Science & Society

One of the fundamental assumptions underlying the human quest for knowledge is that we can somehow logically answer questions we have about anything. This is a very pragmatic assumption and has given rise to the amazing and often destructive spectacles that we as a species have developed, but please be aware that this assumption is just that – an assumption. 

One thing that scientists and politicians have in common is the need to beg: the former beg for funds while the latter beg for votes. Britain will soon have an election so this is the time for the politicians to beg to both scientists and non-scientists. So what's their pitch?

The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Waisman Center will welcome His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to its public grand-opening celebration Saturday-Sunday, May 15-16.

Baez has been blogging about math and physics since the pre-blog era. He's got some thoughts on whether mathematicians should blog (PDF):

Should you blog about mathematics? Judging from what I’ve seen, you should do it if you like explaining things, enjoy public discussions, and can deal calmly but firmly with arguments that get out of hand, or the occasional troublemaker. Some mathematicians are too worried about making a fool of themselves in public to enjoy blogging. Others are too afraid of offending people. And if my joke about “idiots” bothered you, blogging may be too hard-knuckled for you.


Nominations for this year's Nobel Peace Prize have closed and, amongst a record 237 nomination, it includes "The Internet". All of it, apparently! Every computer, every server, every router that is part of the global phenomenon that is the Internet. But can it win?
Carl Zimmer want to know where you get your science news. Go take his survey and let him know.

Why a survey? The science writing business is changing rapidly, and aspiring writers need some guideposts:

We writers, in case you didn’t know, are scratching our heads about what exactly to do next... Each writer has to figure out how best to use the twenty-four hours in a day.
Though people tend to give journalists a hard time for reporting overly negative news, the media is a little too optimistic when it comes to cancer research, experts say.

A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine reports that newspaper and magazine coverage of cancer research is more likely to discuss aggressive treatment and survival, than treatment failure, adverse events or death, and unlikely to mention end-of-life palliative or hospice care.
Just a reminder, the deadline to enter our spring University Science Writing Competition is tomorrow, March 15th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.  (and thanks to daylight savings time, you just lost an hour this morning!)

The competition is open to all graduate students.
We tend to think of firewalls as either trying to keep people outside from getting in, or to keep those inside from looking out. The Chinese have firewalls around government websites to protect them from prying eyes, as well as around the whole country to stop their people from seeing the whole big bad web. But I can't think of an example where other people will build a firewall around you to keep you in your place. It's like having the wall around your property built by all your neighbours; why don't they like you?
David Brin got his PhD and worked as a physicist before becoming a much-awarded sci-fi writer. He's got some great advice to would-be writers plus some interesting reflections on art vs science as a career:
As a child, despite my talents and background, it was science that struck me as truly grand and romantically noble -- a team effort in which egotism took a second seat to the main goal. The goal of getting around all the pretty lies we tell ourselves. I strove hard to be part of it.