Soapbox 5

Hi, everybody; welcome to “The Soapbox”.  Think of this posting as a permanent “letter to the editor” page, the watercooler we can all gather around from time to time and just chat. It’s recommended that you click on the “+Hotlist” tag in the upper right of this article, visible to members; this will create a Hotlist right-column box you can monitor for future newly-posted comments. This the place to come to get the latest updates, news and gossip about ongoing changes to the SciScoop  site.  This “Soapbox” posting is also to give you a place you can leave the editors a piece of your mind on whatever subject you want.

The Soapbox: May 2003

The Soapbox: June – Dec 2003

The Soapbox: Jan – Apr 2004

The Soapbox: Apr – Jul 2004

The Soapbox: Jul – Oct 2004

98 thoughts on “Soapbox 5”

  1. Try clicking on any of the links whose names begin with "Astronomy," for example.  They’ll probably take you to an error page or a blank page.  Those aren’t the only bad ones.  Looking at the html code, most of the malformed addresses have the same obvious defect: an additional string of text repeating the TARGET has been added to the proper URL, e.g.

    <A HREF=" Astronomy Now" TARGET ="Astronomy Now">

    should read

    <A HREF="; TARGET ="Astronomy Now">

    I emailed rickyjames about this, but received no response.

  2. I thank you for the email and apologize for not responding – been busy.  I promise I’ll scrub those links tomorrow.  Thanks for continuing to bring it up, and I want you to call me on this again on Tuesday if I fall thru.  This needs to be fixed.

  3. I was hoping you’d have a submission this morning!

    I gave mtigges a temporary email address for me in the last Soapbox, but I may as well wait until I switch providers, I HOPE sometime this week, before I list an email address regularly on ss.  I would be happy to “adjust” your submission grammatically before you post it for voting — I’m honestly not an ogre with a flaming red pen.

    Believe it or not, I enjoy making the good writing of others even better.  (I know — That’s weird.  It’s a right-brain thing, I guess.)  

  4. .
    …SciScoop readers dancing on the head of pi… er, voting does it take to put an article on the front page? Is it eight?

    A low number (five or six?) seems better, but I’m not sure of the number of voters versus readers, etc. It just seems to me that the more articles on the front page more often is adventageous.

    Yes, some editors/superusers should have the ability to directly move articles to the front page (go, rickyjames).

    I’ve always been one in favor of strong leadership deciding things instead of a democratic spreading out of the decisions among the population. That’s the strong mayor, weak city council concept. Or the benvolant dictator. But, hey! that’s me.


  5. Recently a very nice story didn’t make the front page. Currently the left hand side box containing the section stories is way down the bottom of the page. It’s below the Serenity box and the external interesting links box. I thing it should be higher, it’s too hard to see the headlines there.

  6. .
    …how long the articles stay in the voting que before being shipped to the “didn’t quite make it to the front page” section?

    I posted an very good (I thought) article at 2:30 in the morning my time and TWELVE hours later nobody can vote
    anymore…? Uh?

    I already feel the articles need an inordinately high number of votes to go front page, but now I feel the articles need more time to be voted on as well.


  7. Perhaps you forgot about this announcement in which rickyjames said specifically that he was hoping for a community site, not a newspaper.

    If you prefer a newspaper, I can’t change that nor would I want to – but the stated goal for this site is to have a community which writes, selects, and discusses science news.

  8. We just changed server providers that host SciScoop and I’ve got some additional changes in store this week.  In particular, the links in the “SciScoop Sources” section are going to get moved to the links page, the links for the current month’s sci-fi titles are going to get moved to a special page along with links to several previous months, and links to all these special pages are going in a small (squarish) box in the lefthand side.  I’m also going to tighten up (square) the Serenity box, which will stay put for now (I’m getting about 50-60 people clicking thru per day and I’m earning points towards a T-shirt!!!  Hey, I love Firefly, it’s a worthy cause.)  Bottom line, the section story list is going to be higher and more noticible Real Soon Now.  Today I’m checking the links in the “sources” box, found a dozen dead ones so far.

    I’m also planning to cut the number of default stories on the fron page down to 10, with the remainder spilling over into the “Older stories” box on the right side.  Gonna do some shuffling over there too.

    Hopefully all of this will cut the load time of a SciScoop page in half.  Drog recently changed from gifs to jpgs, which was the first step in this direction and got us to thinking about other steps we might take.  Moving over to janra’s new server company has shaken things up in a good way.

  9. As it says at the top of the story list when you click the “Moderate Submissions” link it takes a score of 8 to post a story. Period. (Note that this does not necessarily mean 8 people voting, unless all 8 vote to post – which does happen fairly frequently.)

    When a story gets a score of 8, the number of front and section votes are compared. If there are more front page votes than there are section votes, the story goes to the front page. If there are more section votes than there are front page votes, the story goes to the section page.

    Now, given the above, if 8 is too high a number of votes, then clearly stories have more than enough time in the voting queue, since they do get posted. If stories don’t spend enough time in the voting queue, then clearly the posting score is too low.

    Which do you prefer?

  10. If your question is directed to the readership at large, my answer is, it’s fine as it is.

  11. .
    …because I posted something and it didn’t get popped onto the front page. It just seems to me that there are two classes of articles: “front page” and “didn’t quite make it to the front page”. If this is a “Soapbox”, I’m standing on it.

    My answer to your question, janra, of “Which do I prefer?” is neither.

    I would rather see readers or members be able to browse through everything. If it’s going to be a popularity contest, then give them a (large) choice — not a choice of whether something is to be on the front page to read or not. It could be the answer to declining readership. Nontheless, if SciScoop et al wants to be a community, it’s not my decision.

