Introducing Fred, Amir and a Bond villain

I’ve been out of the office for a few days now. My cough/throat infection still keeps me quarantined at home and largely unable to speak (I can make uncoherent noises, though). Nonetheless, Jan, Paul and I were able to have some Skype calls to discuss current issues: They talked, and I had my microphone switched off and replied by typing answers into the chat window. I really felt like a classic Bond villain sitting behind a curtain, giving instructions to the minions of evil. Except that they weren’t really instructions, and my co-founders are neither minions nor particularly evil.

So, the crazy thing is: During my brief absence of four days, Mendeley has moved into a new office, and two more people have joined the team! I promise to do a photo tour of the new office once I’m back; meanwhile, let me introduce the two newest team members (in their own words):

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Fred Emmott is a software engineer for Mendeley Desktop. Having spent most of his life before university at music school, he changed tracks and graduated from the University of Warwick with a degree in computer science in June 2008.

In his spare time, he works on Slamd64 (a 64-bit port of Slackware Linux) and several smaller projects. He also spends way too much time playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

Amir Rahbaran is a Ph.D. student in the field of strategic entrepreneurship at the University of Oldenburg. Entrepreneurial endeavors have fascinated him for a long time, which is why he’s studying them and why he is going to build up his own company in the near future.

He has joined Mendeley on a project basis as part of his Ph.D. thesis titled “Entrepreneurial Bricolage: an Ethnographic Study of Internet Start-ups”. Working for Mendeley is an integrative part of his empirical data collection as a participant-observer. Thus he observes everyone (including himself) and participates by helping to reach out to the academic community.

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When Amir contacted us, we were immediately fond of the idea that Mendeley itself would become part of someone’s Ph.D. research. As for reaching out to the academic community, you can see that Amir is already on the phone!

Also, I’m struck by what a musical company we’re becoming. Stefan is a former professional DJ who helped build Last.fm, Mike plays Jazz bass in his spare time, Steve plays guitar, Fred plays piano, guitar and flute, and I spent a long time playing bass and singing in Punk bands while working for Sony Music/Columbia Records and Revelation Records. Why are we writing code?! We should be writing songs!

Worst. Cough. Ever. But science cheers me up!

I thought I only had a little cold – that’s why, instead of resting and going to bed early, I had to prance around in the rain late at night for our Ikeodyssey. When my cough didn’t get better until yesterday and my voice started to disappear, I went to the NHS walk-in clinic in Soho. They had a staff shortage and a waiting room full of coughing people, so I neatly fit in.

After two hours, I was able to see a doctor, who in turn told me that I have a viral infection in my throat. Medicine and antibiotics won’t help, so I’ll have to rest, drink lots of fluid, and not talk for a few days. Good thing I can type rather quickly.

As I’m typing this, I’m sitting at my kitchen table, about to finish my second litre of peppermint tea laced with honey. And I just came across the funniest account of an experiment ever. It’s titled “Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass“, by Lucas Kovar:

Now, let’s look a bit more closely at this data, remembering that it is absolutely first-rate. Do you see the exponential dependence? I sure don’t. I see a bunch of crap.

Christ, this was such a waste of my time.

Banking on my hopes that whoever grades this will just look at the pictures, I drew an exponential through my noise. I believe the apparent legitimacy is enhanced by the fact that I used a complicated computer program to make the fit. I understand this is the same process by which the top quark was discovered.

Reading it made me laugh (and cough) hard. Ah, the joy and wonder of science.

Via Worst. Result. Ever.

Putting the neuroscience revolution into perspective

My favourite neuroscience/psychology blog Mind Hacks ran a wonderful quote by Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert (whose TED talk I linked to earlier). The quote echoes one of the themes of my Ph.D. thesis (trying to account for the effects of emotions on decision making) and illustrates what has always drawn me to social psychology: Its balanced all-around view incorporating cognition, emotion, neurobiology and social influences.

So here goes:

Psychologists have a penchant for irrational exuberances, and whenever we discover something new we feel the need to discard everything old. Social psychology is the exception. We kept cognition alive during the behaviourist revolution that denied it, we kept emotion alive during the cognitive revolution that ignored it, and today we are keeping behaviour alive as the neuroscience revolution steams on and threatens to make it irrelevant. But psychological revolutions inevitably collapse under their own weight and psychologists start hunting for all the babies they tossed out with the bathwater. Social psychology is where they typically go to find them. So the challenge for social psychologists watching yet another revolution that promises to leave them in the dustbin of history is to remember that we’ve outlived every revolutionary who has ever pronounced us obsolete.

Amen, brother! Via Mind Hacks.