GrrlScientist reviews Nature Education’s new introductory biology textbook, Principles of Biology, which she says is affordable, lightweight and never goes out of date:
The presentation of the book is obviously designed with teaching in mind; it presents specific concepts along with the best information supporting those concepts. Although written with college and university students in mind, the explanatory text is sleek enough that at least some high school students could also use this book in their courses (refer to the sample objectives page screen shot for an idea of the writing style).
Scientists and Journalists
On Tuesday night, the Royal Institution, London hosted an event where the topic for debate was Scientists and journalists need different things from science. Curated by the Guardian’s Alok Jha and chaired by Dr Alice Bell, the panel included: Dr Chris Chambers from the University of Cardiff’s School of Psychology, Dr Ananyo Bhattacharya, Chief Online Editor of Nature, freelance science journalist and blogger, Ed Yong, and the Head of the UK’s Science Media Centre, Fiona Fox. London blogger, Joanna Scott, summarises the event in her post:
Alok proposed that there are good scientists, good journalists and a genuine desire to communicate science to the public but in many cases, good communication isn’t happening. Why not, and what can scientists and journalists do to improve the situation? The debate is not new – amongst many others, panelist Ananyo Bhattacharya last year wrote a series of three blog posts on the nature of science journalism and the distinction from science communication – and tonight’s event was specifically designed to get past theoretical, and often unproductive argument, and towards a set of practical actions which might be genuinely useful in changing things.
In Joanna’s summary you can also find a Storify collating the online debate. Continuing this theme, Nature Network’s newest blogger, Peter Etchells, offers a few of his thoughts about the event in his post, Science journalism: time to move the debate on:
3) Watch the neighbourhood Or in other words, if you see something that’s dodgy, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Could. Not. Agree. More.
It might be that something’s been misreported, or it might be that the science itself is a bit dodgy. Either way, say something – write a letter, comment, write a blog post. Anything that can engage with the guilty parties and sort it out.
You can find more of his thoughts in the summary and make sure you subscribe to his new blog, Counterbalanced.
As an extension to the discussion above, this week’s Soapbox Science post is by Matt Shipman and is the final instalment to his series, “The Promise & Pitfalls of Public Outreach.” In the previous two posts Matt talked about how scientists can work with reporters, public information officers and others to disseminate information about their research to a non-expert audience. But the advent of blogs and social media has given researchers the ability to cut out the middle man entirely and speak directly to the public:
The one cardinal rule for scientists who blog is (or should be) this: do not regurgitate your papers as blog posts. If you’re simply going to paste your abstract into your blog, what’s the point? You need to bring something new to the table. And there are a lot of ways to do that.
If you want to reach the broadest possible audience, it’s always good to write for your blog in conversational language. Write as if you are writing for your mom (assuming your mom is not also a biochemist). A casual writing style can make even the most arcane subjects seem approachable. If you dive right into a subject using professional jargon, a lay audience will have no idea what you’re talking about – and you’ve lost them.
Do join in the online conversation and leave your comments in the thread.
Laura Nielsen, a Frontier Scientist, has been reporting from the AGU Exploration Station in San Francisco, an annual free science event for families and teachers where kids can get hands-on science. Here she met science superhero, Cindi, the Android Space Girl, a real life comic character, who helps to engage children in creative ways. Laura explains that Cindi and her comics go a long way towards helping curiosity and imagination in children flourish:
CINDI IN SPACE with artwork by Erik Levold — NASA: CINDI Small Explorer Mission: Story by Dr. Mary Urquhart and Dr. Marc Hairston
You can find the free, complete comics online, as well as educational materials to aid in lesson plans. According to NASA, the third instalment of the Cindi series, Cindi in the Solar Wind, is upcoming. Find out more about this initiative in Laura’s post.
I’m an Engineer, Get me Out of Here!
This week marked the official start of I’m an Engineer, Get me Out of Here! an engineering enrichment and engagement activity funded by a grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering. The event is a spin-off of the exceedingly popular, I’m a Scientist, Get me Out of Here!an X-factor style competition in which high-school students get to interact with scientists online. Nature Network blogger, Paige Brown, will be participating as an Engineer in the Health Zone this year, she provides more details:
You can visit my I’m an Engineer profile and check out recent questions that students have asked and that myself and the other Health Zone engineers have answered here. If you’d like to add to my answers, or correct my science, please leave a comment on this blog post referencing the original question. I will also be posting my answers to select questions on Twitter @FromTheLabBench.
Keep an eye on her blog for further updates.
Sparks fly over graphene energy device
The astonishing claim that graphene can draw on ambient thermal energy to generate electrical current has been attracting scepticism from some materials scientists, revealsEdwin Cartlidgein the News blog. Edwin explains that graphene is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon which has exceptional electrical, thermal and mechanical properties, and has become the ‘buzz material’ du jour:
Now, Zihan Xu of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and colleagues have made what they describe as a ‘graphene battery’ by placing a sheet of graphene about 50mm2 onto a silicon substrate, attaching gold and silver electrodes to its ends, and then immersing it in a solution of copper chloride. The device generated a voltage of around 0.35V for some 25 days; six of them in series could power a light-emitting diode.
Subhra Priyadarshini reveals in the Indigenus blog that after the controversy surrounding the claim over the world’s first buffalo clone three ago, Indian scientists claimed this week to have cloned world’s first pashmina goat. This, they say, was done using an indigenously-developed technique. Subhra elaborates:
The cloned female pashmina kid was born on March 9, 2012, according to reports. The scientists used somatic cells from the ear of a goat to produce the clone. The healthy baby is reportedly under medical observation. The World Bank-funded project was a collaboration between Srinagar-based Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUSAT) and National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal (NDRI).
Continue to the post to find out more.
Neutrinos transmit message through solid rock
First there was the telegraph, then there was the wireless radio, fibre optics and now… neutrinos? Yes, the scions of physics have successfully transmitted a message from a particle accelerator to an underground detector using the ghostly particles.
Unfortunately, this newest medium is completely useless (for now, anyway).
Find out more in the post.
Resting state’ brain
Brain scans mapping differences in how brain regions communicate while people lie in an imaging machine, are providing a possible new way to diagnose attention disorders, explains Rebecca Hersher in the Spoonful of Medicine blog. She links out to a video where Michael Milham, of the Child Mind Institute in New York, talks about the work being done on so-called ‘resting state’ brain scans and explains how they are expanding the field of functional MRI:
For more, check out Nature Medicine’s news feature on the clinical utility of resting state fMRI from the March 2012 issue of Nature Medicine.
The Brain As A Network
Scitable’s blogger Dave Deriso in his latest post, The Brain As A Network, reveals that by studying the brain as a network, it helps to give additional insights to the analysis of neurological dysfunction:
Composed of over 1013 neurons, the human brain has been said to have more synapses than stars in the universe. How do you begin to understand all the madness compressed into the three pound ball of flesh? I have no idea, and I don’t trust anyone who claims to know either. However, there are some clever approaches to chipping away at the problem.
At the systems-level, the brain distributes computation over multiple regions. A good analogy is a peer-to-peer network that distributes number crunching across multiple computers, where each computer is specialized to perform some specific aspect of the computation. Abstract this by simply calling the computers “nodes” (which can represent anything, for example, brain regions) and the connections “edges,” and viola! you have reached the entry point of network theory, which is a quantitative and visual approach to understanding how nodes relate to one another and how networks function as a whole.
Figure: Network Graphs, (Left) Undirected cyclic graph, (Right) Undirected acyclic graph viewed as a tree.
Viktor Poor’scartoon shows you an important property of thiol-group containing compounds: