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Khalil’s Picks (9 November 2012)

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


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Hurricane Sandy is in the news but for this weeks’ picks, I opted to not concentrate on bad news exclusively. So in addition to Sandy and gloomy climate science, space science is also featured!

Douglas Main writes about an important topic in OurAmazingPlanet.com: not only is sea level rising but the rise is accelerating for the US East Coast. Even more troubling than potentially getting submerged is that North Carolina now prevents its researchers from reporting estimates… which essentially is lying to constituents.

Sea Level Rise Accelerating For US East Coast
This summer the North Carolina Senate passed a bill banning researchers from reporting predicted increases in the rate of sea level rise. But the ocean, unbound by legislation, is rising anyway — and in North Carolina this rise is accelerating, researchers reported here yesterday (Nov. 6) at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. On the coast of North Carolina and at other so-called “hotspots” along the U.S. East Coast, sea levels are rising about three times more quickly on average than they are globally, researchers reported during a session devoted to sea level rise. That’s the fastest rise in the world.

In a recent speech, President Obama unexpectedly mentioned climate change and his government’s determination to reduce carbon pollution because “climate change is not a hoax.” But by linking climate change and hoax though, did he inadvertently do more harm than good? Joss Fong looks at the psychology in Scienceline.

How not to talk about climate change
President Obama doesn’t often speak publicly about global climate change, so environmentalists celebrated when he declared at September’s Democratic convention: “My plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet because climate change is not a hoax.” It may have sounded like an unambiguous message, but recent psychology research suggests that by using a negation — “not a hoax” — to frame the issue, the president may have inadvertently strengthened the very claim he intended to discredit.

Hurricane Sandy was obviously very much in the news this week, including the science sections. Susan Matthews writes about the important money problems Hurricane Sandy caused to laboratories in New York City and how it might be a challenge to get insurance companies to cover the damage. In Nature Medicine‘s blog, A Spoonful of Medicine.

Insurance challenges may lie ahead for New York labs hit by hurricane
At the end of turbulent week, the extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy on biomedical research in the Northeast remains unclear, particularly at New York University’s Smilow Research Center, which flooded during the storm. The most devastating loss at the labs there may be the death of thousands of genetically modified mice and rats, and these animals represent the culmination of many years of research and thousands of dollars in funding. Although the cages the rodents lived in may be insured, it’s likely impossible to recoup the money and time spent to engineer the animals themselves. Biomedical scientists may not think about the insurance needs for their labs on a daily basis, and as some Nature Medicine spoke with, it’s not always easy to get experiments up and running even when insurance is in place.

Nadia Drake writes that Saturn once had some giant satellites orbiting around it in Science News. And when those giant satellites collided, the violence sprout gave birth to some of its present satellites, like Titan. Who said the Solar System was a peaceful place?

Violent birth proposed for Saturn’s moon mishmash
Saturn’s skies sparkle with the faces of its many moons — some frosted and bright, others darker, honeycombed, or hiding beneath haze. How nature built these worlds from the same set of materials is a conundrum that has eluded scientists for years. Now, a team suggests that violence early in the solar system’s history produced the many strange moons that rise over Saturn’s ringed horizons.

Because Curiosity’s landing was a bit too much fun, NASA now intends to land its next capsule like a helicopter. Amy Shira Teitel tells all on Discovery News.

NASA’s next capsule to land like a helicopter
It looks like NASA is getting a little more creative with its landing systems. A team of researchers recently tested a new rotor landing system in the 550 foot fall Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The idea is for spinning blades to take the place of parachutes to enable soft and controlled landings on land instead of the ocean.

And don’t miss out:

A lot of links today. But you can find more writings from early-career science writers by following this Twitter list. Enjoy your weekend weekend.

Khalil A. Cassimally About the Author: Khalil A. Cassimally is the Community Coordinator of The Conversation UK. He's also a science blogger. He hails from a tropical island and is a happy geek. Subscribe to his updates on Facebook and Google+. Follow on Twitter @notscientific.

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



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