Applied Mechanics News

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Why should CEOs blog? - New York Times

A previous entry in Applied Mechanics News, entitled Applied Mechanics in the Age of Web 2.0, talked about why we mechanicians should blog. A New York Times article today talks about why CEOs should blog also.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Wei Yang becomes the President of Zhejiang University

I had a dinner with Wei Yang the other day. He told me that he would accept the offer to become the President of Zhejiang University, starting this week.

Wei Yang obtained his PhD degree in Solid Mechanics at Brown University, in 1980s, under the direction of Ben Freund. Ever since Wei has been on the faculty of Tsinghua University. He has collaborated with many mechanicians world wide, and produced a large number of students.

Both his father and his son are alumni of Zhejiang University, but Wei himself has no degree from the University.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

e-mail alert of journals and bookmarklet

I've just learned another good use of a bookmarklet described in a previous entry of Applied Mechanics News.

Some of us subscribe to tables of contents of journals, say IJSS and JMPS. When a new issue of a journal is online, Elsevier will send you an email. In this email, each paper is linked to the webpage of the paper. On the webpage is the familiar PDF button. Clicking this button, you will land on another webpage that asks you to pay for the paper, even though the library of your institution has already paid for the journal. To down load the paper, you will have to enter the journal through the gateway of the library.

This last step is annoying, but you can automate the step with a single click of a bookmarklet, as described in the previous entry in AMN.

Of course, there is an even better solution. Publishers can simply embed the proxy string of your library in every link. The cost for publishers to do so is zero, so far as I can tell. To avoid confusion, they can add a link "Find at Harvard" (or xyz) to each paper in the email, just as Google Scholar and Web of Science have already done.

These personalized links will significantly ease navigation, and might greatly increase the popularity of email alerts. It seems to be a win-win solution. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Can Wikipedia conquer expertise?

In an early entry in Applied Mechanics News, I speculated on Wikipedia and Applied Mechanics. Since then, many colleagues have talked to me about their own initial reactions and subsequent experiences with Wikipedia. The strength and some of the issues of Wikipedia are described in an article by Stacy Schiff in this week's New Yorker.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006



From their inception in 1991, the biennial congresses of the United States Association for Computational Mechanics have become major scientific events, drawing computational engineers and scientists worldwide from government, academia, and industry. The Ninth U.S. National Congress on Computational Mechanics (USNCCM IX), hosted by the University of California, Berkeley, will feature the latest developments in all aspects of computational mechanics, and will broaden the definition of the discipline to include many other computation-oriented areas in engineering and sciences. From applications in nanotechnology and bioengineering, to recent advances in numerical methods and high-performance computing, the technical program will reflect the Congress theme of ``Interdisciplinary Computation''. In addition to plenary lectures and minisymposia that highlight the latest trends in computational mechanics, pre- and post-conference short courses addressing advances in multiscale and multiphysics methods, as well as other topics, will be held. Numerous vendor exhibits from Bay Area and national companies and organizations are also planned. Detailed information on USNCCM IX can be found at:

USNCCM IX will be held at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, located in downtown San Francisco, with convenient access from San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose International Airports.

Early (by June 1, 2007) Late
Participant: $595 $695
Student: $250 $300

The participant fee covers the conference abstracts, a conference program, the reception, banquet, all break refreshments, and a twoyear membership in USACM and IACM. The student fee does not include the membership dues.

Block room reservations with special room rates are available at the conference hotel: single occ. double occ. cutoff date
Hyatt San Francisco $195 $195 June 28, 2007
Reservations can be made starting July 1, 2006 (please mention ``USNCCM9'' to receive the conference rate). Government and student rates are also available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Website open for minisymposia proposals August 1, 2006
Deadline for minisymposia proposals January 15, 2007
Final selection of minisymposia February 1, 2007
Website open for abstract submission February 1, 2007
Deadline for abstract submissions April 1, 2007
Final selection of abstracts April 15, 2007
Deadline for print-ready abstracts June 1, 2007
Deadline for early registration June 1, 2007
USNCCM IX technical program July 23-26, 2007
Pre- and post-conference short courses July 22 & 26, 2007

A wide variety of minisymposia forms the backbone of the Congress' technical program. A minisymposium consists of one or more technical sessions that focus on a specific topic or research area associated with computational mechanics. The technical sessions provide a flexible format that accommodates keynote
lectures, invited, and contributed papers. Volunteer minisymposium organizers will develop each minisymposium individually. The organizers are responsible for the technical content of their minisymposium; they select invited participants,
and review abstracts of contributed papers. The Technical Program Chairs invite proposals for minisymposia from the Computational Mechanics community. All proposals
must be submitted electronically via the Congress web site. There should be at least two organizers for each minisymposium; it is desirable that they represent more than one institution. Teaming of U.S. and international co-organizers is encouraged. The
minisymposia proposals deadline is January 15, 2007. Notification of the final selection of minisymposia will be given no later than February 1, 2007.

