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The Scienceblogging Weekly (June 15th, 2012)

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Blog of the Week:

Russ Williams is the Director of the North Carolina Zoological Society and, as far as I know, the only “director of a zoo” who blogs. And does he ever – Russ has been blogging up a storm ever since 2005 when Ed Cone taught him how (you may call me The Blogfather, but Ed Cone is the blogfather for many of us in North Carolina). On his blog Russlings, Russ covers plenty – what is new at the N.C.Zoo in Asheboro, what is new in other zoos around the country and the world, what is new in policy and politics of animal conservation, plus cool pictures and videos of wildlife. But where the value really comes up is at the times of natural disasters – Russ is “in the know” and often the first and/or the only person to blog about the status of zoos and aquaria, as well as farm animals, wildlife preserves etc, in the affected areas. During disasters, Russlings is the Go-To place for such coverage.

 

Top 10:

How Our Disinterest in ‘The Environment’ Signals the End of Nature by Christopher Mims:

No one reading this has the slightest fucking clue what “nature” is, and in 1995 fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly proved it. In the paper that introduced the term “shifting baselines,” Pauly described how experts who determined how many fish should be caught often started with whatever the baseline state of the ecosystem was when they started their careers, instead of considering what a fishery might have looked like in the past, when it wasn’t nearly as degraded….

Getting used to being in charge of the planet by David Roberts:

…Nonetheless, like evolution, the dominance of human beings on Spaceship Earth is a profound and terrifying threat to all sorts of traditional worldviews. If Darwin showed us that God is not our author, the Anthropocene shows that He is not our caretaker. There’s no parent to supply us with endless resources and endless room to dispose of our waste. There’s no one to protect us or prevent us from screwing it all up….

Walking the Line: How to Identify Safe Limits for Human Impacts on the Planet by David Biello:

Is preserving the general environmental conditions that allowed civilization to flourish—a moderate climate, a rich array of species, rivers that reach the sea—necessary to ensure humanity endures? Or is minimizing alterations to the global environment introduced by human activity—rising levels of CO2 from fossil-fuel burning, widespread extinction, dams that impound water—more important to our success? Choosing the right approach is vital as the scale of human impact on the planet becomes so large that scientists are calling this new epoch in Earth’s history the Anthropocene (when human activity alters global climate and ecosystems)…

#GMOFAQ: Transferring genes from one species to another is neither unnatural nor dangerous by Michael Eisen:

Last week I wrote about the anti-science campaign being waged by opponents of the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture. In that post, I promised to address a series of questions/fears about GMOs that seem to underly peoples’ objections to the technology. I’m not going to try to make this a comprehensive reference site about GMOs and the literature on their use and safety (I’m compiling some good general resources here.) I want to say a few things about myself too…

Sea level rise 101 by John Bruno:

Based on the NC legislature’s decree about the science of sea level rise projections and some of the related propaganda we have seen from climate change deniers, I get the sense there is a lot of confusion about sea level rise. So here is a primer on what we know about sea level and climate change…

Dirty soil and diabetes: Anniston’s toxic legacy by Brett Israel:

The Rev. Thomas Long doesn’t have neighbors on Montrose Avenue anymore. Everyone is gone. Widespread chemical contamination from a Monsanto plant was discovered in this quiet city in the Appalachian foothills back in the 1990s. In West Anniston, behind Long’s home, a church was fenced off, and men in “moon suits” cleaned the site for weeks. Nearby, boarded windows and sunken porches hang from abandoned shotgun houses. Stray dogs roam the narrow streets. A red “nuisance” sign peeks above the un-mowed lawn of one empty house. Bulldozers will be here soon…

Pollution, Poverty, People of Color: No beba el agua. Don’t drink the water. by Liza Gross

Jessica Sanchez sits on the edge of her seat in her mother’s kitchen, hands resting on her bulging belly. Eight months pregnant, she’s excited about the imminent birth of her son. But she’s scared too. A few feet away, her mother, Bertha Dias, scrubs potatoes with water she bought from a vending machine. She won’t use the tap water because it’s contaminated with nitrates…

The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains (part II) by Aatish Bhatia:

Lately, I’ve got colors on the brain. In part I of this post I talked about the common roads that different cultures travel down as they name the colors in their world. And I came across the idea that color names are, in some sense, culturally universal. The way that languages carve up the visual spectrum isn’t arbitrary. Different cultures with independent histories often end up with the same colors in their vocabulary. Of course, the word that they use for red might be quite different – red, rouge, laal, whatever. Yet the concept of redness, that vivid region of the visual spectrum that we associate with fire, strawberries, blood or ketchup, is something that most cultures share….

