Tag Archives: information

Information System: Its Definition and Role in Decision Making

What is an information system? How can it influence an organization’s effectiveness? This article defines information system and how it works.

The rapid pace of urban development in the information age is made possible by computer-based information systems. Middle level and upper-level managers benefit a lot from the outputs of a well-designed and efficient information system. In a highly competitive world, information systems define the winners and the losers in many areas: economic, political, social, among others.

But what is an information system? How does it work? How can managers make use of it?

Definition of Information System

An information system is an organized scheme of people and data collection and retrieval tools to produce information. Data is meaningless unless analyzed or processed to meet the needs of the users. Thus, data processors which may be human or machines, process the data and produce information. Information may be in the form of graphs, tables, figures or any output that translates data into understandable forms. Thus, information is processed data.

Modern organizations use computer-based or computer information systems because of its high efficiency in delivering information. Manual information systems, while still in use, is slower and relies mainly on the ability of people to process data.

In the age of information, information systems are synonymous with computer-based or computer information systems. That is because computers are used to process data into understandable chunks of information that the user needs. Slow data processing systems that rely on manual retrieval of data from physical folders or files in a metal cabinet are gradually phased out in modern workplaces.

information system
The information system in relation to the business world (Source: Wikipedia.org).

How Does a Computer Information System Work?

A computer information system requires the input of data, a processing capability, and the ability to produce an output that can be stored for future use. The acronym IPOS summarizes the components of an information system. This acronym stands for Input, Process, Output, and Storage.

In a computer information system, an input is made through the use of a keyboard, a mouse, or a microphone. Process refers to data analysis using software applications that take advantage of the computer’s processor. Computers perform complex calculations to organize data into useful outputs that can be displayed on a screen or printed on paper. It makes sense of data whose raw form is meaningless.

The output may be used immediately or retrieved from a storage whenever necessary. Flash drives, hard disks, and cloud storage facilities are commonly used to store both data and information.

Requisites of Good Information

The information produced in an information system is only as good as the data used to generate it. It follows the GIGO principle: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Wrong information produces false results.

According to Zikmund (1999), useful information should be 1) relevant, 2) timely, 3) of high quality, and 4) complete.

Relevance is the degree to which the information produced is related or useful to the current issue that needs resolution.  Information is timely if it is available whenever needed. Information is of high quality if it is based on accurate data and analyzed correctly. And information is highly useful if it answers all of the user’s queries or requirements.

Good information, therefore, is helpful in decision making if it is produced through systematic means. The rigorous manner applied in conducting research plays an essential role in delivering information that makes clear a decision maker’s options.

See how information is generated in the post titled: Market Analysis: The Pizza Study.

Reference

Zikmund, W. (1999). Essentials of marketing research. Dryden Press. 422 pp.

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (June 8, 2016). Information System: Its Definition and Role in Decision Making. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2016/06/08/information-system/

The Role of Internet Technology in Enhancing Research Skills

Internet technology became a major part of everyone’s lives these days because of the many benefits derived from it. How did it develop and what is its role in enhancing the research skills of modern scientists? This article briefly describes the origin of the internet and its benefit to researchers. Further, the article reviews literature related to electronic publishing, the new mode of accessing and disseminating scientific information.

Internet technology developed through the contribution of dozens of computer scientists. A workable prototype came into being in the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) Network or ARPANET in the late 1960s. ARPANET served as a testing ground for innovative concepts such as packet switching, distributed topology and routing, and the connection of heterogeneous computer systems (Abbate, 1994).

According to Wright (1997), the world wide web as we know now, prospered through the effort of Tim Berners-Lee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Now, internet technology cuts across boundaries, across countries, affecting virtually the lives of many people and the way they live. The information you need or want is just at the tip of your fingertips.

Internet Technology and Information Exchange

Given the ease of access to information provided by the internet, modern researchers can interact faster with each other. This rapid interaction enhances research skills as learning ensues online. It facilitates information exchange at the speed of light. Fiber optic cables or thin flexible glass fibers that transmit light signals facilitate telecommunication between individuals across continents. The nature and flow of information have significantly changed.

I illustrate the difference between the nature of information flow before and now in Table 1 especially in the Asia and Africa. This change in the mode of information exchange through internet technology favors contemporary researchers and enhances their research skills.

Table 1. Comparison of information flows before and after the introduction of internet technology.

