The past year has seen a wave of mergers and acquisitions around the world and across all sectors of industry. 'M&A' has got itself a bad name in the past, but this time financial pundits have emphasised the targeted and strategic nature of much the activity. It is a conclusion that seems justified if parallel, less headline-grabbing activity in the scientific software sector offers any guide.
As I first learnt in school, somewhere around age 13, actually doing science is the sexy part, but the mundane task of writing up is equally vital. I started this piece with the intention of investigating ways to improve my participation in the research and report cycle of groups with whom I work on shared projects - without having to give up my own individual word processor preferences. What I ended up with was a love story.
The ISIS Facility at the UK's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire is the world's most powerful source of pulsed neutrons and muons for condensed matter research. With more than 20 instruments surrounding the neutron source, and a second neutron source (Target Station 2) under construction, ISIS supports an international community of around 1,600 scientists from disciplines including physics, chemistry, materials science, geology, engineering, and biology.
In science as in everyday life, we take electricity for granted in the developed world. It's hard to imagine doing basic experiments without plugging in a power supply or using instruments that work on conveniently packaged off-the-shelf batteries. I was recently re-reading my copy of Cassell's Popular Educator, a mid-1850s weekly that offers a glimpse into a different and messy world of electric cells, now mostly defunct. The copper-zinc Daniell cell and the zinc-carbon Leclanché cell are well known - the latter as the ancestor of the classic 'dry battery'.