Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Best of nature.com blogs, SciLogs.com and Scitable: 29 – 5 July

What Do Hallucinations Tell Us About the Brain?

SspThis week’s guest blogger on Scitable’s Brain Metrics blog is PhD student George Wallis. In George’s post he discusses the ways in which hallucinations provide neuro-scientists clues about the hidden workings of the brain:

What are hallucinations? Sacks defines them as ‘percepts arising in the absence of any external reality – seeing things or hearing things that are not there’. A few hundred years ago hallucinations might have been ascribed to the influence of Gods or ghosts. Nowadays, neuroscientists and psychologists see hallucinations as the result of abnormal activity in the brain.” 

Further information can be found in George’s post. 


Science internships waiting for your application

Nature Jobs BlogTo make it easier for anyone interested to find a great work placement, the Nature Jobs Blog have dedicated their latest post to upcoming opportunities in science, technology, engineering and maths:

If you have a paid internship suitable for scientists you’d like us to add to the list, please send details to naturejobseditor@nature.com

They will be updating this post regularly, so keep checking back for more.

Google doodle celebrates Muslim physicist

Mohammed Yahia explains in the House of Wisdom Blog that if you live in one of the Arab states of the Middle East, then you will likely have been greeted by an interesting new Google doodle this week for the anniversary of one of the most celebrated Muslim medieval scientists:

Ibn al-Haytham, known in the West by his Latinized name Alhazen, was born 1 July, 956 AD, in Basra in present-day Iraq but lived most of his life in Egypt. A polymath, Alhazen has contributed to the sciences of optics, astronomy, mathematics and philosophy. He is one of the earliest, if not the first, theoretical physicists in the world, using mathematics to prove his theories of optics.

Learn more about Alhazen’s work in Mohammed’s post. 


Russian Academy gets temporary reprieve

The Russian Academy of Sciences is to be axed. QUIRIN SCHIERMEIER

Quirin Schiermeier reveals in the News Blog how the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), threatened with liquidation, has been granted a temporary reprieve:

The Duma — the Russian Parliament — agreed today to postpone until October its final vote on a bill that some feel will mark the end of the academy, founded in 1724 by Peter the Great.

The Russian government, at a meeting last week, launched a bill proposing fundamental changes to the academy. According to the bill, dated 28 June, the academy is to merge with two minor societies — the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences. The responsibility for the more than 400 research institutes now under the academy’s auspices would be transferred to a new government-run agency.

Find out what Vladimir Fortov, a physicist who in May was elected as the new president of the RAS, thinks about this news in Quirin’s post. 

NIH sees surge in open-access manuscripts

Last November, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) said that “as of spring 2013″ it would start cracking down on enforcing its public-access policy — and it seems the agency is now seeing positive results. Richard Van Noorden elaborates in the News Blog: 


In May, authors approved more than 10,000 peer-reviewed manuscripts arising from NIH-funded research to go into the agency’s online free repository, PubMed Central. That’s a huge jump from the average 5,100 per month in 2011–12, and suggests the agency is nearing its goal of getting everyone it funds to make their papers publicly available. (Numbers available in csv format; the NIH also publishes them, so far without the May update, here).

Continue to Richard’s post to find out more.

Crossing the great divide – moving between academia and industry

In this week’s Soapbox Science guest post, Luke Devey talks about his scientific career and leaving his comfort zone:

Before I could consider working in pharma, I needed to answer a lot of thorny questions in my own mind. Was pharma ethical? Was I ‘selling out’? Would the science be worthwhile? Was this a smart career move for a clinical academic? Was there opportunity for progression? What would I learn in industry? And, finally, were there going to be credible outputs from my work? In other words, all of the same questions anyone who has been embedded in the National Health Service  (NHS) and university sector for their whole careers would pose. 

Have you moved out of academia into another role? Share with us your experiences in the comment thread. 

Europe’s politicians vote to resuscitate carbon market

Politicians in Europe’s parliament this week agreed a plan to revive market prices which have collapsed in the recession. Richard Van Noorden expands on this in the News Blog:

It’s a change-of-heart from a parliament which had rejected the same idea in April. But although it would lift the market out of total irrelevancy, the plan still won’t raise carbon prices high enough to spur investment in low-carbon energy, which was one of the European trading scheme’s key goals when it was launched in 2005. So some politicians say much deeper reforms are needed. What’s more, the plan still needs to be approved by the ministers of Europe’s member states – a decision that won’t be taken until after Germany’s elections in September.

Hear what the UK’s climate secretary, Ed Davey, has to say on the matter in Richard’s post.

The Japanese Whaling Controversy

Scitable blogger Kate Whittington’s latest post looks at Japan’s scientific whaling practices:

Minke whale: by Len2040 on Flickr

Japan has always been open about its intention to continue commercial whaling if/when deemed feasible (i.e sustainable). Launched in 1987, (following the moratorium) the stated purpose of the Japanese research program was to “resolve the scientific uncertainties and pave the way for the resumption of sustainable whaling”.

The killing of whales for research is allowed under the 1946 ICRW which states that: “any Contracting Government may grant to any of its nationals a special permit authorizing that national to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research subject to such restrictions as to number and subject to such other conditions as the Contracting Government thinks fit, and the killing, taking, and treating of whales in accordance with the provisions of this Article shall be exempt from the operation of this Convention.” (Source)

What do you think about this issue, join in the growing debate. 

Blending Art and Science

SciLogs blogger Paige Brown, highlights how science communication can be aided by good art:

When it comes to science communication, eye-catching visual content can be as important as a capturing lead or headline. Alex Wild, an Illinois-based entomologist and Scientific American blogger, inspires a wonder of the insect world, and the science behind insect morphology and behavior, through his breathtaking macro photography.


Image by Paige Brown, http://paigesphotos.photoshelter.com/.


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