Science & Society

The strangest idea for a reality TV show that I've heard to date comes courtesy of Slashdot this morning. "Terminal illness got you down? Does your future seems bleak? Channel 4 and production company Fulcrum TV would like to brighten your day by making you the star of an upcoming documentary."

A British TV station and production company are "currently keen to talk to some one who, faced with the knowledge of their own terminal illness and all that it entails, would nonetheless
consider undergoing the process of an ancient Egyptian embalming," according to an advertisement.
An expert panel of library scientists, publishers, and university academics said today that the results of scientific research funded by the federal government should be made freely available to the public "as soon as possible after those results have been published in a peer-reviewed journal."

The Scholarly Publishing Roundtable was convened last summer by the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology, in collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  Policymakers asked the group to examine the current state of scholarly publishing and seek consensus recommendations for expanding public access to scholarly journal articles.
The annual AAAS conference is being held next month in San Diego and I went last year (here and here and here) , despite it being a Chicago February, but most of you did not, thus the reason for the title.
Connecting my earlier post on PhD job realities and Melissa's blog post on Entitlement Culture is today's Ph.D comic (by Jorge Cham):


Alex, the Daytime Astronomer
Policy makers and lobbyists who want to enact a carbon tax would do well to choose their words carefully, say Columbia University Psychologists. In a new study in Psychological Science, the research team suggests that since voters typically don't like higher taxes, policy proposals aimed at reducing CO2 emissions should be referred to as 'carbon offsets' in order to generate the most public support. The semantic trick even works on those who are most resistant to a political response to climate change--Republicans. 
Richard Fortey reviews The Genesis Enigma in The Times Literary Supplement:
As smoking continues to decline among the US population, the rate of obesity is growing and has now become an equal, if not greater, contributor to the burden of disease and shortening of healthy life compared to smoking, according to Researchers from Columbia and The City College of New York. They say that the Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) lost due to obesity is now equal to, if not greater than, those lost due to smoking, both modifiable risk factors. The results appear in February 2010 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Apparently, a committee in Japan is lobbying for a return to the traditional sake bottle.
The squid skins dry in the sun, stuffed with rice or grains to create the bottle shape. Once fully dried, warm sake is poured into the squid bottle to create a distinct squid-infused Sake flavour. Bottles can be used 4 or 5 times before being eaten.
Technically, these probably aren't "skins." The skin of a squid is a thin, delicate covering that wouldn't hold up well to this sort of treatment. My guess is that they're using the whole mantle--the muscular body of the squid, which is usually turned in calamari rings.
A few recently published studies offered some insight into the issue of closing schools to reduce the effects of a flu epidemic.

The first problem, which hasn't been resolved, is determining the criteria for closing a school in the first place.  However, another study suggests that such closures could reduce swine flu transmission by 21%.  In this case the presumption is that reducing exposure would, of course, stall the spread of the disease.

One criticism of science that we often hear is...

Wait.

You know, criticism of science is still a phrase that seems odd to me. When I was growing up, we never thought to criticize science, in general. Of course, there’d be things that scientists got wrong, and we were critical of those as individual items. But that, we knew, is how science is — we’re always learning new things about what we thought we knew. It’s a strength of science.