    Part of me wonders, how politically correct must I be or what hidden agenda do I need to follow to get an article on the front page? But the bigger part of me knows that offering articles on SciScoop is like anything else — you win some and you lose some.


  12. The whole point of a community is the existance of peer pressure that starts to divert the articles in a certain direction.  You’ll notice that all of my political rants on WMD and Iraq haven’t graced the front page in quiet a while now.  Hey, I lost that soapbox when I gave up posting my stories to the front page with a single magic click and agreed to accept the group concensus.  I COULD still ram them right to the front page if I chose to do so – but it would make a mockery of what we’re trying to build here, so I’m not.

    As for articles, we need a lot more of them by a lot more different people before there’s a real choice here on SciScoop.  Still, we’re better off than when I was just ramming two stories per day straight to the fron page a mere couple of months ago.  Be patient – there’s been more growth in member participation here in the past three months than in the whole year before it.

    And although I didn’t vote one way or the other on your Atomic Vets article, I must confess I think that it IS a section-only article.  It’s not really “news” about some new scientific insight or effort – it was a single link to a historical website.  Interesting, but not multiple links or writer-train-of-thought that would lead to a synthesis of ideas or concepts, which is what in my opinion the best articles here have.  And those make it to the front page.  Unless they’re about Iraq, or the 4th of July.

    Hey, there’s a worse fate.  Quite a few articles die and disappear totally behind the scenes here because the author just unfortunately isn’t a writer.  You are.  We need you.  My advice is don’t get hung up on a single article.  We’ve got two dozen icons for a reason.  At SciScoop, you use a shotgun instead of a rifle.  And you keep reloading and keep pulling the trigger.  That’s why we’ve got an icon that leads to our first 1000 stories.  And why we’ll get to a thousand more, with yours as a solid contribution that hundreds of people who never say a word will appreciate.

    Looking forward to you next effort…

  13. Try clicking on the “SECTION” link in the menu bar.  There’s your story, mixed right in there with others that made it to the front page.  Clicking on the section link shows everything that’s been accepted by the ScScoop voters without distinguishing between front page and not.

  14. OK, I’ve scrubbed the entire list A-M and fixed about a dozen errors in the links.  I’ll do the other half Tues.

  15. .
    …compliment, rickyjames. As controversial or politically incorrect as I try to be (and I will not deny I try to encourage or display diverse points of view), at least I try to stay on the topic of the article.

    Last night falling asleep, I was composing a biting and fed-up “f— you!” message. I particularly don’t like being attacked personally — I can find better things to do with my time than read drivel. Then I wasn’t going to come back.

    In retrospect, I can see it’s not my Texas or U.S. based view that’s shortsighted. I’ve got more “seen-that, been-there-done-that, know-that” than most people. No. It’s the fact that a few people won’t question the things they read or have been indoctrinated to believe. Why should idiots ruin my day?

    Want to know the definition of an idiot? It’s someone who knows better but does the wrong thing. It’s someone who chooses a path for profit or pride or peer acceptance instead of doing right. IQ has nothing to do with it.

    So I think I’ll stick around a while and see what happens. Isn’t it true that some days you’re a bug, some days you’re a windshield?



  16. …Mindless Link Propagation.  Generally, stories that have a lot of links but no real story between them.  The idea is that the links themselves are propagating as memes independent of human thought, kind of like a virus.  A separate MLP category was added to later versions of the Scoop engine to make a place to put submissions that were basically just an interesting link.

  17. I noticed that the side boxes have changed. Much improvement. Looks great. But the last link in the serenity box is to a webite, rather than a website. Ever since it was pointed out to me by another reader it always grabs my attention. It’d be nice to change it. Especially since the typo might be unfortunately misinterpretted by non-firefly fans (like myself, sorry rj, but I hope you get that t-shirt).

  18. Thanks for the observation – I missed that til you pointed it out!!!

    Hey, I’ve made it to the top 10 out of 8500+ Serenity Browncoat members just about entirely on the basis of clickthroughs.  Now if they’d just put some stuff in the store there to buy with these credits like they said they would…

    Speaking of stuff to buy, let’s all get busy catching up on our sci-fi at the new and improved SciScoop Bookstore!!!  More to come – science books, especially.

    And I’m still tinkering with the boxes….

  19. Browsing the internet I found an interesting site that has to do with stem cells. The site is by a retired OB/GYN and it concerns the umbilical cord. The news that umbilical cord blood was the richest in stem cells made me take a look and this is what I found:
    After WWII, medical professionals were induced to act to curtail the yellow appearance of newborns which the infusion of the iron-rich umbilical cord blood created. Although totally harmless, the iron-rich blood-induced jaundice frightened mothers who demanded a “cure.” The cure was to cut the umbilical cord before it had completed infusion the baby, less blood meaning less iron and therefore no jaundice. Of course, medical professionals had believed this infusion was “overly ample” so the small amount of blood kept from the baby would do no harm. Later, to prevent drugs circulationg in the mother to keep the birth relatively pain free, the cord was cut early. These reasons became standard practice and no one questioned the loss of the baby’s blood as being detrimental. No one, of course, except professionals who knew or suspected that nature intended the complete infusion.
    When the stem cell issue entered the picture, some medical professionals began to speak about the importance of allowing the the umbilical cord to complete infusing the baby with blood as it had important considerations.
    On this website:
    the doctor outlines what may be the most important consideration, which is his belief that the loss of umblilical cord blood causes hypovolemia and is the cause of cerebal palsy and may contribute to other equally serious medical conditions of the infant.
    I was awed that this site was available and want to share it. Read and see what you think.

