• Person A:I love science!
  • Person B:*hands them a peer-reviewed journal*
  • Person A:It takes a lot of time and energy to develop literacy in those. People's enjoyment of the things science can do for them shouldn't be dismissed or shamed because of their lack of education, or their appreciation of the "shiny" parts of science. Those parts are important, both for bringing the benefits of science to more people, and simply for bringing more beauty to life. But you knew that, didn't you... BARON VON DESTRUCTOID!
  • Person B (actually Baron von Destructoid):CURSES! My attempt to stifle youth appreciation of science - foiled again! Get him, my Destructrons!
  • Person A (actually Captain Science):Ha ha! *wzap* *kbam* *pow*
  • And once again the day is saved, by Science!, and by Not Being Judgmental About Other People's Engagement With the World!
Restoring the American Chestnut - not a plea for money

This is about a crowdfunding campaign, but I’m not here to ask you to contribute.  I’m just here to ask you to spread the word.

Also, it includes Science.

A lot of people don’t realize that the forests in North America don’t look the way they should.

Until the 20th century, the American chestnut made up about ¼ of the trees in eastern North American forests. It was a keystone species.  Its nuts fed bears, deer, squirrels, raccoons, opossums and wild turkeys–not to mention people–and its leaf litter supported the ground plants, bugs and larvae that our songbirds and fish ate.

In 1904, the chestnut blight arrived in the US, and almost all the American chestnuts died. Over 9 million square miles of them.  Without this tree, the ecology of the eastern forests is broken.  Native animals can’t find the right foods to eat.  The chemical balance of the soil is changing and supporting the wrong kinds of plants.  People have forgotten this tree should be there, but they’re living the consequences of its loss.

Now here’s the deal: researchers from SUNY-ESF (that’s an environmental science college) have worked for 25 years to develop a true, non-hybrid blight-resistant American chestnut tree…and as of this month, November 2014, they’ve declared success.

The tree has to go through a regulatory approval process, but while they wait for that to clear, they’re planning to grow 10,000 baby blight-resistant American chestnuts that can be distributed throughout the tree’s native range, and begin restoring the chestnut to its native range.

Chestnuts spread easily.  In 50 years, 10,000 trees will become 200,000.  In 100 years, 200,000 trees will become 4 million, and can right the wrong of one of the greatest, and quietest, ecological disasters the world has ever seen.

Hence, the American Chestnut Project’s crowdfunding campaign: http://www.esf.edu/chestnutchallenge You can donate if you like, but more importantly, please just tell eerybody about it!  The project doesn’t just need money; it needs public awareness, and support, and for people to plant American chestnut trees so that when the blight-resistant trees are ready, they’ll be able to pollinate and produce the next generation.

youtube

While listening to music is beneficial, playing music is “the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.” (via teded)

news.stanford.edu
Hallucinatory 'voices' shaped by local culture, Stanford anthropologist says

Anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann found that voice-hearing experiences of people with serious psychotic disorders are shaped by local culture – in the U.S., the voices are harsh and threatening; in Africa and India, they are more benign and playful.

The striking difference was that while many of the African and Indian subjects registered predominantly positive experiences with their voices, not one American did. Rather, the U.S. subjects were more likely to report experiences as violent and hateful – and evidence of a sick condition.

[…]

Among the Indians in Chennai, more than half (11) heard voices of kin or family members commanding them to do tasks. “They talk as if elder people advising younger people,” one subject said. That contrasts to the Americans, only two of whom heard family members. Also, the Indians heard fewer threatening voices than the Americans – several heard the voices as playful, as manifesting spirits or magic, and even as entertaining. Finally, not as many of them described the voices in terms of a medical or psychiatric problem, as all of the Americans did.

In Accra, Ghana, where the culture accepts that disembodied spirits can talk, few subjects described voices in brain disease terms. When people talked about their voices, 10 of them called the experience predominantly positive; 16 of them reported hearing God audibly. “‘Mostly, the voices are good,’” one participant remarked.

brainpickings.org
Beatrix Potter, Mycologist: The Beloved Children’s Book Author’s Little-Known Scientific Studies and Illustrations of Mushrooms
"Imagination is the precursor to policy, the precondition to action. Imagination, like wonder, allows us to value something." Beatrix Pot

For anyone who thinks that art and science should not and do not intersect. 