The Ninth U.S. National Congress on Computational Mechanics will feature symposia in several emerging and mature areas: Biophysics, Mesh Generation, Error Analysis, Meshfree Methods, Finite Element Technology, Failure Analysis, Applications in
Engineering Practice, Optimization and Sensitivity Analysis, Computational Dynamics, Stochastic Finite Element Methods, Inverse Problems, Coupled Problems, Computational Acoustics, Computational Electromagnetics, Granular Materials and Discrete
Element Methods, Automotive Problems, Advances in Commercial Finite Element Software, Multiscale Methods in Materials Modeling, Computational Advances in Modeling Heterogeneous Materials, Geotechnical Applications, Contact-
Impact Problems in Nonlinear Mechanics, Discontinuous Galerkin Methods, Computational Combustion, Methods and Applications in Coupled Engineering Simulation, and Computational Fluid Dynamics.

All technical papers, including keynote, invited, and contributed presentations, will be presented within one of the Congress's minisymposia. One-page abstracts in PDF format are required for all papers. Abstracts must be submitted to one
of the accepted minisymposia organizers for review. All abstracts must be submitted electronically using the abstract submission system that will be available on the Congress website, beginning February 1, 2007. The deadline for abstract
submission is April 1, 2007. Authors submitting abstracts of contributed papers will be notified of a decision on acceptance no later that on April 15, 2007. Following the notice of acceptance, authors will have until June 1, 2007 to revise their

Robert L. Taylor, University of California, Berkeley
Panos Papadopoulos, University of California, Berkeley
Tarek I. Zohdi, University of California, Berkeley

F. Armero (Berkeley), P.P. Collela (LBNL),
D.C. Chrzan (Berkeley), C. Farhat (Stanford),
R.M. Ferencz (LLNL), R.E. Jones (SNL),
A.J. Lew (Stanford), S. Li (Berkeley),
M.R.K. Mofrad (Berkeley), P.M. Pinsky (Stanford),
C.A. Taylor (Stanford)

Applied Mechanics Division call for normination: 2006-2007 Awards

The AMD Executive Committee is now seeking nominations for the awards listed below. The deadline for nominations is October 1, 2006 by 5pm Eastern Time.

Daniel C. Drucker Medal
The Daniel C. Drucker medal was established in 1997 and is conferred in recognition of distinguished contributions to the field of applied mechanics and mechanical engineering through research, teaching and service to the community over a substantial period of time.

Warner T. Koiter Medal
The Warner T. Koiter Medal, established in 1996, is bestowed in recognition of distinguished contributions to the field of solid mechanics with special emphasis on the effective blending of theoretical and applied elements of the discipline, and on a high degree of leadership in the international solid mechanics community.

Timoshenko Medal
The Timoshenko Medal was established in 1957 and is conferred in recognition of distinguished contributions to the field of applied mechanics. Instituted by the Applied Mechanics Division, it honors Stephen P. Timoshenko, world-renowned authority in the field, and it commemorates his contributions as author and teacher.

Applied Mechanics Award
To an outstanding individual for significant contributions in the practice of engineering mechanics; contributions may result from innovation, research, design, leadership or education.

Young Investigator Award
Special achievement for a young investigator in Applied Mechanics.

A brief description of the award appears in the ASME Website. In addition, be sure to adhere to the requirements as outlined in the appropriate nomination form.

Nominations should be sent following ASME website directions and should also be sent directly to Thomas N. Farris by October 1, 2006 at:

Thomas N. Farris, AMD Chair
School of Aeronautics & Astronautics
Purdue University
315 N. Grant Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2023
Tel: 765-494-5118
Fax: 765-494-0307

Related entry: 2005 AMD Awards.

