The Situating Science cluster, and now the Canadian Consortium for Situating Science and Technology are doing inspiring work in helping all of us to understand how science works and how science and society interact. Below is a short video celebrating their accomplishments and explaining what they do. You can also subscribe to their YouTube channel.
Why read books or papers when there are easily-digestible videos of charismatic experts summarizing their work for you? Here are 5 interesting recent TED Talks, running the gamut from astronomy to metaphysics.
You can debunk and debunk-debunk all you want, but academic urban legends persist thanks to a variety of poor citation practices. Even superstars aren’t immune to the temptations of research shortcuts, as Žižek and Goodall must attest.
In light of this year’s Xtreme Eating Awards, Slate explains why it’s misleading to directly compare calorie-laden foods and hours of exercise. I don’t know if I’d swim 7 hours for the Cheesecake Factory’s 2,780-calorie Bruléed French Toast with bacon, but with 93 grams of saturated fat, it’s one menu item that’s better shared with the whole table.
Kentucky State University interim president Raymond Burse took a voluntary $90K salary cut to increase the pay rate for minimum-wage university employees.
Christie Aschwanden reviews the results of several recent surveys suggesting that sexual harassment and gender bias are widespread in the sciences.
What is the key to happiness? Having things work out better than you expect, according to a PNAS study claiming to have produced an equation that can predict happiness through MRI data. We enjoy anticipating good things, but we’re even happier with pleasant surprises. Unfortunately for pessimists, grumbling about how bad things are likely to be erodes the benefits of an unexpected happy ending.
Here’s an interesting debate about the science Ph.D. job market, where Slate’s Jordan Weissmann sees the situation as bleak and Bloomberg Businessweek’s Alison Schrager disagrees. Weissman’s rebuttal points out the opportunity costs for science and math students of not pursuing an M.B.A. instead—an option which offers better renumeration.
LEGO has announced that it has approved one of the finalists in its Ideas product competition: a trio of female scientists based on Ellen Kooijman (aka Alatriel Elensar)’s Female Minifigure Set. It will be marketed as the LEGO Research Institute, and will be eventually available in stores.
Here are anonymous comments made by “muzzled” Canadian government scientists about the state of science under the Harper Government. Yikes! On a related note, Stephen Harper urged Canadians to “listen to the scientific evidence” when it comes to vaccinating children.
How many polar bears are there? It turns out that’s a tricky question.
Solar roadways have made a big splash with a successful Indiegogo campaign and flashy video. The husband-and-wife team of Scott and Julie Brusaw want to replace asphalt roads, sidewalks, and parking lots with durable, LED-programmable, and replaceable hexagonal panels that would generate electricity, with additional benefits including warning drivers of obstacles or animal crossings, responding to parking lot conditions, and providing infrastructure for buried power, phone, and internet lines. Unfortunately, critics figure that the project’s estimated $56 trillion price tag will be an impediment to scalability, as will problems such as keeping the glass layers clean and preventing traffic hacking.
The Chemical Blog describes the chemical composition of tattoo ink, which is surprisingly unregulated.
There is more fructose in many soft drinks and sweetened juices than their labels disclose, according to a new study in Nutrition. This is a problem for the Corn Refiners Association, who claim that High-Fructose Corn Syrup (or “corn sugar,” as we learn in this helpful video) is practically equivalent to sucrose (table sugar; glucose-fructose in a 1:1 ratio).
The FDA’s cost-benefit analysis for new e-cigarette regulations includes a “lost pleasure” factor which accounts for the expected decrease in lifetime pleasure for those who quit.
Here’s a roundup of the best April Fool’s Day hoaxes from around the web, and another one focused on the science/library community. But NPR’s prank is the clearwinner.
“You don’t think of the Bible necessarily as a scientifically accurate source of information, so I guess we were quite surprised when we discovered it would work. We’re not proving that it’s true, but the concept would definitely work”: Physics students at the University of Leicester have determined that Noah’s ark would indeed be buoyant.
We don’t have stasis fields yet, but in a new clinical trial, gunshot or stabbing victims will be placed in suspended animation (induced hypothermia) while doctors repair damaged organs. [via Marginal Revolution]
Eliminating invasive species is more difficult than we realize, as is even labelling them “native” or “alien.”
We eat too much of everything… except yogourt: the FDA has proposed new serving sizes for several types of food to better reflect actual consumption habits.
Here is the first x-ray image of individual living cells, preserved without chemical fixation, from Physical Review Letters. This research illustrates the nanoscale damage to cell structures caused by traditional techniques [via Gizmodo].
What do women want while ovulating? Positional goods that improve their status compared to that of other women, according to a new paper in the Journal of Marketing Research. “Overall, women’s monthly hormonal fluctuations seem to have a substantial effect on consumer behavior by systematically altering their positional concerns, a finding that has important implications for marketers, consumers, and researchers” [via Marginal Revolution].
