October 2011 Archives
Science 360 is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The video above is just one of many that illustrate how exciting and important science is. And the best way to explore the site is with the dedicated iPad app. Enjoy!
Here's how Science 360 describes itself:
Science360 Knowledge Network immerses visitors in the latest wonders of science, engineering, technology and math. We gather the latest science videos provided by scientists, colleges and universities, science and engineering centers, the National Science Foundation and more. Each video is embeddable to put on your own personal websites, blogs and social networking pages. Science360 engages the general public, science junkies and students alike in the cutting-edge discoveries and big science stories of the day.
Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Science360 is an up-to-date view of breaking science from around the world.
If you'd like to read more about how the pumpkin contest got started, head over to Indezine for an interview with Nancy Duarte.
FREE - Limited Time!
National Geographic magazine presents 7 Billion: How your world will change - to coincide with the arrival of the 7 billionth human being to our world. This app explores the challenges of a growing human population in a world of limited resources with informative videos, interactive maps, in-depth articles, and stunning photography.
Featured content includes....
- How big is 7 Billion? An insightful video of the demographic trends that got us here today and how it will impact us tomorrow.
- Birth of a New Brazil: How big families are out, to the credit of strong-willed women--and the steamy soaps that inspired them.
- The Face of Seven Billion Interactive: Tap on the "typical face" to find out who the most typical human is
- Rift in Paradise: As the global population increases Africa's Albertine Rift gives us a glimpse of what is at stake in the decades ahead.
- Bangladesh: See how resourceful residents of this country refuse to give in to rising seas
- Food Ark: Explore how preserving heirlooms seeds and breeds are crucial if we hope to feed our hungry world.
And to be incorporated into the app in December 2011:
- Cities are the Solution: They may be the best way to lift people from poverty and preserve the environment.
- Greenhouse gases are warming the planet.
- Other pollutants are cooling the planet.
- The planet is going to get a lot hotter.
- Sea level is going to rise many meters.
- There will be more floods and droughts.
- How high greenhouse gas levels will rise.
- How great the cooling effect of other pollutants is.
- Just how much hotter it's going to get.
- How things will change in each region.
- How quickly sea level will rise.
- How serious the threat to life is.
- Whether there will be more hurricanes and the like.
- If tipping points will come or when they will come.
This YouTube video has been making the rounds for awhile, but I didn't get around to looking at it until recently. In case the name "Lord Monckton" doesn't ring a bell, let's just say that he's among the loudest of climate change deniers. It turns out he has a few other ideas that are peculiar -- to put it mildly.
Randy Olson suggests we need to mock people like Lord Monckton more often. I agree, but here's the problem. I'm not creative enough to pull this off, and neither are most scientists.
Let's face it, Randy. We scientists are trained to collect and analyze data. We're not trained to be spontaneous and irreverent. And it takes training to do it well. You went to film school. We need people like you to put these things together. If we can do more than cheer when you pull it off, I'd be delighted to hear what it is.
Image via Wikipedia
UConn is marking the celebration of Open Access Week (Oct. 24-30) with the launch of a new fund through the University Libraries that will support UConn authors publishing in open access journals.As I have written before, open access (and its variants) is one way to ensure broad public access to the results of scientific research. Another is to support the efforts of not-for-profit publishers, like the Botanical Society of America and those who are part of BioOne, who provide the widest possible access to their journals consistent with recouping their costs through subscription revenue.1 Some fields of science and scholarship cannot support an "author pays" model of open access,2 but they can support open archiving.3
To support free, immediate, online access to scholarly research, UConn Libraries, together with the UConn Health Center Library and the Vice President for Research, have started a fund that will provide support for the publication of scholarly articles in peer-reviewed, fully open access journals.
Beginning this week, the $35,000 UConn Open Access Author's Fund will provide up to $1,250 for each scholarly article written by any UConn faculty member, post-doctoral researcher, staff member, or graduate student, once they exhaust other funding avenues.
