Category Archives: Curiosities of Nature

Science for the People: Edible

sftpThis week, they’re looking at the environmental impacts of foods we eat, and others that we should. They’ll speak to Daniella Martin, host of the insect cooking/travel show “Girl Meets Bug,” about her book “Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet.” And they’ll talk about the environmental effects of salmon farming with Peter Bridson, Aquaculture Research Manager for the Seafood Watch program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (which has appeared in Eva Amsen’s Have Science Will Travel series).

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, a completely biased and cooperative member of the team.

Better science fiction, better science?

Neal Stephenson and Arizona State University want scientists and engineers to think bigger – with science fiction. Therefore, they’ve created Project Hieroglyph: “If we want to create a better future, we need to start with better dreams.”

Some of those dreams are laid out in a new anthology of stories and essays, many of which you can now read online. The book features a skeptical foreword by Lawrence Krauss, and a bullish preface by Neal Stephenson. Some comments should be made about Stephenson’s claims regarding the relationship between science and science fiction, but those are for another day. In the mean time, check out the project, it’s well worth your time.

We don’t need to wait for vaccines to defeat Ebola

It’s unfortunate that Ebola drugs and vaccines are still experimental during the worst-ever outbreak of the virus. Ebola is causing massive disruption and economic damage in West Africa. The projection that, if things keep going as they are, tens of thousands could be infected by October is frightening.

But as I argue in my latest column over at Pacific Standard, we’ve already got the tools we need to fight the outbreak. While drugs and vaccines would without question be helpful, the main challenges are social, not scientific. Ebola infections have a high fatality rate, but like HIV (which infects almost 25 million Africans), the virus is not that inherently contagious. Outbreaks in the past have been quickly brought to an end with standard infectious disease control measures.

But there is the problem – those measures have failed in West Africa, and local institutions have been overwhelmed. Wealthier nations have been slow to give the help that’s needed. Contagion is not only a function of the virus itself, but also on social conditions. The current conditions in West Africa — poverty, poor communication, and a justified mistrust of local governments — have allowed this outbreak to get so bad. We don’t need to wring our hands over missing vaccines or drugs; we need to provide the equipment and personnel to tamp down the outbreak using the effective tools we already have on hand.

A 2006 report from a major conference on Ebola said as much: Continue reading

Things break

Complex structures break in interesting and unexpected ways. This is applicable to both sea shells* and civilizations. Some results are prettier than others.

Evernote Snapshot 20140914 112508

Continue reading

Stalking Squirrels for Science – A Silent Film

Brought to you by our good friends Bethany Brookshire (aka, @SciCurious) and Scott Lewis with a special thanks to our own Michele Banks’ squirrels.

Please help Bethany and Scott support the #DIYScienceZone at Geek Girl Con 2014.

HT: Brian Switek