Science & Society

Japan Quake - Media Up To Mischief

Edit - this blog entry is now out of date.  The complaint about 100 versus 1000 is now withdrawn.
Please see Japan's Nuclear Emergency - The Straight Goods - including comments - for updated information.

Original post below:

The media loves to abuse the deliciously ambiguous term up to.

Why do some reporters like to get hold of a range of values from a scientist or engineer and then quote the number at the scariest end of the range?
Lift Tales

Lift Tales

Mar 11 2011 | 3 comment(s)

Over many years, as a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, I have regularly received their magazine, formerly Chemistry in Britain, now Chemistry World.  This often contains an article of historical interest
In case you were living under the science equivalent of a rock, the Journal of Cosmology published a study by a NASA researcher stating, essentially, that fossilized bacteria had been found on Earth, but originating from outer space.

That was a bit of a stretch to anyone who thought about it.   Holes in rocks can look like lots of things.
Infinite Growth And The Crisis Cocktail - a guest article

Infinite growth is not possible in any real-world context, yet many otherwise rational people behave - economically speaking - as if they believe that it is possible.

Some time ago I invited Neven- who keeps the Arctic Sea Ice blog and pops up as a commenter on many web sites - to write an article on this topic.  I had read his many comments about it and had been very impressed with his insights.
Despite what you may guess by mass media coverage, the priorities of Americans are not global warming or wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but are instead just what they were in 1990; health care and a good education for their children.

This from the BBC:

“Germany has been named as the most supportive country for overseas students, in an international league table.”

If you are a student looking for international experience, you should go to Germany. Why the hell go to the US and pay huge fees for worse education, mostly confined in the culturally impoverished, numbing atmosphere of US cities with one of the few exciting aspects being the fear of getting shot at? (I was shot at in LA!)

Well, the language of course! Guess what – the new reason for studying in Germany instead of the US or UK is: German lecturers speak better English!  ROFL

I just became aware of a letter that is being sent to a couple of US Senators by a large and illustrious collection of scientists, and I decided to put my signature below it. The letter is clear and I will not comment it here - suffices to just paste it here.

By the way, I do not think that more signatures are necessary to it, but if you agree with the contents and wish to participate your support, please do so by adding your name below, in the comments thread. It will just take you thirty seconds of your valuable time, but it might have an impact here too.


Senator Dianne Feinstein
Energy& Water Appropriations Subcommittee
SenatorLamar Alexander

If we're being honest in retrospect, the first decade of the 2000s was bad for science journalism.    Too many journalists decided they wanted to be cheerleaders for science or, worse, had scientist envy and wanted to be included in cool discussions about the mysteries of the universe.  

Basically, journalists stopped asking the awkward questions of scientists that journalists in other fields know makes their careers (see: Dan Rather and Richard Nixon).  Result: While the science audience is up and science knowledge has tripled since 1988, jobs in science journalism are down.  Few people read them.
On the face of it, Al Gore conducting a global warming conference during a blizzard a few years ago looked bad.   But maybe it was a teaching moment.

The weather has always had swings and separating weather from climate is a key aspect in understanding why (1) pollution is bad and (2) we should have less of it, even if the weather is nice.
People are sometimes surprised to hear that I am both a research scientist and an artist, but I see them as quite similar in purpose, only different medium. They both involve imagination, visualization, and communication of those ideas in a way that makes it accessible and interesting for an intended audience. For me, they go hand-in-hand.

The cover image of Open Laboratory 2010, designed by Andrea Kuszewski
The cover of this year's Open Laboratory 2010, designed by myself, Andrea Kuszewski.