The human population of the world reached 6 billion in 1999. We will add an entire world in the first 50 years of this century.1 Share your results in the comments.
It describes community assemblages and characteristic species for each of the eight broad community types found in the state: alpine and subalpine, rocky ground, forests, peatlands, swamps, marshes, river channels and floodplains, and seacoast. It's filled with beautiful photographs and line drawings that illustrate the features being described.
It's clear that when I finally find the time to sit down with this book and especially when I find the time to compare what I read with what I see when I visit natural communities in New Hampshire that I will learn a lot. Anyone who's interested in New England's natural heritage should get themselves a copy as soon as they can.
Aldo Leopold was one of the great conservationists of the 20th century. I remember very clearly discovering A Sand County Almanac in the visitors center at Dinosaur National Park during a family vacation when I was in high school. I was already a fan of Thoreau and Muir, but here were essays by a biologist that showed as much reverence for the natural world as Thoreau or Muir and were infused with the understanding of a professional biologist. The Land Ethic spoke to me deeply, as did Thinking Like a Mountain, especially this paragraph:
We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes - something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.Tonight the Edwin Way Teale Series on Nature & the Environment opens its 2011-2012 season with a showing of Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time. Curt Meine, who wrote the definitive biography of Aldo Leopold, and Ann and Steve Dunsky, the filmmakers, will join us to answer questions from the audience after the showing. The showing is free to everyone who is interested. Please join us.
Place: Konover Auditorium, Dodd Center, University of Connecticut
But watch the trailer and decide for yourself.
Some of you know that my birthday was on October 15th. But you probably didn't know that October 15th was also Global Handwashing Day. And last Saturday's Global Handwashing Day was not the first. From the About page on the Global Handwashing Day site:
Global Handwashing Day (GHD) was created by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing in 2008 to:
• Foster and support a global culture of handwashing with soap.
• Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in every country.
• Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap.
Global Handwashing Day was originally created for children and schools, but can be celebrated by anyone promoting handwashing with soap.
Each year, over 200 million people are involved in celebrations in over 100 countries around the world. Global Handwashing is endorsed by a wide array of governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, NGOs, private companies, and individuals.
Imagine Science Films is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in existence since 2008 committed to promoting a high-level dialogue between scientists and filmmakers. ISF encourages a greater collaboration between scientists who dedicate their lives to studying the world we live in and filmmakers who have the power to interpret and expose this knowledge, ultimately making science accessible and stimulating to a broader audience. ISF is committed to drawing attention to the sciences, whether it is through art or our community outreach efforts. (http://imaginesciencefilms.com/about/mission/)This is one of those rare times that I wish I lived closer to New York. I'd like to see a few of these films. If you're lucky enough to attend any of them, I'd love to hear what you think of them.
Biodiversity isn't just in the Amazon. It's in your house and in your body. And as Rob says, that's not scary. That's exciting.
[N]o matter how clean your life is, you remain linked to the rest of life. Life drifts through the air in the form of pollen and dust mites. It has sex in your gut or even on your forehead. It is on you, in you and around you, influencing who and what you are. And so embrace the diversity in your life. Read about it too. Read about the mites that live just above your eyebrows, the fungi that live in your lungs, the ants in your backyard, the hamster in your child's room or even the chicken down the road. (www.yourwildlife.org/about: emphasis added)
I guess I should say "Justin Timberlake, eat your heart out" except that (a) I barely know who Justin Timberlake is and (b) the only reason I know this video has anything to do with him is that it told me so itself.
What I can say is that Nathaniel Krefman, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, does a superb job of making sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) exciting. As Carin Bondar says, Awesome work Nathaniel!
Richard Feynman was a brilliant physicist, and an extraordinary communicator and teacher. In this 5-minute clip he conveys the wonder and beauty of the natural world and the magic that drew many of us to science. It's part of the Feynman Series "a companion project of The Sagan Series working in the hopes of promoting scientific education and scientific literacy in the general population." For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/thesaganseries.