Science has long been understood as an economic endeavor. As early as 1879, Charles Sanders Peirce applied abstract economic reasoning to model scientific decision-making (Peirce 1967). Beginning in the 1930s, chemist-turned-philosopher Michael Polanyi and physicist-turned-sociologist John Desmond Bernal clashed over whether the science of their time was best organized according to free-market or socialist principles (Polanyi 2000; Bernal 1939). And perhaps most well known to students of science, Vannevar Bush argued in his 1945 report, Science the Endless Frontier, that the social and economic benefits of science justified public funding of scientific research.
In recent years, it has only become more clear that science cannot be understood separately from its economic circumstances. During the Cold War, massive government funding for science in the United States and elsewhere created the illusion that science could be understood as a disinterested search for truth insulated from economic concerns (cf. Merton 1942). However, since the early 1980s, science has entered what Philip Mirowski and Esther-Mirjam Sent call a “Globalized Privatization Regime,” characterized by increased private funding for research and globalized intellectual property laws (Sent and Mirowski 2008). Even those scientists who still rely on public funding are increasingly being asked to justify their research in economic terms (Brown, this issue). With most scientists no longer protected from market considerations, their activities can no longer be understood as resulting solely from a desire for knowledge and peer recognition. Rather, these scientists must be understood as entrepreneurs in the literal sense: as individuals seeking funding from a variety of sources in order to further enterprises that will yield tangible economic benefits.
Even philosophers, who as a group have been very reluctant to acknowledge that science is undergoing a fundamental restructuring, have recently begun worrying about the new economic circumstances of science. Philosophers have never shied away from employing economic methodology for understanding science (eg. Radnitzky 1987; Kitcher 1993; Goldman and Shaked 1991). However, they have generally viewed science as an abstract economy, where scientists compete not for dollars but for esteem. Now, prompted primarily by troubling developments in the biological sciences, they have begun turning their attention to the concrete economy of science (eg. Radder 2010). The most common concern expressed by philosophers is that the commercialization of scientific research is undermining the Mertonian norms of disinterest and communalism, and as a result, undermining science’s objectivity and epistemic authority (eg. Resnik 2007). Consequently, it is now fair to claim that researchers from every discipline of science studies have become interested in science as an economic activity.
The papers in this issue’s focused discussion build upon that interdisciplinary interest in science as an economic activity. They include contributions from historians, sociologists, philosophers, and economists.
Russell Foster argues in New Scientist (republished at Slate) that high schools ought to start later to provide teens with much-needed extra sleep.
From Smithsonian’s Surprising Science blog, women apparently prefer deep male voices, while men prefer high female voices; a paper published in PLOS ONE explains these results in terms of body size preference. But don’t despair; you can always change your voice with this.
The House Science Committee is embroiled in a dispute over NSF funding for the social and behavioural sciences, as committee chair Lamar Smith’s questioning the NSF’s peer review system comes under some sharply-worded criticism.
An image of a 4th-grade science quiz entitled “Dinosaurs: Genesis and the Gospel” from a Christian school in South Carolina has widely circulated online.
A new “Vampire” treatment for baldness involves reinjecting the patient’s own platelet-rich plasma.
A “no jab, no play” campaign launched yesterday aims to allow childcare centres in New South Wales, Australia, to ban unvaccinated children from attending. A similar policy in Ottawa has resulted in hundreds of current high school students facing suspension for failing to provide up-to-date proof of immunization.
The National Institute for Mental Health has rejected the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is about to release its 5th edition. NIMH research will now be oriented away from the DSM’s categories.
Mars vs Venus? Nope, we’re all Earthlings around here… A new study by Carothers and Reis suggests that many “gender-specific” personality traits (assertiveness, empathy, “desire to have sex with multiple partners” and even “interest in science”) overlap to such an extent that predicting someone’s gender based on traits alone is impossible (via Buzzfeed).
Speaking of “interest in science,” the “stereotype threat” of “innate differences” may be responsible for the United States, Canada, and other countries bucking the worldwide trend of 15-year-old girls outperforming boys in a science test administered by the OECD(published in a New York Times interactive graph). So avoid stereotypes, even if (like the European Commission) you have good intentions.
A recent review of anthropological literature has found that polyandry (one wife, multiple husbands) is more common than what you’d hear about in anthropology 101, perhaps because “Western male anthropologists had a hard time ‘believing’ in polyandry.”
Did you overdo it at the Superbowl buffet? It’s not the end of the world: the nutritional labels on many foods are inaccurate. Well, unprocessed foods, anyway. If you prefer chips and pork rinds, you might need help overcoming mindless eating. (via Jezebel)
The Bubble Chamber is a blog written by historians and philosophers of science for discussing contemporary issues of science and society through the lens of historical context and critical analysis.
Founded by the University of Toronto's Science Policy Working Group, The Bubble Chamber is a forum for those interested in a critical assessment of science in society and the development, regulation, and trajectory of science.