One of the most interesting stories I read about AAAS 2011 wasn't even about a presentation—or, anyway, it wasn't about the topic of a presentation. After watching sign language interpreters translate conference sessions for Deaf attendees, journalist Ferris Jabr wrote a fascinating piece for New Scientist about how sign language can be invented on the fly, with interpreters creating brand new signs for technical and scientific terms. It's no easy task, especially given the fact that interpreters aren't necessarily experts in the subjects they're signing about.
Maureen Wagner's task this morning is to talk about cutting-edge brain surgery - without speaking a word. As a neuroscientist on a stage behind her delivers his speech, Wagner translates his words into sign language for members of the audience who are deaf or hard of hearing, her fingers spinning through the air with impressive dexterity and speed.
Simultaneous signing is a formidable challenge at any time - but all the more so when the subject of discussion is epidural electrocorticography (a technique in which researchers drill through the skull to place an electrode directly on the thin membrane that envelops the brain).
Wagner's sign for it - cupping her right hand into a little dome and poking the grooves between her fingers with her left hand - isn't an everyday gestural symbol like a peace sign, nor is it part of American Sign Language's visual vocabulary. Rather, it's Wagner's own invention, an impromptu gesture that derives its meaning from immediate context.
New Scientist: When hand-waving makes for good scientific discussion
Image: Petteri Sulonen via CC
The legendary cup, designed to punish greedy drinkers, explained masterfully by Salad Fingers’ dad Sir Martyn Poliakoff. His YouTube channel is packed with similarly excellent videos wherein lab assistant Neil is persuaded to execute unnerving experiments. (previously.)
A trio of scholars who study the psychology and philosophy of science have written a fantastic paper for Springer’s Sythese looking at the way that climate change conspiracy theorists construct their view of the world, and how these conspiracy theories contain self-contradictory theses (like the idea that climate change can’t be predicted and the idea […]
Princeton University psych prof Susan Fiske published an open letter denouncing the practice of using social media to call out statistical errors in psychology research, describing the people who do this as “terrorists” and arguing that this was toxic because of the structure of social science scholarship, having an outsized effect on careers.
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