When ocean scientist Andrew Thaler found an old, outdated water level gauge, he found a way to give it new life — turning it into a tool to measure public interest in sea level rise.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.
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".
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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."