When plants depend on animals to carry their pollen, they typically provide a reward. The reward may be nectar or it may be pollen. But sometimes they don't provide a reward at all. They deceive their pollinators.
One of the most striking of these deceits is pseudocopulation. As David Attenborough puts it in this clip, "[the orchids] bamboozle their pollinators into thinking they're going to get a really sensational reward," or as Oakes Ames puts it in a 1937 article from the Botanical Museum Leaflets of Harvard University "the insect seems to be sadly hoodwinked." The male bees and wasps (and it is only males) are "bamboozled" and "hoodwinked" because they think they are copulating with a female of their own species when what they're really doing is pollinating an orchid.
Michael Pollan describes it this way in a recent article in The Guardian:
It works like this. The male bee alights on the bee-like labellum and attempts to mate, or, in the words of one botanical reference, begins "performing movements which look like an abnormally vigorous and prolonged attempt at copulation". In the midst of these fruitless exertions, the bee jostles the orchid's column (a structure unique to orchids that houses both male and female sexual organs) and two yellow sacs packed with pollen (called the pollinia, another structure unique to orchids) are stuck to his back with a quick-drying glue-like substance. Frustration mounts until eventually it dawns on the bee that he has been had. He abruptly flies off, pollinia firmly attached, in frantic search of more authentic female companionship.
He goes on to speculate about the reasons for our fascination with orchids:
To learn all this about orchids is to admire them more but perhaps love them less. And to wonder if we too haven't fallen prey to their deceptive charms. The very name of the orchid comes from the Greek word for testicle, referring not to the plant's flowers but its bulbs, organs that have long been endowed with aphrodisiac properties. But it doesn't take a Freudian to discern a strong sexual subtext in the passion for these flowers, especially among men, who, as any visit to an orchid show will tell you, suffer disproportionately from "orchidelirium" - the Victorians' term for the madness these flowers inspire.
Is it possible that humans can look at an orchid and, like the deluded orchid bees, see an apparition of female anatomy? (Georgia O'Keeffe certainly did.) Could it be that plant sex and animal sex have got their wires crossed in human brains, just as they have in insect brains? Ever since the first human-hybridised orchid bloomed (the earliest in the Western world was recorded in 1856), we humans have become important orchid pollinators, lured into advancing the orchid's interests, assisting it in its quest for world domination. Today, there are some 100,000 registered hybrid orchids, most of them literally inconceivable without us.
Not that any of this was ever in the orchid's plan. In evolution there is no plan, of course, only blind chance. But what are the chances that a flower deemed sexy by a handful of witless insects would also be so deemed by us? Let's face it: we're all orchid dupes now.
To view the live, free webcast, simply go to http://dukeuniversity.acrobat.com/nabt2011 at 1:30 pm Pacific/4:30 pm Eastern and log in as a guest. (Note: We suggest you do this in advance to test the connection and make sure you can access the site without problems. When you log in successfully you'll see a "Congratulations" message. If you have problems, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)For more information about the event, including a list of speakers and a schedule, head over to http://www.aibs.org/events/special-symposia/changing_humans.html.
The Missa Charles Darwin is a multi-movement composition scored for unaccompanied male vocal quartet. Based on the standard five-movement structure of the Mass, the Missa Charles Darwin honors the compositional and harmonic conventions of its musical antecedents. Unlike traditional Mass settings, however, the sacred texts have been replaced with excerpts from On The Origin Of Species, The Descent of Man, and Darwin's extant correspondence.
Gizmodo friend and amazing filmmaker and photographer Vincent Laforet"Breathtaking" is an understatement. "Mind boggling" is more like it. The images with the night sky as a backdrop are beyond stunning. Thank you, Dustin Farrell and www.crewwestinc.com.
says that calling this time lapse video of Utah and Arizona
"breathtaking" is an understatement. He adds "Holy cow". Make sure to watch this at full screen and HD. (Source)
Kickstarter page and contribute.
