Friday Five for bio and health

Lately the news has been a little slow!  Everyone was either on vacation or trying to save the cat from Hurricane Earl.  A few biology and health sciences articles that did break can be read through the NU Libraries: 1. SAMe, a natural chemical often used as a dietary supplement, may alleviate depression. 2. In the latest issue of Nature, E.O. Wilson and two colleagues used mathematics to prove that even self-sacrificing altruistic behavior in animals like ants can be explained with the theory of natural selection.  For decades it has been thought that altruistic behavior was not consistent with natural selection and other theories like “kin selection” (protecting the survival of the family) were needed to explain it. 3. In sports news, an article in the New Journal of Physics explains the ideal spiral kicked by Brazilian soccer player Roberto Carlos against France in 1997.  (Watch it on YouTube here.) 4. This week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court sided with a psychotherapist, upholding patient confidentiality against Massachusetts Board of Registration, which tried to subpoena medical records from him.  The complete decision is available in Lexis-Nexis. 5. It might be a meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, but no comet or other impact 12,500 years ago killed the mammoths and other beasts, according to the latest issue of Science. And yes, we’re working on that new book by Stephen Hawking…I’ll let you know when it arrives!

Before the News Dies…

The purported death of newspapers sure is taking a while, and in some ways seems like just another trendy lamentation. First there was ‘The Death of Rock.’ Then there was ‘The Death of Cinema’ (which has died hundreds of times). Now, the death of newspapers will apparently coincide with the death of the publishing industry. However, there also appears to be some frightful truth to this predicament. The New York Times recently announced that it may be closing the Boston Globe. It seems that people everywhere, even journalists, would rather write something for the internet than publish something on a physical piece of paper that one can carry with them. What a pity. (I might note here that I’m the pot calling the kettle black by posting all this on a blog).

If the newspaper does in fact die, then let’s take a moment to celebrate the wide variety of newspapers that Snell contains. They really are from all over the globe. You can read newspapers from different areas of the U.S, such as The Philadelphia Enquirer, or the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Or you can read newspapers from other countries, in other languages, such as Die Welt, from German, where you can find out that ‘Deutschland sucht neuen Wirtschaftsminister’ (Germany searches for a new Economic Advisor). Or you can read The Moscow Weekly News (which comes in an English edition), Le Monde, from France, or The India Reporter, from India. It is helpful to have this diverse array of newspapers, of course, for the foreign students who want to read news in their own language from their native country. But it is also beneficial for Americans, even one’s who do not know any foreign languages. You are not going to read in The Boston Globe, at least not in a detailed article, that Germany is choosing a new Economic Advisor. Perhaps facts like this are, or will be, more important than they seem. U.S news, including its newspapers, has always had an aversion to world news. The only place in this country to my mind you can hear comprehensive world news in on NPR radio. Many of these newspapers have English editions, if not in print, then online, so why not be informed? (It’s also worth noting that these papers do mention all the U.S news that is relevant)

Will newspapers die in this country? Will this death be a payback for a disregard for the rest of the world? Actually, there is no direct correlation. Newspapers are dying because of an economic crisis, the internet, plummeting sales and overall poor writing. But perhaps newspapers from other parts of the world will remain. At least for a little while.

Web of Science!

There’s been some good “viral marketing” going on on campus already, but I thought it was also worth mentioning here — the NU Libraries now offer Web of Science! We’re super-excited to finally have this powerful resource available. For those who may not be familiar with this database, it’s actually a suite of citation indexes from ISI Web of Knowledge. It includes Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index — so it’s not just science, despite the name. The main reason it’s so great is how easy it makes citation searching. Say you’ve found a good article from 1994 and you want to see how many articles after that date list the first article as a reference. Web of Science makes this extremely easy. Just enter the info about the 1994 article — usually author’s name and the journal title will be sufficient — and voila, you’ll get a list of subsequent articles that cite it. Then you can see what publications cite those articles, and so on, tracking a trail of citations up to the present day. Why is this useful? Well, generally speaking, the more a source is cited, the more important it is within its field. Maybe it’s important because it first introduced some major new discovery, or maybe it’s important because it makes a controversial claim that many other people want to debate. Either way, citation searching allows you to quickly see who the major players are in a given field, and how the dialog is continuing. It can be more targeted than regular keyword searching, too, since you can use the citation trail to follow the discussion of a particular topic. I urge all you researchers out there to head on over to the Library website and check out this terrific resource. Enjoy, and let us know what you think, or what tips you have for using it!