Before Now
Outdated references in the libraryRecent literature accessible online
Manually accessible library collections Libraries or databases accessible online
Slow exchange of informationFast exchange of information
Publication of scientific articles takes
years
Publication takes a few months
Paid subscription journalsOpen access journals; creative commons

As I pointed out earlier in my post titled “Open Access Journals and Blogs: New Trends in Publishing Research Results,” the ease and speed by which researchers can publish their research articles in open access journals changes the way information gets shared worldwide. Spector et al. (2012) of Google recognized this saying that peer-reviewed paper as the dominant dissemination method is under threat. Just like the printed newspaper or the telegram, Internet technology can change their commercial viability. The internet changes the way people transact business. Not keeping up with the trend will leave non-adapting organizations or businesses behind the backend of obsoletism.

Enhanced Research Skills Offered by Internet Technology

Accessing thousands of articles available online allows beginning researchers to develop their trade and keep themselves updated in their field of specialization. When I started off doing research in the late 1990s, I have to content myself with what is available in the institution’s collection of scientific journals. Now, the following online databases help me write more sensible project reports, at a much faster pace:

1. Google Scholar

I did not realize the importance of Google Scholar until a month ago, after undergoing training in research pedagogy, even though I learned about it a few years back. What I like most in this search engine is that aside from being able to access journal articles (mostly abstracts) for free, it saves you the pain of manually typing your bibliography. Once you access the articles relevant to your study, you can just click whichever format you want your bibliography or literature to appear. You can choose from MLA, APA, and Chicago Manual of Style. It’s just a matter of copying and pasting the entries into your favorite word processor. Nonetheless, I use BibTex instead as I like to use Lyx, a front-end to the LaTeX typesetting system, as my favorite document processor.

While many authors critique the limitations of Google Scholar as a source of peer-reviewed literature (Jacsó, 2005; Bakkalbasi et al., 2006; Falagas et al., 2008; Meho and Yang, 2007), there is a general recognition that Google Scholar can be an excellent tool for information discovery and retrieval. Scopus works the same way, but I got no opportunity to explore this likewise free database. The website says it’s the world’s largest database of abstracts and citations of peer-reviewed literature.

2. Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

I came across this directory of open access journals a few years back. As I teach the research subject, I usually refer students to DOAJ, but they complain that they can access only a few relevant articles for their study. The collection of scientific articles in the directory appears limited compared to Google Scholar, but it offers full papers for free. However, in many cases, you need to learn Latin American languages to understand what’s going on south of the equator. As more scientists make available their research in open access journals, the database collection will be a good source of scientific information.

3. Philippine E-Journals

The Philippine E-Journals is an expanding collection of academic journals that allows Filipino researchers to share their findings to the world. Browsing through the site gives researchers an idea on what activities occupy researchers in many parts of the country. The database provides local researchers with context-relevant information. It also opens areas for collaboration in study sites that researchers can access easily given their relative proximity.

The Web Log as Quick Mode of Publication

While peer-review of articles for publication has its merits, the ease of publication offered by blogs has its advantages in the age of information technology. Putnam (2011) discussed the pros and cons of this approach. Her main concern pertains to the quality of articles published online. But as more researchers give premium to the speed by which information gets delivered, the order of information exchange soon may just be sharing information through blogs. You get the information you need in a matter of hours. This mode of information sharing becomes more relevant in matters of life and death such as cure to cancer or averting impending disasters that require timely information.

If there are questions about the reliability and soundness of information, such as the case of a NASA scientist who refused to answer another scientist’s critique of a bacteria that can survive in arsenic (see their discussion here), comments in the blog serve as peer review. As scientists interact in the comments section, the issue gets clarified.

Literature Cited

Abbate, J. E. (1994). From ARPANET to Internet: A history of ARPA-sponsored computer networks, 1966–1988.

Bakkalbasi, N., Bauer, K., Glover, J., and Wang, L. (2006). Three options for citation tracking: Google Scholar, Scopus and Web of Science. Biomedical Digital Libraries, 3(1):7.

Falagas, M. E., Pitsouni, E. I., Malietzis, G. A., and Pappas, G. (2008). Comparison of PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar: strengths and weaknesses. The FASEB Journal, 22(2):338–342.

Jacsó, P. (2005). Google Scholar: the pros and the cons. Online Information Review, 29(2):208–214.

Meho, L. I. and Yang, K. (2007). Impact of data sources on citation counts and rankings of LIS faculty: Web of Science versus Scopus and Google Scholar. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58(13):2105–2125.

Putnam, L. (2011). The changing role of blogs in science information dissemination. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (65):4.

Spector, A., Norvig, P., and Petrov, S. (2012). Google’s hybrid approach to research. Communications of the ACM, 55(7):34–37.

Wright, R. (1997). The man who invented the web. Time Magazine, 149(20):64–8.

