Monthly Archives: August 2012

The highest data density storage achieved as of yet is done with DNA!

The state of the art 20 years from now might look like a combination of quantum computing and DNA-based high capacity storage 😉

Here is a great link from Engadget: Harvard stores 704TB in a gram of DNA, may have us shopping for organically-grown storage (video) — Engadget.

R.I.P. Neil Armstrong

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

– Neil Armstrong

I was still a new born baby at the time but this event shaped much of my youth. R.I.P. Neil Armstrong.

Link to New York TIme article: Neil Armstrong, First Man on Moon, Dies at 82 –


Take the time to explore the “impossibles”…

There is no use trying,” said Alice. “One can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

— Lewis Carroll

To you, starting grad students out there, expect to be told many times that something is impossible. This does not mean that you should listen though…

Read the rest of this entry

Digital Office Part V: making it work!

So far, posts in this digital office series this blog have tackled the hardware selection and components, OSX and iOS software, and finally the inputs or “Inboxes”. In this post, I will try to illustrate how all the pieces come together and making it all work.

Read the rest of this entry

Turn it all off…

Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference. — Nolan Bushnell

Creative thinking happen anytime, anywhere. But have you noticed that it tends to happen more often when your brain can wander at will. A simple thing like a long walk away from work is sometime beneficial. It is not because you are at work, sitting at your desk and typing on your computer 10 hours a day that your are automatically creative. A great idea won’t happen as often (if at all!) if you keep your brain busy at all the time with the necessity to tweet, respond to e-mails, passively watch TV (which is usually done to turn off your brain) and  so on.

“Keeing busy” is the remedy for all the ills in America. It’s also the means by which the creative impulse is destroyed.”
― Joyce Carol Oates

Once in a while, turn it all off and do something else for a few hours or a few days, especially during a difficult portion of your thesis or of an ongoing project. See what comes out of it 😉

Cultured Code Things 2 for OSX and iOS it out…finally!

In the included figure, you can switch Things for your favorite task manager. However, at this time on the Mac I do not think you will be able to reach this level of integration and ability to deal with a large number of projects with applications other than Things and OmniFocus. No, a simple task-only list application won’t cut as it does not scale.

– Luc Beaulieu, Digital office part IV


Yesterday, (August 9 2012), Things version 2.0 was released on all platforms (Mac, iPhone and iPad). The major newsworthy portion of these releases is that after years of waiting (no kidding!), Cultured Code has finally and officially introduced a fast and scalable cloud sync on OSX and iOS devices. The beta version was quite reliable and I had adopted it as my main daily usage a few months ago. Going from the beta to the new official 2.0 release went like a breeze.

This version also introduces a new daily reviews which I really likes in the beta version and a more polished UI on iOS. Quite frankly the iPad version is simply gorgeous ever since it was released in 2010. Doing a weekly review on the iPad is even fun!

The presentation of individual tasks by Areas and Projects had been removed for a while in the OSX beta version but I assumed that the numerous peoples on the forum asking for the option to be reinstated has found a good hear within the developers; the preference pane now provides for this specific choice (which I turned on immediately).

Since I am still with the iPhone 3GS, I cannot comment on the integration with Siri and Reminders (as described by Cultured Code) but on OSX you can indeed pick one list from Apple’s app and have a two way sync (including display in the new notification center).

Kudos Cultured Code 😉



DOs and DON’Ts of scientific presentations

Every meeting brings about  few presentations for which the same mistakes seems to happen again and again. Just coming back from a major conference  in my field, I can confirm it… again. Here is a few tips that can help make your presentation better with minimal work:


Don’t use the whole real estate space just because you can. A presentation is similar to a well done document in the sense that you do want margin all around and avoid putting critical information in those margin. Times and times again you see presentations for which information are missing, such as axis label for a figure to close to the border or even the complete bottom part of the slide which can only be seen from the first few front rows.

