and make it to Alpha Centauri in about twenty years.

Alpha Centauri's partner star, Proxima Centauri is thought to be orbited by the potentially habitable planet Proxima b. If all goes perfectly, the Breakthrough Starshot team hopes to use the nanocraft to take our first close-up pictures of a planet around another star, including whatever may or may not live there.

It's actually a very noble and exciting endeavor, so why Hawking needs to inject science fiction into the narrative to drum up support for his science project is a little baffling. But then again, here we are talking about it.

Source: Forbes, Eric Mack (You may follow him on Twitter @ericcmack and on Google+)

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Peer review: how to get it right – 10 tips

Brian Lucey is professor of finance at Trinity College Dublin. He is editor of International Review of Financial Analysis and Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance. Reviewing is a good way to keep up with literature and sharpen your own writing, says Brian Lucey. In the following, he shares some expert advice on how to be helpful, scientific and professional when reviewing a paper.

1) Be professional. It's called peer review for a reason. You, putative reviewer, are the peer. If you don't do it for them why should they do it for you? This is a core part of your job as an academic. It shows both that you are part of the academy and willing to engage in the interplay that makes the profession work. Reviewing is an excellent way to keep up with literature and a superb way to sharpen your own writing.

2) Be pleasant. If the paper is truly awful, suggest a reject but don't engage in ad hominum remarks. Rejection should be a positive experience for all. Don't say things in a peer review that you would not say to the person's face in a presentation or in a bar after a conference.

3) Read the invite. When you receive an email inviting you to review a paper, most journals will provide a link to either accept and or reject. Don't respond to the editor with a long apology about how you would love to do it but your cat has had kittens and you have a paper yourself to do, plus a class to teach and anyhow wouldn't prof von Juntz at Miskatonic be better? Click. The. Link. The invite tells you when it's due. It may also give you specific instructions, so follow these.

4. Be helpful. Suggest to the authors how to overcome the shortcomings you identify. It's the easiest thing in the world to poke holes in something. It is usually much harder to suggest how to fix them. A review is more than a suggestion to revise, reject or accept. It should be meaningful. It should guide the author on what is good and what is not so good as you see it. If it's too short, then it probably isn't going to do that. So be loquacious. Explain what is going on in your thinking. Suggest alternative approaches.

5) Be scientific. Your role is that of a scientific peer. It is not that of an editor in either the proofreading or decision-making sense. Don't fall back on filling a review with editorial and typographic issues. If the paper is rife with errors, tell the editor and give examples. Concentrate rather on showing the added value of your scientific knowledge and not so much on missing commas etc. If as part of your revision you think that the paper should be professionally proof edited (as I sometimes do with my own), then say so. A caveat to this is that the paper (and indeed the review) is an act of communication. If it is so poorly constructed as to fail in its communication role, then tell me that. Remember that in the end the paper is not about style but substance, unless the style gets in the way.

6) Be timely. There is no point complaining about how slow the paper publication process is if you're part of the problem. When you agree to review a paper with a timeline given (unless there is a really good reason), you should stick to it. Believe it or not, editors do track who is reviewing what and when. We have to balance the natural tendency to give more reviews to those who do most, with a realisation that people are doing this essentially pro bono and have limited time. So the timeframe we give is designed to be timely but mildly pressurising. Deadlines are good. Stick to them.

7) Be realistic. Be realistic about the work presented, changes you suggest and your role. You as a reviewer are part of the process. You don't have final say on the determination of the manuscript. I, as editor, have that. Sometimes editors override the suggestions of reviewers (hopefully with good reasons). You can, and in that case engage, in a dialog with the editor as to why – ideally this is a learning opportunity for all. Sometimes this overriding is because the bar being set by the reviewer is too high for that paper. Data may not be available, a paradigm suggested not appropriate. These may be useful suggestions for another paper but each paper is, or should be, one main idea.

8) Be empathetic. Think of the best review you have gotten in terms of guiding a paper forward. Then think of the worst. Which would you rather get on average? Then put yourself into the shoes of the author whose paper you are reviewing. Where along the scale will your review fall? What goes around comes around and therefore ensuring that your reviews are scientific, helpful and courteous is a good idea.

