Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Best of Nature Network, NPG staff blogs and Scitable: 30 July – 5 August

Volcanoes are the topic of the day for the Frontier Scientists, looking at different ways of monitoring eruptions. There are some beautiful pictures including this short film of the Martin Luther King Vent of the volcano Pu`u `O`o in February 2005, when the highest fountain reached about 10 meters into the air.

Video link here.

A wide range of sensing and observing technologies are used by volcanologists, and one very simple tool can be highly valuable: the human eye.

Scientist Kam Lulla, of the Human Exploration Science Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, says: “Humans are smart, trainable sensors.” Those at NASA know that the human eye is an underrated instrument. Volcanologists who gain visuals of volcanic unrest learn a lot. Local visits, webcam video, temperature maps, and high-resolution photos from satellites all prove priceless… and visually enchanting.

What is Nanotechnology?

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Nanotechnology? is the latest question to be put to the collective intelligence of Twitter by Paige Brown.


In a fascinating post, Paige rounds up the replies offered and provides her own answer (in more than 140 characters!) to what exactly nanotechnology is and what the implications of it are.

On ways to be a more successful scientist

In the latest installment of the Science Talent Project, Eric-Wubbo Lameijer looks at scientists and their hobbies.


Einstein played the violin; Max Planck the piano and most improbably of all, Richard Feynman the bongo. But did these hobbies make them more successful scientists? Possibly.

It is also known from brain imaging studies that for example musical practice literally remodels the brain. While not all of the observed changes would seem beneficial for scientific purposes (such as enlargement of motor area of the left hand in violinists), there is some evidence that musical practice strengthens at least some of the connections between the brain hemispheres. And, not only do top highschool students in maths show more whole-brain processing than average students, investigations have also found musicians to score better on creativity tests, music lessons to increase IQ slightly, as well as people playing musical instruments seem to keep more brainpower into old age; apparently something is happening in the brain, and that something would seem to be beneficial.

Read about the possible negative effects and see a fascinating comparison chart of different hobbies correlated with citation impact scores at the Science Talent Project.

If art isn’t your thing, perhaps you could try planning instead: our career changing blogger Richard Williams has reached the ten month mark of his PhD and shares with us the project plan for the remaining 26 months, a work of art in its own right, with 116 items on it. With his done, Richard wants to know how other readers plan:

Do other PhD research students use plans/schedules to try and organise their research and manage activities towards the end goal of submitting their thesis? I must confess that my fascination with project plans is becoming a laughing point within my research group – I’m not sure my lab buddies appreciate just how useful plans can be – I’ve tried explaining the reasoning behind my use of project plans, but I think I just come across as a weird Project Manager from industry. Oh well, at least I tried!

Have your say in the comment thread.

Back on the subject of “hobbies”, Scitable blogger Dr Nick Morris asks an ever present question: is blogging publishing? A comment from a colleague that blogging was not publishing as it was not peer-reviewed got him wondering whether it was a waste of time, but on thinking about it, he disagrees:

Personally I think blogging is publishing, and that it is peer reviewed. Blogging may not be peer reviewed as in the anonymous non-transparent peer review process used in scientific research publication, but it is peer reviewed in the sense that anyone can make a comment on a blog post. In a way you could argue that blogging is a better platform for publication than the traditional scientific route, as blogging is more open, and the review (comment) process is transparent, and not closed and anonymous as seen in the traditional scientific publications.

Do you think blogging is peer-reviewed? Join the debate.

Social Media Officer takes the Soapbox

A title we hear a lot about these days, but do you know exactly what a Social Media Officer is? This week’s guest on Soapbox Science is Nicola Osborne, a Social Media Officer for EDINA, a JISC National Data Centre based at the University of Edinburgh. Nicola starts by telling us what she does:

I have the rather unusual job title of Social Media Officer for EDINA and I’ve been asked to explain what I do, though I should probably start by saying that my work varies hugely from day to day and week to week depending on the projects I’m working with, the events that are coming up, and the new technologies that have appeared lately (right now Google+ and Klout are the hot topics).

Hear more about the projects Nicola is working on at the moment in her guest post.

In the News


Possibly obvious advice, but Nature’s News blog today advises If you can’t stand the heat, don’t build a nuclear reactor in your kitchen, the story of the Swedish man who spent several months attempting to split the atom in his kitchen and writing a blog about his progress. He was arrested.


A Spoonful of Medicine, meanwhile reports on the medical use of synthetic bear bile.

One of my general “rules for living a healthy life” is to stay as far away from bears as possible — not to mention their bile. But many mainstream doctors disagree and use a synthetic version of a bear bile component, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), to treat heart attacks, liver disorders and gallstones.

Last but not least, the News blog brings us a report from the US Department of Commerce entitled “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation”, which concludes that there is a gender gap between male and female wages in STEM careers, but at 14% it is a smaller gap than other professions, which average 21%.

Good news? Bad news? Share your thoughts in the comments.

And finally…

This week Viktor Poor has been educating us all in the ways of fluorescent animals made since the discovery of GFP:

Check out Viktor’s blog for more cartoons and this week’s link to a board game for female scientists. Have a great weekend!


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