Category Archives: Curiosities of Nature

Science for the People: Superstorm

sftpThis week, Science for the People is exploring the evolving frontier of extreme weather, and how it’s influenced by our warming planet. Desiree Schell talks about the largest Atlantic storm system ever recorded with Kathryn Miles, author of Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy. She will also talk about the relationship between climate change and hurricane strength and frequency with Christopher Landsea, Ph.D, Science and Operations Officer at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

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

Woodpecker Tongues are Weird

In fact, I did know; but that is mostly because my children love to read The Unfeathered Bird* by Katrina van Grouw. I, however, greatly enjoy being reminded of this fact as often as possible (it is the kind of thing you know, but then forget you know – like that John Ratzenberger was in Empire Strikes Back), especially when accompanied by such wonderful illustration.

*Courtesy of Princeton University Press.

Biblical Support for Mechanisms of Evolution

Ecclesiastes 9:11 contains a very poetic description of genetic drift as a mechanism of evolution, though it leaves out any description of the importance of effective population size:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
-King James Version

Science for the People: A Sting in the Tale

This week Science for the People is learning about the fascinating lives of bees, and the important role they play in our global ecosystem. They speak to University of Sussex biology professor Dave Goulson about his book A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees. They also talk to Jocelyn Crocker, founding member of YEG Bees, about the rewards and challenges of urban beekeeping.

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

On Beauty in Technical Science Writing

Via Chris Woolston at Nature, I ran across last week’s discussion about the role of beauty in technical scientific prose. Writing over at The Tree of Life, Stephen Heard offers several examples of beauty in scientific writing, and he calls on the community to encourage beauty in scientific writing:

[E]xamples of beautiful scientific writing do seem to be unusual; and those that exist aren’t well known. I don’t think it has to be this way. W could choose to change our culture, a little at a time, to deliver (and to value) pleasure along with function in our scientific writing.

I’ll second the idea that we should encourage beauty in scientific writing, but with a big caveat: we absolutely shouldn’t try to do this by making our technical writing more belletristic. We don’t need to drop in hokey metaphors or cloying phrases — that’s what would happen if you encouraged most scientists to write beautifully. Continue reading