©2015 October 17 P. A. Regoniel

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (October 17, 2015). The Role of Internet Technology in Enhancing Research Skills. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2015/10/17/internet-technology-research-skills/

Open Access Journals and Blogs in Research

How can open access journals and blogs influence the future of research publication? What is the trend nowadays? This article discusses how these new developments of the information age can change the direction of research in the world.

Exchange of information between scientists through publication in reputable, peer-reviewed journals may change in the next decade. As open access publication gradually takes over the conventional print and online abstracts that require someone to purchase to read the whole study, there are signs that the whole process of information dissemination will change soon. Blogs may become the new medium for exchanging ideas among scientists. This article explains how.

New ideas such as promoting research articles through open access publishing in a highly dynamic digital world that we live right now always have birth pains. But the power of online publishing is experienced by contemporary authors who opted to publish their research findings in open access, peer-reviewed scientific journals for faster dissemination. This approach gives their research papers, their ideas or their thesis, a greater opportunity to get cited by many other scientists because of the easy access offered by online publishing.

Online Databases and Open Access Journals

Modern scientists have greater probabilities of getting their scientific articles cited. And, many software applications support this approach to speed further up the online publication process.

Database applications such as Mendeley can effectively help authors organize their collection of articles; particularly, those articles that are relevant to their specific field of expertise. Google Scholar is there to supply the needed references for free. It provides handy references useful in developing research proposals or writing a comprehensive review of the literature on a researcher’s topic of interest. The Directory of Open Access Journals provides a venue for researchers to publish their articles in open access scientific journals. These tools were unavailable two decades ago.

Now, researchers could not lament the lack of references to help them identify gaps in knowledge, not only within their home countries but virtually, the whole world. Everyone can gain access peer-reviewed literature and publish online at the comfort of their homes or offices. Thus, the quality of the literature review that contemporary researchers can make differs significantly from researchers of the 1990s.

The Rise of the Blogs

Dr. Gustavo Fischman, a well-known professor of Arizona State University and editor of open-access journals, recognizes the power of open-access publishing and even blogs. This mode of disseminating information thrives in Latin America and Africa. Around 73% of the open access journals originate from these regions. A lot of discussion on recent research topics goes on in the region. This healthy exchange of ideas can further enrich research findings. You may listen to the podcast of the interview with Dr. Fischmann where he recognized the changing model of academic publishing.

More author exposure is possible with the ease by which one can self-publish articles worthy as references. Putnam (2011) noted that science blogs promote quick dissemination of research, increases cooperation and potentially makes the author’s research stronger. There is no need to wait in the long queue of conventional scientific publishing, even the open access ones. Thus, the cost of publication is small, but the gains in learning something new or groundbreaking is high.

Some people will criticize that blogs are not peer-reviewed. But this is taken cared of by readers, who may be authorities in their respective fields, right there in the comment form under the published article. The blog’s author can then respond and address the critic’s concern. No conventional scientific journal can feature this interaction between people.

How about the citation of research findings or other articles on research?

Well, that’s relatively easy. Even this article has its suggested citation in APA format below. Anybody can cite this article that explains and sets the trend on how the era of publishing new findings can take a new form – through the power of blogs that emphasize quality publications.

Reference

Putnam, L. (2011). The changing role of blogs in science information dissemination. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (65), 4.

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (October 11, 2015). Open Access Journals and Blogs in Research. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2015/10/11/open-access-journals-blogs-research/

Five Tips for Research Paper Presentation

Are you ready to present the findings of your study in a conference? Here are five pointers for research paper presentation that you will find handy.

I figured out these tips from my personal experience in presenting research papers in many conferences I attended. 

Five Tips for Research Paper Presentation

1. Be ready with your presentation one week ahead.

Allocating a generous amount of time in preparing your slides means better quality presentation. Start preparing your research paper presentation at least a week ahead of schedule. This will give you ample time to download or prepare graphics that will make your presentation more interesting to your audience.

2. Assume that your audience does not know anything about your study.

Many presenters assume that their audience understands their jargon or scientific musings. Always assume that your listeners are laymen who know nothing about your study. This will help you present your ideas clearly to a broader group of people. After all, the intention of research is for people to see the relevance of your findings to their lives, not for purely academic debate. Reserve that one during your thesis or dissertation defense.

Your main purpose in attending the conference is to disseminate information. Many findings are left unutilized because people were not able to appreciate them in their utmost complexity.

3. Present only the highlights of your research paper.

In a large gathering of professionals particularly those that cater to many disciplines, the sheer number of research papers submitted for presentation will leave researchers a very brief time to explain the results of their study. It is common that a presenter will be given 15 minutes to present his paper with 5 minutes allocated to questions or clarifications by a panel or the audience. This will mean preparing roughly 10 to 15 slides of content.