The long tail of papers

In an entry on pay per paper, I alluded to Chris Anderson's new book, The Long Tail. It should be straightforward to collect page views or down loads or citations of individual papers in a journal. You can plot the numbers of hits of individual papers against the rankings of the papers. Here is the curve for articles in Slate. (Not sure why data stopped at top 500 hits. Why not go further to see a really long tail?) Hope someone in Applied Mechanics will show the same data for JMPS, IJSS, MOM, etc. It will be fun.

Here is the gist of Anderson's observation: If you care about the total sale, as a publisher might, then what matters is the area under the curve; the contribution of the tail may rival that of the head. This much is objective, and should not be controversial.

Now allow me to play a variation of the theme, which is admittedly subjective and possibly controversial. Let's say the net contribution of a journal to new knowledge is proportional to the area under the curve (the subjective part). Then numerous less cited papers may make a significant contribution comparable to the contribution made by the best cited papers.

If you are interested in this argument, you might as well generalize the analysis from a single journal to all journals in a field, or to all journals in science, engineering and medicine. I'm not sure if such a curve has ever been plotted, but the job should not be too hard.

Now, if you are an individual author, surely you'd like to have a lot of hits for your own papers, just as Anderson is celebrating his book becoming a best seller. However, if your job is to increase the total knowledge, as the NSF is set up to do, then you might as well pay as much attention to the long tail as to the tall head.

Fracture and Failure Mechanics TC blog and activities

The Fracture and Failure Mechanics Technical Committee (FFMTC) would like to call your attention to some of our recent activities. In addition to our involvement in organizing sessions for the IMECE and summer meetings, we are developing a dynamic website or blog that will enable the greater community to share teaching experiences and resources. Please take a look at our blog; it is located at and can also be reached through the Applied Mechanics Blogroll on the Applied Mechanics News blog.

Below are edited excerpts from our committee report in the Summer 2006 AMD Newsletter. We welcome your comments and involvement.


John Lambros, Chair
Mark Walter, Vice-Chair
Jean-Francois Molinari, Secretary


Blog-based web pages have several advantages over static web pages and in particular, the FFMTC’s site offers the following:

  • Streamlined content management (i.e., announcements, membership listing, meeting minutes,etc.),
  • Dynamic discussion of fracture mechanics teaching through on-line discussion of syllabi and relevant books/articles,
  • Posting/commenting about useful fracture and failure mechanics resources, and
  • Access to a community of peers for discussion of issues relating to fracture and failure mechanics.
The quality and relevance of our blog is directly proportional to member participation. Please consider becoming an active contributor. E-mail “walter.80_at_osu_dot_edu” to request to be a contributor. In addition, since the content is dynamic, you should consider using a news aggregator that will alert you when there are new postings.

he FFMTC continues to be very active in organizing IMECE sessions. Many of these sessions are co-sponsored with the Dynamic Response of Materials and the Experimental Mechanics Technical Committees. This cross-committee cooperation has allowed sessions of broad relevance to be organized, which consequently have been very well attended. IMECE 2005 symposia that were (co)sponsored by the Committee included three sessions on the “Failure phenomena of inhomogeneous materials” (organized by Toshio Nakamura and Raman Singh), and one session on “Dynamic Fragmentation of Brittle Materials” (organized by Jean-Francois Molinari and Philippe Geubelle). The Committee is currently (co)sponsoring seven sessions for the IMECE 2006

Last but not least, we would like to thank the many individuals who have volunteered their time and work to bring the Committee efforts to fruition. In particular, the entire committee wishes to express its greatest appreciation to the outgoing Chair, Jack Beuth, for all his efforts during the past six years that he has been involved in the committee administration. Membership in the Committee is open and we encourage anyone interested to participate in the IMECE 2006 FFMTC meeting or to contact Committee officials directly.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Professor Frank Nabarro died at the age of 90

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Pay per paper (P3)

I’ve just stopped subscribing to Science. The magazine is great, but few papers in it interest me. The signal-to-noise ratio of Science, I guess, is just too low to most individuals. Instead, I’ve now subscribed to the RSS feed of Science. If any paper looks interesting, I can access to the full paper online through Harvard Libraries. Outside my office, a color printer is free to use for everyone. A library of an institution seems to be an ideal home for a journal like Science. Nearly every individual paper in Science is of high enough quality to appeal to someone in the institution.

Few journals can make that claim, however. Most journals are only relevant to several people in an institution. Furthermore, few researchers read any scholarly journal from cover to cover. Rather, we all read individual papers. However, libraries subscribe to journals, or even bundles of journals. As a result, the libraries pay for many papers that nobody reads, and miss other papers that someone would like to read.