How the Chicken Conquered the World by Jerry Adler and Andrew Lawler:

The chickens that saved Western civilization were discovered, according to legend, by the side of a road in Greece in the first decade of the fifth century B.C. The Athenian general Themistocles, on his way to confront the invading Persian forces, stopped to watch two cocks fighting and summoned his troops, saying: “Behold, these do not fight for their household gods, for the monuments of their ancestors, for glory, for liberty or the safety of their children, but only because one will not give way to the other.” The tale does not describe what happened to the loser, nor explain why the soldiers found this display of instinctive aggression inspirational rather than pointless and depressing. But history records that the Greeks, thus heartened, went on to repel the invaders, preserving the civilization that today honors those same creatures by breading, frying and dipping them into one’s choice of sauce. The descendants of those roosters might well think—if they were capable of such profound thought—that their ancient forebears have a lot to answer for….

‘Sexual depravity’ of penguins that Antarctic scientist dared not reveal by Robin McKie:

It was the sight of a young male Adélie penguin attempting to have sex with a dead female that particularly unnerved George Murray Levick, a scientist with the 1910-13 Scott Antarctic Expedition. No such observation had ever been recorded before, as far as he knew, and Levick, a typical Edwardian Englishman, was horrified. Blizzards and freezing cold were one thing. Penguin perversion was another….

 

Special topic #1: stimulants in school:

The Questions About ADHD Drugs The New York Times Didn’t Ask by Matthew Herper

The labels change, the game remains the same by Vaughan Bell

The NY Times: When Stimulants Are Bad by Robert Whitaker

The Horror of Drug-Boosted Grades and SAT Scores by Jacob Sullum

Should Ritalin Be Distributed To Everyone Taking the SATs? by Gary Stix.

 

Special topic #2: Prometheus and science in the movies:

The biology of Prometheus by Zen Faulkes

The Science of Prometheus – a review, containing a lot of spoilers by Frank Swain

Prometheus: an archaeological perspective (sort of). by Henry Rothwell

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus Examines the Roots of Alien’s Mythology by Larry Greenemeier

‘Prometheus’ Offers a Creationist Indulgence for Science Geeks by James Gorman

Prometheus: what was that about? Ten key questions by Ben Walters

Stealing fire by Zen Faulkes

Space: The Science of Prometheus by Discovery News

What’s Wrong With Prometheus (a Partial List) by Julian Sanchez


Best Videos:

Instant Egghead – What Causes Brain Freeze? by Ferris Jabr and Eric Olson

The Fabulab’s Flame Challenge by Jeanne Garbarino, Perrin Ireland and Deborah Berebichez

Curly Haired Mafia – Prometheus SPOILERS!!! (video) by Lali DeRosier, DNLee and Dr.Rhubidium


Best Image:

UCD worker wins award for rare photo of bee sting in action by Andrea Gallo


Science:

Sensory Ecology of the Third Eye by Ashli Moore

Lovely Lysenko by Dominic Berry

Assuming the Doctor’s a ‘He’ by Danielle Ofri, M.D.

Why We (Accidentally) Name Babies for Hurricanes by Elizabeth Preston

What is a vagina? by Emily Willingham

Imaginary Numbers are Real by Matthew Francis

Curious Experiments by Archbishop Marsh’s Library. “‘Curious Experiments’ for ‘The Amusement and Entertainment of Ladies, as well as Gentlemen’ which took place before a paying audience in Dublin in 1743.” recreated by high school students 270 years later.

Crowdfunding: A New Opportunity for Science and Innovation by John R. Platt

Old Books that Guided Science by Samuel Arbesman

Why you probably won’t experience your own traumatic death by George Dvorsky

June Gloom by Cameron Walker

Dear Slate: America Needs More Artists by See Arr Oh

Negative results and dodgy papers: keep quiet or publish? by Tom W. Phillips

Our Animal Natures by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers

‘I’m Not Your Wife!’ A New Study Points to a Hidden Form of Sexism by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Achtman on Plague Evolution by Michelle Ziegler

Would You Call Me A Scientist? by Sheril Kirshenbaum

Visiting “Brains. The Mind as Matter” at the Wellcome Collection by The curious neuron

Food Trade Too Complex to Track Food Safety by Maryn McKenna

The Johannes Kepler Defense by Romeo Vitelli

Taking the colour out of light. by Thony C. “The man who didn’t invent the achromatic lens” John Dollond born 9 June 1706.