It is good practice, therefore, that for every slide you prepare, present only three to four bullet points to put your idea across. Don’t be too wordy as the audience cannot grasp a paragraph-long content in one minute aside. This will also mean showing fonts that are indiscernible from afar.

Good quality, not tending to distract, and relevant graphics can help a lot. A picture speaks a thousand words.

4. Use large fonts that can be viewed easily from a distance.

How large fonts should be that these can be viewed from a distance? Arial font, size 26 can be a great size even from a 50 meter distance. Why arial? That’s because the font has more or less even sized impression. Contrast “Arial” with “Times New Roman.” The former is easier to read.

5. Always have a back-up.

Make sure that you have back-up copies of your presentation before going to the conference area. Copy a file in either a USB flash drive or a CD aside from having it in your laptop or desktop. If something goes wrong with your laptop or your file gets corrupted due to a virus that prevented you from accessing your files in the computer, you have another copy ready for use. Test each copy to make sure either works.

Applying these tips will help you gain more confidence in presenting your research paper. Do you have other tips to add? Leave your comments below.

©2014 November 6 Patrick Regoniel

Three Simple Facts About Jellyfishes

How long does it take for the jellyfish to stay alive out of sea water? Do jellyfishes melt in the rain? What ecological role do jellyfishes play in the marine ecosystem? These are three questions answered in this article. Read on to find out.

The trip to Kitu-Kito, a tourist destination north of Puerto Princesa, on board a raft made of large PVC tubings, appeared to be uneventful until tiny blobs of jellyfishes of different sizes gained our group’s attention. While a scourge to swimmers, the jellyfishes became a subject of photographic interest for me.

Various sizes of jellyfishes bob out of the water, from 5-inch diameter ones with venomous tentacles to the cute, half-inch juveniles. Here are two of them:

jelly fishes
Two jellyfishes swim about in the food container filled with water.

How Long Can Jellyfishes Stay Out of the Water?

Taken by curiosity and instinctively, our boatman caught one of the jellyfishes and placed it on the front edge of the raft. The transparent jellyfish helplessly throbbed just like a heart on the wooden surface indicating that it is alive. Its gelatinous bell (its head) looks edible.

The taste of nata de coco flashed in my mind. I had that urge to slice and eat the chewy head.

I wonder if it tastes like nata de coco? Are jellyfishes edible? The boatman said, “Yes, it is.”

The jellyfish, in fact, is a delectable delicacy in Asia. These are dried, preserved and shipped to restaurants in Japan, China, and Thailand. But I never had the chance to taste it and will not venture to do so unless everybody is eating it.

jellyfish with tentacles
The jellyfish looks like nata de coco, a chewy, translucent, jelly like foodstuff produced by the fermentation of coconut water.

“How long can jellyfishes survive out of the water?” asked one of my friends. Being a biologist, and, not knowing exactly how long it will take for these animals to stay out of the water, I retorted, “Let’s use a timer to find out.” And so we did.

Glancing once in a while and observing the jellyfish for its tell-tale throb of life somewhere in the middle of its body, we waited until no discernible movement to indicate life is evident. After a while and looking at my watch’s timer, I blurted out to the group: “48 minutes.”

Now we learned that jellyfishes could survive that long out of sea water. If it does not return within that period to the deeper parts of the sea during the rush of sea water towards low tide levels, then it gets isolated and fried under the sun or get dehydrated. Thus, it somehow distributes nutrients along the coastline as it becomes a part of the beach ecosystem food chain.

Do Jellyfishes Melt in the Rain?

Another question sprang up. “Is it true that jellyfishes melt when out of the water and exposed to the rain?”

Honestly, I could not think of a good reason why jellyfishes will melt in the rain. They’re not ice cream or made of ice. I have heard this wrong notion on many occasions. And so I simply said, “I don’t think so,” explaining a bit about the composition of animal tissue.

As if to confirm my point, by sheer coincidence, it rained that afternoon despite the generally fair weather in the morning. The raft shook with every gust of wind that pass our way and alarmed almost everyone. I have been through this situation many times in the field and I feel confident that the wind will settle in a few moments.

The raindrops fell on the jellyfish, washing it through and through. The jellyfish, of course, did not melt. It’s still there.

3. Ecological Value of Jellyfishes

Jellyfishes form part of the marine food chain. They prey mainly on the zooplankton. In turn, they are favorite diets of sea turtles. Thus, they help stabilize the marine ecosystem.

Transparent plastics thrown into sea water sometimes get mistaken for jellyfishes. This is the reason many sea turtles die as plastics block their gut and keep them full when, in reality, they are without food in their stomachs.