  20. I submitted it as a story in your name, where it will reach a lot more readers if it reaches the front page, whiich I think it will.  Thanks for reading SciScoop and thanks for submitting this article.  Please submit more item like this – you are a good writer, and that’s a talent not to be wasted.

  21. Interesting day.  First a Soapbox comment I’ve turned into a story, now a comment from a story I’m putting on Soapbox for general comment.  In the recent SciScoop nerve cell regeneration story member iGrrrl rightly points out some errors that were in the original press release – but then comments she thinks I’m not attributing press releases adequately.  I think I do, noting to her in my comment:  

    “Just before this article went into verbatim mode, immediately after after my paltry two original lead-in sentences, were the words-and-link “From a UCSD press release”.  I consider this adequate attribution that “tells your reader and give credit to the source” as you correctly note is appropriate.  If you will notice, I follow this exact convention (saying “from an XYZ press release” that is linked to the press release being quoted verbatim) in EVERY SINGLE ONE of my articles based on press releases.  The only thing I add is three-to six relevant links on various keywords already in the press release.  If anybody considers this some kind of con job or intellectual theft, please speak up.  I think it’s fine, and I’m so busy this style of article has unfortunately become the backbone of this site.  I’d love to write two long original articles every single day, but I Just Don’t Have Time.”

    Until we’ve got a steady stable of routine contributors that fill up the submission buffer routinely every day, me recycling press releases are going to be the foundation of this site for a while.  I think I pick pretty good ones and add good links.  However, the question of attribution is important and I want to do it right.  I think I am.  I’m elevating the discussion out of this particular article to Soapbox to see what everybody else thinks.  Comments anyone?  Is an overhaul in order, or am I doing OK?

  22. I don’t know how much more clearly you could say, “This is verbatim.”

    I may not be the most objective judge, here, seeing as how I called you Superman in an earlier post and you went to great lengths to dispel the myth :-), but as someone who enjoys WORDS, I think your intros are interest-tweaking, witty when the occasion allows, and nicely spiced with word plays.   Your titles are especially catchy.

    You scour your sources to find an immense range of topics for varied interests, and you
    also take the trouble to add links to the press releases which extend far beyond  the release itself, the “Like Water for Chocolate” link, for example, in your “Like Eggs for Rockets” article.

    You get no complaints from me, rj :)

  23. .
    …at the “moderate submissions” page and noticed that the “post threshold” is now “9”. I had thought it was “8”. Am I mistaken…?


  24. Janra currently has complete control over the threshhold and sets it to what she thinks the market will bear.  Think of her as Alan Greenspan.  

  25. .
    …is on his last term at the Fed. Any significance there? [chuckle]

    On the other hand, I have noticed that almost everything lately gets pushed onto the “front page”, and rather quickly, too. Once again, I might make the argument that relegating an article to “Sections” instead of the “front page” is unneccesary if SciScoop is trying attract readers and there are not that many articles being submitted.

    Of course, you could also argue that members (like me) ought to submit more articles. Especially since the membership is increasing.


  26. Once we’d determined that 8 was a good threshold, I set it to a percentage of the total SciScoop population. The population went up enough to push the threshold up a notch in the last few days, that’s all.

  27. I’m sorry, but your comment seems rather out of the blue, what the heck does Alan Greenspan have to do with anything?


  28. Your Atomic Vets Article was placed in the section pages because there were the required number of votes to send it there.  No one person sent it to Section instead of Front Page; it was a Group Decision.  

    Likewise, if any story goes on the FP, it got there because 9 people voted to put it there.  If that happens fast, it’s because we’ve got attentive voters.  That’s a good thing.

    We’re setting up the framework to be used from now on; that framework includes a place to send stories the majority feels are not good enough for FP and too good to totally dump.  Maybe we don’t need that Section Story function right now.  It’s in place anyway, because if we didn’t set it up during our April site reinitialization, what’s the criteria going to be for starting it later?  

    The decision was made in April to run this like a real Scoop site instead of my personal platform to talk about Iraq and WMD.  Section stories are part of the deal.  My stories get sent there sometimes; so do yours.  Welcome to true democracy in action.

    And yeah, I’d love to see more people submit more articles, whether the membership is increasing or not.

    As far as Janra goes, as far as I’m concerned she can keep her current role at SciSCoop til she’s in her 80s if she wants it, just like Greenspan.

  29. …should be attached to my comment “It’s A Variable” above to make sense, rather than started as a new posting thread as he has done.

  30. OK, that makes a little more sense now. It’s a little confusing reading all these top level comments when you haven’t read the threads that they should be associated with. Doesn’t he have to go out of his way to do that? I mean the “Reply to This” link is nice and handy at the bottom of the comment, whereas to post a top level comment he has to scroll back up to the bottom of the story? Does he like confusing the easily befuddled like me? :-)


  31. .
    rickyjames, the “Atomic Veterans” article is not a sore point with me. I get it and I learned a lot about submitting artcles — I really appreciate the format you’ve established as well as the process. I am also starting to see the concept of “Sections” versus “Front Page”. I guess it’s just a matter of reading the articles and getting a feel for this SciScoop community.

    What is this “Scoop site” you refer to? Ooooops, finally clicked the button through to the Scoop site. Interesting. It puts a few things into focus.

    In one sense, I feel a little bad about voting to “Dump” the “Evolution Robots” article, but I see that I wasn’t alone. Do submissions get a chance to be resurrected if they are corrected, improved, or rewritten?

