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While all types of content are valuable, with limited time, you may value one type more than others. Which one? Login and vote

research papers
23% (39 votes)
lecture notes
31% (53 votes)
forum discussions
25% (42 votes)
biographical sketches of mechanicians
4% (7 votes)
opinions concerning our field
8% (13 votes)
mechanics problems in industries
8% (13 votes)
Others. Please explain by writing a comment below
1% (2 votes)
Total votes: 169
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rkannabattula's picture

              Though the Biographical sketches of mechanicians didn't get any votes, I do not think that it is unimportant. For some people (including me) it could be second or third option. Since, every one is given only one vote(my assumption is that one can vote only once), they have to choose the best option.

             I think, it is also important to know the biographical sketches of great personalities in addition to appreciating their works. So, I wish that in future also the posts in this field continues irrespective of the number of votes (0 is a bad number though!).


Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Ratna:

Thank you so much for bringing this point up. I was also puzzled by the outcome of this poll. iMechanica is powered by Drupal, an open-source content management system. Drupal offers many optional modules, and poll is one of them. This is our first try with a poll, just for the fun of it.

Many people have mentioned to me that they are particularly interested in reading the Timoshenko Lectures. I like to read biographical sketches of scientists and engineers, but for the same reason that you pointed out, I don't think I would value this type of content most, not even the second or third. Perhaps many people share your opinion. If it will make you feel any better, I'll persuade my wife to vote on biographical sketches. She is an accountant and biographical sketches are her favorite content in iMechanica.

Historically we don't have many published biographical sketches of scientists, except for a few giants. Any notable politicians and movie stars would have multiple biographies, because many people want to read them. The traditional economics of publishing would then translate this large number of people to a sustainable business. Distributing content was expensive, and you had to choose what to distribute.

Now the Internet has changed this economics. Distribution of the content costs you nothing. If you are passionate about your life or someone else's life, you can record all the details, or distill them, or mix them with details of other contemporaries. You have no need to make any choice on the basis of distribution cost. However, we are all limited by our own time and the ability to absorb information (although Michael Suo believes that even this limit is temporary). Given this limit, at least for the time being, we will still value one type of content more than another. So much to write, so much to read, but so little time.

Many common people have already started to write online about their work, their aspiration, and their life, as well as their encounters with other people. Future biographers and anthropologists will have plenty of raw materials to synthesize and theorize.

The above comment is just a paraphrase of the point made by Chris Anderson in his book The Long Tail.

We all live in the long tail, but some of us are looking at the tall head. The Internet has made the long tail much more enjoyable, and perhaps the tall head less relevant.

Xi Chen's picture

Zhigang, I completely agree with your view. The biosketches are of course very important and they could enlighten many people's career path. Since the poll specifies that one could only vote for one item, the one that is more hard to find over the Internet becomes more important to most individuals. I am not surprised to see the poll result, because most mechanician's resume are available online. The ones that are really hard to get are lecture notes and opinions from peers, which also seem to have more immediate impact to one's career.

MichelleLOyen's picture

This is perhaps a tough question to answer since one can value different iMechanica content in different ways: biographical sketches as a student of history of science, technical forums as a researcher working on a tricky problem, lecture notes as a teacher, and opinions as a member of a community of scientists.  Perhaps the question just identifies quite succinctly how many different "hats" we wear as mechanicians.

Konstantin Volokh's picture

I also noticed that biographical sketches of mechanicians are of low value. This is really surprising. May be we can conduct and post informal interviews with some of the senior and distinguished members of our community. For example, Zhigang could interview John Hutchinson and James Rice...  A possible format of the interview can be found in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, for example. Moreover, iMechanicians can send their questions in advance if the interviewed person is announced.

Zhigang Suo's picture

Kosta and everyone:

Good idea, as always. We mechanicians have rarely written about each other. Exceptional occasions include times when some one is getting an award or when some one dies. I can guess why we don't write about each other often. Perhaps it is because the interest is limited to a small community of people, and there is no obvious place to publish it. But such a record of mechanicians is obviously good for people in the community now and in future.