Carnivorous plants respond to increased soil nitrogen, eco-news websites completely miss the point by Andrew Thaler

Virginia Lawmaker Says ‘Sea Level Rise’ Is A ‘Left Wing Term,’ Excises It From State Report On Coastal Flooding by Rebecca Leber

Teaching Neuroanatomy With A Showercap by Neuroskeptic

Fungus Inside Us: A New Health Frontier? by Brandon Keim

The Top Ten Strangest Self-Experiments Ever by Alex Boese

G r e a t e r / l e t t e r / s p a c i n g / helps reading in dyslexia by The Neurocritic

Dangerous Interventions: MMS and Autism by Emily Willingham

Cholera vaccine deployed to control African outbreak by Gozde Zorlu

Bath salts and… zombies? by Donna

You Don’t Have What it Takes by Lucy E. Hornstein MD

What they didn’t tell you about the transit of Venus by Rebekah Higgitt

Science Outreach: What Do You Need? by Matt Shipman

Double Xpression: Liz Neeley, Science Communicator Extraordinaire by Jeanne Garbarino

Overeating Makes Flies Obese, Diabetic, Dead by Elizabeth Preston

Creationism Uses Dinosaurs to Lure Kids Into Radical Ideas, But Scientists Should Not Care Too Much by Cameron English

No, America Does NOT Need More Scientists and Engineers by Derek Lowe

Plant uses chemical weapons to make mice spit out its seeds and To control cannibal toads, you just need the right bait and Fear of spiders changes bodies of grasshoppers and makes plants decay more slowly and Microbial Menagerie and Male spider castrates himself and gets more stamina by Ed Yong

Where have I been? Or, science outreach’s place in science. by Lauren Meyer

The culinary adventures of a cuttlefish by Jonas

Science Communication: A sort-of-kind-of Carnival, and some more thoughts of mine by Scicurious

Scientists map ‘Facebook for birds’ by Alan Boyle

Double Xpression: Debbie Berebichez, PhD Physicist by Jeanne Garbarino

The anthropologist and the kurgans by John Hawks

Scientists Tackle The Geography Of Nature Vs. Nurture In Maps Of U.K. by Ted Burnham

Does Acceptance of Evolution Matter? by Ed Brayton

Did Neanderthals Produce Cave Paintings? by Sarah Everts


Media, Publishing, Technology and Society:

Sorry, Young Man, You’re Not the Most Important Demographic in Tech by Alexis Madrigal

Online Seniors: Tech-Savvier Than You Think by Frederic Lardinois

Open access to research is inevitable, says Nature editor-in-chief by Alok Jha

A Serious Look at Funny Faces by Henry Adams – on the history of cartoons.

An Anarchist Constitution for Twitter by Rebecca Greenfield

Why Twitter Matters: Tomorrow’s Knowledge Network by Nigel Cameron

Learning To Write From Chopin by Murr Brewster

An alternative to the college degree? by Amy Scott

From scrubbing floors to Ivy League: Homeless student to go to dream college by Vivian Kuo

11 dreams for the publishing debate — #1 fewer papers and 11 dreams for the publishing debate — #2 get real credit for surveys and exposition and 11 dreams for the publishing debate — #3 get real credit for refereeing and #4 get real credit for communicating and
#5 sharing all our work every way we can by Peter Krautzberger

All A’Twitter: How Social Media Aids in Science Outreach – Chapter 8: Talking with the Social Media Experts and Chapter 9: Gathering Survey Results, and Chapter 10: Coming to Conclusions by Caitlyn Zimmerman

Why the World’s Most Perfect News Tweet Is Kind of Boring by Megan Garber

Do Journo Watchers Ignore Environmental Beat? by Keith Kloor

Exhausted With The Same by Erika Napoletano

Why you should be excited about vector-based maps in iOS 6 by Tim De Chant

Pitch Perfect – a primer for scientists reaching out to journalists by Liz Neeley

Social media and Google Analytics – who’s interested in botany? by Alun Salt

Paying for information versus *access* to information: A key distinction for news publishers by Robert Niles

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