    As for my janra comment, it WAS a joke. I’ve seen some of janra’s “edits” and I agree, she can stay.

    One more question: do people generally have their Comment Options set to display all the parents plus threads or do they just peruse the parent comments? It took me some experimenting to discover how to display everything at once.


    p.s. Dunno what the problem was the other day with posting comments, but thanks for fixing it.

  32. The new comments link in the the new “The Sciscoop scoop” box doesn’t return the same page as the “new comments” link does in the “In the past 30 days” box. That’s kind of annoying. Is it a bug?

  33. That the “in the past 30 days” box is supposed to be supplanted by the “sciscoop scoop” box. I guess they haven’t all been replaced yet :-)

  34. .
    …do the “hidden” articles go, the ones that reach the “Hide threshold” without going to the “Front Page” or sent to “Sections”? I’m curious — I was answering mtigges’ reply to my comment but when I tried to bring up the article for review, it was gone! SciScoop allowed the comment to be posted, but where?


  35. Only the author can still see a story that actually gets rejected. But you can see your comments (and other people can too) by following your “My Comments” link or the “User Info” link on any other person’s comment.

  36. It’s definitely an issue. I’ve taken to clicking on stories first just to get the link to the comments that seems to work correctly.

  37. After I posted that comment, I checked the links to see what difference there was, and found a mistake in the URL. Fixed it right away :-)

  38. “Do submissions get a chance to be resurrected if they are corrected, improved, or rewritten?”

    Resubmit it.

  39. .
    …whether the adjustment of the “new comments” number is in real time — i.e., every minute it drops the comments that are more than 30 days old — or whether it adjusts the number periodically (hourly, daily, etc.). The numbers have changed every time I log in is why I ask.

    I don’t really check the front page anymore, I just see if there are any new submissions I can moderate and then I click on the new comments to see what I haven’t read.


  40. Most mainstream news sites include a “Print this story” link that allows you to print the text of an article without all of the adjoining frames. Is there an option for that in Scoop? The stories are often long, and interesting, and would make good traveling reading, but I don’t want to print the whole page. In most cases, I don’t even particularly care about the comments (Though that’s not an issue, either, since the comments are seldom longer than the full length story.).

  41. .
    …and I agree. We could use the Browser File-Print menu, but like you said, that prints everything.

    I’d like to see something that would either print the complete article (with hyperlinks) or the whole article plus all comments. A choice would be nice.


  42. <tongue-in-cheek>Did I do something to offend an admin somewhere?</tic&gt

    I have visited the site fairly regularly over the last couple days, and each time, the Moderate Submissions box has told me 0/0 new. Yet I find that new stories are appearing anyway. This leads me to the following possiblities:

      Stories are getting voted through the queue at very fast rate, and I’m missing them. Not sinister, but surprising, since I’ve seen some stories I’ve voted on sit there for several days before.

      Somehow my ability to see and vote on submissions has been revoked. I hope not. I really like that part of the site, and my own personal contribution is almost completely in the voting. I don’t normally have time for anything else.

      RickyJames and co. are pushing stories through the queue without waiting for the votes. Acceptable to me, since I remember when this was regular practice, and I liked the site just as much (almost) then. I just thought that it wasn’t happening anymore.

    If it’s number one or three, let me know, and I’ll shut up. If it’s number two, I’d like to know why. Is it a bug in the system, or did I anger someone? Either way, I’d like to fix it.

  43. I haven’t posted anything directly to the front page in months.  I have, hawever, unilaterally given several stories display-in-section-only status (including several of my own) after they  have languished in the submit buffer for several days.

    I think it’s probably option one.  In the past weeks we’ve started tracking member logons and there’s 100+ members that log-on pretty routinely; only 9 of them are required to send a story to the front page.

  44. The best way I can think to eliminate option #2 is, submit a throwaway story as an Anonymous Hero and see if shows up for you to vote on.

    The way to eliminate #3 is, stop by every hour! :-) I’ve been seeing and voting on rickyjames’ and apsmith’s contributions in the past couple of days, and they do seem to be posting pretty fast.

  45. If you didn’t have permission to vote on submissions, you wouldn’t even see the “Moderate Submissions” link. Scoop’s polite that way, it doesn’t show you links to things you can’t do.

    Since there are 3 articles in the queue as I write this, I suspect it’s just a coincidence of timing that you usually visit the site when the queue is empty…

  46. .
    …Why shouldn’t registration be a prerequisite for participation (posting articles and probably comments) in SciScoop…?

    It seems like any “Anonymous Hero” (privately referred to as an “A*s H**e”) is hiding something or to scared to put their name on what they wrote. Is it too much to ask for registration?

    Yes, I understand the value of increasing SciScoop’s readership and the need for growing a community. Isn’t joining SciScoop worth something (like the priviledge of posting)?

    At the very least, change the moniker to something appropriate — instead of “Anonymous Hero” make it “Anonymous Coward”, “Unidentified Invertebrate”, or simply “Lurker”. We could even have a poll to decide the new name.

  47. the depression med poll on the front page. People stopped posting comments in early August. Not that it wasn’t a great poll; the discussion it provoked was interesting.

  48. is an oft used phrase. I also believe that one shouldn’t destroy the message because one doesn’t like the messenger. Consider the book written by an anonymous CIA officer, “Imperial Hubris.” It offers unique insight and probably wouldn’t have been written had the anonymity of the author not been guaranteed.

    Submissions can often be judged on their own merit, especially when it’s just an AH submitting a story written by some non-anonymous source.

