Kardashia index and Top50 scientists on Twitter

Last July, Neil Hall, a researcher at the University of Liverpool, published an article in the journal Genome Biology, in which he proposed a new index to evaluate researchers: the Kardashian index, or K-index. The index measures how famous a scientist is on Twitter (based on the number of followers) in relation to how often his scientific articles are cited by other researchers (in peer-reviewed journals).

The K-index and the article that presented it were of course meant as a parody. The journal Science has now nevertheless compiled a list of the Top50 scientists on Twitter based on their K-index. Two interesting points: 1) the number of followers scientists can attract (which falls relatively fast when going down the list), and 2) the scientific fields that are represented (physics/astrophysics/astronomy and neurosciences/psychology seem particularly popular). Continue reading

Game of Thrones weather forecast and planetary system

Ever wondered when this fracking winter everyone is talking about is coming?!

Well, maesters have probably tried to answer such a crucial question, but it seems that their knowledge of the universe (not to mention their computer power) is widely inadequate to tackle the problem. So the people of Westeros are condemned to suffer the erratic season pattern that characterizes the world invented by George R. R. Martin in A Game of Thrones.

A bunch of graduate students at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, has now published a paper in which they explore what could possibly cause summers to last for years and winters for a generation.

Although they do mention that magic could do the trick, their main hypothesis is that of a planet orbiting two stars instead of one. However, other scientists are skeptic. As reported in a news article in Science, another astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena suggests a more “chaotic” system, for example a 3-star system, or a moon orbiting a gas giant.

In their paper deposited in arXiv, Kostov et al. conclude that, unfortunately, their “attempts to provide the good folks of Westeros with a reliable weather forecast are inconclusive”. Nevertheless, they also mention that they will turn their attention to the dragons, their carbon footprint and impact on climate in a subsequent paper. Looking forward to it.

Kostov V, Allan D, Hartman N, Guzewich S & Rogers J. Winter is coming. 1 April 2013. arXiv:1304.0445 [physics.pop-ph]