Golden day for 23andMe: Time’s 2008 Invention of the Year

This is a golden day for 23andMe despite all crisis worries:

Mountain View, CA (PRWEB) October 30, 2008 — TIME Magazine announced today that the Personal Genome Service™ from 23andMe, Inc. has been named 2008′s Invention of the Year. 23andMe was chosen as the year’s most significant invention for its exceptional work in making personal genomics accessible and affordable.

From the industrial point of view what are the components of success here besides the obviously good team:

- mission: big, Google-sized mission: revolution of health care by personal genetic information as the source of upcoming personalized medicine

- biotechnology: based on the highest available technology platforms in microarrays (Illumina) (watch out, next gen sequencing is in the corner!)

- capital investment and network effect: I can only repeat myself:  23andMe is probably the most well-connected and backed startup in the history of Silicon Valley.(photo: happy 23andMe founders and early customers)

- information technology the cool and user-friendly factor of the browser based service is really amazing (in the past couple of weeks I demonstrated it to a bunch of people and even those were able to catch the essence of the available information who are older, web-unsavvy)

- simplicity of service: you just spit 2ml into a tube and FedEx it

- most aggressive marketing strategy based largely on the network effect among the power elite of the USA (and consequently, the world)

From the consumer point of view let me tell you 1 personal example of the lifestyle effect of the service: Continue reading

HealthMap & data fusion: detailed Google Tech Talks intro

The Google Tech Talks channel on YouTube slowly but irresistibly became my private university in current tech trends. Here is a recent talk on the amazing HealthMap by its developers John Brownstein, Clark Freifeld, Mikaela Keller. According to the about page:

HealthMap brings together disparate data sources to achieve a unified and comprehensive view of the current global state of infectious diseases and their effect on human and animal health.

HealthMap is a Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP application and relies on the following open products: Google Maps,GoogleMapAPI for PHP, xajax PHP AJAX library, Open Source Web Design

Even ugly handwriting can fit the informal nature of SciFoo

I had problems with my handwriting since elementary schools, or at least my teachers had continuous problems with it. Even during my university years I was asked sometimes to read out loud my essays, papers to them otherwise risking bad grades. Maybe it’s because I am a hidden right-handed using my left hand for writing or maybe I am just too impatient over the slow pace of handwriting (needless to say computers mostly solved this problem).

On this George Dyson photo here you can see the SciFoo schedule in progress and I think you can easily pick the one with the ugliest handwriting on Aging and Life Extension:

Sergey Brin, Gly2019Ser & a real chance against Parkinson disease/aging!

It was already known that amongst the Google top people Sergey Brin is the one who is most interested in pushing biotechnology and the biomedical sciences: in his Stanford years he was interested in biology courses according to The Google Story, he married Anne Wojcicki (who graduted from biology at Yale), Google invested $4.4 million into 23andMe the pioneering personal genomics company co-founded by Anne, then Google invested into 23andMe competitor Navigenics too.

Now Sergey Brin added another, serious and personal reason to think that he is really, personally committed to the quick progress in the biomedical sciences: in his new blog – already a bit of an Internet history – called Too he disclosed that using the 23andMe personal genetics service he figured out something worrying about his and his family’s risk of Parkinson disease (his mother and her aunt are being already diagnosed with PD):

“I learned something very important to me — I carry the G2019S mutation and when my mother checked her account, she saw she carries it too.
The exact implications of this are not entirely clear. Early studies tend to have small samples with various selection biases. Nonetheless it is clear that I have a markedly higher chance of developing Parkinson’s in my lifetime than the average person. In fact, it is somewhere between 20% to 80% depending on the study and how you measure.

The G2019S mutation is actually the rs34637584 SNP and lies in the gene LRRK2 encoding leucine-rich repeat kinase on chromosome 12. The mutation affects the first codon of the gene and is a guanine (G)-to- adenine (A) substitution resulting known as a missense and  leads to a glycine – serine (hence the name) amino acid conversion in the protein product. Here is how the SNP position looks in the 23andMe browser using the sample family, the Mendels.