  49. And while I know anonymity (with or without an account) can bring out the worst in some people, inappropriate contributions are easy enough to vote down. They don’t happen often, and they’re not a big deal when they do.

    I’ve never liked the “Anonymous Hero” tag though. Such a “this isn’t slashdot!!!!1!” kind of thing. And while this isn’t slashdot, that fact isn’t our defining feature :-)

    I’d suggest “Anonymous Reader” or just plain “Anonymous” instead.

  50. .
    …about the CIA book: the author was (and still might is?) working for the CIA at the time of the book publishing, and the book was approved for publication by the CIA.

    In the CIA book case we’re talking about a matter of personal privacy as well as possible national security. It’s sort of like the “Witness Protection Program”, where anonymity protects a person or family. That’s certainly not the case with an “Anonymous Hero” here on SciScoop (unless the poster just wants to be an “A*s H**e”).

  51. .
    All day today it has taken at least 10 seconds to load each page — the little progress bar stops at maybe 10%, then finally scoots across. Since I’m on DSL and this behavior is not normal, I’m wondering. Most of the time the pages or links (“new comments” Hotlist, “HOME”, etc.) just zip in. Thanks,

  52. Last week, rickyjames mentioned that he had unilaterally given several stories display-in-section-only status after they  have languished in the submit buffer for several days.

    Since there are occasionally stories that don’t clearly post after a reasonable time for whatever reason, I think it may be time to turn on the auto-post system.

    (Yes, I could just do this, but I wanted to talk over the values that should be used before turning it on, just so everybody knows what’s going on.)

    The “auto-post” system works by waiting for a certain time that is significantly longer than the average time it takes to post a story then if a story still hasn’t been posted or dropped by that time, it calculates a “score” for the story based on the votes the story has gotten and the ratings of the comments, to determine whether or not – and where – it should post.

    Auto-post will sometimes post a languishing story to the front page, unlike rickyjames ;-)

    If a story is languishing because it’s controversial and many people are voting it both up and down, and there are numerous well-rated comments attached to it, it will post to the front page.

    There are quite a few parameters, but I will talk about only a couple here: the timeout, and the scores.

    For the timeout, I think two days (48 hours) would be a good place to start. Most stories seem to post in about half a day; by the time something’s been in the queue for two full days all the regulars have probably seen it and the chance of it getting posted or dropped normally then decreases sharply.

    There are two scores that auto-post uses to determine where and if to post: the “front page score” and the “section page score”. If the story’s calculated score is above the former, the story is posted to the front page; if between the two scores, it’s posted to section; and if below the latter score, it’s dropped. The story’s score is a weighted average of story votes massaged to use the same scale as comment ratings (1-5) and comment ratings. Since a vote for section is worth 3.3 on this scale, the “front page score” should be higher than that, and the “section page score” probably shouldn’t be too much lower. Scoop’s defaults are 4 and 3.25, respectively, and I think they’re reasonable values.

    Comments? Questions?

  53. In an embarassingly short reply to your lovingly detailed explanation, I say: Good idea – I vote do it.

  54. Once the story is posted, is there any way for the reader to tell which path it took to be posted? Will the email sent to the poster be any different?

  55. You can tweak things so that the voting stats show up after the story is posted (like kuro5hin does), but that’s the only way for a reader to find out if a story was voted up or posted via auto-post. Except for the person who casts the last vote – for that person, Scoop prints a message saying that the auto-post timeout was reached, theirs was the last vote, and where the system decided to post the story. It doesn’t keep the intermediate calculations, though.

    The email sent to the author is the same no matter how the story is posted.

  56. Hi folks,
    Did anyone see what happened to a story I (think) I posted about 2 hours ago about the connection between emotion and heartbeats? It seems to have disappeared from the queue within an hour. Or maybe I didn’t post it properly (?) I didn’t receive any notification of rejection.

  57. It’s possible you hit “preview” instead of “post” and then closed the window…

    I don’t see any story written by you since the “exploded star” story in the story list (for admins, that shows every story, even the ones that get voted down). There’s only two ways a story won’t be in that list: it was never saved (ie, preview vs. post as I said above) or an admin specifically deleted it, which I doubt.

  58. I did that a number of times the first few weeks I was posting. Got really mad at myself about it too. It’s unfortunately too easy to do.

  59. From some of barakn and gypsysoul’s comments recently, it seems to me we perhaps should establish a more formal editorial policy here, and expand (somewhat) our pool of editors. I work in scientific publishing myself (though my job is on the software development side, not writing) and in our organization there are two kinds of editorial review: technical editing, and copy editing. The technical editors (with the help of peer reviewers) uncover errors of fact, omissions, or other logical or large-scale (like copyright) problems with an article. Copy editors ensure that our style rules are followed, grammar is correct, typos are fixed, etc. Both are needed, and useful.

    Any thoughts on adding some technical editors officially to our pool here?

    We could also give all authors freedom to edit after they post – or maybe not (my freedom to edit my own posts has led to some of rather dubious quality, I think).

  60. And I think adding a couple more editors would be a good idea.

    However, as far as freedom to edit after posting – do you mean turn on the edit queue? If so, we can pick up this discussion again…

  61. with you, too, apsmith.  My I please restate in kinder terms that I think barakn would make an excellent technical AND copy editor and just let it go at that?

  62. Yes, exactly – looks like Drog was the main one to convince on this, though your argument against there was apropos too. Drog? Ricky?

  63. .
    …to give authors the ability to edit their articles. Imagine someone submitting something and then changing it before it was accepted to the front page. Wouldn’t that be a “new” article that needed to be voted on again…?

    Also, at what point would changes be made and then noted for everyone to go back and see what’s new, if they can figure it out?

