Food Evolution is a documentary about GMOs. It is an excellent film that mixes a few compelling stories with interesting interviews that inform viewers without losing their attention. As someone that has worked in agricultural biotechnology for 30 years, I find the contents accurate and insightful.
Why we should march for science
The summer rains on our farm in South Dakota carved rills and gullies in the soil as the water cascaded down small streams to the bottom of the hills. Even as a teenager, I knew that the soil removed by these streams, and the farming practice that allowed it, was unsustainable. Watching the devastation year … Continue reading »
The future of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant
The role that nuclear power could or should play in helping to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is worthy of serious debate, but the latest nuclear-related front-page story in the San Francisco Chronicle is a head-scratcher. Above the fold, the headline reads “Nuclear plant’s surprise backers,” followed by the following subheading: “Environmentalists push for Diablo Canyon … Continue reading »
The campaign for real social science
Where is the science in the social sciences? In recent decades, the social sciences have been reduced to social studies. This is not just a matter of literacy. Teaching the “social sciences” as mere “social studies” is to the detriment of (ironically) society. Academic programs that call themselves “social scientific” but ignore the science inevitably … Continue reading »
Good science gone wrong?
Most scientists want to tell the truth. We want to help people by answering important questions, and sharing what we learn. But the research endeavor is big and messy. And as we’ve learned from the climate change and HIV/AIDS debates, there will always be folks who favor controversy, dogma, and press coverage over scientific consensus. … Continue reading »
Science vs. religion… or science and religion?
Many of America’s cultural battles in recent decades seem to be face-offs between science and faith: over the teaching of evolution, the reality of climate change, the value of stem cell research, the personhood status of an embryo, and the so on. Many on the liberal side of these issues see the controversies as part … Continue reading »
Don’t know much ’bout climatology
Why should we believe the scientists about climate change? Nobody — not even any individual scientist — understand all the details of the 1552-page “summary” of climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). So why buy into the idea that tiny amounts of gases from beneficial energy production can cause devastating global harm? Part of … Continue reading »
Should environmental news coverage be in the science section?
A while back I wrote about how the New York Times’ environmental coverage had been in decline. The public editor at the Times has a new article stating that environmental coverage has recently increased substantially. I think that is a great thing. But I want to focus on another element of the public editor’s article. … Continue reading »
Preparing for Univision: Bringing science education to Spanish speakers
For 10 weeks this summer, I was living my career dream. I was scripting and producing science videos for Univision Noticias, a Spanish news network. For the past 40 years, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has organized the Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship. It sends students to news sites around … Continue reading »
How lingering on ‘extracurriculars’ led to a career
As a psychology graduate student, my main job was to conduct research studies. But over time, I discovered that what I really enjoyed was telling other people about scientific findings: giving talks at conferences, writing papers, or even just explaining my studies to participants. As my interest in science communication solidified, I panicked about what … Continue reading »
From germ theory to global warming, science denialism is beyond parody
If you’re inclined to doubt science, why not start with the germ theory of disease? After all, isn’t it implausible that illness, death, and even mass epidemics are caused by tiny invisible organisms that invade our bodies? And what’s the evidence for that, really? Just the findings of scientists who can get big grants from … Continue reading »
Why fund studies of Maya architecture instead of saving lives?
That is the question two members of the current US House of Representatives pose in an opinion piece in USA Today, writing: Congress is right to ask why NSF chooses to fund research on Mayan architecture over projects that could help our wounded warriors or save lives. As an archaeologist specializing in Maya archaeology, who … Continue reading »
International Day of the Girl: Why science and math programs matter
Late last year, the United Nations declared Oct. 11 the International Day of the Girl. Celebrated for the first time this month, the occasion aims to highlight the challenges girls face around the world to gain access to education and other basic rights, and empower them to advocate on their own behalf. Despite recent publications … Continue reading »
How to actually read a racist book to your kid
On June 15, the novelist Stephen Marche published a thought-provoking piece in The New York Times entitled, “How to Read Racist Books to Your Kids.” I empathized with the issues he faced — I’ve also felt ambushed by racist imagery when reading classic children’s books to my multiracial child — and I was sympathetic to … Continue reading »
What we Google when we Google ‘love’
Internet searches are a fascinating window into human nature and social trends. By analyzing Google searches, researchers have uncovered racial bias in elections and our most intimate sexual desires, as well as many, many consumer trends. But recently, I discovered another kind of search trend: rising interest in “pro-social” emotions and behaviors like love, empathy, … Continue reading »
What do we do when science contradicts itself?
Have you ever been annoyed by flip-flops in the scientific literature? Many people, for example, feel this way when it comes to nutrition science: diet advice, it sometimes seems, changes almost as fast as hardware from Apple. It can make one wonder about– even doubt– the usefuleness of science. And so it was last week, … Continue reading »
Eureka! A new era for scientists and engineers
Silicon Valley was born in an era of applied experimentation driven by scientists and engineers. It wasn’t pure research, but rather a culture of taking sufficient risks to get products to market through learning, discovery, iteration and execution. This approach would shape Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial ethos: In startups, failure was treated as experience (until you ran out of … Continue reading »
U.S. House of Representatives v. Modern Science
Nature, one of the two leading scientific journals in the world, has a strongly worded editorial about the recent House hearings on climate change: At a subcommittee hearing on 14 March, anger and distrust were directed at scientists and respected scientific societies. Misinformation was presented as fact, truth was twisted and nobody showed any inclination … Continue reading »
Education and views about climate change
A political science blog called the Monkey Cage (the name is a reference to an irreverent remark by H.L. Mencken) has an interesting post about education and views about climate change. As you would expect, education is positively correlated with a better understanding of the science — but only for liberals. Educated conservatives are no … Continue reading »
Anthropology: Engaged social science in a changing world
“The purposes of the Association shall be to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects, through archeological, biological, ethnological, and linguistic research; and to further the professional interests of American anthropologists, including the dissemination of anthropological knowledge and its use to solve human problems.” American Anthropological Association, Statement of Purpose, … Continue reading »