Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Best of Nature Network, NPG staff blogs and Scitable: 6 – 12 August

Paige Brown has been shedding some light on the miniscule world of NanoArt, taking a peek at art on the scale of 1/1,000,000,000 (1 billionth) of a metre. Paige explains that in the nano world, materials can act and look very differently from the way they do in the macroscopic world. Take a look at this piece by Rami R M Louca called ‘Flower’ – a scanning electron microscope image of titanium dioxide nanowires.

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To find more stunning images check out her post.


Science Online NYC (SoNYC) is a regular discussion series held in New York City (and live-streamed) where each month panellists talk about a specific topic related to how science is carried out and communicated online. On August 24th the focus will be on niche groups, from scientists in developing countries to science mums. To complement the conversation, on Of Schemes and Memes we have been exploring the world of the minority scientist, and over the coming weeks will be hosting a series of guest posts. Our first installment Connecting underrepresented groups with science by Jeanne Garbarino, a Postdoc at Rockefeller University, introduces us to data from the National Science Foundation (NSF) which suggests that women and minorities are sorely underrepresented in STEM occupations. Jeanne asks:

How do we reach and connect groups that are underrepresented in science? Women, minorities, and researchers in developing economies often face challenges when integrating into the scientific community. It can also be difficult for researchers with a niche interest to find and support each other. Groups such as teens often fail to view science as interesting or significant in its own right and have poor access to reliable, engaging scientific content.

Feel free to join in her discussion. Do you agree with her solutions? To further whet your appetite for SoNYC, we also heard from Mónica I. Feliú-Mójer, the vice-director of Ciencia Puerto Rico, a non-profit grassroots organization which promotes science, research and scientific literacy in Puerto Rico. In her post, Mónica discusses why Latinos are underrepresented in science and how the efforts of the social networking platform CienciaPR.org aim to tackle these problems:

Many barriers have been found to contribute to the disproportionately low numbers of Latinos in science, including educational gaps, financial pressures, family and cultural dynamics, and insufficient guidance and mentoring.

Make sure you tune into SoNYC online if you are unable to attend in person and, if you would like to contribute to our series focusing on minorities in science, feel free to get in touch.

In a similar theme to this month’s SoNYC event, Rachel Bowden, Nature Job’s blogger has revealed that Careers hold scientists back from having children:

Nearly half of all female scientists and a quarter of male scientists said they would have liked more children — and a quarter of both women and men said they are likely to consider moving to a career outside science as a result.

Rachel encourages you to join in the growing discussion in her comment thread.

ET reconnecting?

The News Blog has revealed that the search for ET resumes as the Allen Array Telescope (ATA) is soon to recommence scanning the skies for intelligent life. As a joint effort between the SETI institute and the University of California, Berkeley, the ATA was part of a plan to construct an array capable of carrying out astronomical observations. The project has been at the forefront of our search for extraterrestrial life for the last 50 years, but, as a result of funding constraints, has been in hibernation. Their latest update reveals some good news:


Following its closure, SETIstars was set up to help coordinate the donations. The response has been impressive and since the shutdown more than $200,000 has been raised through donations. As a result, ATA is soon set to resume scanning the skies for intelligent life.

You can find out more in their update.

Definitive questions?

Scitable’s blogger Khalil A. Cassimally asks can you define science? Faced with just that question on a recent exam, Khalil was stuck; he was unsure how to answer because he was not confident he could properly define science. He ponders:

Coining a definition of science means encompassing the entire enterprise within the limits of the definition. This does not mean that science may one day find its activities or processes to be restricted by a mere linguistic definition. But it does mean that some fields of study may get excluded.

What do you think? Can you define science? Join in his online discussion.

Like Khalil, Graham Morehead has also been asking an important question in his latest post, Blogito Ergo Sum. He enquires, “What am I?” looking at his life from scientific, emotional and psychological perspectives.

Much like the meaning of life, this question has tormented many before me. It’s answer informs morality and governance, and it most certainly is not 42. Many people find answers that “work,” at least for them. This is probably the best I can hope for myself. My answer will center on the thinking self.

Graham wants answers. “What are you? What is a person?” Please share your thoughts in his comment thread.


US switch to first-to-file patents

The Spoonful of Medicine blog reveal that the US is poised to become the last country in the world to give up the first-to-invent patent framework.

On 23 June, the country’s House of Representatives joined the Senate in passing the America Invents Act, which outlines new rules for patent application and, crucially, adopts the first-to-file system used by patent regulators in all other nations.

The new framework will award a patent to the first inventor to turn in his or her application. A central concern within the biomedical community is that the race to file first will produce slapdash patent applications, leaving room for mistakes. Find out more in their post and the five ways that the patent overhaul will change the landscape for intellectual property rules in the drug industry.


William Lu takes a break this week from working furiously on his dissertation to discuss why Non-rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep is important for memory:

In a more recent and very cool study, Born and colleagues (2007) had human subjects learn card pair locations while smelling different odors simultaneously (the top left card paired with the scent of my feet, for example). When the researchers reintroduced those same smells during the subjects’ slow wave sleep (my feet in the poor subject’s face), memory for the card pair locations (top left card) tied to those smells (my feet) were enhanced at recall the next day.

You can find out more details in his post, as well as snippets from history and references to further reading material.

Hub News – Advice, Apollo 10 and Robots


This week our London blogger, Joanna Scott, is encouraging those in the area to take advantage of this rare opportunity to see inside a spaceship. On August 19th, the Science Museum, as part of its summer of space, will be lifting the cover of the Apollo 10 command module for one day only.

Do let us know if you plan to attend.

Boston Blogger Tinker Ready has been reporting on a story about a New Hampshire-built robot which allows a sick teenager to attend school remotely. An immune disorder has kept the teenager, Lyndon Baty, out of the classroom, but the robot has allowed him to continue his studies, providing new hope for the use of bots in everyday life. You can find out more in Tinker’s summary.

Chris Wiggins, our New York blogger, has been imparting advice for science students on how to write a paper. He suggests an algorithm, with plenty of room for an individual to deviate. Here’s his first tip – give your paper a punchline:

readers, reviewers, and you in 5 years are going to want to have some pithy way of remembering that paper. what is the “main result”? what did you learn? if answering this takes a long time, maybe you don’t understand the subject well yet, or maybe it’s really 2 papers.

You can find more of his advice in his post; feel free to share your own tips.

Extreme sports?

In an apt summer post, Viktor Poor reveals that during the fine weather, scientists may try out extreme sports, even if they have to invent their own:

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