23andMe’s amazingly good corporate blog The Spittoon cited a recent article about the chances: Continue reading

The Google Chrome Experience on Mac OS X with CrossOver Chromium!

Following Matt Cutts’s tweet I am now writing my blog post using the CrossOver Chromium browser which is a Mac and Linux port of the open source Chromium web browser. Google Chrome (Windows-only so far) is built with open source code from Chromium that means I have now a functional Google Chrome clone under Leopard on my MacBook. This is almost the same experience just like 2 weeks ago. I can use the omnibox, the new home tab and the very clever tab arhictecture amongst others but first of all the browser is now more or less integrated into my customized OS X environment and that is a big advantage. There are of course, inconveniences like crashes and problems with the shortcuts due to the Windows – Mac crossover solutions (which can be modestly modified with Preferences).

Continue reading

Life extension people & session at SciFoo 2008, Googleplex!

Last year I was probably the only SciFoo Camper with an explicit life extension commitment. I suggested & held a session which was related a bit to partial immortalization but was rather about the systems biology perspective in general, illustrated with some examples. So throughout the terrific SciFoo Camp 2007 life extension as a conversation topic remained rather implicit (ok, close to zero) and there was not much room to discuss it in the lack of other fellow life extensionists.

In my opinion the whole point of unconferences is to form the good aggregate of people with a common interest & similar/complementer message to join forces in order to draw enough (intellectual) attention for their topic. In this context, an unconference is about topics at the first place, not just about people. Idea networking is as important as social networking.

And if something fits 100% with the idea of SciFoo it is life extension/aging just as handling terrantic scientific datasets, open science or climate change as all these topics are utterly complicated and quite urgent screaming for the attention of the smartest people.

So I emailed Timo Hannay, SciFoo organizer:

“One thing I’ve noticed is that it would be very good to organize a session on scientific life extension technologies and consequences, because the SciFoo people are ideal to see and discuss all angles of this really important topic.”

And… is a session suggestion for SciFoo Camp 2008: Continue reading

Petabyte Age Wiredesque lesson on what science can learn from Google

I argued many times here that biology based biotechnology is the next information technology but in order to do so, biotech should harness good IT patterns and mimic its massive computing practices to handle the enormous amount of constantly accumulating data. Often this trend could be summarized in a simple way: keep your eye on Google and conduct thought experiments in advance in which science is done in a Googleplex like environment in terms of the computing & financial resources and algorithm heavy engineering culture. Use Python and learn cluster computing and MapReduce. With the expected launch of the massive scientific dataset hosting Google service – nicknamed Palimpsest – this year finally a direct interface between scientists and Googlers emerges and hopefully opens up possibilities for scientists to cooperate with Google. (Remember my joke on Google BioLabs back in 2006)? I get emails from biologists, bioinformaticians asking me how to be hired by Google ever since then. As I tweeted yesterday: I growingly have the impression that “being ambitious” today = ‘worked, is currently working, is going to work at/for Google’ Taking Google’s inter-industrial power into consideration I see a real chance that some day the “Google of Biotechnology” title goes not to a startup yet to be emerged, not to Genentech or to 23andMe but……to Google itself. No kidding here. Fortunately Google’s model is “to build a killer app then monetize it later” says Andy Rubin, the man behind Google’s Android mobile software in the July issue of Wired so scientists working for the big G probably won’t have to worry about turning their scientific killer app into an instant cash machine.

And now in the very issue of Wired magazine (not online yet ) there is an exciting cover story on the same pattern I talked about concerning the life sciences but in the broader context of every kind of science with the provocative, Fukuyama-like title The End of Science. There is a witty and short essay from editor-in-chief Chris Anderson entitled The End of Theory followed by examples of the ‘new science’ like the The Large Hadron Collider expected to generate 10 petabytes if data/second, The Sloan Digital Sky Survey heaven catalog maker accumulating 25 terrabytes of data so far, the skeleton scanning project of Sharmila Majumdar and the Many Eyes project “where users can share their own dynamic, interactive representations of big data”.

For many people around the globe, Chris Anderson is a freeconomist & the author of a popular airport book but fewer people are aware that he was actually trained as a (quantum) physicist and even worked at Los Alamos Continue reading

The Sergey, Larry, Eric test by Anne & Linda: 23andMe at home

“We really think that we can change Health Care…I want to change it in 5 years…it has to change and that’s we all are about” – says Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe co-founder, in the Google Tech Talk on Googling the Googlers’ DNA: A Demonstration of the 23andMe Personal Genome Service.

Also a good presentation by Linda Avey, other co-founder, for instance on data privacy and service security: “We take the security of our customers’ data to the highest degree…you guys (Googlers) are very much of the same mind..One of our leading engineers is probably the most paranoid man we’ve ever meet and he is the perfect guy for that.

Here are my screenshots on the genetic puzzle on the Google triumvirate presented by Anne Wojcicki:

Continue reading

Sergey Brin goes mobile in 2000 & a Russian lesson

Sergey Brin, Google co-founder is a very interesting man. His story is the number one immigrant success story in the USA today, I dare say. I have 2 Brin videos to show you today:

In the first one, Sergey demonstrates mobility in 2000 in 3 ways with his ‘faint accent that is no longer identifiably Russian’ (I really like this presentation as you can learn many things on how to give and not to give a talk):

In the second video Sergey speaks in his native language, Russian but with a “huuuge american accent” as a Russian colleague of mine wrote to me in an email. Continue reading

Biomedical informatics and the NIH, in the Googleplex

“I feel like I am talking to an empty room. Why do I feel like I am talking to an empty room?” starts Michael Marron his Google Tech Talk on NIH and the computational infrastructure for biomedical research rather unfortunately. (I remember that room.) Continue reading

What is the Google Health condition of deanimated, frozen people?

A burning question for real: What is (or how to set up) the Google Health status/condition of deanimated, frozen people, like Dr. Steven P. Rievman:

Rievman, 64, who co-founded the Cryonics Society of South Florida in the 1960s, now resides in a deep-freeze capsule at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, awaiting the day when medical science can ”re-animate” him and cure his ills: lupus and Type I diabetes, which afflicted him starting at age 17. Continue reading

Meet Dr. Google Health: Roni Zeiger, right out of Stanford!

Roni F. Zeiger, MD (watch his presentation), Google Health product manager, whose PubMed profile (if he really is the very same person) gives us a very strong reason why he was hired by Google for this job (he joined Google in 2006).

The 38-year-old, who still sees patients some evenings and weekends at a nearby clinic, said: “At Google, I can use my expertise and knowledge to potentially help millions of people each day.”

Fortunately all of his 3 papers are freely accessible out of which 2 are particularly interesting and related to Google (Health). Here I just copy the abstracts and probably get back to the papers after I digested them.

Zeiger RF, Stave CD, Schmitzberger F, Fagan LM. Modeling the relationship between search terms in clinical queries. AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2005; 2005: 1167.

We designed hedges for clinical queries sent to MEDLINE and Google in an attempt to explicitly model the relationship, such as treatment or diagnosis, between search terms. A pilot evaluation suggested that mean average precision (MAP) improved for a precomputed diagnostic query but not for a precomputed treatment query. An important limitation to this approach is that target resources do not explicitly model these relationships.

Roni F Zeiger Toward Continuous Medical Education J Gen Intern Med. 2005 January; 20(1):91–94. Continue reading

Google Factory Tour of Health: watch the pivotal moment!

Here is a little timeline from a liveblogger for the Google Factory Tour of Search (05/19/08) including the official launch presentation of Google Health – time frame 83:35/1:23:35 – 90:45/1:30:45 -, by dr. Roni Zeiger, Google Health product manager who truly believes – & he is probably right – “that the most interesting, innovative services of Google Health are the ones that we haven’t seen or even thought of yet.”

So watch “the pivotal moment of the history of healthcare” using the words of Stephen Suffin, corporate chief medical officer from Quest Diagnostics.

Late Google Health: catching up with the past, first!

People expect usually too much from Google even in the sectors, like biotechnology or medicine where Google is not native. For me the recent Google Health – which is basically an embryonic online medical health record system for users with a Gmail Account in the USA – seems to be rather about just catching up with the past than doing the future right now. That is not a criticism but rather a description. Storing/exchanging/updating individual medical records digitally is a “must-have-done-by-now” for the geeks, early technological adopters as the technology long exists, while it is still far-far away concerning current medical practices.

Google Health is really forward thinking in the way that it facilitates medical consumers/patients to upload their medical profile/conditions in the lack of institutional data thereby getting more familiar with everything health related.
But Google Health is for the more or less healthy/mainstream and not for the seriously ill: in its recent form it cannot help to find a clinical trial for a rare disease, say.

Wired’s Betsy Schiffman writes:

For the moment, Google Health looks like a charity operation. The company won’t serve ads on the site (presumably to avoid the appearance of impropriety); nor does it plan on selling data, which would likely be extremely lucrative.

Instead, the company is focused on building out the service and growing market share. That’s a good thing, say industry watchers, because it could take years before the market matures and consumers are ready for the digital health revolution.

Yep, it is still too early and building a critical mass is a crucial thing. It is so early that most of the angles remain hidden in obligatory posts on Google Health. I suggest to read the detailed & insightful comments, for instance this one at TechCrunch by Fred Neil: Continue reading

A bit of history: The official launch of Google Health, 19/05/08

I am between 2 experiments in the lab, but get back to the launch of Google Health later. Here is one screenshot of my Google Health profile.

Twitter: Scott Beale

Google Blogoscoped: Google Factory Tour: Google Health Launched

Update: Late Google Health: catching up with the past, first!

Innovation is still bottom-up in IT, what about biotech?

Just a simple filtering & highlighting & regurgitating for you based on Andy Oram’s post apropos of the opening of a larger Cambridge, Massachusetts Google office :

Along the lines of self-motivated employees, I asked a manager whether most of their new products came from the individual employees or from management. He expressed the conviction that most innovation in most companies comes from individual employees. Where management can help is in finding effective places to fit new features into the organization and product line.

Google found that releasing too many products prevented the public from learning about them and adopting them. Adding a feature to an existing product such as Gmail or Blogger could mean that millions of people adopt it, whereas releasing it as a stand-along product might limit adoption to a few thousand.

The question for me is always how these experiences can be compared and applied to the biotech industry, in this case I am curious how biotechnological innovation is going in the profit sector outside academia. So if you are working at a biotech startup or at a big pharma please share us your opinion (anonymously if you like) in the comments on the nature of innovation at your company!

How to predict the future via Twitter: Google invests in Navigenics

Wow, I guess it’s time for me to move into the stock market business! Here’s the story via David Bradley’s tweet: Julie Kent, Search Engine Journal, April 21st, 2008: Google Wants to Index Genetic Information, Invests in Second DNA Start-Up

In 2007, Google made headlines when they invested $4.4 million in 23andMe, a genetic screening start-up company began by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and a business partner. But if you thought that was Google’s only interest in genetics and DNA, you’re wrong. Google has also been investing in a second DNA start-up called Navigenics, which for $2,500 and a small bit of saliva will provide you with genetic test results delivered securely online containing information about the likelihood for 18 medical conditions.

What’s really funny here is that I predicted this investment last Friday, on the 18th, on Twitter. The original idea was Aaron Swartz’s Google thought experiment: Imagine you were suddenly put in charge of Google. What would you spend your time doing? I came up with this answer (picking Navigenics because of ther profile and location) on behalf of Sergey Brin:

The whole tweetstream: Continue reading

Larry Page is 35 years old today: long live to live long enough!


