Ice Breaker

timelapse_ice_fThis may not be the most seasonal of posts, considering today is the first day of summer, or the most current, since this video caused quite a sensation more than a month ago – but who can resist a gorgeous time-lapse video of an ice breaker traveling through Antarctic waters?

Cassandra Brooks, a Stanford University doctoral student with the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, produced this video aboard the icebreaker, Nathaniel B. Palmer. The video is a time-lapse sequence, compressing about 60 days into less than five minutes. Enjoy!

Photo credit: Peter Rejcek / NSF

FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry

Both Canada and the U.S. maintain a national registry for the disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing:, built by the BC Oil and Gas Commission and conceived based on the American site, is an up-to-date resource for students and professionals in environmental sciences, earth sciences, and engineering, as well as members of the general public. Visitors to the Canadian site can discover the location of oil and gas wells and the chemicals used at each site in British Columbia and Alberta. From the Welcome Page: [] is a collaboration between provinces, territories, regulators and industry to provide Canadians with objective information on hydraulic fracturing, what legislation and regulations are in place to protect the environment including groundwater, and transparency on the ingredients that make up hydraulic fracturing fluids. Visit the site(s) to learn more.

The Montreal Planetarium

logo-pla_140_0The Montreal Planetarium, part of a larger consortium called Space for Life Montreal (Biodome, Insectarium, Botanical Gardens), is doing some great outreach on their website with simple and easy ways to get your astronomy fix. They have a feature called “Monthly Sky” – read it to discover what you can see in the sky this month. There’s also “Questions about astronomy” with some common FAQs. Don’t miss the section on “Astronomical events” with a list of major events in astronomy, past or future. And finally “Ephemerides” which has information on the phases of the moon, solstices or equinoxes. There’s also a seasonal bulletin called “The Pocket Planetarium”.

And if you want to get offline, maybe you’ll have visitors this summer to Montreal, and if that’s the case, Space for Life sounds like a great place to start the tour.

Image is a logo from the Space for Life website

What is “peer review”?

peer_reviewWe write a lot on this blog about finding, reading, and evaluating research articles and this post is about understanding the meaning of “peer review” in the context of scholarly publishing.

When we teach students about research methods during orientation, in their classrooms, and during one-on-one consultations, we always introduce the concept of scholarly vs. popular literature. That is, the difference between articles written by and for other researchers, and articles written by journalists and other types of authors for the general public (magazine and newspaper articles for example).

Most scholarly articles have gone through a peer review process, where one or more experts have evaluated the study and given it a stamp of approval. It is now ready for publication and use by other researchers to build upon the ideas in the study. This is just meant as a very lean preamble to a more in-depth article about peer review on the website boing boing. This easy to understand article is part of Meet Science, a series intended to “provid[e] quick run-downs of oft-referenced concepts, controversies, and tools that aren’t always well-explained by the media.” The article is succinct and attempts to answer some pertinent questions about the peer review process. I hope you find it helpful.

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New at Schulich Library: 7 Principles of Universal Design Exhibit

101-universal-design-computer-with-petalsToday kicks off McGill’s Second Disability Awareness Week: Inclusion – celebrating sustainable campus practices. Schulich Library has retired its Canadian Patents Exhibit that used to live in the display case on the main floor and has replaced it with an exhibit highlighting the 7 Principles of Universal Design. The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University defines Universal Design as: The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. The Office for Students with Disabilities at McGill tells us that “Universal Design is the model most Higher Education Disability service providers in North America are turning to…Design and conception are the focus, rather than the individual or any specific impairment. Universal Design is originally and historically an architectural framework which includes 7 principles.” Come to Schulich Library and visit the 7 Principles of Universal Design Exhibit. The exhibit includes pictures and objects that exemplify each of the principles. You might be surprised by how many everyday objects and architectural features are informed by Universal Design principles.

