Science & Society

Imagining aliens helps us think about evolution

If we ever do make contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence, what will it look like?  Hollywood has had no shortage of examples for films and television shows that feature aliens, but they are almost  always bipedal primates who speak English with a funny accent.  This  depiction is more the result of wardrobe budget constraints and the  flexibility of actors than it is the imagination of writers.  
Previously I wrote about "the Science Bubble".  Since then, there has been good news, and bad.
The good news is that apparently Speaker Pelosi has been recorded as noting that Science will be emphasized in the stimulus package.  I do hope that happens, and I hope that if it does happen, it is done in a sustainable and thoughtful way - not just a bunch of "let's throw money at scientists" followed by an even bigger bust later.

A new Commonwealth Fund study says that the United States should adopt the policies of Switzerland and the Netherlands.    Those countries have near-universal coverage, though they have to subsidize up to 40 percent of families since individual health coverage is mandated by law.

The result?  Both countries effectively cover all but one percent of their population, compared with 15 percent uninsured in the U.S.

I am a living, breathing, trudging onward authority on the quest for wellness. I'm not an athlete, my body is imperfect, and sometimes I choose unhealthy indulgence. Yet, no one has worked harder to achieve optimal health. The most important lesson I have learned is that wellness isn't being disease free, it is being dis-ease-free.

Wellness is a balance of mind, body, spirit in peaceful vitality. Good health is achieved by tending to each aspect of our humanness: our mental and emotional states, spirituality, bodily function and design.

Questions I ask myself in the ongoing quest for wellness:

• Do I live with integrity? If I am chasing self-shame I will not be good to myself or others
By carefully selecting which varieties of food crops to cultivate, much of Europe and North America could be cooled by up to 1°C during the summer growing season, say researchers from the University of Bristol, UK. This is equivalent to an annual global cooling of over 0.1°C, almost 20% of the total global temperature increase since the Industrial Revolution. 

The growing of crops already produces a cooling of the climate because they reflect more sunlight back into space, compared with natural vegetation. Different varieties of the same crop vary significantly in their solar reflectivity (called 'albedo'), so selecting varieties that are more reflective will enhance this cooling effect. Since arable agriculture is a global industry, such cooling could be extensive.
Along with a 223-page instruction manual, the NIH offers gems like this to help clear up the confusion:

# What part of the application/award number is the IC and serial number?
NIH's grant application/award numbers consist of the following parts:

* A single-digit Application Type
* A three-digit Activity Code
* A two-letter IC Code
* A six-digit Serial Number
* A two-digit Grant Year (preceded by a dash to separate it from the serial number)
* Additional suffix information that may include the letter "S" and related number for a particular supplement record, the letter "A" and related number to identify an amendment and/or the letter "X" and related number to identify a fellowship's institutional allowance record.
A lot of time and money is spent thinking about special needs children, says Florida State University professor Steven I. Pfeiffer, while there is an assumption that no educational resources need to be provided for 'gifted' kids to help them thrive in school.

"There is a view occasionally expressed by those outside of the gifted field that we don't need programs devoted specifically to gifted students," Pfeiffer, member of the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, said. "'Oh, they're smart, they'll do fine on their own' is what we often hear. And because of this anti-elitist attitude, it's often difficult to get funding for programs and services that help us to develop some of our brightest, most advanced kids -- America's most valuable resource."
Let's remember that scientists like fun and get ready for dates by studying for them. Well, I mean dates like the Inauguration Day, the first in the history of ScientificBlogging.com, January 20, 2009. 

My column comes handy in this quick review for Mr Obama. You know he is interested in jobs:

Old to New Green Jobs (4.2 Million) 

Renewable energy? Energy efficiency?
London South Bank University designer Sarah Elenany says there is a lack of fashionable clothing that meets Islamic cultural requirements so she has launched an eponymous clothing line that unites urban chic with Islamic culture.   Elenany, 24, calls her new label ‘Elenany’ and says she has drawn inspiration from Islamic art and combined it with contemporary styling for a truly innovative brand.
Many of the battles to desegregate buses, water fountains and colleges were fought in public but some were virtually unknown and are just now getting attention.  

A new University of Georgia study reveals how two men traveled the Deep South, facing hostility and risking violence, to ensure that students received fair and impartial treatment when it came to standardized testing, an important barrier to getting into many universities even then.