I am thankful for great science reporting

If you're traveling (or just hanging out and bored) today, here's a delightful collection of kick-ass science journalism to fill your hours. The American Association for the Advancement of Science recently announced the winners of this year's Kavli Science Journalism Awards. At the announcement site, you'll find links to all the winners, including: Michelle Nijhuis' excellent reporting on deadly white-nose syndrome; a PBS NOVA documentary on genetic medicine; and a radio story for the show "BURN: An Energy Journal" discussing the complicated future of nuclear power after Fukushima. Read the rest

Cocktail party science: Day 3 at AAAS 2012 (+ our short video interviews with science writers!)

Last week, Maggie went to the largest science conference in the Western Hemisphere for four days of wall-to-wall awesomeness. Every day, she learned amazing things, watching scientists from all over the world talk about their work. Check the bottom of each post to find links to earlier posts in this series!

One of my favorite parts of the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference happens at the end of each day, after the panel discussions are over and the convention floor has been locked down. That's when the parties start.

Now, obviously, everybody likes parties. But these are better than most. The AAAS parties are where a delightful mixture of scientists, journalists, academic journal editors, and university public relations officers gather to compare notes, talk shop, and tell each other about the awesome science they learned during the day.

I already mentioned how hard it is to decide which panels to see and which lectures to attend. At any given time there will be three-to-five different things you'd like to watch, all happening simultaneously. During the day, you're forced to choose. But at night, the parties are where you get the chance to learn about all the things you didn't get to see for yourself. You arrive, are handed a glass of wine, and all your friends run up to find out what you learned that day. It is a wonderful, nerd-tastic experience, and I want to share it with you.

On Sunday, February 19th, I took a small video recorder to a AAAS wine and cheese party. Read the rest

AIDS research done by 17-year-olds: Day 2 at AAAS 2012

It's that time again. Maggie is back at the largest science convention in the Western Hemisphere for four days of wall-to-wall awesomeness. Each day, she'll tell you about some of the cool things she learned watching scientists from all over the world talk about their work. Check the bottom of each post to find links to earlier posts in this series!

Fifteen years ago, Dr. Harry Kestler got a call from a colleague in Florida who had inadvertently stumbled across a very unique family. An African-American woman had brought her sick child into the hospital only to discover that the child was HIV-positive and experiencing symptoms of AIDS. Further tests showed that she, herself, had HIV. As did four of her five children. It was a family tragedy. But in the midst of that, Kestler's colleague had noticed something odd.

The woman knew how she must have been infected—her ex-husband had been an intravenous drug user. But that had been more than 20 years ago. She, and her oldest child, had had HIV for over two decades without developing any symptoms. And her second-oldest child—who shared the same father—wasn't infected with HIV at all.

I've written here before about long-term non-progressors—a rare class of people who can be infected with HIV and live for decades without the virus ever developing into anything serious. Their secret: mutations in their genes that prevent HIV from binding to cells, which means it can't invade the cells or replicate.

Yesterday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, I visited the student poster session, a place where undergraduate college students present research projects they're involved in and compete against one another to earn their poster a spot in an upcoming issue of the journal Science. Read the rest

Birth control is safer than pregnancy: Day 1 at AAAS 2012

It's that time again. Maggie is back at the largest science convention in the Western Hemisphere for four days of wall-to-wall awesomeness. Each day, she'll tell you about some of the cool things she learned watching scientists from all over the world talk about their work. Check the bottom of each post to find links to earlier posts in this series!

Each year, the American Association for the Advancement of Science holds a conference. Scientists from every discipline you can think of attend. They come from all over the world bearing fascinating studies they're dying to talk about, and Power Point presentations they'd probably rather I didn't critique. The result: The worst part about this conference (besides the aforementioned poorly done Power Points) is trying to choose which session you want to see. There's often as many as a dozen occupying the same time slot. Usually, three or four of those will strike me as something I MUST find out more about.

Friday morning, I picked a session that I hoped would provide some background and context on issues you and I are already talking about. Birth control—and, specifically, who should have access to it—has become a major issue in the current presidential campaign. Along with that has come a lot of confusion and misinformation about how birth control works, how effective it is, and what we know about its potential side effects. My first session of the day: Fifty Years of the Pill: Risk Reduction and Discovery of Benefits Beyond Contraception. Read the rest