A 93-year-old neuroscientist explains how memory works

At an age when some people are struggling with their own memories (and many others are just plain dead) neuroscientist Brenda Milner does an amazing job of explaining her contributions to our understanding of how memory works. Milner is one of the researchers who worked with H.M., the famous patient who lost his ability to form new memories after undergoing brain surgery.

This is a long talk — almost an hour — but it's a fascinating look at the career of a scientist who changed the way we think about the mind, told in her own words.

You can watch the full video at Vimeo

Project: Recycle old scientific equipment into new tools for public engagement

When ocean scientist Andrew Thaler found an old, outdated water level gauge, he found a way to give it new life — turning it into a tool to measure public interest in sea level rise. Instead of tracking water, the Sea Leveler tracks how much people are talking about water on Twitter.

Great dad dies (also, he was a scientist)

Handsome Dad of the Year (a former brunette) took out the garbage without fail, did the family shopping, and is remembered fondly by his step-daughters/first-cousins-once-removed. Also, outside the home, he discovered something called "relativity". Jennie Dusheck has a great follow up to a story that Xeni posted about earlier today.

Science, confidential

We've talked here before about the crazy things you can find when you read the "Methods" section of a scientific research paper. (Ostensibly, that's the boring part.)

If you want a quick laugh this morning — or if you want to get a peek at how the sausages are made — check out the Twitter hashtag #overlyhonestmethods, where scientists are talking about the backstory behind seemingly dry statements like "A population of male rats was chosen for this study".

Got questions about agricultural science? Get answers!

Sense About Science is a UK non-profit aimed at making science more understandable to the public. Right now, they're hosting a virtual plant science panel, where you can submit questions directly to scientists and see them answered on the Sense About Science website. What topics are fair game? Just about anything plant-related, from "Ash Dieback disease, to GM crops, bees to pesticides, mycotoxins in food to biofuels." Some answers are up already! (Via Mark Lynas)

The many stages of writing a research paper

Timothy Weninger recently submitted a research paper to a computer science conference called World Wide Web. On his way to that, he went through 463 drafts. Bear in mind, this paper has only been submitted, not yet accepted, so there's probably even more edits that are still yet to happen. Welcome to the life of a scientist.

In this video, Weninger created a timelapse showing all the different stages of his writing process, as he added graphs and went through cycles of expanding, contracting, and expanding the text. But mostly expanding. The paper grows from two pages to 10 by the end of the video.

[Video Link]

Via Bill Bell

Tips and tricks for being a better scientist

Astrobetter: It's like Lifehacker, but for astronomers. Although, frankly, I think a lot of the tips and tricks would apply just as well to other branches of science. Learn how to talk about your research without rambling. Add QR codes to your posters. Improve your peer reviewing skills. (Via a really neat conversation about science communication tools happening now at Science Online New York City. #sonyc)

Canada to science: Drop dead

Not long ago, Cory told you about how the Canadian government has been muzzling scientists—refusing to let them speak freely with the press and, thus, controlling what research the public gets to know about. Not surprisingly, it's research on topics that are politically inconvenient to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government—climate change, for instance—that end up getting frozen.

This issue was the topic of a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver. And although the Canadian government did schedule a free press breakfast in the same time slot, word of this issue got out to a lot of journalists from around the world who hadn't heard about it before. That means we're likely to start seeing more attention being drawn to this issue.

Case in point: The Harper government and its opposition to the open distribution of scientific information was the subject of a Feb. 29th editorial in Nature—one of the biggest and most-read scientific journals in the world.

Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party won power in 2006, there has been a gradual tightening of media protocols for federal scientists and other government workers. Researchers who once would have felt comfortable responding freely and promptly to journalists are now required to direct inquiries to a media-relations office, which demands written questions in advance, and might not permit scientists to speak. Canadian journalists have documented several instances in which prominent researchers have been prevented from discussing published, peer-reviewed literature. Policy directives and e-mails obtained from the government through freedom of information reveal a confused and Byzantine approach to the press, prioritizing message control and showing little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge.

