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If you are in the Baltimore want to see Michele Banks and her fabulous science art in person, you can visit her at Artscape tomorrow through the rest of the weekend (18-20 July). Remember, our artists can’t support themselves.

RYBG Blood Cells by Michele Banks


A LEGO Odyssey

Some stories are so good they can inspire us for thousands of years, which is good news for those of us who need, NEED, to see Homer’s Odyssey captured in LEGO bricks, which have only existed since 1949.

*Hat tip to The Brothers Brick.

Do Better

From Andrew David Thaler, you should read this:

These things are related.

Do better.

Sexual Harassment, an Unacceptable Hazard of Field Work

Figure 1. Proportion of survey respondents, by gender, who indicated that inappropriate or sexual comments occurred never, rarely, regularly, or frequently at their most recent or most notable field site (N). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102172.g001

Figure 1. Proportion of survey respondents, by gender, who indicated that inappropriate or sexual comments occurred never, rarely, regularly, or frequently at their most recent or most notable field site (N).

Important conversations are best addressed with good data. Science has a sexism problem and not all of it is of the passive, unconscious variety. As Kathryn Clancy, Robin Nelson, Julienne Rutherford, and Katie Hinde show in a new paper in PLoS One (“Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault”), sexual harassment and assault is disturbingly common at scientific field sites. They find that when women are the victims it is most likely that the perpetrator is a superior, which allows abuse of the hierarchical power dynamic. They also find that codes of conduct are absent or unknown, that clear reporting systems are often unknown, and that the existing reporting systems often fail to address the issues satisfactorily.

Little is known about the climate of the scientific fieldwork setting as it relates to gendered experiences, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. We conducted an internet-based survey of field scientists (N = 666) to characterize these experiences. Codes of conduct and sexual harassment policies were not regularly encountered by respondents, while harassment and assault were commonly experienced by respondents during trainee career stages. Women trainees were the primary targets; their perpetrators were predominantly senior to them professionally within the research team. Male trainees were more often targeted by their peers at the research site. Few respondents were aware of mechanisms to report incidents; most who did report were unsatisfied with the outcome. These findings suggest that policies emphasizing safety, inclusivity, and collegiality have the potential to improve field experiences of a diversity of researchers, especially during early career stages. These include better awareness of mechanisms for direct and oblique reporting of harassment and assault and, the implementation of productive response mechanisms when such behaviors are reported. Principal investigators are particularly well positioned to influence workplace culture at their field sites.

The Art of Science: Energy Duck has the Power – to Terrify

Duck Vader

The first thing you need to know about Energy Duck is that Energy Duck does not exist. It’s just a design, an entry in the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), a competition to design and construct public art installations that also serve as sources of large-scale clean energy generation.  So for now, file it with the other wonderful, terrible things that live on the internet, like the trampoline bridge on the Seine and the city buses with roof gardens.

If it gets built, though, Energy Duck will have the ability not only to provide solar and hydro power to Copenhagen’s public grid, but to fuel the nightmares of Danish children for decades to come.

Common Eider by Jessica Dixon for Phylo: The Trading Card Game (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A London-based team of artists, Hareth Pochee, Adam Khan, Louis Leger, and Patrick Fryer, modeled the sculpture on the common eider duck, which is found in the waters of Copenhagen. The Energy Duck, which is planned to be 12 stories tall (!) and constructed around a lightweight steel frame, with very lightweight steel supporting a skin of photovoltaic panels, would float in the city’s harbor.  At night the duck would be lit by LED lamps that change color, with the color pattern undulating according to the output of the hydro turbines. Visitors would be able to move around the inside of the duck.

All this is well and good, I suppose. Sustainable energy produced by a plant floating offshore is a great concept.  But as a person who lives in a 7-story building near a river, the idea of a huge, black, armored duckie larger than my apartment building floating nearby is somewhat less than appealing. It’s terrifying, in fact. The fact that it would turn into a glowing, pulsing, rainbow hippie duck by night helps matters not at all.

I do kind of hope that Energy Duck gets built. At the very least, it would provide endless entertaining photo ops of the “then Lancelot, Bedivere and I jump out of the duck” variety. Please, Just not in my backyard.

H/T: Inhabitat 

Mad Scientists Used To Be More Fun

I recommend that you read Annalee Newitz’s “The Rise of the Evolutionary Psychology Douchebag” to improve your own intellectual relative fitness.

Any discussion of Evolutionary Psychology needs to start with a disclaimer. The term “Evolutionary Psychology” is a brand name, or jargon, denoting a particular approach to a particular set of questions. It does not describe the entire field of research into the evolution of human intelligence, personality, psychology, and mental health. Continue reading

Saving Net Neutrality

The FCC has extended its deadline for public commentary on proposed new rules regarding Net Neutrality, because their website crashed. Why did it crash? Because it was not prepared to handle the outpouring of support in favor of an open internet and opposition to a system where the few remaining ISPs are able to control what you see and how quickly you can see it.

We’ve got a few more days to make our voices heard. Please join me in voicing your support for Net Neutrality.

Here is one of my comments, dashed off and submitted through the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s web tool (feel free to reuse the last paragraph if you wish). There are other avenues to submitting a comment too. Be aware that your comment will be included in the public record and will be viewable online. So, limit your cursing. If you don’t feel like writing, there is a petition based submission platform from Fight for the Future.

Dear FCC,
I’m Joshua Witten and I live in Hartsville, SC.

Net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all data that travels over their networks equally, is important to me because without it users may have fewer options and a less diverse Internet.

A pay-­to-play Internet worries me because new, innovative services that can’t afford expensive fees for better service will be less likely to succeed.

The Internet provides a unique way to broadly connect our society in a way that fosters communication and creativity. A failure to guarantee Net Neutrality sacrifices the benefits to creativity and economics of an open Internet to protect a select few from the natural process of having to adapt to a changing business environment. A loss of Net Neutrality will disadvantage the most innovative segments of our society. It is the responsibility of the FCC to define and protect a communication environment that benefits the country, not a select few interests.

Joshua Witten