In which, Rep. Rice plays to my vanity

I know it is boring, but it is my policy to publicly post any correspondence I receive from one of my elected representatives, especially the form letters. This one is from Representative Tom Rice, who represents those of us living in South Carolina’s House District 7, on the topic of NSA domestic spying.

In addition to voting the way I wanted him to on HR4870 to stop funding for certain NSA surveillance programs, Representative Rice called me “Dr. Witten”. No one ever calls me “Dr. Witten”, including most of my students. Continue reading

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.

Doctors Without Borders: Don’t wait for Ebola magic bullets

Earlier this week I argued that hand-wringing over the lack of Ebola vaccines and drugs is misguided. We have effective tools to fight Ebola right now.

This week in the New England Journal of Medicine, physicians from WHO and Médecins sans Frontières make a similar argument much more eloquently:

There has recently been immense media, public, and medical attention to specific treatments for Ebola virus infection. Although these experimental interventions represent important potential treatments, they also reflect our seemingly innate focus on developing magic bullets. It seems that focusing on reducing mortality in the existing “control group” by applying the current standard of care is less interesting, even if much more likely to be effective. Though we recognize the potential incremental value of new antiviral options, we believe that EVD requires a greater focus on available basic care…

Public health interventions including characterizing the outbreak epidemiology, contact tracing, social mobilization, and public education are essential steps in stopping Ebola and will ultimately save many more lives than can be saved by individual patient care…

Excellent clinical care and improved outcomes will result in improved community compliance, will help to break transmission chains, and will lead to a greater willingness of health care workers to engage in care delivery. To quote William Osler, “The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today’s work superbly well.”

Are you a Twitter Science Superstar?

by Brainleaf Communications

In the beginning, there was Neil Hall’s tone deaf “Kardashian Index”. Then there was Science Magazine’s list of 50 Twitter science superstars. Combined they painted a pretty clear picture that being active on social media was only considered a desirable characteristic in a thin slice of the population – you know, white dudes.

Hall did so by mocking young scientists who are active and effective on social media. Science Magazine did so by featuring very few women or people of color in their list.

PZ Myers, who did make Science Magazine’s list, takes them, particularly the editors, to task:

Isn’t it weird how invisible people suddenly become apparent if you just look for them?

In doing so, PZ reminded me of a Blues Brothers themed piece I wrote a few years ago for Nature’s Soapbox Science about finding audiences where they are on social media. Rather than fighting over the niche audience of science fans, we need to be convincing people to be science fans – much like Jake and Elwood convinced people to like the Blues. Continue reading

The Lovelace & Babbage Countdown Begins

"The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage" by Sydney Padua (All Rights Reserved; Adapted with Permission)

“The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage” by Sydney Padua (All Rights Reserved; Adapted with Permission)

If you were the NSA and “asked” Amazon.com for my order history, you would discover that I almost never pre-order anything. I am not an early adopter. I like to let other people sort out the bugs and kinks before wading in.

I said “almost never” for a reason. The exception is Sydney Padua’s new book, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage, which is scheduled for release in April 2015. The book is based on the adventures of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage as described in the webcomic of the same name at 2D Goggles.

Why pre-order? Well, one, won’t you feel stupid if they run out? You will. Two, pre-orders can help those “bestseller” list numbers, depending on the list and how they tally things up. Robust pre-order numbers certainly are good for the author’s fragile psyche. Three, you will probably forget you ordered it by April. So, when it arrives, it will be like Christmas in April – four months late or eight months early, depending on the kind of person you are.

Go. Now. Don’t make me judge you.