© 2014 September 8 P. A. Regoniel

A Rare Swarm of Bees

Why do bees swarm in one place, usually a plant? Here is my little bee story of a recent experience and some facts about bee stings.

One morning, I noticed something unusual is happening in our garden. There seems to be a clump of insects flying about in one of the breast high potted plants in the lawn just beneath  a stunted coconut tree. I cautiously approached what I suspected to be a swarm of wild bees … and indeed, it is.

Instinctively, I hurried up back inside the house to get my camera. A few seconds later, I’m back ready to take shots of a rare event.

Thinking I am at a safe distance away from the wild bees and mindful that I might disturb them and get bitten, I gradually approached the swarm and held my breath.  This approach seemed to work in my past encounters with wild bees. Besides, I am confident that they will not sting unless they are threatened or harmed. My bee culture experience for the past several years also helped.

I aimed my camera and got the picture below showing bees clumped together on the leaves of a fern next to the plant where the other bees alighted.

bees swarm
A swarm of bees on the leaves of a potted plant.

I wondered why these bees stayed on the leaves when no flower is in sight where they could gather their usual supply of nectar to be stored in their honeycombs. What could be the reason for their stay there?

I searched the internet and found out that these gathering of bees must be transient in nature. I’ve read an article that says these honeybees are on the move to find their new home. And this could be true because after the day I saw the swarm of bees, they are gone the next day.

bee on skin
A curious bee landed on my skin.

At left is a picture of a bee that curiously landed on my skin. It didn’t prick me with its rear end sting but just stayed there. I held my breath once again and took a close-up shot. Had I swatted this bee, I might be inviting other bees to come because of its alarm pheromone. Crushing the bee will alarm the other bees and invite disaster.

According to Dylan Voeller and James Nieh of the University of California San Diego, honeybees are stimulated to attack once the alarm pheromone is released. This can be made worse if the victim wears dark clothes, releases carbon dioxide and moves jerkily. If this is assumed to be an evolutionary behavior, the response increases the survival of the colony as predators are warded off the hive. However, honeybees die once they let go of their sting. Once their sting got stuck on the skin of their victim, they are emboweled once they fly away. Further, the bee distracts the victim by flying about (as if intending to sting) for awhile until it finally dies.

So holding my breath and wearing light clothes would have worked. No bee from the swarm stung me at all. If they did, I will hose them out with water to drive them away.

Any interesting bee story you can share?

© 2014 August 11 P. A. Regoniel

Is Typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan Due to Climate Change?

It has been three weeks since typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan hit the eastern part of the Philippines quite hard that left nothing but debris to once thriving city of Tacloban and nearby areas. This was an unimagined and unexpected result of sometimes more than 300 kph winds that sent even concrete houses to ruins. Imagine the devastation that a car can do if lifted by the winds or water and hurled at that speed against a concrete wall. Storm surge, a rise in sea level above the usual tide level as intense storm moves over water, left many without homes to live on once the storm has passed and inflicted its fury.

Despite disaster mitigating preparations to frequently typhoon visited places of eastern Philippines, typhoon Yolanda proved to be an exceptional one. Some evacuation centers in raised areas did not serve their intended purposes because these were also ravaged by the strong winds and 10-foot waves. Lives were lost and much agony and chaos transpired at the aftermath.

Typhoon Yolanda Due to Climate Change?

Is this unfortunate event a result of climate change? There were reports from various sources saying with apparent confidence that typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan is a result of climate change. But is this really a well founded statement?

For a scientist or a discerning person, a pronouncement like this is not easy. There should be an empirical investigation and evaluation of data to make such conclusion. An examination of historical records will reveal important information that will cause one to pause and think, if indeed, the typhoon is unusually strong due to changes brought about by global climate change.

typhoon

If we evaluate the records of typhoons that crossed the Philippines in the past, there actually were typhoons of similar magnitude as Yolanda or Haiyan. In a Yahoo news story, two typhoons approximate the same damage . One was recorded in January 12, 1898 and another in 1912. According to estimates, the former typhoon left 400 Europeans dead and 6,000 natives while the latter killed or wounded 12,000 people. The latter typhoon hit similar areas, i.e., the provinces of Leyte and Capiz.

Yardstick for Comparison

Apparently, these data suggest that past typhoons similar to Yolanda or Haiyan already crossed the affected areas. Typhoons of such magnitude come in cycles. They tend to repeat through time. If such is the case, then there’s no reason that the current onslaught can be fully attributed to the effects of climate change; apparently has become much more pronounced during the past two decades.

