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    This web site contains mainly information about my research experience, interests, and publications. Besides you can find something about real life...
  • About me

    I am a researcher in theoretical condensed matter physics. My primary research interest is the development and improvement of electronic structure methods.
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  • h 10

    February 8th, 2008 by myrta

    Since we are using a decimal numbering system, we have the impression that ten and its multiples are somehow more “important”. So it happens that our goals are usually expressed in multiples of ten. Coming to the point, my h-index has become 10 in these last weeks. The h-index is a metric to evaluate a scientist on the basis of the impact of his/her work. An h-index N means that a scientist has N publications that have N citations or more. “This metric is useful because it discounts the disproportionate weight of highly cited papers or papers that have not yet been cited. (Web of Science)”.

    Indeed in my case on the total of 12 publications, the average number of citations is slightly above 27, nevertheless the most recent publications have still very few citations, while a couple of older articles collect together 140 citations that is more than 40% of the total.

    Posted in Research & Around | Comments Off

    beside PowerPoint

    January 5th, 2008 by myrta

    PowerPoint is symptomatic of a certain type of bureaucratic environment: one typified by interminable presentations with lots of fussy bullet-points and flashy dissolves and soundtracks masked into the background, to try to convince the audience that the goon behind the computer has something significant to say. It’s the tool of choice for pointy-headed idiots with expensive suit and skinny laptops who desperately want to look as if they’re in command of the job, with all the facts at their fiddling fingertips, even if Rome is burning in the background. Nothing stands for content-free corporate bullshit quite like PowerPoint. And that’s just scratching the surface…

    In this excerpt of “The Jennifer Morgue” by Charles Stross, Bob Howard — the main character — expresses his strong dislike for MS PowerPoint. To fully understand his reasons my advice is to read the book (really!), on the other hand it is a long time I have wanted to write something on this subject and reading these words finally convinced me.
    I share with Bob Howard the dislike for PowerPoint. The first reason and probably the most important, is that I am a Linux user, so MS products are simply off. A second reason is the portability. Showing a PowerPoint presentation on a different computer is always a bet. Of course one can convert the presentation in PDF, but for that I think there exist better programs. A third reason is that including formulas in PowerPoint is extremely tedious. A fourth is that, as remarked in this excerpt, PowerPoint instigates one to an unrestrained use of special effects.
    Here below, I listed some alternatives to PP directed especially to Linux users.
    A quite obvious alternative, is the presentation component of the OpenOffice suite. The advantage with respect to PP is that it is free, and open source (for those who care), while for what regards the features and the general philosophy it follows PP quite closely. It has a tool for formulas, but it still can be quite tedious work to fill them in, and the conversion to PDF is not always convincing. For LaTeX users, the best option may be to use LaTeX itself. The beamer package is becoming indeed quite popular among physicists. Besides the fact that you can re-use material from your LaTeX articles and notes, you can create directly a PDF document. Another TeX based alternative is the ConTeXt macropackage. I find it more flexible than Beamer-LaTeX for what regards the layout. On the other hand, it is TeX based, but it isn’t LaTeX, so you may loose some time in converting commands from one language to the other. Many may be skeptical on the results of a TeX-made presentation. In my experience I have seen very nice presentations made with both tools here mentioned. Sometimes it can be a fight to put all information you want on a slide, but it forces you to think what information are really essential, and how much information can really go in one slide. For those that yet prefer a WhatYouSeeIsWhatYouGet option, the open source desktop publisher Scribus may be a solution. Being a publisher, the concept is very different from PowerPoint, and it is more intuitive and easier to personalize than (La/Con)TeX. It outputs a PDF; the conversion was not that good in the first versions, but it has been quite improved in the latest. Again if you have formulas it may be not the best choice. As last option, those who want to give a very graphical presentation may try Inkscape. It is really not a presentation tool. In particular you cannot save you presentation as a single file, but you will have a file for each slide. What then? You have two possibilities. First, you can save each slide as a PDF and put them together using PdfTk. Second, you can use Inkview, the svg viewer distributed together with Inkscape. The latter possibility is the best of the two, since it does not require the conversion to PDF (some Inkscape features, like gaussian blur, cannot be converted) and the merging with PdfTk. On the other hand Inkview is not (yet) very popular, so if you are obliged to use another computer, probably you would need to pass through the PDF conversion and merging. A nice feature of the latest Inkscape release is that you can import LaTeX (there are two different plugins) so that you can re-use formulas from your LaTeX articles.

    To finish, I concentrated on the several tools to set up a presentation. Of course as tools they are not bad or good a priori. Also PowerPoint can be used in a different way from the one described by Charles Stross. In particular in making my presentation, whatever the tool, I have found very useful the advices on slide design by Michael Alley. It really helps to make your presentation effective, by forcing you for each slide to write its main message as slide title, and to find a good graphics to demonstrate it. In this way there is no risk of needless slides or of your presentation being a long list of long bullet-lists that nobody is going to remember.

