Bioshock’s development hell, buy Apple or die, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2022#01)

First recap of the year. Just came back from holidays, so it will be a short one. Let’s get to it:

Arcane was a hit, so now we are going to see a bazillion video game tv shows

Basically the header. Arcane, based on League of Legends, was a mega hit on Netflix by the end of last year. This means that the rest of platforms also want to make their own video game shows, and Prime Video seems to be starting with Fallout. I am super skeptical with these kind of adaptations (and even more with the people involved right now), and the story behind Fallout is not so good to start with (actually, it is borderline ridiculous), but the setting and the atmosphere of the video games are so cool that there might still be a little chance we get something cool. It cannot be worse than The Witcher, right? RIGHT?

‘Fallout’: Kilter Films’ TV Series Based On Games Moving Forward At Prime Video With Jonathan Nolan Directing; Duo Set As Showrunners, on deadline

Pay to win

From the creators of charging you for doing their work, while other researchers work for them for free, now we get the novel scam on the block: pay even more for having a faster peer review process. I am specially puzzled by the number of submissions on the test, and what are the kind of conclusions you can get with that ridiculous sample size. Probably the biggest chunk of information they got is the fact that +150 editors working for the editorial would resign if they finally implement that system.

Nature journal ‘playing with fire’ over fee for fast-track review, on timeshighereducation

Fast-track peer review experiment: First findings, on nature

Do you want to be alive? Buy our watch

The trillion dollar company does it again. Fear of missing out (FOMO) now gets to a whole new level: fear of dying if you do not have an Apple Watch. Don’t get me wrong, wearables are incredible tools for monitoring your health, and of course a device like this can save lives in dangerous situations, but this ad seems too macabre for my taste.

The figure police is here

Last year I was contacted from an optics journal to perform a review on a manuscript that was sent for publication. This is not news, as I do a lot of peer review (around 1-2 papers a month, on average). Typically I take a quick look at the manuscript before I decide whether or not to accept the review: I see if it lies inside my area of expertise, if I will be able to make a review in time (sometimes reviews can last for months, and schedules are always tight), etc. While having this quick look I got the feeling that I was very familiar with the topic, so review would be easy to do, and I accepted it. Moreover, one of the authors is a very well known researcher in the field, and I know his papers tend to be quite well written, which always eases the reviewing process. After my first read in detail, the feeling that I had read the results before got bigger and bigger. While this is usually a bad sign, it is quite common to publish pre prints of your works, so I performed a quick internet search in order to see if that was the case. However, I immediately discover that the authors had published a couple papers before on the same topic, and after downloading them, I realised in a matter of minutes why the results felt so familiar: multiple figures with the experimental results of the paper I had to review were duplicates of figures in those older papers. After an in-depth reading, it was quite clear that they were trying to publish the same results two times in different journals. Of course, I informed the editor of the journal and wrote a letter to the authors, which in the end resulted in the rejection of the submission. Usually that’s the end of the story, but a couple months later I received another mail from a different journal (from a different editorial group), with the same manuscript (zero changes were made, including the same figures). I rejected the publication again (stating that it was the second time I had received the manuscript), and never got to see the manuscript again. I forgot about it, only to see it published about half a year later in a third journal (from a third editorial group). You know what they say: three times the charm. In the last submission they managed to get a reviewer which was not familiar enough with the topic, so no one noticed the fraud, and the paper got published.

These kind of stories happen more than what you might think, and some journals have started to use machine learning tools to try to fight back. Using anti plagiarism software is not something new, but these new approaches might be so sophisticated that even if you try to add noise or edit your figures (adding rotations or small modifications) it could be possible to discover the stratagem before publication. Happy to start the year sharing some good uses of Artificial Intelligence.

Journals adopt AI to spot duplicated images in manuscripts, on nature

Ken Levine being Ken Levine

Last year I read a couple books by Jason Schreier on video game development and how the industry works. In one of those, there was a chapter talking about the development of Bioshock: Infinite, which gave a lot of insight on how the studio director, Ken Levine, managed development. Now we see a new piece on what’s the status of his next video game (if it manages to see the light someday). It really makes you think about how much money big companies are willing to bet in order to have a small chance of releasing one of those gems that change the way people perceive the medium (and that sell tens of millions of copies worldwide).

The Next Video Game From BioShock’s Creator Is in Development Hell, on bloomberg

Hold it

From the industry that tried to shove 3D down your throat (with ridiculous results), now comes the stupid trend to pay $$$ for showing ugly .jpeg files to your friends. At least they will not be able to copy/paste them from your screen, which I guess is a big advance in the field? 2022 starts as 2021 ended, with crazy liberal bullshit going mainstream faster and faster…

Samsung promises ‘groundbreaking’ new TV feature: NFT support, on the verge

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

Featured image from Minority Report

The Unity of the ring, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2021#45)

Super nice week where the only screen I used was the one protecting me from the sun. Ran a half-marathon using summer clothes, ate paella and empanadillas de pisto, saw family and friends. I read a couple books and saw some movies, too. I call it a win.

Just a couple links that I could not help but read:

Another success for academic publishing

Let’s get over this one more time. First, you write your projects and ask for money to develop them. You find the scientists, you hire and also train them. You buy all the equipment, and do the actual research (which sometimes works, but most of the time it does not). After some years, you might have enough data and results to share with the community, which you do by writing a paper. You write it, you prepare the images, you do all the styling and formatting. After that, you send it to a journal, which decides if your results are interesting enough for other researchers. If that’s the case, they send it to a couple scientists for them to review your work. They neither pay those researchers nor the editorial work (which is also done by another experienced scientist). After a couple rounds of revision, if you are lucky enough, they finally accept to publish your paper. You still do some more formatting work, and after that you get a preprint file, in which you still look for grammatical and/or graphical mistakes, which you also correct. Finally, after everything is looking perfect, you pay again (depending on the journal, from ~2k to ~8k €) and they publish the paper. IF you paid enough, the paper will be open access (so everyone will be able to read it for free), otherwise, people will have to pay again to read it.

And yet, after all this nonsense, publishers are getting scammed by people who manage to publish rubbish papers on their “prestigious” journals. Bravo. I guess their solution will involve asking for scientists to check for this without paying them.

Scammers impersonate guest editors to get sham papers published, on nature

Videogames > movies

Exhibit number 13545621. It still amazes me how video games have taken over almost all the entertainment industry by now. Even though I have always preferred this media over films and tv shows, I really never thought that the mainstream would finally end embracing the medium. However, news like this show how video game companies are starting to take over more traditional (even though highly technical) ones. Expect similar movements in the near future, and also the “old” companies going into game development (Netflix already did a couple months ago).

Unity to pay $1.6 billion for The Lord of the Rings VFX maker Weta Digital, on the verge

Peter Jackson Sells Weta Tech Assets to Unity for $1.62B, on the Hollywood reporter

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

Publish or go home, ramen coins, driving is hard, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2021#27)

Another week, another batch of nice reads. Three more until summer holidays! Let’s start.

Life finds a way

As every month, astonishing bundle of science-related images, with amazing stories behind.

Sea snot, stars and sleeping elephants — June’s best science images, on nature

Publish or die

Really happy to see that people are catching up with some of the biggest problems people doing science face: the field is a complete shitshow that chews you until there is nothing left, and then spits you out. All of this allowed by universities, society in general, and based on the fact that you love to do research, so you put up with all that bullshit for years.

Mental health of graduate students sorely overlooked, on nature

Are you eating that?

Curiosity of the week. Apparently, people stopped using tobacco as currency in prisons long ago, and moved to ramen noodles. You can read more about this on the openculture post, and the following video.

How Ramen Became the Currency of Choice in Prison, Beating Out Cigarettes, on openculture

We have a problem

Breaking news: Elon Musk is a blabbermouth, exhibit #N

Elon Musk just now realizing that self-driving cars are a ‘hard problem’, on theverge

Apple vs the wo… wait, Google vs the world

As expected, we are starting to see more and more scrutiny for big tech companies. After the Epic vs Apple trial (boy that was fun), now we have similar lawsuits going on on Android. Remember, tech companies are evil, no matter their motto.

A lawsuit that ignores choice on Android and Google Play, on google blog
Google feared Samsung Galaxy Store and tried to quash it, lawsuit alleges, on theverge

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

The good and the bad NFTs, hype trains, and more : The weekly recap (2021#24)

Conference week, which means not a lot of time to read cool stuff outside of work. However, sunshine arrived to Paris, curfew is disappearing, and summer holidays are getting closer and closer, so I will call it a win. Let’s start with the links:

So long and thanks for all the fish

You know we are doomed when videogame companies make more sense than universities. Exhibits A and B:

How scientists are embracing NFTs, on nature
Devolver Digital somehow sold an NFT that made the world less awful, on rockpapershotgun

By the way, if you have a little bit of time, the whole Devolver conference on the E3 was sublime:

The hype train was here

E3 finished, and even if the only “bomb” we got was Elden Ring, there was still a lot of cool stuff in many conferences.

There is no more room in here

I am happy to read that the OECD realized that there are less positions in academia than people getting a PhD. Jokes aside, there are some cool insights on how the future could be shaped for this small bubble that many people has no clue on how it works (maybe including many of the ones we are inside of it)

Researchers’ career insecurity needs attention and reform now, says international coalition, on nature