This business model is bad for authors and readers, and possibly even bad for publishers. Technology now exists to distribute information far more efficiently, in a unit consistent with how people consume the information. For example, many people now prefer buying individual songs to albums. See a recent book, The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired, for a remarkably perceptive analysis of media industries.

The same business model may apply to scholarly papers. One may argue that journals, like albums, were invented as a packaging technology to suit the old economics of delivery. As scholarly papers are all online, the name of a journal becomes simply a tag to the papers published in that journal. Maybe a powerful tag, but a tag nonetheless. So far as how papers should be distributed, the name of a journal should serve the same function as all other tag-like entities: keywords, names of authors, etc: the tags help readers to sort papers and set priorities. It makes no sense for anyone to insist that papers with any particular tag be delivered as a bundle.

Many publishers already offer individual papers for sale online; for example, the cost is at $30 per paper for many Elsevier journals. Once a reader buys a paper, it seems reasonable to share this paper with his close colleagues, and it also seems reasonable to store the paper for future use. Perhaps we can formalize this practice.

How about we treat a paper just like a book? With one click, a reader will have the paper, and his library will automatically pay for it. Once bought, the paper is accessible to every user of the library. We can also collect statistics. If the users of a library buy many papers in a journal, the library should subscribe to the journal. Libraries will set up an algorithm to minimize the total cost. Publishers will set up their algorithms to maximize profits. However, libraries and publishers do have a common ground: they both want to help people to find papers.

To support such a business model, a third party may provide a web service. It seems to be too wasteful to make every individual library and every individual publisher maintain a separate web service. Something like or for papers might do. The service can also be an extension of services like EZproxy or CiteULike.

Related blog entries:
Note added on 26 July 2006. I posted an entry on the long tail of papers.

Web tools for academics

Many entries of Applied Mechanics News have talked about personal experience with web tools of value to academics. A list of links to these entries might be useful. I've just created a tag called webtoolsforacademics in, a social bookmarking website. I'm now placing a link to the tag called Web tools for academics in the sidebar of Applied Mechanics News. I'll bookmark more links as people post their experience. You can contribute to this tag, too, if you register for a free account. Of course, you can also bookmark any websites of interest to you using other tags.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Google Scholar can localize your search to library links

Search globally, go locally. Starting from Feb. 2006, Google Scholar offers links to find papers in your local library. See here for details.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

MechTube - applied mechanics outreach for children

Hello everyone,

Professor Suo suggested that I share this speculative idea!

In the future, we would like to reach out to children as early as their elementary school years to get them excited about topics drawn from Applied Mechanics. One approach to this goal takes inspiration from the successful "Le main a la pate", or "hands-in-dough", program in France ( ), but extends the idea of hands-on science to take advantage of the internet.

Initially, we would gather ideas from the members of our Applied Mechanics online community for inexpensive and spectacular hands-on explorations of mechanical principles that would be safe and fun for children to carry out in their first science-oriented classes. Then we would encourage elementary school teachers to visit our website, choose projects that seemed interesting, try them in real classrooms, and post accounts of their successes and difficulties for everyone in the Applied Mechanics community to see and discuss.

If the students and teachers enjoyed these projects, we would encourage teachers to help their students produce short videos of the crucial moments of their experiments, and these videos could be shared online and ranked by viewers around the world such that the best ones would rise to the top. (Sites such as and have recently pioneered this democratic video-distribution-and-ranking mechanism. In our application, great care would be taken to protect the privacy of the children.) Here is a very simple but exciting science video already on YouTube - be sure to watch the ending!

Ideally, the video-sharing system would become self-sustaining: teachers could invent new projects themselves, asking college professors for help, and they could follow the best examples set by other teachers in their own classrooms. The children would learn how exciting Applied Mechanics can be at an early age, they could proudly show their parents their best experiments in action on any computer at home, and they would be more likely to be engaged by science classes later in their education.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Study Cites Plan to End U.S. Oil Imports - New York Times

American imports of oil could be eliminated by 2030, a new study by an interstate consortium asserts, if the nation turns to an aggressive program of energy efficiency and commercialization of four already-demonstrated technologies for making transportation fuels.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bookmarklet to localize a webpage of a journal paper

by Daniel C. Suo, Teng Li and Zhigang Suo

Most journals offer the title, authors and abstract of each paper online for free. This information is a foundation for many services. For example, Teng has been urging us to adopt CiteUlike, a free social bookmarking website created by Richard Cameron for managing papers. You can explore remarkable functionalities of CiteUlike by playing with Zhigang's Watchlist. As another example, RSS readers allow us to subscribe to abstracts of papers from some of the best journals. These services, however, often do not have access to full papers. Here we describe a solution to this problem. Read more