For anyone who thinks that formal classwork is required to be a scientist.

For anyone who thinks women don’t belong in science or shouldn’t do science.

Beatrix Potter’s illustrations of mushrooms are beautiful and scientifically accurate. They are worthy of attention and admiration. So is she.

A miniature evolution rant for science fiction writers

1. A living thing cannot be more or less evolved. It can be more or less derived, meaning it differs from some basal ancestor in more or fewer ways. It can be more or less complex, which is by no means the same as more or less derived, nor do being more derived and being more complex necessarily correlate. But evolution doesn’t stop. Even when an organism changes very little over many, many generations, that is because those same traits that served its ancestor well are still beneficial or non-detrimental and thus still being selected for. Claiming something is more evolved because it is either more derived or more complex is like claiming a cubist painting is more painted than a Renaissance painting.

2. Likewise, it is impossible to reach the pinnacle of evolution. Evolution does not have a linear plot. It is a sandbox game. Our personal brand of human intelligence is glorious and wonderful and tremendous, but it was neither inevitable nor necessary. Again, evolution doesn’t stop. It is a constant interplay between species and environment, defined by birth, death, and change. A change in the environment alters the needs of the species. A change in a species alters the environment. Nothing is ever “perfectly evolved”, even for its specific environment, because every alteration requires alteration in response, even if that alteration is very small. There is certainly no such thing as a perfect species.

3. A change in the environment is a change in the environment. Until someone discovers or invents a form of true immortality, nothing we do can actually halt our own evolution- it can only change the course. As a general rule, the more members of a species who survive each generation, the better that species is doing, and the more diverse its genome, the less likely one or two catastrophic things will wipe it off the face of the planet. You don’t know what traits will be valuable for future challenges we face and what traits won’t be. If I remember correctly (I’ll dig up my notes later), the jaw was derived from an initially bizarre and useless mutation in the skull, and several of our ear bones were derived from what used to be part of our jaw articulation. So eugenicists and people who claim not to be eugenicists but use eugenics arguments can all fuck right off.

4. A single individual cannot evolve. Evolution does not occur on the individual level. It occurs on the population level. When a single individual changes to better suit their environment, that is adaptation, not evolution. Adaptation is of course a part of evolution, but it is not the same thing. This, combined with points 1 and 2, means you personally cannot become or choose to be more evolved than other people. That is not how anything works, at all, ever.

Thank you for your time, everyone!

I don’t consider fire a technology so much as a natural resource. Shaping rocks to hit and scrape stuff with is the oldest, but boring, and also how often do humans use rocks as hand tools nowadays? But long before the wheel, came the needle and thread. For tens of thousands of years (possibly up to 60,000), humans have been sewing up people and things, not to mention using them for tattooing and other decoration. Later on, they were used for weaving, knitting and acupuncture. Yesterday, I hand-sewed a bag I’m working on and fixed a hole in my jacket, and the only difference is I’m working with steel and cotton, not bone and deer sinew.
—  Why Needle And Thread Is Still Some Of The World’s Most Incredible Techio9′s comment of the day for June 10, 2015.
Random thoughts

Something I thought of today was how diamonds, although hard, are rather brittle, and even ones that have relatively few cracks in them (there is no such thing as a truly flawless diamond) can be damaged by, of all things, sonic vibrations; there are machines used to clean off rings and necklaces with sound, but most gemstones, especially diamonds, have a high risk of cracking or chipping from the vibrations, and so they considered it ill-advised to put any sort of stone (organic gems even moreso, pearls and coral disintegrate in those things) inside them.

You know who’s an expert with making loud noises?

That’s right.