    Posted in Research & Around | Comments Off

    icy

    December 29th, 2007 by myrta

    In spite of months of “silence”, I am still alive. As I had promised, I have updated the design of the web to fit the current season (well I didn’t do so for the summer and the autumn…).
    In the icy-header now you can see frozen branches of the trees in my backyard (@Amsterdam) against a perfect blue sky.

    Posted in Outside office hours | Comments Off

    spammed away

    August 22nd, 2007 by myrta

    This is the third day I have to moderate a bunch of spam comments. Together with the “usual xxx” spam I am also receiving 8-10 spam comments per day with links to car rentals and to offers for expensive cars (well this is what they pretend to be, of course I did not check). This has started when for some reason the Google search engine put my weblog at the top of the search list of “rich men drive” (I realized that when looking at the Google search hits of August in my webstats). In fact, this is a part of the citation from Glass soup in this old post. This result is for sure quite bizarre when looking at my web site, definitively rich men driving expensive cars are not its target.

    Posted in Outside office hours | Comments Off

    physics and voting systems

    July 27th, 2007 by myrta

    When back in Italy it is unavoidable to get involved in Italian politics. This time – I have been in Italy the first two weeks of this month – wasn’t an exception. And this time the matter of the politicians’ squabbles was the vote of the senators-for-life. In fact, since the difference of seats between the government and the opposition coalitions at the Senate is minimal, the vote of the senators-for-life has been, and could be in the future decisive in several occasions. That reminded me of an article I read last year on Le Scienze, the Italian edition of Scientific American on the recent reform of the electoral system of the Italian Senate. This reform introduced a bonus for the coalition with the majority that in principle should enhance the governability and stability. In practice, the authors of this article – researchers in Physics of Complex Systems (that’s where the title of this post is coming from)- show that the effects of this reform are unpredictable, and the “bonus” can increase, decrease or let as it is the number of seats of the majority coalition (this has indeed been the case in the last elections). The reason is that the bonus is given on regional basis. In brief, the authors remark that the actual voting system for the Senate resembles the behavior of chaotic systems which have a deterministic trajectory, but since this trajectory depends on tiny details, can’t in fact be predicted.

    Recently signatures have been collected to promote a referendum to change the voting system for electing the Senate. The quota has been reached so probably, if nothing happens in the meanwhile, we will have a referendum (yet another one!) to change the electoral system for both the Parliament and the Senate. That brings me to this second article (that was referred by the previous one, not a physicist this time). The starting point is that while the citizens should choose the electoral system, this choice is technically too involved, and in fact the citizens cannot make this choice directly. As a solution the author suggests that the citizens simply choose what are the values of two parameters related to the representativeness and governability, then the electoral system corresponding more closely to this choice is selected via a purely technical procedure.

    Posted in Outside office hours, politics | Comments Off

    SUV

    June 27th, 2007 by myrta

    I really don’t like SUV (sport utility vehicle). I think they are cumbersome and useless, occupy too much parking space and consume too much fuel. Among SUV, I particularly dislike Porsche Cayenne. Here, aesthetic reasons add up to what I already said — I find it ugly. So I was really delighted when I read this passage from Glass soup by Jonathan Carrol perfectly phrasing my thoughts on this monster:

    A brand-new Porsche Cayenne, no less. One of those four-wheel-drive, eighty-thousand-dollar Jeep-y testosterone-turbos that rich men drive to show the world they’re larky, adventurous, but don’t forget I’m rich too. A “Weekend rambo” vehicle.

    Posted in environment, Outside office hours, reading | Comments Off

    glasshouse

    June 16th, 2007 by myrta

    In a couple of days I devoured Glasshouse, a Science Fiction book by Charles Stross.The reason I like SF is that it is all about imagining possible scenarios for the far future and imagining how human behavior, habits, values would change as a consequence. The reason I like Charles Stross’ books (and Glasshouse in particular) is that they present very interesting and consistent far future scenarios and characters and describe them brilliantly, providing a lot of juicy details (and details matter!). So, if you like SF, my advice is definitively read this book.

    Posted in Outside office hours, reading | Comments Off

    Y2!

    May 31st, 2007 by myrta

    It is already (more than) one year that myrta.eu is up and running. For this occasion, the site got a new look, while the content stays -for the moment- unchanged. Not without regrets I removed the glorious but useless “click your star” portal. Now you access directly the home page that coincides with what is supposed to be my blog (I suppressed as well the old, not really successful blog). The header should change with the seasons, or for particular events. See if I find the time for it. At the moment, in the header you have the picture of field of flowers in the Salento (Italy), that I visited last year with my mother.

    Posted in Outside office hours | Comments Off