    Having the “make sure it’s right before you post” system in place now means better afticles.

    As for editing and corrections, just leave a comment and let the current crop of “editors” take it from there.

  64. the way the edit queue (being proposed here) works is BEFORE voting – you can’t vote on the article until it’s out of the edit queue, and once it’s out of the edit queue, it can’t go back in (unless it’s resubmitted, and all the votes on the old one lost). So I think that avoids one of the problems you are worried about, at least?

  65. Again, briefly, I’m for it.  Any tool we can give to improve the quality of articles I’m all for.  Also, what’s the point of all the little brief editorial comments we seem to get unless somebody goes in and fixes them?  Obviously somebody already does; might as well let the author in on the fun.

  66. I turned on the edit queue (and auto-post, since I hadn’t gotten to that yet) and adjusted the story submission guidelines accordingly.

    Stories in editing show up with a blue background in the “moderate submissions” page (stories you haven’t voted on have a grey background, and stories you have voted on have a white background).

  67. thanks for coming up with the new voting system for unregistered user names.  Great idea!  I think it’s actually going to work.

  68. … the author still won’t be able to fix those mistakes unless the story was posted to the editing queue in the first place, during which time there is no voting (that’s how it works, right?). And the reason, of course, that editing is not allowed after voting starts is that someone could drastically change a story after having received almost enough votes to post it. I guess we’ll see how many people use the edit queue. Hopefully, it won’t encourage lazy writing (i.e. relying on others to fix the mistakes rather than attempting to fix them yourself first). Probably not, let’s see how it goes.

  69. on the selection of your new and improved suggestion for what to call nonregistered posters. The ID suggests science, it isn’t threatening or belittling in any way, and it is rather witty.

    I, uh, thought this might be the better place to say “good job.”    :-)

  70. I rate it a (5.00/1)…
    even with the final period OUTSIDE the quotation marks rather than INSIDE <since the words are from an American speaker rather than a Canadian/British one :-)>

  71. I thought you may be interested to join in this discussion about the ball lighting claims by Clint Seward of Electron Power Systems. Enclosed are several postings I’ve had with these companies proposing plasma toroid fusion.

    In my searches for efficient home technology I came across EPS. I E-mailed EPS about the obvious synergies for their fusion home generator with the power chips of Borealis. I also contacted Borealis. I have been mediating an argument between Clint Seward of Electron Power Systems with Rodney T. Cox of Basically Rodney said they got the math wrong and NASA is right and Clint says MIT doesn’t get their math wrong. I thought you may have an interest and be of help. Both companies are proposing very disruptive technologies, Borealis in thermoelectrics and EPS in micro fusion.

    Mediating, in this case, means in the middle of e-mail exchanges.
    The issue seems to be Dr. Chen’s paper and whether his assumptions of the aspect ratio for the plasma toroids, match the model of Clint Seward proposed device. Will the ion stability condition be satisfied to maintain equilibrium?
    I’m in way over my head here and have been seeking help from interested parties, if you know any plasma physicist that may help that would be great. ( All pertinent papers are on EPS’s web site.)

    You may be familiar with Eric Lerner’s work, Focus Fusion , His theories on quasars, his book, The Big Bang Never Happened are very interesting. I spoke with him about my concerns regarding EPS’s fusion model. Below are his points and Clint Seward’s responses. Please share any thoughts you have.

    Focus Fusion seems to making progress, they got threw gate 1 for a 2 million NIST grant for a spin off of their fusion technology to build a low cost X-ray source.

    “Hi Erich,

    I glanced at the NASA analysis and the reply, neither of which address
    the fusion application. A few points:

    1)NASA is right that plasmoids, smoke rings of plasma can easily be
    crated by many approaches. The photos don’t prove that anything else is
    happening. As seen in our experiments, you need a lot of diagnostics to
    understand what is going on in a plasma and the EPS experiments don’t
    seem to use many other than the photos.

    2)The NASA report pointed out VERY serious algebraic errors, leading to
    errors of many orders of magnitude in Chen’s work. This is of concern to
    say the least.

    3)NASA’s stability analysis seems a bit simple minded, so I would not
    fully trust it.

    3) Shooting two plasmoids at each other will not necessarily lead to net
    fusion energy. Dan Wells worked on this idea for quite some time, but he
    also used an external magnetic field to compress the plasmoids when they
    hit and to keep them together. The problem is that if to plasmoid hit
    each other at high velocity, it is not clear that they will stick
    together. If they merely collide or pass through each other, the
    collision time will be short. With a velocity of 3×10^8 cm/sec, you only
    have a collision time of a few nanoseconds with a plasmoid a few cm
    across. To get net energy, you need to have about 3% of the particles
    fusing. For pB11 this will require ion densities in excess of
    3×10^22/cc. This is close to 100 times more than the densities claimed
    by EPS. Also, this means that the initial energy has to be nearly a GJ–
    a billion joules. That is a lot of energy. But to make it work, either
    you have to get the density up by a factor of 100 or make the plasmoids
    stick together for 100 times longer. There does not seem to be any
    experimental or theoretical reasoning shown that would indicate that
    much longer confinement times will happen.

    Over all, the EPS project is at a much earlier stage of development than
    focus fusion. They have some experiments with a few diagnostics and some
    theoretical ideas, but they have not demonstrated even theoretically
    that net energy could be produced. Our project has a detailed theory,
    published for the most part in peer-reviewed journals (or favorably
    reviewed through the NIST process), and experiments with good
    diagnostics that confirms at least part of the theory. We are also
    extrapolating from the huge data base of experimental studies with the
    dense plasma focus.