9) Be open. Unless it's a review for the Journal of Incredible Specialisation, specialists and generalists both have a role to play. Editors, especially of general interest journals, will try to get both specialised and more general reviewers. Saying "it's not my area" is rarely an excuse, especially when you have recently published a very closely related paper. Saying "I'm only one of the authors" in response, doesn't cut it either. Editors try to balance reviews. That is why we ask for a number of reviewers. We may want a generalist, a subject specialist, someone with experience in the methodology and someone whose work is being critiqued. If we ask you then assume you have a valid and useful role to play.

10) Be organised. A review is, like a paper, a communication. It therefore requires structure and a logical flow. It is not possible to critique a paper for logical holes, grammatical howlers, poor structure etc if your critique is itself rife with these flaws. Draft the review as you go along, then redraft. Most publishers provide short guides on structuring a peer review on their website. Read some of these and follow the main principles. At the start, give a brief one or two sentence overview of your review. Then give feedback on the following: paper structure, the quality of data sources and methods of investigation used, specific issues on the methods and methodologies used (yes, there is a difference), logical flow of argument (or lack thereof), and validity of conclusions drawn. Then comment on style, voice and lexical concerns and choices, giving suggestions on how to improve.

Source: Higher Education Network, Guardian

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‘Clean meat’ start-up Memphis Meats raises $17m in funding

Cargill, Bill Gates and Richard Branson are among the backers of US ‘clean meat’ company Memphis Meats, which has completed a $17 million fundraising round.

The round was led by venture capital firm DFJ, with further financial support from Atomico, New Crop Capital, SOSV, Fifty Years, KBW Ventures, Inevitable Ventures, Suzy and Jack Welch, Kyle Vogt, and Kimbal Musk.

San Francisco-based Memphis Meats produces beef, chicken and duck from animal cells. The company grows meat in tanks by feeding sugar, oxygen and nutrients to living cells. It has now raised a total of $22 million.

Memphis Meats plans to use the funds to continue developing products, to accelerate its work in scaling up clean meat production, and to reduce production costs to levels comparable to – and ultimately below – conventional meat costs.

The company expects to quadruple its headcount, and has already begun growing its team of chefs and scientists.

CEO of Memphis Meats Uma Valeti said the company aims to bring meat to consumers in a more sustainable, affordable and delicious way.

“Meat demand is growing rapidly around the world,” he said. “We want the world to keep eating what it loves. However, the way conventional meat is produced today creates challenges for the environment, animal welfare and human health.

“These are problems that everyone wants to solve, and we can solve them by bringing this incredible group of partners under one tent. This group will help us accelerate our progress significantly.”

President of growth ventures at Cargill Protein Sonya McCullum said: “We are committed to growing our traditional protein business and investing in innovative new proteins to ultimately provide a complete basket of goods to our customers.

“Our investment in Memphis Meats is an exciting way for Cargill to explore the potential in this growing segment of the protein market.”

DFJ partner Steve Jurveston, who will join the Memphis Meats board of directors, believes clean meat is an ‘enormous technological shift’ for humanity.

“This is a moment where the investment potential and the potential to do good for the world are both off the charts,” he said. “Investors have been watching this space for years, and Memphis Meats has emerged as the clear leader.

“It is thrilling to watch the team work, and to try the products, which the entire DFJ team agreed are the real thing. I am so excited for the future that Memphis Meats will create.”

Memphis Meats has said its process of creating meat uses about 1% of the land and 10% of the water needed for conventional meat production.

Earlier this month, meat alternative start-up Impossible Foods closed a $75 million investment to continue development of its meat substitute made from plants.

Source: http://www.foodbev.com

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Maryam Mirzakhani, award-winning mathematician, dies at 40

(Reuters) - Maryam Mirzakhani, the first and only woman to receive the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for mathematics, died on Saturday at age 40 after a battle with cancer, said officials at Stanford University, the California school where she taught.

The death of the Tehran-born Mirzakhani, who specialized in theoretical mathematics, came three years after she received the Fields Medal at an event in Seoul.

The prize is handed out every four years to honor mathematicians under 40 who make major contributions. Mirzakhani was 37 when in 2014 she became the first woman to win the prize, which was established in 1936 and is equivalent to the Nobel Prize for mathematics.