A few passages from his address that I found particularly striking:
[Y]ou can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.Good bye, Steve. Thank you, and bless your family.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Here's a little more about the course they're offering:
This course will give you two things: greater insight into your own skills and preferences and a method of exploring the jobs and careers that might be a good fit.
We aren't promising you a job - Julie teaches another class on how to apply for and get a job once you figure out what you might want to be doing. This course simply opens up the wide world and helps you see all the rich and juicy possibilities before you.
[a] former tenured professor at a major research university, I am now running an academic-career consulting business. That's right: I am doing graduate advising for pay. I am teaching your Ph.D. students to do things like plan a publishing trajectory, tailor their dissertations for grant agencies, strategize recommendation letters, evaluate a journal's status, judge the relative merits of postdoctoral options, interpret a rejection, follow up on an acceptance, and--above all--get jobs. And business is so good I'm booked ahead for months. (source)Her recent column in the Chronicle of Higher Education takes Ph.D. advisors (that's me) to task for being part of an "absentee professoriate", not because we neglect the research training of our advisees, but because we neglect their professional development.
I'm afraid I resemble that remark. I do the best I can to help my students prepare for their careers, but I don't think I do it very well. I simply don't know much about the world outside colleges and universities. I have some plausible guesses about what the rest of the world is like, but that's what they are -- plausible guesses. I can give pretty good advice on how to prepare for a job at a university or college, but I'm afraid I'm of little help to students who decide to look for jobs in other places. I can mention things like USAjobs.gov for jobs with the federal government and I can rattle off the names of a variety of NGOs that might hire biologists, but I don't have first-hand experience that tells me what kind of preparation students will need for those sorts of jobs. It's something I need to do better. If anyone reading this has advice for me -- and my students -- please share it with us.
My advice to students: (1) Pester your advisors (that includes me) for advice on how to ensure your success -- the way you define success. (2) Share the good advice you receive with your peers -- and with your advisors (there's a lot that we need to learn, too).
Image via Wikipedia
If you want to find life forms that truly seem otherworldly, your local forest is a much better place than your local cineplex. It is home to creatures that are immensely old, fundamentally bizarre and capable of startlingly sophisticated behavior. They are the slime molds. ("Can answers to evolution be found in slime?", by Carl Zimmer, The New York Times, 3 October 2011)Carl Zimmer's piece in The New York Times on the wonderful world of slime molds is wonderful. And there is a superb photo gallery for Beauty and the Blob. From Dictyostelium to (my favorite) Metatrichia, it's a weird and marvelous world. Head over and see for yourself some things so strange that even Hollywood couldn't imagine them.
The first plenary meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) convened this morning in Nairobi, Kenya.
It is expected that the first plenary session will consider the following aspects of IPBES, the:You can also follow on Twitter (@IPBES or #ipbbes).
draft principles and procedures governing the work of IPBES;
Platform's governance structure;
processes for nominating and selecting the host institution and host country;
and initial elements of the Platforms' work programme.
IISD RS will be providing daily reports, digital coverage and a summary report of the session. Please return to this page on 4 October, 2011 for the coverage.
Yesterday Governor Dan Malloy announced plans for the Jackson Laboratory to build a $1.1 billion laboratory for personalized medicine on the UConn Health Center campus in Farmington. This announcement follows close on the heels of the state's $864 million investment in BioScience Connecticut, which was already poised to transform the Health Center.1 These initiatives build on a strong base of fundamental research in biomedical science at the Health Center and will make Connecticut a world-leader in personalized medicine. As the editorial board of the Hartford Courant puts it:
Advances in genetic testing are expected to make personalized medicine -- treatment developed by studying a patient's genetic makeup and background -- one of the medical field's strongest growth areas in the next 50 years. It may even cut health care costs.I am proud to be part of a university that helped to make this happen and to live in a state with such a vision for the future.
The new lab puts Connecticut squarely in this emerging field. Which is why, in a state with two decades of stagnant job growth, this is wonderful news. (emphasis added)