Seamless integration of Papers and DEVONthink

Two of my favorite programs on the Mac are Papers and DEVONthink Pro Office. Papers provides a terrific interface for storing and organizing journal articles, and DEVONthink Pro Office offers powerful indexing and searching of PDF files.

Recently I was thrilled to find an easy way to use the two programs together. If Papers is configured to store your PDF files in its library (the default), DEVONthink can index these without duplicating them in its database. To configure:

  • Launch DEVONthink
  • Open an existing DEVONthink database or create a new one
  • Choose “Index…” from the “File” menu
  • Locate and select the folder where your Papers library is stored (by default the folder is called “Papers” and it’s stored in the “Documents” folder in your home directory)

If you have a large number of papers, it may take a while for DEVONthink to index them. Once indexing is complete, you’ll see a folder structure that mimics the structure of your Papers library. You can now search your PDF files in DEVONthink!

To update your DEVONthink index (e.g., after adding articles to your Papers library), click on the “Papers” folder in your DEVONthink database and choose “Synchronize” from the “File” menu.

NSF concludes "science hard"

From The Onion, a bit of humor related to my previous post:

INDIANAPOLIS—The National Science Foundation’s annual symposium concluded Monday, with the 1,500 scientists in attendance reaching the consensus that science is hard.

“For centuries, we have embraced the pursuit of scientific knowledge as one of the noblest and worthiest of human endeavors, one leading to the enrichment of mankind both today and for future generations,” said keynote speaker and NSF chairman Louis Farian. “However, a breakthrough discovery is challenging our long-held perceptions about our discipline—the discovery that science is really, really hard.”

See National Science Foundation: Science Hard for the rest of the article.

The Really Hard Science

Social scientists sometimes take flak from physical scientists for not doing “real science.” If you’re a social scientist and you’ve experienced this, you may appreciate the following excerpt from “The Really Hard Science” by Michael Shermer (Scientific American, September 16, 2007):

Over the past three decades I have noted two disturbing tendencies in both science and society: first, to rank the sciences from “hard” (physical sciences) to “medium” (biological sciences) to “soft” (social sciences); second, to divide science writing into two forms, technical and popular. And, as such rankings and divisions are wont to do, they include an assessment of worth, with the hard sciences and technical writing respected the most, and the soft sciences and popular writing esteemed the least. Both these prejudices are so far off the mark that they are not even wrong.

I have always thought that if there must be a rank order (which there mustn’t), the current one is precisely reversed. The physical sciences are hard, in the sense that calculating differential equations is difficult, for example. The variables within the causal net of the subject matter, however, are comparatively simple to constrain and test when contrasted with, say, computing the actions of organisms in an ecosystem or predicting the consequences of global climate change. Even the difficulty of constructing comprehensive models in the biological sciences pales in comparison to that of modeling the workings of human brains and societies. By these measures, the social sciences are the hard disciplines, because the subject matter is orders of magnitude more complex and multifaceted.

The remainder of Shermer’s essay discusses the relationship between theory, observation, data, and communication. Definitely worth reading, if you’re interested.