Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Best of Nature Network: 12 – 18 March


In the aftermath of one of the most devastating earthquakes in Japan’s tremor-filled history and the resulting tsunami which propagated across the Pacific Ocean, we have all been keeping a close eye on unfolding events. Amid mounting fears of a catastrophe after a nuclear plant in Fukushima was damaged by the earthquake, Nicolas Werneck has been explaining to us how a nuclear plant functions and what happens when there are problems.

Currently two of Fukushima’s six reactors’ outer housings have exploded and ensuing problems have caused concerns that this will turn into a nuclear incident, similar to the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986. Although the situation continues to develop, Nicolas explains in his post that the Fukushima disaster isn’t the same as Chernobyl:

The Fukushima accident is fundamentally different from Chernobyl, first of all because In Chernobyl there was a crazy sudden explosion of the reactor that nobody was anticipating, and in Fukushima we have a kind ofcontrolled crisis”.

In GrrlScientist latest blog post, she has included a helpful video explaining the basics of a nuclear reactor, helping to further explain this crisis in Japan.

NPG’s The Great Beyond blog has also been keeping us regularly updated with the latest news from Japan. Their current update, Fukushima fuel / radiation levels remain elevated, explains that despite attempts to reduce radiation levels surrounding the plant, they still remain high:

NHK reports that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the plant, has seen no change in radiation levels 100 m from unit 3 (the broadcaster does not give a number). The Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency reports that radioactivity forced workers to temporarily evacuate the unit 3 control room yesterday.

Scilogs Blogger, Gerhard Holtkamp, in his post Changing Earth Rotation, has been discussing news reports claiming that the Earth’s axis has shifted and its rotation has slowed down due to Japan’s earthquake. The details behind this story are revealed in his post.

Damage done?

The Great Beyond blog has been considering the impact of the tsunami and earthquake on scientific research. They reveal that a Japanese research ship called Chikyu, which holds the world record for being able to drill deepest into the ocean floor, has sadly been damaged. This has resulted in the cancellation of an expedition that intended to investigate a novel ecosystem in a coalbed deep under the ocean floor.

Away from the devastation in Japan, Graham Morehead, who studies ecosystems in the sea, has been discussing a system flip, in which one change to a stable ecosystem can have devastating consequences. He reveals that the removal of just one sea urchin from its home can culminate in a series of events leading ultimately to their disappearance.

In line with disappearing sea creatures, this week’s guest blogger, John Farndon, has been discussing one of the latest rulings from the EU, who have pledged to change the clause in the Common Fisheries Policy, effectively forcing fishermen to throw millions of dead fish back into the sea.

Events to add to your calendar

We’re pleased to announce the details of a new monthly event for those based in New York who are interested in communicating science online; Science Online NYC (SoNYC). This monthly gathering will incorporate panel debates, audience Q&As and post-debate networking. The first SoNYC event will take place at Rockefeller University, Wednesday 20th April from 7pm. To keep updated on the event, follow SoNYC on Twitter.

On the other side of the Atlantic, London blogger, Matt Brown encourages those in the area to attend a Science Pub Quiz, next Monday at the Royal Institution. He will be co-hosting the quiz with Martin Davies. Entry costs £2 per person and you can take part in teams of up to five. The winners will win a pot of prize money!

Meanwhile, Eva Amsen has been reminding everyone that SciBarCamb is almost here! In her first post about the event, she provides links to the tickets (which are going fast – well, they are free!) and where you can find out more. In her second post, she discusses the etymology of SciBarCamb camp. Do you already know where the “Bar” in “SciBarCamb” comes from? If not, her post reveals all.

Best questions

A multitude of questions have been floating around the bloggersphere this week. The editors of Nature Chemistry_, have been asking in their Sceptical Chymist blog, how many natural elementsnatural.html there are on Earth. Is it 90, 92, or 94? You are welcome to leave your answer in the comment thread.

Elsewhere, Tom Webb has been asking what scientific papers have had profound impacts on your life. He reveals several papers which have made a big impression on him:

I was musing recently on the papers that have had made the biggest impression on me at various points in my career. Although we might all agree on a selection of ‘classic’ papers in any one discipline, those which have been most formative for me constitute a very personal selection.

Science on screen

This month on Of Schemes and Memes we have been running a mini series of Science on the Screen. So far we have watched a clip of the first ever science documentary, and have learnt how to present science in new and adventurous ways. This week we have been reviewing science as seen online, and to assist in navigating the key scientific video resources available online, we have shared a scientific video vault. This list is by no means exhaustive, and we encourage those who know of any other great science video resources to make us aware so we can add them to the list.

On top of this resource, we also interviewed Charlotte Stoddard, a science film-maker for NPG. Her post reveals some tops tips for budding science film- makers. Keep you eyes peeled for our next instalment. In a fun slant to our theme, Matt Brown has provided us with a Science Fiction Movie Quiz. Are you a sci-fi buff? If so, why not give it a go, and do let us know how you get on.

Following on form this, our Boston blogger, Tinker Ready had the opportunity to interview Elizabeth Taylor-Mead, the associate director of the Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation and the curator of CCT’s Science on Screen series. Her post gives us a breakdown of a Q & A session held at Boston’s Science on Screen. In her post you can find out what inspired the Science on Screen series and what kind of films they look for.

Top Tips and PhDs

The Bioentrepreneur blog has got off to a flying start this week with several new blog posts. One of their contributors, Janette Dixon, in her first post, The Strategy of Biotech, asks how small biotech firms do strategy, and how can they do it better? Her introductory post, prepares us for her follow ups which will all focus on investment strategies.

Nature Jobs have been giving some good advice to PhD students on how to improve their communication skills, and why they should. Many employers think that PhD students often lack ‘soft’ skills, such as being able to communicate well, according to a new report from the UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills. This post provides some tips for overcoming these hurdles.

Now onto a PhD student’s ramblings; Richard Williams has been taking a small detour from his PhD to discuss an abstract he has written for the 10th International Conference on Artificial Immune Systems (ICARIS 2011). Despite its deviation from his PhD subject, he still feels that it has served as a useful training exercise.

Replaced by a robot?

NPG’s a Spoonful of Medicine blog, brought to you by Nature Medicine_, have revealed that toxicity testing has entered the twenty-first centuryd.html as NIH scientists are looking to trade their traditional labour-intensive animal testing, with the help of new robots. You can watch the robot in action here:


Did you know that Monday 14th March, was in fact pi Day in America? Thanks to Bob O’Hara we did, and his post and comment thread reveal some interesting ways people celebrate it, including an amusing “Pi Song.”

Finally Viktor Poor gives us his version of The real Russian roulette. Would you join in?

russian roulette 2.png


Comments are closed.