Don’t ever fill-up the slide just because you can copy and paste from a WORD document. Even worst, fill-up the slide and read every single words on it…

Do take your time and put a single “big” idea per slide. If a figure or table convey more than one idea, copy the slide or use an animation (first approach preferred) to introduce that new idea.

Do take your time to make sure that every slide contribute to your overall presentation “story.”  If it doesn’t simplify by removing it. You want to be convincing and in that bring to audience to follow you in what should be an obvious conclusion.

From the previous two DOs, always DO start building a presentation by establishing first what will be your overall main message.

Do use precise words and short sentence(s). It is OK with having an empty slide or a slide with just an image or just a word or just a sentence. It is however not OK to have more than 45-50 words unless you are quoting some or something for a very specific purpose.

Don’t ever use fonts smaller than 24 pts. You want your slide to be easy to absorb even in that last row of the ballroom. As a bonus, this simple rule along with the use of margins will help you keep the number of words on your slide to a reasonable level 😉

Figures and Tables

That previous rule DO apply to figures and tables! Numbers and characters for axis and labels should never be smaller than 24 pts. Nothing worst than having that killer graph that 75-80% of the audience cannot even figure out because it cannot be read.

If your figure have many different data sets on it, DO alternate between open and filled symbols such as open square, black dots, open triangle, back stars, … Having x and + signs next to each other does not work.

Similarly, don’t ever use pale color for your plot lines or symbols: yellow, pale green, pink (yeah I have seen – or not – this), … This simply does not work. Black, blue, green (dark), red and combination of full, dashed, dot-dashed and dotted lines are plenty. By the way, since a good fraction of the population are color blind avoid contrasting two important data sets with red and green!

Do always present your figures, including X and Y axis before discussing the results. The time it take you to do this is also the time your audience need to figure out what is shown (if your figure is well-design based on the above rules); they are now ready to listen to what you have to say.

Don’t, never show a table that take a whole slide and have dozens of numbers. First it will be impossible to meet the 24 pts rule and second, most of the audience brains will simply shut off. My experience is that:

  1. People want to show a trend, which is better served by a well-design figure,
  2. Want to give the impression that they worked hard. Fine just say you have taken a zillion measurements but only present the relevant ones.
  3. Only a few are really relevant to the message and many times peoples will have a small animation putting a circle around those values or turning the fonts into another color or boldfaced or … These are the one you should show is a well-design table for!

Other considerations

Don’t, never use pale font colors on a pale backgrounds: yellow on white is probably the worst of them.

Do use either dark font colors on a pale background ( black on white, dark blue on white, …) or pale font colors on a dark background (white fonts on a black background or white fonts on a dark red background and so on). You get the idea.

Do use and customize you master slide. This will ensure that you have always the same size and color title fonts, place always at the same spot on the slide, …

Don’t put your logos, e-mail, URL on every slides. This “over branding” behavior does not help you as it provides sources distraction while you are trying to engage peoples.

Do use your logos on the first slide with your name, title, …

Do also use your affiliation logos, financing partner logos, URL, e-mail on the very last slide (that will stay up waiting for question). Better yet, provide the audience with a QR code which can be your VCARD, an URL to your website and so on. This is clean, non-distracting and very useful.

One last thing

Do, always take the time to make sure that your presentation will come out correctly on the conference system. Going from Mac to PC or even on PC from one system configuration to another can give you a few surprises, especially regarding animations and movies.


The above covers the very basics stuff. We go over this “design” process with the students during group meetings and in preparation to oral presentations at major conferences. More in-depth tips can be found on this post and this one.

I would really like to hear out your useful tricks and tips.

Old technology, new science!

Space probes Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 were launch in the early 70’s with what would be nowadays called rudimentary technology. Yet they had extremely long, in fact 15 times longer than the expected minimum of 2 years(!), and productive life. These were truly amazing and well-design engineering pieces.

Yet even as the probes are out of touch with us, new science is being done as reported by Ars Technica.

%d bloggers like this: