Saturday, September 27, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dear Nature

Dear Nature,

I'm doing some historical research and needed to read Chadwick's short paper called Possible Existence of a Neutron where Chadwick posited the existence of the neutron from the radiation emitted by beryllium when an alpha particle hits it. This paper was written in 1932... 76 years ago.

So I go to your web site and you have it available from the archive. That's great! But you want to sell it to me. And you want to sell it to me for $32. How do you justify selling a PDF of a 76 year old paper that contains just over 700 words for $32?

As a point of comparison the neutron was reported in the New York Times in 1932. I was able to buy a copy of that article (all 872 words) for $3.95.

But the New York Times is hardly a journal of record for scientists; Nature is. Why are your archives not either free or open for a reasonable fee?

Chadwick won the Nobel Prize in 1935 for this discovery and his lecture on the subject is available for free online. But you still insist on $32 (almost a nickel a word) for the original paper.

PS. You need to fix your web site. It states the price for this article as:

Perhaps spend part of the $32 on that.

PPS. The entire text of Chadwick's article is available on line. Here, here and here. So what does $32 get me? Oh, right, the Nature logo on a PDF.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Ultimate Nerd Honeymoon

There's been a major gap in this blog because I'm in the midst of writing a book for O'Reilly. As part of the research on the book I came across the ultimate nerd honeymoon.

In 1812, Sir Humphry Davy, the British chemist and inventor who is best remembered today for Davy Lamp used in mines, married.

In October 1813 Davy and his wife set off on a honeymoon across Europe. First stop was Paris to pick up a medal from Napoleon. But Davy needed a valet to help out, so he took Michael Faraday with him. That way Davy and Faraday could perform experiments along the way.

While in Paris they got together with Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (of Gay-Lussac's Law) and showed that iodine was an element. And André-Marie Ampère stopped by for a chat.

Off they went to Italy to hang out with Alessandro Volta and also did an experiment setting fire to a diamond using the sun's rays and demonstrated that a diamond is made of carbon.

The honeymoon lasted 18 months.