On the other hand, these reports alone may not be sufficient evidence to compare typhoon impact in the areas mentioned. Similar parameters should be used, meaning, all conditions during typhoon impact should be the same. A great difference exists in many respects. Some of those related to the number of casualties are listed below:

  • disaster preparedness of the people
  • accuracy of inventory and reports
  • human population of the stricken areas
  • timeliness of rescue, assistance and relief
  • technological (especially communications) capability

While climate change is a convenient excuse for the great damage inflicted by supertyphoon Yolanda or Haiyan, the message of the unfortunate event is clear: Be always on guard. Whether the typhoon is due to climate change or not, warnings of an unusual event should not be taken lightly. Experience is not the only sole basis for readiness.

© 2013 November 28 P. A. Regoniel

How Slow Can a Heartbeat Get?

Is it possible to have such a slow heart beat than what is usually accepted as the norm? A literature search combined with personal observation can be empowering tools to educate oneself. Indeed, heart rate deviants, called outliers in statistics, exist.

It really pays to educate yourself to keep yourself abreast with what has been discovered so far and help you make decisions. Knowledge is something that we need not only learn in school but by self-study and passionate interest in discovering more than what is made available to you.

I mention these things as I recall the conversations I have had with my doctor when I consulted him the other day. I noticed I had a very low blood pressure and a slow heartbeat at that. As of the latest monitoring using an electronic wrist blood pressure monitor by Omron, my BP went down to just 116/60 at night before retiring to sleep. It seems normal, but my heartbeat was only 47!

I’m a bit disturbed because my doctor noted the other day that normal heartbeats should be 60 or higher; but, according to him, these are the heartbeats of the Marines. Is it possible that I could have such a very slow heartbeat? Should this be a cause for worry?

The doctor’s comments became a concern at the outset. But then, I remembered that Dr. Cooper, a medical doctor who pioneered the aerobics point system, wrote in his book that athletes could have slower than normal heart beats. I flipped to page 103 of his aerobics book, and read that he did note that conditioned athletes can have a resting rate of 32 beats per minute. Further, he checked a marathoner who is in his 60s and recorded a heart rate of 36.[1]  I browsed the internet and learned that Michael Indurain, a five-time winner of Tour de France, had a resting rate of 28 beats per minute. Furthermore, Guinness World Record holder Michael Brady had a heart rate of 27 (!).heart

I am no athlete of these caliber, but knowing these facts and having my record to consult allayed fears of possible abnormality in my condition. It may be a welcome development as I regularly exercise every other day to keep in shape; running a 4 mile distance in 44 minutes or less. If I would translate that to Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s point system, that’s equal to 11 points. And I need to meet at least 30 points per week. I run three times a week, so that’s a total of 33 points per week.

Doing this exercise routine consistently for 36 weeks, my achievement is at par with my earlier running performance way back in the early 1990s. My previous notes, written 20 years ago, indicated that I did have a very low heartbeat on record. My heartbeat on October 20, 1993 was 48 beats per minute. And I did not use an electronic means but counted it using a regular watch and feeling my pulse. So there’s nothing queer about my heart rate at all.

So this is the conclusion of this account on heart rate: that equipping yourself with information from both literature and observation can help you adopt a better view of things. Don’t rely on just a single source of information. Knowledge through a little research and own self-observation recorded on paper can be empowering.

Ones heartbeat can be slower than the expected standard. And…, I have a personal experience to back it up; because I appeared to be one of the deviants, a seeming outlier. Am I a super athlete undiscovered? 🙂

1. Cooper, K. H. (1968). Aerobics. New York: Bantam Books, Inc.

© 2013 October 4 P. A. Regoniel

Things You Don’t Know About the Black Wasp

Reading this article will help you understand why we should treat the black wasp with respect and appreciation. Black wasps play an important ecological role.

Chances are, when a black wasp enters your home and buzzes its way around, you will try to swat it with anything you can lay your hands on. They are known for their painful sting. In fact, a worker at home once unwittingly disturbed a black wasp’s nest attached to a mango leaf. She sustained three to five stings on her face and had to be hospitalized.

However, after reading this personal discovery about the black wasp’s nest, your behavior towards it will change. Black wasps have important ecological role.

The Mud Nest and Its Contents

Yesterday, when I glanced at the sill of the small screened bathroom window, I noticed a solitary black wasp circling around its nest of mud. I watched it while it makes its way inside the small opening on top of the nest. A few moments later, it flew away.

inside black wasp nest
Fig. 1. The mud nest of black wasp and its contents.

Anticipating that the mud nest will grow in time, I decided to remove it but not after finding out what’s inside that small mound. I carefully removed the nest, starting from the bottom and placed it on a folder to take a picture of its contents.

I was surprised to see that the small mound was full of living creatures. See Figure 1 at right.

