Science & Society

63 Years Old Solo Balloonist Reaches North Pole

Jean-Louis Etienne has made the first solo balloon voyage to the North Pole, traveling 3,130 kilometers - 1,945 miles - in five days from Norway to the tundra of eastern Siberia.

Jean-Louis Etienne has always liked rising to new challenges, especially when they combine adventure and scientific objectives. Adventures are the stuff that dreams are made of. They reveal a new way of looking at things, especially to young people, and can be a very effective means to convey scientific knowledge that in other forms sometimes falls on unreceptive ears.

If you live in London, then you could do worse than join a Westminster Skeptics night out getting paralytic about science.

Westminster Skeptics promote an evidence-based approach and critical thinking in the areas of policy, media, and legal reform. They have packed and lively meetings once or twice a month in a big pub in Westminster, just by St James Tube station.

Decisive Advantage by Chris Potter in the Pittsburgh City Paper.

If I had a kid who might want to go into research for a living, I'd want them to read this story. It gives some insight into what is actually involved in doing research, even though it avoids the frustrating parts of the job.
(I recently discovered this series of entries about fixing science journalism, begun in February.  Because I just joined up, I wasn't able to add my two cents.  So I thought I'd add it now, since, hey, who couldn't use two cents?  My apologies if I repeat someone else's sentiment.)

The New York Times recently published an article about bias against women and minorities in science fields (and schooling). I’ve written about this before, in my regular blog, and that was about a study from 2004. We’re not getting much better at this — or, if we are, it’s not fast enough.

The United States and Russia are scheduled to sign a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) this Thursday in Prague. The previous treaty expired on 5 December 2009, making the absence of any treaty potentially more dangerous than signing one designed to be little more than face-saving. The Russians see it as a return to superpower status; the Americans have left open their development of a missile defence shield, thereby handing the Russians a reason to rip up the whole deal. We're back to the good old days!
Any time a 'best science sites' list is created by someone outside the usual self-congratulatory, self-indulgent clique it's worth taking a look, namely because in this instance I found 5 terrific sites I had never heard of before.  I won't say who they are here because I don't want to play favorites but you may find one or two new ones also.
South Dakota Exempted From Laws of Science

The South Dakota Legislature thinks that scientific laws are made up by people to suit agendas.
Accordingly, they have invented some agendist stuff to make a political declaration that climate change is a myth.  Presumably, any of the good citizens of Dakota who believe this science nonsense about photographic records of ice melting must be deluded.

Now, why does the sub-text remind me of the creationist / I.D. agenda?

Is this what students are learning in South Dakota?

How deluded will the voters be come election time?


State of South Dakota 
Not long ago, I read J.R.R. Tolkien's mythopoeia masterpiece, The Silmarillion (his creation myth for the world of The Lord of the Rings). Upon finishing it, I immediately picked up Sparks of Life, a history of the spontaneous generation debates. As I was trying to wrap my head around the different theories of spontaneous generation, I felt like I was reading the same kind of book as The Silmarillion.
I was working on a paper recently, and my boss included a editing note that got me thinking.  The topic dealt with certain circuits in the limbic network of the brain.  The note included the line: "limbic connections are very complex".   The point of the edit was to emphasize that problems in the limbic network (like seizures) are difficult to treat in part because every part of the network is connected to every other part.  Therefore, it's hard to pin down any one effect that one part has on another.