I’ve always loved the following scene from LOTR, but I’ve always imagined that they are the words of a man who is in a healthy physiological condition due to a robust life extension technology and not due to a mystical ring:

Bilbo: “Today is my one hundred and eleventh birthday!”

Hobbits: “Happy birthday!”

Bilbo: “Alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits.” [cheers abound.] “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

Larry Page is 35 years old today and it’s really easy to consider him as a representative man of his/our generation (I am 33 years old) including his future prospects. A company with an unlimited potential was built on Page’s unfinished PhD. research project.

What is Genentech CEO Art Levinson doing for biotech as a Google board member?

artlevinsonThe title question is my million (not billion yet) dollar question for this year. Arthur Levinson is a board member of Google (Apple too) and in his leftover time he is the CEO of the most successful biotech company so far, that’s Genentech. I would be curious to hear about his biotech-related activity as a G board member from my readers even in the form of guesses. Maybe he is teaching biotech classes to Googlers after both Genentech’s and Google’s investment into 23andMe or just sitting around sometimes at the nice cafeterias at the Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View and explaining knockout technology to coders.


Why was life extension ruled out of the 14 Grand Engineering Challenges?

questionmark1I emailed some of my life extension supporter friends because I think we have a ‘future’ situation:

Healthy life extension is not 1 out of the 14 Grand Engineering Challenges…that can be realistically met, most of them early in this century according to the Committee on Grand Challenges for Engineering with members such as Larry Page, Dean Kamen, Craig Venter, Robert Langer and …lifestyle life extensionist, nanovisionary Ray Kurzweil. There is a challenge though called Engineer better medicines and the essay behind looks as if it had been hacked together by Kurzweil and Venter themselves during a sunny Californian Soy Beer Baby Boomer Beach Party. It is about personalized medicine in large and the only hint – I was able to find – to a recent discipline named regenerative medicine is a paragraph, not on, say the challenge of systemic regmed, but on synthetic biology.

It is a big challenge to learn how could healthy lifespan extension as a big and realistic challenge have been left out? Why did Kurzweil (author of the book Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever) not stand up for it? Why nobody out of the luminaries thought that regenerative medicine and stem cells worth discussing more than a tiny side note? And what about Venter, whom I still like to be interview as there are many points in his activity suggesting a life extension connection. Somebody in the committee was clearly against it?

One friend told me that he is not surprised by this, because it was announced at the AAAS meeting, which is very conservative. Out of the committee members Ray Kurzweil, Daniel Hillis, and maybe Dean Kamen would have been supporters of including LE as a challenge.

But. Continue reading

Working without a personal assistant on the top of the big G…is fun!


I’m on my way to a Friday comprehensive exam from stem cell and mitochondrial biology which gives me no time to immerse into blogging this week. I mostly think of big holes in my knowledge like mitochondria and Ca2+ signalling. That’s why I can only offer soft things like the following quote from a fresh New Yorker article by Ken Auletta called The Search Party on Google:

Continue reading

The Bubble City Experience: a contemporary paranerd classic

BubblePrefaceWhen I first wrote about Aaron Swartz’s unfinished nervous nerd novel, Bubble City, I had just been through chapter 1 and 2. But at the Dallas International Airport, waiting for the London connection on December 22 I had no choice but quickly finish the other 9 chapters posted so far under the pressure of the compelling narrative. Bubble City turned out to be my biggest literature experience of this year and the emphasis is on “literature” here.

The plot in one sentence based on the 11 chapters so far: Jason Barsto (an alternative Swartz) coder of a San Francisco news aggregator startup, called Newsflip (an alternative Reddit) gets hunted down by Google (an alternative Google) because he explores a backdoor in the tricky S-boxes behind the Notated News Analysis (NNA) system of the aggregator code at Newsflip (developed formerly at an alternative Yahoo), by which alternative Google or alternative others can manipulate and dangerously homogenize news recommendations for users.

