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Christina's LIS Rant
Monday, September 18, 2006
  Other issues with gifs and science...
Previously, in my now somewhat dead other blog, I'd spent a bit of time discussing math on the web.
Fast forward a bit... Peter Murray-Rust posts some very good examples of how gifs and other similar image files are used to represent data/graphs/structures, etc., in chemistry -- and how they are actually pretty evil. Very good post and well worth reading.

Actually, I think the html-ized articles with the tiny jpeg images of tables and graphs are absolutely the worst.

It seems like we should be farther along at this point. PDFs are really just like having paper -- shouldn't we actually be able to work with the image and search the equations?
 
Comments:
Thanks Christina,
You suggest that images might be turned back into semantic information. I don't know how well this works for maths but it's pretty hairy for chemistry. I've spent some time hacking a prototype and there are several problems:
* the dynamic range is often not as good as it appears to the eye. glyphlike components run into each other even after image processing
* the semantics of components is undefined. A '2' could be a label, an element multiplier, a label, a page number, etc. Humans are good at managinig this; machines aren't.
* components can overlap. Bonds cross and this can be a real pain
* some components can be very small. A double bond (=) sometimes comes out as (:)

P.
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

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