... The way forward is clear: it is time for the Canadian government to set its scientists free.

This is what a scientist looks like

Last year, I told you about a group of 7th graders who took a trip to Fermilab that completely changed their perception of what scientists ought to look like. Before they went on the field trip, "scientists" were bald white guys in lab coats who practiced, primarily, chemistry, and who were deeply weird.

At Fermilab, the kids realized that scientists were, basically, people. All ages. All races. Many with luxuriant, flowing hair. Doing things that actually seemed like fun.

This is What a Scientist Looks Like is a Tumblr that kind of does the same thing, but for people who can't just take the day off for a Fermilab visit. On it, you'll find photos of scientists in their natural habitats—practicing yoga, looking gleefully at Lego models, even lifting startlingly large weights.

If you've ever wondered who I'm talking about when I tell you that "researchers" found something ... this is who the researchers are. Think about it as a gossip magazine column: "Scientists! They're just like us!"

Well, except for the entomologist lifting weights. She's clearly better than me.

Funny titles mask serious science

Sabina Hossenfelder, an assistant professor of high-energy and nuclear physics at Sweden's Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics, is collecting a list of scientific research papers with hilarious names. I've long known that humanities researchers have a good deal of freedom in titling their work—ever since running across the seminal work "Like a Thesis: A post-modern reading of Madonna videos" in college. But I'd not guessed there would be as many ridiculously-titled scientific papers as Hossenfelder has managed to come up with.

There's some real beauties in here, including "Local Pancake Defeats Axis of Evil", "Deconstructing Noncommutativity with a Giant Fuzzy Moose", and a pair of papers from 2002 and 2006, respectively, entitled "Nutty Bubbles" and "Nuttier Bubbles".

Many of the papers on Hossenfelder's list come from arXiv, so they have not necessarily been through a formal peer review process, but they are all about very real science. That's an important thing to stress. In all the examples I listed, for instance, silly titles are adding a touch of levity to some otherwise highly technical physics work that I am not able to explain to you without first doing a whole lot of additional research. In fact, that's part of what makes this list so awesome. Here's the abstract for "Local Pancake Defeats Axis of Evil":

Among the biggest surprises revealed by COBE and confirmed by WMAP measurements of the temperature anisotropy of the CMB are the anomalous features in the 2-point angular correlation function on very large angular scales. In particular, the $\ell = 2$ quadrupole and $\ell = 3$ octopole terms are surprisingly planar and aligned with one another, which is highly unlikely for a statistically isotropic Gaussian random field, and the axis of the combined low-$\ell$ signal is perpendicular to ecliptic plane and the plane defined by the dipole direction. Although this $< 0.1 %$ 3-axis alignment might be explained as a statistical fluke, it is certainly an uncomfortable one, which has prompted numerous exotic explanations as well as the now well known ``Axis of Evil'' (AOE) nickname. Here, we present a novel explanation for the AOE as the result of weak lensing of the CMB dipole by local large scale structures in the local universe, and demonstrate that the effect is qualitatively correct and of a magnitude sufficient to fully explain the anomaly.

I'll give you a hint. It's about astrophysics.

Check out Hossenfelder's full list.

Via jebyrnes

Image: KISS's Noble Steed - Fancy Dress At Work #3, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from rileyroxx's photostream

Stuff scientists say

Finally, a science-themed entry in the "Shit ______ say" meme. Science journalist Ferris Jabr and friends put this together and it's pretty funny. Reminds me a conversation I had earlier this week with a friend about her brother's social insect research. Another thing scientists say, "The hissing cockroach experiment is not going according to plan."

Bonus: Watch for a slide that references a previous scienceLOL you may remember.

Video Link

A science-centric SOPA boycott

Here's another SOPA supporter for you to boycott: Elsevier, publisher of many medical and scientific journals. You might also remember them from a 2009 scandal where Elsevier published fake journals as covert advertisements for pharmaceutical companies. Maybe it's time for scientists to consider not submitting papers to Elsevier journals or serving as peer reviewers for their journals. (Via The Quantum Pontiff and Jani Kotakoski)