    Of course, they, like us would need money to do the diagnostics. But
    they should at least demonstrate theoretically that they can reach break
    even. I don’t see how they can justify the 1% or 10% collision they

    I hope this is of some use. That’s all I have time for on EPS. Glad to
    answer questions on focus fusion when you get them.


    And Clint’s response:

    “Dear Erich,

    Thanks for the info from Eric Lerner. We have information to respond to each of his points.

    1. First, be a bit careful of the NASA report. It was based on the papers we had published up until 1999. They did not include any information MIT gave in response to their comments and questions.

    NASA was correct. You need a lot of diagnostics. We have proposals to our sponsors to fund the diagnostics. We shall see.

    2. The NASA report did find algebraic errors. We corrected them all. But since it was not done before 1999 they elected not to include them or acknowledge them intheir report. In fairness, the reviewer, MSE engineering, did request further NASA funding to begin research into our technology, where they planned to include some of the information they omitted, but NASA did not fund any further work.

    3a. NASA’s stability analysis is not complete. MIT completed such analysis, and NASA elected to not include it in the report. MIT subsequently published it in a peer reviewed journal. That paper is on our website.

    3b. Eric’s concern about shooting plasmoids is well founded. Our method is much different, and we have found a way around this. Eric points out that it is not clear the plasmoids will “stick together.” Actually, this is not the case. Well’s data shows clearly that two toroids will indeed “stick together.” Read his paper that I have referenced in our documents.

    3c. Eric is correct as to the ion density. We can demonstrate that the ion density is in the range that he has noted. I might have sent you a copy of this paper, but will do so if you have interest.

    3d. We have completed theory and density of the order of magnitude Eric is calculating. In addition, we have calculations, not yet published, that demonstrate that two toroids will adhere together, will persist for several seconds, and will pass break even. We can make this discussion available if you have interest, but caution that it is highly proprietary.

    Eric is correct that from what we have published and from what he can see it looks like we are in an early stage. Actually, the EST is quite a bit further along. The theory is complete enough to show break even with a simple apparatus.

    Hopefully this helps.

    Clint Seward”

    Clint Seward recently sent me this e-mail, the applications, across such a broad spectrum, deserve your attention. Delphi…..Wow!

    “An independent consulting group in Washington,DC has just reviewed our
    technology for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. They just sent me a
    draft for comments, and I have included it below. It is based on their
    having talked with our technology partners.

    Since it is a full page of technical detail before the conclusion, I have
    copied the conclusion here first so you get the idea of their review.

    “MIT considers these plasmas a revolutionary breakthrough, with Delphi’s
    chief scientist and senior manager for advanced technology both agreeing
    that EST/SPT physics are repeatable and theoretically explainable. MIT and
    EPS have jointly authored numerous professional papers describing their
    work. (Delphi is a $33B company, the spun off Delco Division of General

    Revolutionary Impact: High – reliable generation and acceleration of these
    plasmas using compact mobile machinery could provide US forces with a unique
    generic defense against ballistic and cruise missiles, manned and unmanned
    aircraft, and kinetic-energy projectiles of all sizes, velocities and

    Please let me klnow what you think.


    Technology Review of Electron Power Systems (by an independent consulting
    group) for Office Of The Secretary Of Defense July 2004

    Technology Title: Electron spiral toroids (EST) as kinetic-energy weapons

    Development Organization: Electron Power Systems, Inc., Acton, Mass.

    Description: EPS teamed with MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center under an
    STTR grant to develop a theoretical framework and laboratory methods for
    reliably creating small (0.5-1.0 cm diameter) self-organized plasmas, called
    “electron spiral toroids” (ESTs) or “spiral plasma toroids” (SPTs). EST
    electrons travel in parallel orbits around a torus in densities sufficient
    to create a stable, self-sustaining internal magnetic field. These novel
    laboratory-level plasmas, whose physics resembles that of ball lightning,
    are unusual in that they remain stable in partial atmospheres without
    requiring external magnetic fields for their containment, yet can also be
    accelerated in a directed fashion to potentially very high velocities (e.g.,
    600 km/sec) and kinetic energies. Parallel work on formation and magnetic
    acceleration of “compact toroids” is also underway at DoE’s Livermore lab
    and at Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Kirtland AFB, NM, although
    these plasmas – which can only exist in vacuum – require large (multi-meter
    long) machinery that uses magnetic field pressures associated with “Tokamak”
    fusion reactors to create large-diameter (0.5-1.0 meter) plasmas, which must
    then be greatly reduced in diameter and volume to be useful. By contrast,
    EPS uses much smaller, cheaper hardware to repeatably generate
    high-ion-density plasmas that have remained stable in air for up to 0.6
    seconds at 1-Torr atmospheric pressures. The EPS/MIT work has drawn interest
    from MDA and DTRA for DEW/KEW applications and from Delphi Corporation, a
    major automotive electronics firm, which envisions an automotive mini-fusion
    reactor that would collide two small toroids generated by 1-meter-long
    “neutron tubes” and capture the heat from their collision.

    Potential Operational Payoff: used as KEWs, even a tiny (microscopic-scale)
    EST would generate enough kinetic energy to destroy any military vehicle or
    projectile operating in the atmosphere, including solid-rod anti-armor
    penetrators. These charge-neutral plasmas would be produced in large numbers
    in rapid succession to form a steerable beam. Impact velocities of 600
    km/sec, possibly several times higher, may be possible, based on MIT’s
    extrapolation of AFRL’s compact-toroid acceleration experiments for vacuum.

