What we're talking about Thursday, May 24, 2012

Welcome to ScienceBlogs

So, as you may or may not have noticed, ScienceBlogs has gotten a makeover. If you read via RSS, you might not notice anything, but if you come to the blog itself, you’ll see a new look. The previous three-column layout is gone, and posts on the front page now show only short excerpts and…

“As always on this boulevard, the faces were young, coming annually in an endless migration from every country, every continent, to alight here once in the long journey of their lives.” -Brian Moore Even the Universe experiences a “great migration” every now and again, where giant, massive globules of interstellar gas are blown thousands of…

Welcome to the updated ScienceBlogs.com, please bear with us as we work out any final kinks after the migration. Thanks!

In Conversation

"The days when we could implicitly tell ourselves the happy story that the rest of the world doesn’t mind our basic inequities are over – they do mind, and are likely to tell us so, just as Occupy protesters have."

Channel Surfing

Life Science

New online articles this week highlight two forays into the world of synthetic biology. Each, in its own way, gives a different perspective on how sophisticated the field has become in the past few years, since smiley-face DNA was first introduced. Prof. Benjamin Geiger of the Weizmann Institute and Prof. Joachim Spatz of the Max…

(via Ark in Space.) (Also on FtB)

In 1993, convicted murderer Joseph Jernigan was executed in texas and his body donated to science. It was preserved in gelatin and sliced into 1,871 sections. Scans of these sections were strung together into an animation, and played back on a computer screen as it was swept across the field of a long-exposure camera shot.…

Physical Science

The word came out last night that the GEMS Small Explorer Class Mission has been cancelled. GEMS is an x-ray polarimetry mission, using new detector technology, and the rumours (from the “Astronomers” group on fb) are that an Independent Cost Estimate showed the mission blowing its budget. The mission passed a design review earlier this…

“A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.” -Elbert Hubbard I’ve had the great fortune in my life to see a great many wonderful things with my own eyes, including the rings of Saturn, the phases of Venus, a couple of faint, distant galaxies, and…

This image has been going around the intertubes recently, I saw it first on Planet 3.0 and again on APOD. It is one of those interesting illustrations of large quantities that seems surprising or anti-intuitive either because you never thought about it carefully before or just because it is hard to get your head around…

Environment

The New York Times’ Ian Urbina reports that the law limiting trucker hours has an exemption for oil and gas workers — and, not surprisingly, traffic crash fatality rates for this group are high.

Members of and organizations affiliated with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) received an Action Alert today urging them to tell USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to withdraw his agency’s proposed rule on poultry slaughter inspection (77 Fed Reg 4408.) As written here previously and by the Center for Progressive Reform’s Rena Steinzor in “The…

by Dick Clapp Judge Louis H. Pollak, who died on May 8, has been revered for his role as a civil rights lawyer, a volunteer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, dean of two law schools, and respected jurist. As my colleague Sheldon Krimsky, PhD of Tufts University observed, Pollak was one of those practical…

Humanities

So with the return of spring comes the return of Occupy, which by and large, is probably a good thing.  OWS deserves some props for drawing attention to inequity, for bringing radicalism back, and for showing a very complacent corporate and political leadership that the people still have bite in them.  Generally speaking I approve…

So, as you may or may not have noticed, ScienceBlogs has gotten a makeover. If you read via RSS, you might not notice anything, but if you come to the blog itself, you’ll see a new look. The previous three-column layout is gone, and posts on the front page now show only short excerpts and…

Science Magazine is running a “Science Voices” series of short essays by members of the science community on the topic of Human Conflict. So far there are four or five, and they cover conflict from a wide range of perspectives. You can see them all here. I’ve written one on conflict in the blogosphere which…

Education

Missouri, the “Show Me State,” had two bills in the state house that wuld have promoted Intelligent Design in the public school science class. The legislature adjourned a couple of days ago without advancing the bills, and that is how a bill dies. RIP bad bills in Missouri. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Evolution is Real!…

Politics

Gareth Renowden tells the story of Monckton and the Mob.

Just a quick heads-up for those who don’t know yet: there is closed group “Astronomers” on facebook. It is by invitation only, ie some existing member must add any new member. You must have an fb account to be added. The group has about 4,000 members, most all professional astronomers from around the world. There…

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the launch of a new initiative from the Union of Concerned Scientists – The Center for Science and Democracy. The UCS itself was founded in the late 1960′s in response to the Cold War nuclear arms race. Graduate students and faculty at MIT decided that someone needed to advocate for “greater…

Medicine

HAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  I feel like Stewie Griffin. I DONT LIKE CHANGE!!! Give us a minute, we will figure it out (hey, I figured how to get pages of comments so Our Epic Threads dont take over 9000 years to load! dont have to top it off at 5K!!!) In the mean time, Skeptics of Oz have…

Acupuncture has been a frequent topic on this blog because, of all the “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) modalities out there, it’s arguably the one that most people accept as potentially having some validity. The rationale behind acupuncture is, as we have explained many times before, little different than the rationale behind any “energy healing”…

I’m sometimes asked why I do this. Why, people ask me, do I spend so much time generating post after post after post day after day after day? Obviously, one reason is that it interests me. Another reason is the passion that drives me to support science and science-based medicine and to detest the damage…

Brain & Behavior

Hikaru Nakamura has won the U. S. Chess Championship by a full point. It was a dominating performance, capped off with a stunning win with black, in the penultimate round, against the other pre-tournament favorite Gata Kamsky. This is Nakamura’s third title. So, congratulations to him. Today’s tactical exercise comes from the tenth round game…

The World Championship continues to be a snooze. Five games down, five draws. Only one game has made it past the thirtieth move. Both players seem very hesitant and completely uninclined to take any risks. Still seven games left, though, so we will see what happens. Happily, the U. S. Championship continues to produce one…

We’re two games down in the big World Chess Championship. The challenger is Boris Gelfand of Israel, squaring off against the defending champion Viswanathan Anand of India. Both games were quick draws, but things have been a little more interesting than that makes it sound. Gelfand whipped out the Grunfeld Defense in game one, which…

Technology

Blogging from a plane over Germany! Whee! A Boeing 737-800 Berlin-Stockholm operated by Norwegian. My 1st experience with internet on a plane.

It’s probably best to start with what Marc J. Kuchner’s new book — Marketing for Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times — isn’t. It isn’t a social media jackass recipe book for “Success through Twitter.” It isn’t a detailed treatise on marketing theory. It doesn’t come with a guarantee of grants, publications and prizes…

Information Science

Today is #OAMonday. It marks the launch of a petition on the Whitehouse web site to “Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.” Here is the text of the petition: We petition the obama administration to: Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from…

My union, the Library chapter of The York University Faculty Association (YUFA) has released a couple of open letters to The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages in the current Canadian government. The letters protest the current cuts to staff and programs at Library and Archives Canada. The letters do sketch…

Future U: The stubborn persistence of textbooks Daunt: library e-lending “disruptive” to high street A “License to Read”: The Effect of E-Books on Publishers, Libraries, and the First Sale Doctrine Inside the Georgia State Opinion The GSU decision — not an easy road for anyone The GSU decision E-Reservations The Greatest Threat to Amazon May…

Jobs

A small non-profit concerned with climate change is seking a “Climate Wiki Intern” which sounds very interesting. Knowing that many of my readers would be very good at this, It thought it was worth a blog post to point you in this direction:

Ads of the World. Can business cards evoke creativity, spark interest? Standard business cards seem outdated, dull, uninspiring. Liberate your shoelaces, your flexagons!