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hassan Aref's blog on vortex dynamics

Professor Hassan Aref, of Virginia Tech, has just started his own blog: Vortex Dynamics.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Cellular and Molecular Mechanics

I was invited by Dr. Zhigang Suo to write a short piece on “Cellular and Molecular Mechanics”. I am writing this informally to introduce this subject matter rather than talk in vernacular such as mechanotransduction, phosphorylation, etc. I have more formal papers if someone is interested in more detailed discussions on this subject area. This is a field in which I have been working for over a decade now and I find it more exciting every day. The question always is how does mechanics affect biological processes. This is a very interdisciplinary subject matter as mechanists, engineers, physicists, chemists, and biologists have been investigating this process from various perspectives. I am obviously not the first to study this process. For most of us, it is realized from an empirical perspective that mechanics matters to biology, but exactly how mechanics specifically alters biochemistry continues to be highly debated today. Mechanics of course matters in many physiological areas. Your blood flows, your heart pumps, your bone and muscle feel mechanics. Not only does the body experience mechanical stimulation, but it reacts biochemically to it. A wonderful example is when people go into space (NASA) for long periods of time. The bone in one’s body begins to resorb in a similar response mode to what one experiences in aging (osteoporosis). This is primarily due to just the change in the gravity (mechanics). Other diseases are related to these issues including the two biggest killers: heart disease and cancer. While biomechanics on this scale has been studied for awhile (Leonardo Da Vinci, who was interested in mechanics, also wrote one of the first texts on anatomy), the movement to the cellular and molecular scales has brought a tremendous amount of excitement. I consider the cell as one of the ultimate smart materials exhibiting these characteristics. The cell has evolved over millions of years and is designed better than almost any system that we can personally build. Just as the biological eye provides a beautiful template for optics based lenses, much can be learned about building technology (“nanotechnology” and “microtechnology”) through examining the behavior of cells and molecules.

The cell has an amazing structure called the cytoskeleton (“cyto” from cytoplasm within the cell and “skeleton” like our body’s skeleton), which can be thought of like a truss structure. At least this is the way that I imagined it when I first started studying this subject. The interesting part is that many years later, I still think of it this way except it has thousands of elements and they can disappear and reappear at any given time (these structural elements are actually biopolymers that can depolymerize and repolymerize constantly). I describe it like this: if I take a building and remove the walls, the ceilings, and the floors out of the building, does the building collapse? No, because the structural supports such as I-beams continue to give it mechanical support. If I take a cell and remove the cell membrane, the cell does not structurally collapse either (as a note, many of us were basically taught in high school that a cell has a membrane and a nucleus as the structural elements). This structure is fascinating as the elements (actin filaments, microtubules, and intermediate filaments) are each optimized for their response. For example, if I was building a vehicle to send into space and I wanted to incorporate an element that resists compression, how would I design it? I would likely use a hollow tube. The amazing part is that the microtubules, which are known to be compressive elements, are hollow tubes….that are around 25 nanometers in diameter! And no person said: let’s build it this way! This is only one example of these interesting structural elements.

While the cytoskeleton provides structural support, it also provides organization. This should not surprise any of us as a cell, which has billions of molecules yet is only tens of micrometers in diameter, must have an amazing organization structure to accomplish all of its complex tasks. I feel that the cytoskeleton in this context is similar to a transportation highway system as it provides the mechanism for transport to move cargo. For example, there are motor molecules within a cell such as kinesin, dynein, and myosin, which move along these cytoskeletal elements and can carry molecules, vesicles, etc. along with them. These motors are highly efficient mechanics based machines that are driven by a biochemical reaction. The efficiency of the motors has been calculated to be up to 50% and if you scale the size of these motors to the size of a car, these motor molecules would travel up to 1000 miles/hour (they travel up to 60 um/sec on their size scale). Furthermore, this movement along the cytoskeleton is like a roller coaster within a cell where the cytoskeleton is the track and the motor molecules are the carts. The cytoskeleton also has the ability to help with the efficiency of accomplishing processes through being an anchoring point (or the cell scaffolding) within the cell. This is somewhat similar to the improvements that the assembly line made for automobile production. Just as the assembly line created a line along which processes where sequentially accomplished at specific stations in a highly efficient manner, many molecules that have specific functions attach to this cytoskeleton and thus have spatial organization when modifying molecules in a sequential and efficient process. This is contrasted with solely a random distribution of molecules reacting with each other through just diffusion within a cell based on solely aqueous characteristics.