There are at least three species of living organisms in the picture. From the left, are two black wasp larvae (the smaller one is yellow-green and the bigger one, light chocolate-brown), a pale red colored caterpillar of an unknown species, and three orange-spotted caterpillars of another species. There’s another one not included in this picture because its life juice was sucked out by the black wasp’s larva; but that one is visible in the video below.

Relationship Between Organisms in the Mud Nest

How do these organism’s interact inside that cramped space of mud? Initially, I thought all of them were developing larvae of the black wasp. But then a question came up in my mind, “how can the larva survive without food in that closed chamber of mud?” Then it dawned to me that the longer ones are actually caterpillars that serve as food for the two plump black wasp larvae.

Also, several months ago, I swatted a wasp and off fell a caterpillar from it. That gave me the idea that the black wasp brought these caterpillars into the mud chamber after laying its egg which then hatches into a larvae. The larva attaches itself to the paralyzed caterpillar and then sucks it dry. That’s a simple hypothesis, and I verified this by bringing the bigger larva close to the caterpillars and see if indeed it will attempt to feed on the caterpillar. The video below shows how it behaved.

[youtube=https://whttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNyKBF84FHQ&rel=0]

The video verified my observation that the wasp larva feeds on the caterpillar until it has enough food ingested for the pupa stage. The proportion seems to be that for each larva in a chamber, two caterpillars were allocated by the mother wasp.

The Black Wasp’s Egg

I peered inside the hole of the unbroken chamber. It is difficult to take a picture through the small hole, so I cut it in half to show a cross-section. Inside is a small egg attached by an almost invisible thread onto the roof of the chamber, hanging there and moving to and fro as I positioned it for a close up picture (see Figure 2). In other descriptions of wasp species, the eggs are laid after food is made available. This species lays the egg first, then finds food in time for the newly hatched larva.

black wasp egg
Fig. 2. The black wasp egg inside a chamber made of mud.

Notice that there is only one egg inside the 1.5 mm thick chamber and there are no other holes anywhere inside it. The top part has a 5 mm opening, enough to squeeze in a caterpillar of specific size, and of course, the black wasp. This means that the wasp chooses a prey with a circumferential size small enough to fit through the hole. This indicates species specificity, meaning, the black wasp is choosy of its prey.

Once the food is deposited, the wasp covers the hole and builds another one to repeat the process until the nest becomes large enough to form a colony. The developing larva inside is safe from ant attack.

Implications of the Findings

This personal encounter draws out many questions that researchers in the biology of the black wasp can explore further:

  1. Which butterfly species do the caterpillar that serve as prey of the black wasp belong? Are they considered pests to farms (since caterpillars are voracious leaf eaters)?
  2. How long will it take for the black wasp’s egg to hatch?
  3. How does the pupa of the black wasp look like?
  4. How long does each stage of the life cycle take?
  5. Why is the black wasp’s egg suspended in the chamber instead of on the floor?
  6. What specific material is the mud nest made up of and how are the materials glued together?

Many more questions can be asked from the observation. These questions arose as gaps in knowledge because the information provided is a one-shot deal. It is akin to a case study. These are exploratory questions based on a single case.

From these questions, the following hypotheses may be tested:

  • The black wasp’s feeding habit can help regulate pest population in farms.
  • The black wasp suspends its egg to give it just the right temperature to allow hatching inside the chamber.
  • The black wasp uses wet mud to build the nest.
  • The life cycle of the black wasp coincides with the life cycle of the prey.

A review of literature will now be more meaningful as you learn things and compare what you have found. In so doing, you can design and carry out a more systematic and rigorous research.

It’s fun discovering and learning things through actual encounter. Using a little wit to deduce relationships between things can help you appreciate how intricate and wonderful life is in this world.

Are all these arrangements a matter of accident or evolution? There must be an Intelligent Being who is responsible for all these wonders.

© 2013 September 17 P. A. Regoniel

10 Tips on How to Discern Fact From Fiction

When presented with information, how do you assess its validity or reliability? Can you distinguish fact from fiction? Here are 10 tips to ponder.

I saw a film titled Primeval last week and I can’t help but get amused of the way the behavior of the large crocodile named Gustave is being portrayed. During the climax, Steven (played by Orlando Jones), cameraman of the news team that tried to capture Gustave, runs with all his might in his bid to outrun the literally galloping crocodile. Gustave, at the end of the film, was also trying to get inside the vehicle, ferociously snapping away at the passengers. So dramatic.

I had such a good laugh because I know crocodiles cannot sustain long runs on land. They are not designed to do so. Crocodiles suddenly lunge when opportunity comes to catch their prey. Thus, they are called opportunistic predators. The attack usually happens at the edge of the water.