It is a paranoid parody, a contemporary classic hacker fiction: it is crime and anti-crime, it is love and anti-love, it is real and anti-real but most importantly it is about Google or rather it is the best artistic expression of the emerging Hassliebe to Google so far, that every well informed and networked, responsible alpha geek (like Swartz) feels today. I suspect that even Google employees can feel the same way toward their own company.

Everybody in the tech world has plans with Google and Google has plans with almost everybody. Continue reading

How to get rid of the Google Eye according to Bubble City: Scroogle and Tor

What’s the best thing to do if Google wants track you down and you are “a geek, the kind of person who searched Google every time a thought passed through his head”. Well, Aaron Swartz‘s nervous nerd novel, Bubble City (I summarize my thoughts on it in the next post) has a geeky algorithm to play with in Chapter 9:


Thus, to be sure Google can’t track you, you need to do at least three things: never long in, never accept tracking cookies, and use some kind of anonymization of your IP address (like Scroogle or Tor). And that’s just for the Web.


Google’s knollers and the bloggers: cooperation or competition?

knolexampleEverybody is comparing Google’s Knol project to Wikipedia intended to be a “repository of knowledge from experts on various topics” (NYT) or “a free, ad-supported publishing system” (Wired), currently a “private, invitation-only knowledge sharing service” (Blogoscoped). But for a biotech blogger like me the first association is to compare Knol to the blogosphere. Just think about blogs and bloggers when reading these lines from the Official Google Blog by author Udi Manber:

The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors’ names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors — but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content. At the heart, a knol is just a web page; we use the word “knol” as the name of the project and as an instance of an article interchangeably. It is well-organized, nicely presented, and has a distinct look and feel, but it is still just a web page. Google will provide easy-to-use tools for writing, editing, and so on, and it will provide free hosting of the content. Writers only need to write; we’ll do the rest.

So far I could have read the message and mission of WordPress and Typepad (forget Blogger) being not just blog engines but hosts of blogs too, the only real difference is called ads and revenue:

At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads. If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads.

The question is how can Knol benefit from the quality blog content on particular topics written by expert bloggers and how can bloggers benefit from contributing to Knol? Would Google be inclined to pay for pivotal blog posts on a particular topic to use them as knols? In many cases the content – the one that Google would like to facilitate with Knol – is already there so it is natural to convert quality blog posts to knols. But why would I, blogger turn to a knoller?

Looks like the G guys are reinventing the blog wheel: Continue reading

23andMe’s mission: connecting all people on the DNA level or social networking XY.0

globalsimilarity and ancestry serviceIn these days, tech companies with MISSIONS are flourishing. I guess you’ve already heard about the company, whose mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. The newly launched, Mountain View based 23andMe seems similar in the mission respect. 23andMe is the first (already successful) and web (or rather Google) – based biotech company offering personalized genome service to its customers including interpreted and highly probabilistic information on the health risks of the customer’s genetic profile. But 23andMe has much more to offer in these early days and I think that mainly the biggest mission behind the company will be to show how different people are irreversibly connected and similar through their genetic material and variants. The company’s Global Similarity Map based on the comparison of the evaluated SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) variants amongst customers and the Ancestry Service based on the by and large maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA. They will make this mission more explicit by introducing a social networking service around shared genotypes or as it claimed in the Wired article on 23andMe:
This is also where a novel use of social-networking tools comes in. Wojcicki envisions groups of customers coming together around shared genotypes and SNPs, comparing notes about their conditions or backgrounds and identifying areas for further scientific research on their own. “It’s a great way for individuals to be involved in the research world,” Wojcicki says. “You’ll have a profile, and something almost like a ribbon marking participation in these different research papers. It’ll be like, How many Nature articles have you been part of?’” (Social networking will be included in version 2.0 in a matter of months, Avey says.)

