Author Archives: Josh Witten

Trick or Treat! – Mullerian Mimicry Edition

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Taylor (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

You are never to young for a meta-costume*.

To the untrained eye, it may look like my daughter is dressed as a monarch butterfly for Halloween. To the trained eye, you will recognize that half of her parental set is extremely dorky.

She is actually going as the concept of Müllerian Mimicry instantiated in the form of a viceroy butterfly. This costume is occassionally mistaken for Batesian Mimicry by novices.

Butterfly (monarch) on a Penta by Arturo Yee (CC BY 2.0)

Butterfly (monarch) on a Penta by Arturo Yee (CC BY 2.0)

Viceroy by Rodney Campbell (CC BY 2.0)

Viceroy by Rodney Campbell (CC BY 2.0)

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Science for the People: Bodies Everywhere

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This week, Science for the People is looking at the morbid and fascinating history of our attempts to grapple with disease and death. We’re joined by medical historian Richard Barnett to talk about his book The Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration.

And we’ll speak to mortician and blogger Caitlin Doughty about her new book Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, and her ongoing YouTube series “Ask a Mortician“, about the history, science and cultural attitudes attached to dealing with the deceased.

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Dr. Twitter

EvaCameraOur travel guru, Eva Amsen, was recently interviewed by Times Higher Education about using Twitter and other social media productively as an academic in her role as outreach coordinator for F1000. The article includes a handy list of reasons you should be on social media in case your superiors question the number of tweets you posted last month.

Congratulations to Emily Willingham & David Grimes

It makes me very happy to share the announcement that our friend Dr. Emily Willingham is joint winner of the 2014 John Maddox Prize for Standing Up for Science. Emily is brave. That isn’t an adjective that one gets to use for many science writers; but Emily is brave. She has continued to bring clarity of scientific evidence to controversial issues such as autism, vaccines, school shootings, and parenting despite continuous abuse, legal threats, and other challeges.

The judges awarded the prize to freelance journalist Dr Emily Willingham and early career scientist Dr David Robert Grimes for courage in promoting science and evidence on a matter of public interest, despite facing difficulty and hostility in doing so…Emily Willingham, a US writer, has brought discussion about evidence, from school shootings to home birth, to large audiences through her writing. She has continued to reach across conflict and disputes about evidence to the people trying to make sense of them. She is facing a lawsuit for an article about the purported link between vaccines and autism. – Sense About Science

Although we do not know Dr. David Grimes, he also deserves our congratulations, thanks, and deep respect for his work:

David Grimes writes bravely on challenging and controversial issues, including nuclear power and climate change. He has persevered despite hostility and threats, such as on his writing about the evidence in the debate on abortion in Ireland. He does so while sustaining his career as a scientist at the University of Oxford. – Sense About Science

I have received phone calls from a very distressed David Grimes late at night over death threats, looking for a second opinion about how to cope with threats to his livelihood and threats of physical harm against him. While David is no push over, the constant barrage of abuse does take its toll and it’s very brave of him to continue to speak out against scientific falsehoods in the media when he’s under no obligation to as a researcher. – Daniel Murray

Congratulations to Dr. Emily Willingham and Dr. David Grimes.

#ShakesPeerReview

Screenshot 2014-10-26 19.47.29It has oft been our wont on a Friday to indulge in a bit of sciencing of movie quotes – a practice we have saddled with the Twitter sobriquet #SCInema. This Friday, however, was not like most Fridays. For, on this Friday, my friends at the Science for the People podcast released a show featuring interviews with author Dan Falk and scholar Stanley Wells entitled “Science and Shakespeare.

So, instead of putting the science in movie quotes, we brought the science to the works of The Bard with the hashtag #ShakesPeerReview. It was met with great enthusiasm by science-y folk who were eager to show-off that their knowledge of Shakespeare and their senses of humor (these things do not always go together).

My favorite effort, among many potential favorites, may be this one from Shane Caldwell.

Screenshot 2014-10-26 19.43.13

You can find a storify of #ShakesPeerReview tweets here.