The 7 Principles of Universal Design:

PRINCIPLE ONE: Equitable Use
The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

PRINCIPLE TWO: Flexibility in Use
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

PRINCIPLE THREE: Simple and Intuitive Use
Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

PRINCIPLE FOUR: Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: Tolerance for Error
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

PRINCIPLE SIX: Low Physical Effort
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

PRINCIPLE SEVEN: Size and Space for Approach and Use
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

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GeoGratis for maps and geospatial data

Digital_map_of_the_world_in_hemispheres_by_thomas_kitchin_(1777)The new GeoGratis website is up and running and it looks fantastic. Are you asking yourself, what is GeoGratis? From their FAQ section: “The new GeoGratis is a portal provided by the Earth Science Sector (ESS) of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). It combines the former GeoPub, Mirage and GeoGratis into a one-stop gateway to search, discover and access 1000’s of maps, map data, imagery and documents.” Sounds good, right? With a clean and functional search interface, search by geographic location, keyword or product type. Who are GeoGratis’s users? Again, from the FAQs: “The data will be useful whether you are a novice who needs a geographic map for a presentation, an expert who wants to overlay a vector layer of digital data on a classified multiband image, with a digital elevation model as a backdrop, or a student who needs the latest document about the geology of a specific region.”

If the data you are looking for cannot be found in GeoGratis, remember to visit the Maps & geospatial data section of the Library website for a comprehensive list of free and proprietary map and data products. As a McGill student, faculty member, or researcher, you can request licensed data using the online geospatial data request form. If you have questions about Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing or GIS software, visit McGill’s Geographic Information Centre (GIC).

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Technology à la mode

techfashionWho doesn’t like their fashion with a bit of high-tech functionality? From the lab to the runways of some of the most glamorous fashion shows, wearable electronics and other futuristic fabrications are catching people’s attention. I can’t decide which I like the best from this CBC image gallery of high-tech fashions: the solar paneled bikini or the cat ears that move around in reaction to my brainwaves.

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Mini-Science 2013: Science, Sex, and Gender

minisciencelogo-300pxI’m always impressed by the the events and lectures sponsored by the Faculty of Science at McGill. Registration just opened for the five-week public lecture series, Mini-Science 2013. Some of the university’s top professors will deliver these talks, all of them, in some way, relating to the theme: science, sex, and gender. These lectures (no science background necessary!) will take place every Thursday evening starting on March 14 and wrapping up on April 11, for a total of five lectures all together. Register soon before it sells out!

Image from Faculty of Science website

Equal access to learning materials for STEM students across the globe

It’s not always easy to scratch together the money to buy an expensive textbook, and the Library does a lot to help ease the burden of those costs by buying and placing many textbooks on reserve and buying the electronic version when available. That said, it can be tough to get that reserve copy and sharing textbook costs with classmates is effective but not an all-out solution.

Autar Kaw, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of South Florida, is sensitive to the realities of how much learning materials cost. With grant money from the National Science Foundation (NSF), he has been able to turn his vision of equitable access for all into a reality. Kaw created a free, open courseware resource called Holistic Numerical Methods, promoting free access to math instruction. “Available to students across the globe, the jam-packed site offers video lectures, simulations, textbook chapters, PowerPoint presentations, multiple choice tests and worksheets to learn concepts in numerical methods (an approach that allows scientists and engineers to arrive at approximate solutions for mathematical models of problems they can’t solve exactly or that would take too long to solve).” Click here to read more about Autar Kaw, his open courseware initiatives, and his philosophies surrounding the integration of online resources with in-class instruction, along with some of the pitfalls of the ever popular Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Photo Courtesy of Aimee Blodgett/USF

Waste not, want not

At a recent librarians’ meeting we had a presentation on sustainability in the Library. Topics included: producing less waste at our desks by having smaller bins and personal blue boxes, a re-design of the graphics on central bins throughout the Library to minimize confusion about what is garbage and what is recycling, and electrical & electronic equipment waste. I found the presentation informative and it was also a great reminder of the efforts of the university and individuals to improve sustainability on campus. If you want to know more about what to recycle and where, including the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) program, visit the McGill Sustainability website. Speaking of recycling, have you heard of the Think Chair? This chair is being lauded as the world’s first truly recyclable product. Find out why by watching this video from the Smithsonian Channel.

Image courtesy of