I’m imagining the end of the Yellow Diamond stuff to be Greg with, like, five concerts’ worth of amps and speakers set up with a sort of cone to ‘cup’ the vibrations and focus them in one spot, and he ends up shattering, or at least blasting into submission, Yellow Diamond with a power ballad.

if you want to think about something else that’s fucking rad, if you consider animals and humans to be the earth’s children then that makes the moon our eldest sister. she’s a half-sister, because technically multicellular life got co-parented by the sun, and luna was calved off from the earth’s crust via saucy collision with a handsome rogue planet named theia. after that earth settled down, went steady with the sun, got an atmosphere, played around with chemicals, and here we are today.

but next time you see your big sister say hi. 

4

Keiko’s family follows a tradition when naming their children. Since Keiko’s grandfather was a chemist, he named his son Tetsuhiko after iron (鉄, Tetsu) since Tetsuhiko was born on the 6th of February and the 26th element (2nd month and 6th day) in the periodic table is iron. Tetsuhiko continued this tradition and named his daughter Keiko after the 14th element, silicon (珪素, Keiso), as Keiko was born on the 4th of October but Tetsuhiko couldn’t make a girl’s name after the 104th element, Rutherfordium, so he resorted to merging 10 and 4 to get 14.

Keiko’s display name, Silica, means Silicon Dioxide (SiO2). She chose this name for her character due to her real name being based on silicon, the 14th element in the periodic table. The reason why she chose “Silica” instead of “Silico” was because “Silica” sounded cuter. She even ties her hair with two red ribbons to have 2 ring baubles which symbolize 2 oxygen atoms bound to her.

(source) (emphasis mine)

This is just incredibly adorable. Science nerd families FTW!

Jurassic World was made possible by that one Asian scientist who refuses to learn from his mistakes.

Beginning:
“People are going to die.”
“But we need to science.”

Later:
“People are dying.”
“If I don’t science, someone else will. So, science.”

End:
“People DIED!”
“FOR THE SAKE OF SCIENCE. SO THAT I CAN GO OFF AND SCIENCE SOMETHING ELSE THAT WILL KILL THEM! STOP COMPLAINING YOU SCIENCELESS IDIOTS!”
“But–”
“SCIENCE!!!”

“Sexist Gamers” Study: Unethical Science, Misappropriated Funds?

In my last blog, I covered how the data from a widely-ballyhooed study about gamers being horribly, awfully sexist had been cherry-picked to the nth degree in order to arrive at the researchers’ pre-existing assumptions.

Well, it turns out that according to the Australian Research Council, the study’s author (Michael Kasumovic) was given the grant money to study bugs — not human beings.  From the original study:

Funding: This research was supported by an ARC DECRA Fellowship (DE120100214) to MMK.  (MMK being M.M. Kasumovic)

That number yields exactly one result at the ARC website.

Fields of Research: 060308 - Life Histories; 060201 - Behavioural Ecology; 060207 - Population Ecology

Socio-Economic Objective:
970106 - Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences; 839999 - Animal Production and Animal Primary Products not elsewhere classified; 960499 - Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species not elsewhere classified

Bolding mine.

Additionally, Kasumovic appears to have violated basic scientific ethical policies, required by the ARC of anyone getting funding through their system.  In his study, he states:

Neither written nor verbal consent to participate in this study was collected by the authors specifically because all individuals that participated in the study were anonymous (as players use pseudonyms) and had already agreed to the terms of Xbox Live (which state that conversations can be recorded).

Yes, they had — except those Terms only specifically authorize MICROSOFT to record anything.

Beyond that, the Terms only include a disclaimer of liability, stating that Microsoft can’t stop anyone else from recording you.  That’s a far cry from the authorization Kasumovic appears to imply, and as such his rights to lift anyone’s voice for his study go only so far as the law (and the Australian Research Council) allows.  The ARC’s comment on this, so far, has been that no university would allow the study of human beings under these conditions, and that even if such ethical requirements were waived it would violate the ARC’s own requirements for any project funding.

TL;DR: It appears that the “sexist gamers” study was both scientifically unethical and a misappropriation of funds intended for unrelated studies.  The ARC may be looking into getting its $375,000 back.

youtube

YES, I WAS WAITING FOR THIS.

The camera used for this photo has a crappy white balance which could really screw with people’s colour perception. I’m also surprised that most people saw this as white-gold and that there are *debates* about this. Lol good luck trying to win that.