The mathematician received the medal for her work in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces, Stanford officials said in 2014.

Mirzakhani at the time said she had dreamed of becoming a writer when she was young, before taking an interest in mathematical problems.

"It is fun; it's like solving a puzzle or connecting the dots in a detective case," she said in 2014.

Growing up in Iran, she attended an all-girls high school and gained recognition as a teenager in the 1994 and 1995 competitions of the International Mathematical Olympiad.

She later graduated from Sharif University in Tehran and then headed to Harvard University in Massachusetts, to obtain her doctorate in mathematics.

Mirzakhani joined the faculty at Stanford in the San Francisco Bay area in 2008.

In recent years, she worked with Alex Eskin at the University of Chicago to investigate the trajectory of a billiard ball as it bounces around a polygonal table. The complexities in the ball's movement have long bedeviled physicists.

Mirzakhani, while solving mathematical problems, often drew on large sheets of paper while scribbling formulas on the edges, an approach that her young daughter believed to be a form of painting, according to Stanford.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, Jan Vondrák, and a daughter, Anahita. A Stanford spokesman said he did not have any information on where Mirzakhani died.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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Winning the Memory Game

Memory loss over time is natural, but researchers have found that you can take action now to build a better brain. Here are ways to offset some of the cognitive decline as you age, as well as new research into memory’s most vigilant foe, Alzheimer’s.

Most of us have done it. We climbed to the second floor of our house, for example, and paused on the landing to wonder why we’d made the journey. Had we come to fetch the phone charger? To collect towels for the washer? As we stand there casting about for a reason, we might also wonder: Is this just a normal hiccup in memory or could it be something more?

Memory loss and difficulty with recall are natural consequences of aging. They can start as early as our 30s and make simple tasks, like remembering a word or a person’s name, take a little longer. While normal, these lapses of recall can be scary. We wonder if it portends something more serious.

In fact, surveys have shown that more people are afraid of losing their memory through Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia than they are of dying from cancer, according to Constantine Lyketsos, director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center. “What makes us people are those higher functions [like memory],” he says. “It cuts close to the bone to think we are going to lose our personhood by losing those very unique capacities.”

Continued here

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The Final Hurdle: Persuasive Responses to Peer Review


The revision process can represent a golden opportunity to enhance your work based upon input from the reviewers. With this in mind, you can respond in a way that maximizes your chances of having your paper accepted upon resubmission.

Peer review can be one of the most challenging aspects of publishing your work, and many people find the process frustrating. Like many researchers and academics, you may find that after working hard to gather your data and findings in a manuscript and sending it to your chosen journal, the journal’s response is “maybe,” rather than the straightforward acceptance you had hoped for.

The vast majority of manuscripts are not accepted without revision, and the process of revising a manuscript in light of the comments from the reviewers can greatly improve its quality. In this sense, the revision process can represent a golden opportunity to enhance your work based upon input from the reviewers. With this in mind, you can respond in a way that maximizes your chances of having your paper accepted upon resubmission.

Responding appropriately to reviewers’ comments and criticisms

Responses to reviewers’ comments can take different forms. Perhaps acceptance of your paper will require that you do additional work to strengthen your study and support your arguments. Perhaps changes to the manuscript are necessary to provide a clearer description of your work and convey your ideas more effectively. Alternatively, perhaps the reviewers’ concerns can be addressed through discussion via your response letter. Careful consideration of the reviewers’ comments is therefore necessary to determine the type of response that is appropriate.

Don't miss our companion article, "Responding to Reviewers: You Can't Always Say What You'd Like"

Writing your response letter

Whether or not additional work is required to address the reviewers’ concerns, a key element in achieving publication is the letter you send to the journal editor detailing your response to the peer review. Typically, this response letter opens with a short letter to the editor, which begins in a similar way to the cover letter that you included with your original submission (for more on writing a cover letter, see this article)  but goes on to summarize your response to the peer review. It is an opportunity for you to briefly list what you have done to improve your manuscript and answer the reviewers’ criticisms, and it provides the editor with an important first impression of your response. Following this summary, the letter might close with an invitation to discuss your manuscript further if the editor wishes.