These are only a few examples of the amazing mechanics and associated structures that exist within a living cell. Understanding this can not only help address disease-based questions, but can also be leveraged to potentially produce devices and technologies at extremely small size scales. I believe that this continues to be an area where individuals from a mechanics perspective can provide tremendous insight into a fascinating and evolving area that is being pursued by individuals in a diversity of arenas. Please feel free to contact me about this.

Philip LeDuc

Related entries

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The LibraryLookup Bookmarklet

Quick link added on 12 July 2006. Here is a list of LibraryLookup Bookmarklets for many libraries, along with an instruction to use them.

In a previous entry on libraries and Amazon, I alluded to Jon Udell's LibraryLookup Project. The Project produces bookmarklets, which allow you to look up a book in your local library with a single click, while surfing on Amazon. See a screencast to learn how a bookmarklet works. Here I'd like to describe my own experience.

I live in Lexington, Massachusetts. The library of Lexington belongs to a network of 41 libraries known as the Minuteman Library Network. I draged the lookup bookmarklet of the Minuteman Libary into the toolbar of my Internet browser. (If your local library belongs to the Minuteman Library Network, click here for the bookmarklet.) When I am on the Amazon page of an individual book (e.g., Practical Internet Groupware by Jon Udell), a click of the bookmarklet in the toolbar lands me on a web page of the Minuteman Library Network, telling me if the book is in the collection of the Network. If it is, regardless which one of the libraries in the Network owns the book or if the book is checked out, another click on the web page of the Network allows me to request the book. The book will be waiting for me some time later at the counter of the Lexington Library, which is within walking distance from my home.

Harvard University also has a network of libraries. The catalog of the Harvard Libraries is difficult to use. It would be nice if I could avoid using the catalog and instead using Amazon to search for books. Some publishers also allow users of Amason to search inside books (e.g., William Feller). However, for some time I could not get Udell's Bookmarklet Generator to work for Harvard Libraries. I emailed Jon Udell for help. He replied quickly, but somehow his script didn't work. My son Daniel tweaked Udell’s script and finally obtained a working LibraryLookup bookmarklet for Harvard Libraries.

Once I find a book in the catalog of Harvard Libraries, I need to write down the call number, and go to the particular library that owns the book and look for the book among the shelves. Because Harvard has quite a few libraries, each having its own layout, I've got lost many times in the libraries, and will think twice if I'd take the trouble to check out a book from an unfamiliar library. The service at Harvard Libraries is not as good as that at the Minuteman Library Network.

As I argued in the previous entry, it makes little sense to spend resources on developing stand-alone catalogs of individual libraries. The libraries can leverage the power of Amazon, and focus on better serving the readers. The libraries can become labs to test new information technologies, and the librarians can be instructors to teach new technologies, and be innovators to design better ways to serve users.

See more ideas in this four-minute screencast by Jon Udell on yin-yang of content and services, and in this presentation by Chris Anderson at the Annual Conference of the American Library Association.

Tips to obtain the lookup bookmarklet of your own library

Tips to use LibraryLookup Bookmarks

Note added on 10 July 2006. I've just learned that the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) provides a list of bookmarklets that look up books using xISBN, instead of using ISBN. This enhancement is significant, because each edition of the same book has a unique ISBN. While Amazon places the latest edition of a book at the top of the list, your local library may only have an old edition. These xISBN bookmarklets locate all editions of a book in the query. This list contains bookmarklets for many libraries, including Minuteman Library Network and Harvard Libraries.

Note added on 11 July 2006. Stuart Shieber sent me the following information. Worldcat contains the union of the card catalogs for a huge number of OCLC libraries. It also integrates automatic linking to Harvard's collections through the "Find It @ Harvard" buttons. The coverage of this collection is much broader than what Amazon catalogs, as it includes retrospective collections as well as foreign published materials and scholarly materials that are not in the commercial purview of Amazon.

Note added on 14 July 2006. The state of Massachusetts has over 50 online library catalogs. Over ten catalogs are federated into a Virtual Catalog. A user may request items unavailable at her local library.

