Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Best of Nature Network: 19 – 25 February


This week Nature Network has gone museum-mad as we embark on an ambitious attempt to Map the World’s Science Museums. The map is the grand finale to our Of Schemes and Memes mini series on museums. It is still a work in progress and readers across the globe are welcome to contribute. So if you think we have missed off an important science museum, please let us know so that it can be added to the map.

DesmondPaulHenry8.jpgFollowing our museum theme, Brian Derby has been showing us some Computer Art by Desmond Paul Henry held at the Museum of science and industry in Manchester. Significantly, his post highlights the importance of local museums in hosting work that would otherwise be lost.

GrrlScientist reveals a similar message to Brian in her latest post, Century-old museum specimens show when deadly bird disease came to Galápagos Islands. She tells the story of how old museum specimens were used to answer important questions about why some Galápagos bird species became extinct. Her post demonstrates the crucial role played by museums in preserving material that may one day prove scientifically valuable. As Jack Dumbacher, Curator of Ornithology at CAS comments:

Without museum collections, work like this would never be possible.

Hub news

Continuing the museum theme, Matt Brown suggests that those in London who are interested in booze, science and no kids, will enjoy Late at the Science Museum. Now a monthly event, the Science Museum is giving over-18s an opportunity to peruse the galleries with a glass of Merlot. Meanwhile, Joanna Scott in the San Francisco blog has conveniently summarised the Network’s latest museum stories in a post entitled Museum Maps.

In addition to this post, Joanna breaks away from the museum theme, to discuss the launch of the STS-133 space shuttle Discovery. A quite different event drew the attention of Tinker Ready, our Boston blogger, who has been discussing the outcome of a panel held at Harvard on Tuesday on Mapping the Human Genome: Ten Years After. Here’s Harvard’s in-house report from the Harvard Gazette.

Do scientists and technology mix?

Having attended the 4th Cell Behaviour Ontology workshop, David Basanta has been discussing Cell ontologies and computer code considering whether computer codes made by scientists will ever become publically available:

In a recent editorial in Science magazine it is suggested that Science will start requiring scientists to make computer code publicly available. Most computer code written by mathematical and computational biologists, who seldom have the training that is common in software engineering and who often expect themselves to be the only users of the code they produce, is really difficult to read and understand. Having computer code publicly available will be of limited use to anybody but the most determined hackers so that is where metalanguages and ontologies will come useful if not a necessity.

On the topic of science and technology, Wilson Pok, in his post E-mail like it’s 1999, asks whether academic science is doing all it can with online networking and collaboration. And if not, why not? His comment threads reveal some interesting explanations. Chris Surridge also joins the discussion in his post Come out from under that bushel, where he has been looking for ways to encourage scientists to participate in online activity.

I, and many other people, have spent a lot of time over the last decade trying to figure out how to get scientists participate in online activity. Commenting on research papers would be nice for a start.

Climate Change

This week Australian blogger MuKa has been asking some relevant questions about climate change, hoping to understand the controversial topic better. Opening up his comment thread for debate, he is trying to elicit opinions on whether humans actually have an effect on the climate.

Meanwhile, trying to suggest a solution to battling climate change, Raf Aerts reveals that the answer could lie with forests. 2011 marks the United Nation’s International Year of Forests and he explains:

They are an important carbon stock, and conserving them is of utmost importance to combat global change.

Question Time

The question of the week goes to our newest blogger, Graham Morehead, who asks What is Alive? His emergent comment thread has stimulated a thought-provoking debate.

A question of a different kind is raised by Rachel Bowden in the Nature Jobs blog:

Should animal researchers speak out in public in support of their work, and if so, how? Should institutions only put forward researchers who have been appropriately trained to deal with the media?

Readers are invited to share their views in the comment thread.

Questions continue with Eric-Wubbo Lameijer’s post Never again: lack of time, where he asks how can it be that….

….Geniuses in general seem prohibitively productive, yet in a study of great scientists versus average and failing scientists, it were the average scientists who were complaining about lack of time, not the famous ones, which one would suppose work much harder. How can that be?

Expanding your blogging horizons

For all our readers who enjoy a wide variety of science blogs, Nature Network is not the only home for blogging at NPG. We also have NPG staff blogs, such as The Great Beyond, Spoonful of Medicine and The Skeptical Chymist. Then there is Scitable blogs, managed by the Nature Education team, and Scilogs blogs which are managed by our German arm of Scientific American. Make sure you check them out – we’ll start flagging the best bits up in our weekly round-up from next week.

In the same vein, Nature Network has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of our Bioentrepreneur blog, Trade Secrets. Brady Huggett, Business Editor of Nature Biotechnology says:

First post on a new blog. It’s like walking across fresh snow.

In his post he explains that the blog will officially launch on March 8, 2011, in coordination with the 15-year anniversary of Nature Biotechnology_. With over 20 contributing authorssecrets/about.html located across the globe, make sure you mark your diaries. In the meantime, you can follow Nature Biotechnology’s Twitter feed here.

Soapbox Science: A bit of Magic

This week’s guest blogger, Peter McOwan, entertained us with his post A pack of cards and a little calculated hocus-pocus. He even presented us with a card trick; why not give it a go yourself?


Viktor Poor suggests that an alternative law of physics may have arisen if Newton had lived on a tropical island…..



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