[Discuss] Access to Academic Journals

malcolm stanley a.malcolm.stanley at gmail.com
Mon Dec 30 18:31:38 UTC 2013

I need help.

Last summer I was on vacation in Eastern Canada, where I grew up, and
encountered the collection of cetacean skeletons at the Grand Manan Whale
and Seabird Research Station (

Looking at the skeletons, it was fairly obvious to me that they had evolved
qualities that must be functionally beneficial in terms of locomotion. This
was a pretty hurried 'eyeball' assessment (we were waiting for a ferry) but
I was intrigued and wanted to learn more...

I thought about it for a few weeks and decided this would be a good long
term project and wrote up a small project description, which is here:
http://www.slideshare.net/amstanley/weir-shepherd-concept-2013-08-16 .

The gist of the project is to:
 - 3d-scan and print a complete small cetacean skeleton
 - Copy, using available technology, the muscular systems of the animal,
modifying the skeleton as required to provide points of attachment and
address other practical construction concerns
 - Create SW to provide basic functionality, such as locomotion
 - Over time, develop more sophisticated functionality, such as
environmental awareness, interaction with other environmental actors, and
so on...

To drive functional requirements, I identified some practical real world
applications (preventing whales from entering nets, driving fish into nets)
which may or may be achievable but are certainly interesting to think
about. I estimate this project will take 10+ years, and most importantly,
be a lot of fun to work at in my spare time.

I am at the very beginning stages: I am now searching for an available
skeleton to scan and print, and doing preliminary research into the
musculature/tissue systems which must be somehow replicated. This latter is
where I am running into challenges I need help with.

I have found at least one journal article, "To Bend a Dolphin: Convergence
of Force Transmission Designs in Cetaceans and Scombrid Fishes" (
http://icb.oxfordjournals.org/content/40/1/146.full), which describes in
some detail the musculature of the target species of which I wish to
explore functional replication. The full text of the article is available,
and provides some tantalizing engineering hints at how one might go about
doing that. It also reinforces my initial suspicions that the skeletal
structure and associated musculature and tissue systems seem to provide
advantages in areas like power efficiency which will be absent from systems
which do not replicate them.

There is in the back of the article a long list of additional articles with
IN THE CETACEA" and "Morphology of the subdermal connective tissue sheath
of dolphins: A new fibre-wound, thin-walled, pressurized cylinder model for
swimming vertebrates. J. Zool., (London), 23835-52", which appear to be
must reads if one wished to further understand the system of a cetacean and
its components.

This is where I run into problems: I cannot access many of the referenced
articles. There is almost always a paywall erected in front of these
articles, and a sum of money requested to access them.

I am not an academic. When I left school, 30 years ago, journals were on
paper, there was a card catalog, you get the drift. Now all(?) of those
papers appear to be online, but to access them appears to require some sort
of academic affiliation or an endless supply of money, neither of which I
currently possess.

So here is my question: how do other people, like you, who wish to engineer
things, go about accessing the academic research which describes the thing
to be engineered? How do you access the journal articles, without paying an
arm and a leg, if you are a maker solving a practical (to you) problem, and
not a PHD candidate in the arms of an academic institution which will
provide this sort of access?

I guess I am naive in that I cannot quite believe this sort of money driven
limitation of practical access to 'basic' knowledge exists. I need to get
something done that requires that access, and so now I am getting educated.
 Please help me understand what I am up against, and what my practical
options are to proceed...

Thanks for at least listening: any advice welcomed with gratitude.

malcolm stanley

google.voice:  215.821.6252
Cell: 267.251.9479   <------------- new
email: a.malcolm.stanley at gmail.com
twitter / linkedin: amstanley
Read my blog at http://soaringhorse.blogspot.com
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