Note added on 15 July 2006. Here is an example of software that may serve as an interface between users and libraries. ELF allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds of your requests and overdue books.

Friday, July 07, 2006

AMD Newsletter on new Biomechanics TC

The Applied Mechanics Division of ASME has recently established a new Technical Committee (TC) on Mechanics in Biology and Medicine.

Recent advances in cell and molecular biology and biotechnology have increased the need to study mechanics as related to biology and medicine. The behavior of cells and tissues as complex biological systems results from integrated and regulated interactions among many components such as receptor-ligand binding, signal transduction pathways, the cell cytoskeleton, extracellular matrix, gene expression, and protein production.

Mechanical forces and deformations may play an important role in all these aspects, and in regulating cell behavior and function including cell proliferation, differentiation, and death (apoptosis). Furthermore, mechanical analyses can provide useful tools for modeling and quantitative prediction of these biological responses. To understand mechanics issues at the cellular level, it is necessary to analyze specific force-bearing, force-generating, and force-sensing elements in cells. In addition, we need to better understand the mechanisms of mechanochemical coupling and how mechanical forces regulate cell behavior and function. Mechanical forces are also involved in many disease processes such as cardiovascular disease.

All these present a unique opportunity to mechanicians. This new TC aims to bring together mechanicians who are, or are interested in, conducting research in biomechanics and bioengineering, to identify critical issues and challenges in developing the field of Mechanics of Biology and Medicine, and to exchange experiences, ideas, and approaches.

The new TC will organize symposia on the Mechanics in Biology and Medicine for the 2007 Summer Applied Mechanics Conference and the 2007 IMECE Congress. I would welcome the participation of the applied mechanics community in the activities of this new TC, and appreciate your suggestions, support and help.

Gang Bao
AMD Technical Committee on Mechanics in Biology and Medicine

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Online Journal Club on Flexible Electronics

For many years, people accumulate personal collections of academic publications of interest in paper form. As such collections grow with time, more file cabinets and book shelves are needed for storage. First, space becomes a problem. Second, finding a specific paper could be a headache, even if the collections are well categorized.

As more and more publications become available online in recent years, people gradually switch to collect electronic versions, e.g. PDF files of papers. These files are often stored in local hard drives. Space is not an issue anymore. But again, locating a paper from hundreds of files in tens of folders still might be a heck of efforts.

Besides the difficulty in searching, other common shortcomings include:

  • Locally stored, limited access flexibility.
  • Personally owned, not easy to share with other people. As a result, the scale of personal collections is often limited.
  • Redundently collected. Consider this: a same gem paper is manually archived by thousands of people individually.
  • Statically and passively maintained. Lack of interactions among people sharing common interests.
Any better idea? Here comes Web2.0, which is all about online collaboration. Among the numerous tools enabled by Web2.0, CiteULike could be the one able to solve the above issues for us. A previous post in AMN explored the possibility to form online journal club based on CiteULike. Here is an example.

Launched by, the Macroelectronics Journal Club focuses on the scientific publications related to flexible electronics, ranging from enabling technologies to fundamental sciences. Major features include:

  • All publication information stored online;
  • Free access to anyone and from anywhere with internet connection;
  • Once posted by someone, the item is open to everyone. No waste of labor and time;
  • Easy to discuss papers and share views among members;
  • Locating a paper can be as easy as a couple of clicks away;
  • RSS feed to keep you current with the latest updates.

For more details of the Macroelectronics Journal Club, visit

Everyone is welcome to join. So give it a try and let's explore better ways to manage academic literature and conduct scientific research.


Update: (14 July 2006)
By default, CiteULike stores links to papers. To get full access of a paper, you often need to locate the paper within the subscription of your institution, instead of its original link. By using a scalable bookmarklet, now localizing the paper links can be only as easy as one click away. See a recent AMN entry for details.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

50th Anniversary of the Timoshenko Medal (1957-2007)

As a project to mark the 50th anniversary of the Timoshenko Medal, the ASME International Applied Mechanics Division is attempting to collect acceptance speeches of all past recipients. The speeches collected so far can be found through the link Timoshenko Medal Lectures. The same link also appears in the sidebars of AMN and AMR.

Apparently, the AMD Newsletters started to print the acceptance speeches around 1985. It has been difficult for us to collect earlier speeches. If you have the text of a speech that is missing from the list, please contact Shaofan Li (, the team leader of AMR.