Now we have iMechanica, and its 1100+registered users and perhaps more anonymous users. What ever we post on iMechanica, I believe, will last forever. Perhaps we can do something.

Here is a slight variation to your suggestion. How about we select a distinguished member in our community. Let us call him, say, The Mechanician of the Month (MOM). A moderator posts a brief introduction of the person as a new topic of forum, invites everyone to ask questions to the MOM, and the MOM answers them. This is like an interview of a person by a group. Throughout the month the modulator can periodically summarize part of the discussions, and inject additional background of the MOM and the fields that he has affected.

What do you think?

Konstantin Volokh's picture

Sounds good!

Pradeep Sharma's picture

I like the idea but feel that perhaps "every month" is too frequent for something like this. Making it somewhat less frequent (e.g. every two or three months) will make it more prestigious----we have to keep in mind that our community is not that large. For example, we may select four mechanicians of the year; highlighting one in march, the other in june and so on.

How should we approach this? Perhaps the same way as we do awards in the ASME applied mechanics division.

It is very good idea to have interviews or biographies that might help junior researchers (including me) to gain insight into how to step into the depth of researches in mechanics and related areas. As well as informal interviews, I think that the selected senior person may write down his/her life and works in his/her life. I was very impressed by the biographies written by senior (e.g. Martin Karplus) in the Annual Reviews. In Karplus' article, I can see how he stepped into the researches in protein structures/dynamics in his life. Maybe, senior mechanician may write down this kind of well-written essay by distinguished senior mechanician, and the essay may help juniors know how to contribute to communities and academia.

My suggestion is that in every year we may ask one senior person (obviously distinguished senior among MOMs) to write his/her essay that may help juniors learn more from the essay. I am looking forward to see the interviews of MOMs and also essays from MOMs in the future.

Xi Chen's picture

We could make this as one of the featured monthly activity and keep it running parallel with the journal club. My only suggestion is that the interviewee does not have to be a mechanician as long as he/she has done some mechanics-related work. The interview also does not have to focus on the career of the interviewee. For example, many of us could be interested to hear from Richard Tomasseti (NAE member) about the issues related with reconstruction of WTC, and safety/anti-terriost issues with highrise buildings; just an example that we could learn many new interesting stuff from the interviews.

Xiaodong Li's picture

I like the idea! I think we can start in March, 2007.  We can have an informal interview with MOM and the MOM can list his/her career path to encourage junior researchers. This is very useful.  We may start with bi-monthly. If it goes well, we can then increase frequency to monthly. To cover both modeling and experimental parties, MOM may be selected in the manner: one month from modeling and then from experimental…

Teng Li's picture

Kosta and everyone,     

I like the idea of interviewing senior and distinguished members of our community, and running such an interview through iMechanica. This way, junior members of our community can get some opportunities to interact directly with the great minds. This reminds me an interview with Prof. Frank Nabarro by MRS Bulletin editor Betsy Fleischer in 2004. While many people have enjoyed reading the interview like myself, I guess more people would be happy to join the conversation if such an interview were conducted via a platform like iMechanica,  to learn more from great Nabarro.


MichelleLOyen's picture

I would hope that the introduction of a formalized mechanism for posting of bibliographic information and/or interviews would not prevent people from posting similar information on, or conducting interviews with, other distinguished mechanicians who are not the recognized "mechanician of the month". We benefit most from collecting as much information as we can about the widest range of "mechanicians".

Mahdi Kazemzadeh's picture

Dear Suo,

I think the biographical sketches has found a major and nice position in iMechanica. Actually that is the part which I really intrested in when I logged in for first time. That is not very complicated to get into this inescapable conclusion that questionnaire has proposed in a way that mostly you will choose forum discussions, specially people who are here. Even it is very difficult to put this in the second or third proiority in this questionnaire. I think biographical sketches transfer scientists valuable experiences to other mechanicians, that is not its fault. Mostly engineers choose the second choise because of the questions order. What do you think, is there any problem with questions, proiority or not being in a nice order? Thank you.  

Mahdi Kazemzadeh

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