    – Effects: target destruction by kinetic impacts far above hyper velocities
    (defined by the speed of sound in metal and nonmetal targets)
    – Speed: up to 600 km/sec (MIT estimate), possibly up to 2000 km/sec (EPS
    – Range: endoatmospheric line-of-sight up to space/atmosphere boundary
    (officially defined as 62 miles)
    – Power requirements: EPS proposes using EST mini-fusion reactors, whose
    initial power could be provided by a car battery, to produce and accelerate
    its ESTs.

    Cost: no cost data available. The complexity of reliable mini-toroid
    formation and acceleration with compact, relatively low-cost equipment
    remains to be determined. Yet the fact that the EPS/MIT STTR work this
    technology has attracted interest from Delphi is very significant, as the
    automotive electronics industry is considered to be extremely demanding of
    functionality per dollar and pound (e.g., mil-spec performance at
    Wal-Mart-class ‘commodity’ prices).

    Estimated Development Funding, FY 2005-2011 (combined KEW, mini-reactor)
    – appr. $2M so far (Army Research Office, NASA SBIR, NASA-IAC (Institute for
    Advanced Concepts) grant, BMDO STTR for $1M). EPS estimate: over FY
    2005-2009, would need $0.5-$1.0M/yr (not including funding for MIT support),
    but with a Phase 1 and 2 SBIR, could achieve a lab demonstration (TRL 4-5)
    within 2.5-3 years of a proof-of-principle device that hits targets with
    visible kinetic damage. Industrial co-funding from strategic partners
    (agreements with Raytheon, Delphi (formerly GM Delco) and Titan Pulse Power)
    could accelerate this.
    -MIT estimate: with adequate staff and facilities funding (“at least
    $2-$5M/year”), could demonstrate basic physics within 2 years, followed by
    development of an integratable engineering package.

    TRL 3-4. MIT considers these plasmas a revolutionary breakthrough, with
    Delphi’s chief scientist and senior manager for advanced technology both
    agreeing that EST/SPT physics are repeatable and theoretically explainable.
    MIT and EPS have jointly authored numerous professional papers describing
    their work.

    Revolutionary Impact: High – reliable generation and acceleration of these
    plasmas using compact mobile machinery could provide US forces with a unique
    generic defense against ballistic and cruise missiles, manned and unmanned
    aircraft, and kinetic-energy projectiles of all sizes, velocities and

    It does sound to good to be true however with names like MIT, Delphi, STTR grants ,NIST grants etc., popping up all over, I have to keep investigating.

    I have been at this for a few months, you have seen the most important posts among my contacts with the Fusion players. Look over their web sites and tell me what you think. EPS seems the strongest and most advanced, and I love the scalability, cars, distributed power, airplanes, space propulsion, etc.

    Been sending my posted questions to academics, science magazines, and forums, not a whole lot of responses.

    Thanks for any help

    Erich J. Knight
    Shenandoah Gardens
    1047 Dave Berry Rd. McGaheysville, VA, 22840
    (540) 289-9750

  72. It’s been over a day and Ricky’s last two submitted stories still haven’t reached a score of 9 to be posted, even though they have received no votes to dump. Looking at the stats, our daily average hits have declined these past few months, for whatever reason. I know the post threshold is set to be a percentage, but we may still need to lower it…

  73. …think alike.  I’ve been wondering the exact same thing about resetting the threshhold.  Janra, do as you see fit.  The decline in membership is a little more worrisome to me, and I’ve got a few things to say on that in a few days.  

  74. I couldn’t locate any of our recent stories on google news. We used to attract a lot of people that way – anybody know how that got dropped?

  75. That happened aboutthe  time we switched servers, and I’m not sure whether or not it’s a coinicidence.  I’ve been meaning to write them to get back on their list; I’ll do it today.

  76. As of 6AM Central Time Oct 1 I am not seeing any of the topic icons on the front page.  The text is flowing all the way to the right edge of the column as tho the icon is not even supposed to be there.  I do see the “GO” button in the SciScoop Bookstore, which is a GIF.  When I go to the “SCITOPICS” page, I do see the icons there.

  77. If there were something wrong with the server, you’d notice all images going at once… plus I’m still seeing the topic images, even with a different browser and as the anonymous user.

    Check your display preferences, and see if the “show topic images with stories” is checked, maybe? And if it is, clear it, save your prefs, then check it and save, to make sure it’s properly set to “on”. The recent upgrade included an entirely new user preferences system… it shouldn’t have lost anything, but that’s always a possibility.

  78. But I do see a little Einstein head icon in my browser for the front page URL. Is that new, or has that always been there?

  79. I created that a few days ago. Is it okay? Or should we have another icon? I couldn’t think of anything else at the time…

  80. I had to turn off auto-post. It would seem that there’s a bug in it that has not been found before now because nobody but kuro5hin uses auto-post… As soon as SciScoop picks up the fix, I’ll turn it back on again.

  81. it causes an “Internal Server Error” when it tries to do the auto-post calculations. So it records the vote properly, but no auto-posting can get done. The error was in a mixture of how perl handles different variable types and its “default variables”…

    I’ve already written a fix; it’s waiting for testing, then a while after that SciScoop will get it and I’ll turn auto-post back on.

  82. OK, we’re going to close this edition of Soapbox – this happens occasionally to keep it from getting too long.  You want to do a few things to keep up with us:

    Go to the top of this very page and click the -Hotlist link

    Click on SOAPBOX on the main menu bar to get to the new Soapbox

    Click on the +Hotlist link on the new Soapbox page.

    See you there!  Keep writing and let’s all stick together!

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