The opening letter to the editor should be followed by your detailed, point-by-point responses to the reviewer’s questions and criticisms. In writing these responses, remember that your goal is to convince the editor and reviewers that your manuscript should be published by the journal, and your responses should therefore convey a number of impressions. It is very important that your responses convince the editor that all of the reviewers’ concerns have been appropriately considered and addressed, whether through further work, changes to the manuscript, or polite and robust rebuttal.

The editor acts as the gatekeeper in the review process, but it is important to remember that he or she is on your side. Editors want to publish high-quality, high-impact papers, and they are using the peer-review process to determine whether your work meets their quality standards and is aligned with the interests of the journal’s readership. The editor will likely read both your letter to them and your specific responses to the reviewers to determine whether you have met the required quality standards in your work. As such, by striking the right tone in your responses to the reviewers, you can cast your work in a positive light and make a positive impression on the editor.

Making a positive impression

How do you strike the right tone when responding to reviewers? First, remember to thank the reviewers, regardless of the nature of their comments. Give them the impression, true or otherwise, that all of their comments were welcomed. Thank them for their positive comments and repeat these positive points before moving on to your responses to their concerns. Remember, the editor will be reading your responses, and this gives you an opportunity to highlight the reviewers’ positive impressions of your work.

Structuring your responses to the reviewers

It is a good idea to begin each response by quoting the reviewer’s comment before providing your answer. Then, you can describe the corresponding changes you have made to the text, give details of any additional work performed to address their concerns, or provide a polite rebuttal. While the first two types of response are relatively simple, making a robust but polite rebuttal is often more challenging.

Perhaps the reviewer’s criticism is the result of their failure to understand a particular aspect of your work or a statement made in your manuscript. In this case, the best strategy is to apologize for the confusion and provide clarification. This situation might highlight an area of your manuscript that needs further work to better convey the details of your study or its findings, and as such, you should view it as a chance to improve the quality of your manuscript. The ability to point to a change made to the manuscript can help give a positive impression not only to the reviewer but also to the editor.

In other cases, you may simply disagree with the reviewer’s point of view on an issue related to your work, and in this situation, a counter-argument that is well supported by your results or by the published work of others can support the validity of your work and your findings. This can have a major impact on how the paper is perceived by the editor, which in turn can affect his or her decision to either publish or reject your manuscript. It allows the editor to gauge whether your work is robust, i.e., will it be able to stand up to scrutiny in the field, which can ultimately affect the reputation of the journal. Some specific examples for phrasing your responses to reviewers in a polite and effective way can be found in the article “Responding to Reviewers: You Can’t Always Say What You’d Like” and in our downloadable resource on this topic.

Using simple stand-alone responses

As a final point, it is a good idea to include specific details of any changes made to the manuscript, quoting any changed sentences or passages, rather than simply giving page and line numbers, etc., to locate the changes. This provides the reviewers and editor with an easily understood, stand-alone set of responses, and they will not have to hunt through your revised manuscript to track down your changes. Similarly, be sure to define any abbreviations that you choose to use in your responses. This is especially important when writing about highly technical work.

Maximizing your chances of publication

In summary, peer review can be a lengthy and uncertain process, and receiving a list of criticisms of your work can be a negative experience; however, by viewing it as an opportunity and taking a positive approach to writing persuasive responses to the reviewers, you can impact the editor’s perception of your work and greatly increase the likelihood that your manuscript will be accepted for publication.

A post by Chris Showell, Quality Control Editor at Research Square,  AJE (American Journal Experts).

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The Cost of Knowledge

Academics have protested against Elsevier's business practices for years with little effect. These are some of their objections:

  1. They charge exorbitantly high prices for subscriptions to individual journals.
  2. In the light of these high prices, the only realistic option for many libraries is to agree to buy very large "bundles", which will include many journals that those libraries do not actually want. Elsevier thus makes huge profits by exploiting the fact that some of their journals are essential.
  3. They support measures such as SOPA, PIPA and the Research Works Act, that aim to restrict the free exchange of information.

The key to all these issues is the right of authors to achieve easily-accessible distribution of their work. If you would like to declare publicly that you will not support any Elsevier journal unless they radically change how they operate, then you can do so by filling in your details on this page.

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