Tag Archives: Linkonomicon

Superpurrsition

Diesel Sweeties by Richard Stevens 3 (CC BY-NC 2.5)

Diesel Sweeties by Richard Stevens 3 (CC BY-NC 2.5)

There are comics that are card-carrying “science comics” that teach science (egBoxplot by Maki Naro) and express truths about the experience of being a scientist (egPiled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham). There are those that are super-nerdy all the time, like xkcd by Randall Munroe.

Then there are the comics that occasionally brush up against the scientific world – dropping a punchline that hints at larger concepts, drawing in those who understand and inviting inquiry from those who don’t. This strip from Diesel Sweeties by Richard Stevens 3 is part of that tradition.

The Dress

I was not particularly interested in “The Dress” for I had long ago accepted the fickle nature of both human and technological perception. That, however, does not mean one should dismiss* “The Dress” as trivial, a distraction, or a waste of time. Andrew David Thaler expresses the key point of this social phenomenon extremely well:

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.34.35 AM

*One should probably dismiss all the cheap marketing attempts to capitalize on “The Dress”, as well as Time naming the original poster as one of the 30 Most Influential People on the Internet.

Book Punks

Mike was recently interviewed by Book Punks about his series of reviews of post-apocalyptic fiction through history (#apocalypsethen) and how this fiction speaks about our relationship with science.

I love the genre because the apocalypse is a fascinating thought experiment: what happens when all of the science and technology that we use to mediate our interactions with nature and with each other disappears? What happens to human nature when it confronts the raw forces of nature without the intervention of technology? – Mike White

Mike also does not give himself very good odds of survival in a post-apocalyptic scenario, which is a bit depressingly realistic (personally, I think Ben is the most likely of The Finch & Pea staff to survive – dude can make good food out of anything, even cooking over a campfire).

More than One Way to Vaccinate a Cat

No, this isn’t about cat vaccinations, but you should make sure all your pets’ shots are up to date, too. It is what we like to call, in the business, word play (technically, the term is “god-awful, hacky word play”).

With the focus placed on vaccinations by the measles screwing with Disneyland, there has been a lot of pessimistic coverage of the research showing that there is not a single, magic bullet, public service message (out of an exhaustive set of four options) that will convince everyone to vaccinate.

Over at Science News, Bethany Brookshire has an excellent post discussing the many ways to persuade people to vaccinate and why certain strategies are more likely to work for some, but not for others.

Research has begun to examine why people fear vaccines, and what can be done about it…But in all of the research, one thing is clear: There is not a single, foolproof way to convey that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the harms.

-Bethany Brookshire at Science News

In the conclusion, Bethany raises the critical point that our public health approaches to vacccination have actually been pretty effective. Vaccination rates remain high, even if they have slumped a bit recently.

We may be at the limits of what can be achieved through public service messaging and need to focus on one-on-one interactions, while keeping the public pro-vaccination message strong.

Luckily, parents who adamantly refuse to vaccinate are in the minority. Unluckily, as the Disneyland outbreak shows, that tiny minority is still needed to keep infectious diseases from rising again. “The reality is that most people do get vaccinated, “Wilson says. “Maybe it’s 90 percent, but you need 95 or 100 percent. It’s challenging to get 100 percent of the population to agree to something. It’s not that there’s a disastrous failure of messaging. It’s that the threshold for success is so high.”

-Bethany Brookshire at Science News

Having been in many men’s restrooms, I can state confidently that we are doing a better job on vaccination than we are on hand washing.

…the bell trolls for thee

According to a purported, internal Twitter memo obtained by The Verge, Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo is taking personal responsibility for their poor record of dealing with abusive behavior on their platform – behavior that makes Twitter, as well as other online spaces, unwelcoming to non-white, non-cis-male individuals. Costolo wants this reputation to change and will, apparently, be putting serious resources behind this effort. Twitter is finally recognizing the need to combat online abuse and trolls, not that this is the right thing to do, but because it is costing them valuable users.

We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.

I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd.
-Nitasha Tiku & Casey Newton quoting Twitter CEO Dick Costolo from what is, reportedly, a Twitter internal memo

For those of us interested in having online spaces be venues for debate, discussion, and promotion of equality, the prospect of robust tools built into the platform and taken seriously by Twitter is potentially a huge step forward.

HT: Alex Medina