Crocodiles cannot sustain long runs because lactic acid builds up easily in its muscles. I had readings and personal encounters on this fact as I once worked in a crocodile conservation facility as an ecologist. If the crocodile does not rest (just like the way you see lizards do it), it will most probably die due to too much strenuous activity[1]. This is characteristic of cold-blooded animals. According to a recent study from the University of Adelaide, if dinosaurs were cold-blooded, they would not have dominated the world for millions of years [2].

For this reason, I thought of writing up the following tips, to help discern fact from fiction, although I would say this is a tall order. In reality, it is difficult to see the truth when bombarded with a lot of conflicting information. These tips, however, can prove handy when reading material from the web and sort out reliable information from trash in view of enhancing your literature review.

10 Tips to Discern Fact from Fiction

1. Educate yourself.

If you have a good background of the subject, nobody can fool you into believing something that is grossly absurd. Imagine the amount of time you spend to educate yourself in schools. It is a long process, but it will help relieve your ignorance about many things.

2.  If things are too exaggerated or too good to be true, dismiss it.

Have you ever seen a film where the human characters fly and jump high places whenever they fight ? If these people exist, then this world will be different. With training, some people will no longer need a ladder or a car for that matter. With just a few hops, they will be able to reach their destinations.

3. Always question what is being presented to you.

discernfactfromfiction

Don’t take things as they are. If there is doubt in your mind regarding things, ask. Through asking, you will verify the existence of an object, fact, or event.

Can you distinguish dreams from reality? Ask yourself while dreaming. Chances are, you will not be able to do so.

4. Verify the sources of information.

Find out where your information comes from. Is it coming from a verified source or is it just someone’s opinion? This is the very reason researchers have always to write their sources or references to enable the reader or critic of his paper to verify sources for reliability.

Science builds up its foundation on facts. If the foundation is weak, everything built upon it collapses once it gives way. A theory is built out of many tests of hypotheses.

Verifying sources of information becomes very important especially on those occasions where something really important crops up. Say, a total cure for cancer has been developed or discovered.

Nobody in his right mind will believe a tricky quack doctor’s recipe who has had a track record of 49/50 (49 died out of 50). Also, a scientist’s word is more believable than a politician’s when it comes to new discoveries.

5. Get rid of your biases.

If you have your prejudices, then your objective judgement is clouded. Take things with a grain of salt. Don’t incorporate your emotions and your personal biases. You can avoid this by applying the principle of triangulation.

6. Assess how well information is presented.

When reading information online, which one would you believe – one that is poorly written full of grammatical errors or one that is professionally written? Of course, you will go for the latter.

Presentation matters. If something is carefully done, chances are, there is more truth to it.

7. Vary your perspective.

Observe things using different perspectives. Delay your judgment when the facts are not adequate.

Remember the story of the six blind men and the elephant (see the video below if you are not familiar with this story)? Each one of them has a different view of what an elephant is because they relied on only one observation. The point is: don’t confine yourself to just one observation.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBqgr5xZLz0&rel=0]

8. Think beyond the box.

Explore what other information you can find about things around you. Thinking beyond the box means that you are unconventional. Don’t take things as they are. Ponder them and take action to verify the truth based on your observation.

The newly discovered mammal named olinguito would have been overlooked had one scientist dismissed his observation. Read about this discovery here.

9. Don’t make decisions right away.

Many commit blunders as a result of wrong decisions. Blunder is a common term used in playing chess. Once you make the decision, you cannot retract it. The die is cast.

While too much procrastination may be bad for you, being impulsive is also destructive. University of San Diego professor Frank Partnoy says the key to success is waiting for the last possible moment to make a decision[3].

10. Watch out for opinionated statements. 

Don’t believe something without a basis. If you have 100 people, you are bound to have 100 opinions. Arguments should be substantiated by facts or evidences.

The whole point of the matter discussed here is that it pays if you follow certain guidelines in evaluating information presented to you. Remember Alexander Pope’s famous quotation “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

References

1. Queensland Government. (2013, April 24). Crocodiles. Retrieved from August 17, 2013, from http://www.qld.gov.au/environment/plants-animals/animals/crocodiles/

2. Outred, J. (2013, July 24). Cold-blooded dinos would have been ‘too weak’. Retrieved from August 17, 2013, from http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/cold-blooded-dinosaurs-would-have-been-too-weak.htm

3. Gambino, M. (2012, July 13).  Why Procrastination is good for you. Retrieved August 17, 2013, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Why-Procrastination-is-Good-for-You-162358476.html

© 2013 August 18 P. A. Regoniel