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Khalil’s Picks (8 November 2013)

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


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You’ve been waiting the entire week for this, haven’t you? The first piece is a highly-recommended analysis of freelance science journalism salaries. Because you should know about money! Also in this week’s picks: on-the-ground report from Philippines about Typhoon Haiyan, some maths, some cheese, some chemistry.

Oh and putting this out there once again: would you like to get these picks in an email every Friday?

Show Me the Money: The Economics of Freelance Science Journalism by Rose Eveleth and Rachel Nuwer

Money. We want it. We need it. But when it comes up in conversation, we freelancers tend to bow our heads and get quiet, leaving the questions surrounding this touchy but vital topic largely unanswered. For starters, how much do people make? How little is too little? What can you do to make more? Can you even make it as a freelancer in this journalistically precarious day and age?

Eyewitness: Typhoon Haiyan strikes the Philippines by Adam Kucharski

The rain is ricocheting off the roads here in Manila. Early on Friday, our car’s tyres dragged in the deep puddles. Basketball courts – remnants of bygone American rule, and a staple of every district – are already flooding.

Forget perfect pizzas, here are four things simple maths really can help you with by Adam Kucharski

Newspapers recently reported that a mathematician has created an equation for the perfect pizza. It does not take much to spot that this was not exactly serious research. Not only was the study commissioned by Pizza Express, it is also the latest in a long line of such formula-based stories: ranging from the perfect day to the perfect piece of toast.

The Math Trick Behind MP3s, JPEGs, and Homer Simpson’s Face by Aatish Bhatia

Nine years ago, I was sitting in a college math physics course and my professor spelt out an idea that kind of blew my mind. I think it isn’t a stretch to say that this is one of the most widely applicable mathematical discoveries, with applications ranging from optics to quantum physics, radio astronomy, MP3 and JPEG compression, X-ray crystallography, voice recognition, and PET or MRI scans. This mathematical tool—named the Fourier transform, after 18th-century French physicist and mathematician Joseph Fourier—was even used by James Watson and Francis Crick to decode the double helix structure of DNA from the X-ray patterns produced by Rosalind Franklin. (Crick was an expert in Fourier transforms, and joked about writing a paper called, “Fourier Transforms for birdwatchers,” to explain the math to Watson, an avid birder.)

Sweet Dreams Are Made of Cheese by Dana Smith

You’re running down a hallway; running away from someone? Running towards something? Your feet start to lift off the ground and the ceiling opens up. You float higher and higher, and you get the feeling you’re not alone. You turn to your left and it’s Bob Dylan, laughing and calling you “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Suddenly the balloon you were holding onto, carrying you up into the sky, turns into a tangerine and you start to plummet back to earth. Just before you slam into the ground you awaken; sweaty, sheets twisted, wondering what the hell that was all about.

Another Time, Another Place by Rebecca Schwarzlose

Whenever I visit my childhood home outside of Chicago I try to make it to the local pancake house. The buttery pancakes would be reason enough, but they’re not the only reason I stop by. A stroll through that pancake house is truly a stroll down memory lane. Each table I pass triggers a memory of a meal shared with different people in different decades of my life. One moment I’m eating German pancakes with my college boyfriend. The next, I am passing menus to my new husband’s family.  The next, I am celebrating my eighth grade graduation with my parents and older brother.

Five questions that (should) keep chemists awake at night by Ashutosh Jogalekar

It is often said that chemistry lacks “big questions” like physics and biology. But this is not entirely true. The origin of life is a quintessentially chemical problem, and it’s as big as fundamental questions can get. More importantly, what chemistry may lack in terms of big questions it has in spades in terms of issues which directly impact the daily life of earth’s denizens. From waste disposal to food production, from new medicines to solar energy, chemistry is the driving force for scores of crucial problems that humans will face in the new millennium.

Many more:

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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