Archive for category: Search

LaTeXSearch: 1M snippets in a searchable database

January 24th, 2010 by

Springer announced last week the launch of, a free online service allowing users to search a huge database of LaTeX snippets from Springer journals and publications. This follows the launch of a similar service, a few months ago exposing Springer’s database of scientific images (which suggests a precise strategy on how to build Web services on top of content in their publication database).

LaTeXSearch does what it promises, using similarity algorithms “to normalize and compare LaTeX strings so that, if similar equations are written slightly differently, the outputs are normalized and matched, granting you the broadest possible results set”. The only glitch is that snippets are not cached but generated on the fly, with the annoying result that it can take quite some time to display the rendered version of LaTeX formulas in search results.

Who does Google think you are?

September 16th, 2009 by

One of the themes we’ve been discussing here is the idea that prestige and attention are the main currencies of academia. So it only makes sense that you want your online presence to be an accessible and positive reflection of your work and, at the very least, you want to be distinguishable from all of the other John Smiths in the world.

MIT has recently put together a tool called Personas which attempts to figure out this question of online identity. I say attempts because to be honest, it’s a bit hit and miss. The design looks pretty good but the results seem to change each time you run it, you can’t review the underlying data and it doesn’t even have a roll-over to quantify each chunk of your profile (e.g. percent of total, source documents etc).

Personas profile
[click for bigger]

It’s a noble effort though and it got me thinking that there are two sides to the question of online identity. (more…)

SpringerImages: Scientific images for the masses (of subscribers)

July 9th, 2009 by

Springer launched yesterday a new service allowing users to search, browse, annotate and reuse scientific images from their huge database of publications.

SpringerImages is a growing collection of scientific images that spans the scientific, technical and medical fields, including high-quality clinical images from images.MD. The continually updated collection – currently over 1.5 million images – gathers photos, graphs, histograms, figures, and tables, and is available to libraries and their patrons via a searchable online database. The SpringerImages interface enables users to search faster, more broadly and more accurately, through captions, keywords, context and more, even jumping from the image to the source article. Users can create personalized image “sets,” and can easily export images for use in their own presentations or lectures.

The service offers a range of potentially innovative features.

10 tips to harness the hidden potential of Wolfram Alpha

July 7th, 2009 by

Wolfram Alpha, the brainchild of Stephen Wolfram (who allegedly put its company to work on this project for several years before its official launch in May this year), has been out for a while now and is probably no more making the headlines. The long list of examples on the frontpage, organised visually or by topic, proudly shows off what Alpha is capable of. wolframalpha The natural language interface may still be a bit sloppy and some data may be flagrantly missing (how about a dump of the world’s scientific literature, Stephen?), but all in all it manages to live up to the promise of a universal tool to compute an impressive amount of factual knowledge. Alpha allows you, among other things, to:

Depending on your field of expertise, Alpha is likely to provide a powerful combination of computational tools and relevant data sources to calculate virtually anything you might want to know about the universe.

Apart from technical use, though, I am curious to understand whether and how people will start using Alpha as a productivity tool and integrate it in their daily workflow.

How to digitize your entire paper book collection

June 13th, 2009 by

This post describes a very efficient way to digitize large amounts of books. Why is this important? If you are an academic you (1) have amassed a large collection of books and (2) are bounded to relocate more than a few times iimg_0295 n your life. Moving books is no fun. Plus being able to grep through your books, and read them even if you are away from home (conference, coffee shop, retreat) is really priceless.