The idea of social networking based on genetic similarities and vulnerabilities: this is social networking XY.0 and the challenge Continue reading

Last minute, low budget Halloween costume: Mr. Evil Google

Mr. Evil GoogleComponents from top to bottom:

Insulated Test/Jumper Leads


blue ethernet cable

original Google T-shirt (I got mine at the Euro Maker Faire)

badge (actually I used my SciFoo badge just inside out, there was a modified Google Search Box on the other side with an “I am feeling Evil” button)

components desperately needed, but I haven’t had the time to make them: horns and Google spiders for crawling (the arachnid-centric names for the Web are ideal for Halloween reasons)

assumed background knowledge to recognize Mr. Evil Google: Google’s corporate motto

Problem: For a Halloween costume to be cool it should be targeted for the local Halloween audience and New Orleans is not the geek but the freak capital of the world, so almost nobody recognized me. :(

P.S. Actually I wanted a dead Google employee costume, but then Grady came out with the idea of Mr. Evil Google

Disclaimer: I am not a Google employee yet.

Will Nature Network join to the Google Gang to use Open Social?

Google will launch this Thursday a new project, called Open Social, a set of software tools for developers to create applications for multiple social networking sites. The standards are accepted so far by Hi5, Orkut, LinkedIn, Friendster, Ning,, and Oracle, and not accepted by MySpace and obviously Facebook (the whole project could be interpreted as a gigantic anti-Facebook move or positively as a revolutionary pass over Web 2.0 step).

My question for today concerning the scientific web community: Will Nature Network accept to use Open Social and when? With the focusing on the most common usages Open Social apps are open to cover the general activities of scientists joining to any network, while specialized functions/data can be accessed from the hosts directly via their own APIs.

According to Techcrunch: OpenSocial is a set of three common APIs, defined by Google with input from partners, that allow developers to access core functions and information at social networks:

  • Profile Information (user data)
  • Friends Information (social graph)
  • Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)


Google Launches OpenSocial

Google rushes to open itself up

Google and Friends to Gang Up on Facebook

P.S. I wonder what effect Open Social will have on the identity and uniqueness of different social networking sites?

Google’s Palimpsest project: promiscuous distribution of all science data sets

GooglesteinGoogle’s Palimpsest project, once realized (in the near future) has the potential to change the way science is done by accepting gigantic (raw?) data sets from all disciplines and making them open and free (including dark data?). Jon Trowbridge from Google Inc. had a presentation on SciFoo, 2007 at the Googleplex not documented well, but you can download his slides on the project that was presented at XTech 2007 in Paris, this May: Making Massive Datasets Universally Accessible and Useful Presentation. You are not restricted to the zip file as Jon kindly gave a permission to publish his slides with SlideShare here. From his intro: This talk will discuss a project underway at Google to collect and distribute large scientific datasets using a 21st century “Sneakernet”: multi-terabyte disk arrays shipped via FedEx and other common carriers.
The project is strictly non-profit, but fits well with Google’s mission.

Other links:

Scifoo: Google and large scientific datasets

Google helps terabyte data swaps

People I missed on SciFoo Camp, 2007: The Google Scholar team

GoogleScholarteamThere were around 200 campers at the SciFoo Camp, but there are at least 10 times more who could also be easily invited by the same token. There was only real surprise to me concerning the missing: I’ve never found the Google Scholar team members. Where were the Scholar founders, Anurag Acharya and Alex Verstak, or Robert Tansley, software engineers or Christian DiCarlo, responsible for content partnerships who helps to develop relationships with publishers and libraries to make more scholarly literature discoverable online? It would be so good to get some first hand information on the future directions of Google Scholar but at least I was unable to identify any Scholar people in the crowd at the Googleplex. Maybe some of them visited SciFooin 2006, I don’t know.

After all, Google Scholar is Google’s own scholarly search engine with the mission as Acharya said: “I have a simple goal — or, rather, a simple-to-state goal. I would like Google Scholar to be a place that you can go to find all scholarly literature — across all areas, all languages, all the way back in time.”

Microfluidics at SciFoo, 2007: packing cells into bubbles

Microfluidics deals with the behavior, precise control and manipulation of microliter and nanoliter volumes of fluids.
Manu Prakash
, grad student from the M.I.T.’s Center for Bits and Atoms had a 100% presentation on microfluidics at the SciFoo Camp, 2007. The small audience (I remember Jeff Hawkins and Lincoln Stein amongst others) was really amazed by the happenings in the microbubble world.

For me the most interesting part of the presentation was on the biological applications in the pipeline, one of them is the option of packing one cell into one bubble, thereby producing a one cell delivery system and a cell counting method.


Related link: Microfluidics: Like Computer Chips With Plumbing

iPhone as a SciFoone: a perfect tourist device except the battery

scifoobatteryOn my SciFoo California trip I eventually have had enough time to test my iPhone as a tourist device. The following tasks have been regularly done by my iPhone while walking in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Berkeley and at the Googleplex:

- extensive Google Maps usage (Google Maps is the poor man’s GPS as I’ve read somewhere), finding complicated places (Curtis Pickering, thanks for the ride) on the top of the hill during a cloudy night. There was no need to use paper maps.

- making photos with the iPhone camera (for instance the one on the right)

- sending those photos to my wife and family one by one (you cannot attach more than one photo at once)

- reading, deleting emails (why there isn’t any “add star” function?)

- answering emails (max 2 sentences during a walking tourist mode)

- listening music and podcasts

- watching videocasts on public transportation tools, like the good BART system

- scanning through my Google Reader feeds

- browsing web sites

- checking the SciFoo wiki

- showing some science related photos to other SciFoo campers, i.e. making little 1-2 slide presentations Continue reading

3minutemadness at SciFoo, 2007

At the opening session at SciFoo at the Googleplex, everybody had to stand up and say 1 intro sentence and 3 words or phrases describing the interests and expertises of the person. pseudonomad caught my intro (the name of the picture: 3minutemadness) with his iPhone:


What did I say exactly: don’t remember the intro (a dense moment of my life) just the 3 phrases: regenerative medicine, science hacks, life extension, which are actually 2: life extension via regenerative medicine and science hacks.

My favourite 3 words intro was this, anyway: Sergey, Brin, Google.

SciFoo links visualized by TouchGraph Google Browser

The Google Hacks book from O’Reilly was one out of the free goodies on the SciFoo last weekend. Hack #3 is Visualize Google Results with the TouchGraph Java applet that allows you to visually explore the connections between related websites. Of course I started with the term “scifoo” with the setting of filtering single nodes out of the network in order to see the separate groups of nodes behind.


Explore the detailed properties of the SciFoo URL cloud by double clicking the individual nodes in the network.

SciFoo Camp, 2007: data (Google) publishing (Nature) geeks (O’Reilly)

SciFoo is over, and I’ve just arrived back to New Orleans from SF. First of all: a big thanks for the organizers (Chris DiBona, Timo Hannay, Tim O’Reilly, Google, Nature, O’Reilly) and campers, it was really the highest end. Here is a quick SciFoo key terms summary (photos, detailed accounts later):

“scientific data”

One of the most frequently used key term was “scientific data”. And the question is: how to collect, upload, organize and index them. With the exponentially increasing data sets, that are produced by scientists worldwide, it is obvious that we need really powerful tools to benefit them. After a couple of beta years it is highly probable that Google (according to its mission statement) will offer new ways to manage the enormous amount of valuable scientific data. Without that, the efficiency of the science industry will dramatically decline.

“science publishing”

Yes, the old question ranging from open access science to different pre- and post publishing opportunities, addressing peer-review tools. A new and clear vocabulary is needed. Nature people were honest about the problems, asking for the optimal solutions.

“the geek factor”

Mainstream scientists are rather conservative folks, they can easily have revolutionary thoughts in their niche research fields, but are not too open minded and experimental when it is about new web and technology tools. The alpha geeks from the O’Reilly Media reminded the science population of the SciFoo (not the typical technology neutral mainstream scientists) that there are many innovative things that could be done in and out of science too. (You don’t necessarily need the newest Mac gadgets for that, just try out some mind performance hacks)