Archive for November 13th, 2009

About That Garbage Patch…

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | November 13, 2009 4:16 pm

Miriam Goldstein–chief scientist of SEAPLEX–is leading the voyage to understand the the island of garbage in the North Pacific Gyre to attempt to understand the effects it may have on marine life. She has a new blog post up entitled ‘“Millions, billions, trillions”…of scientific errors in the NYT‘. Yikes! Here’s how it begins:

On Tuesday, the New York Times published an article on the North Pacific Gyre called “Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash.” Written by Lindsay Hoshaw, it was the culmination of a $10,000 freelance journalism project* in which she visited the gyre with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. Unfortunately, this NYT article was far below their usual standards. Not only did it not add anything new to the discussion, but it significantly misrepresented the state of the science, presenting broad estimates & conjecture as facts.

I sent a list of corrections to the New York Times, and I am republishing them here as well. They are in the order they appear in the article. Because there are so many, I have kept each explanation brief, but please ask in the comments if you would like elaboration. Thanks to my SIO colleagues Kristen Marhaver and Mike Navarro for their suggestions!

In this remote patch of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from any national boundary, the detritus of human life is collecting in a swirling current so large that it defies precise measurement.

The gyre is not a current, but a lack of currents. Please see Pete’s explanation of convergence zones for more detail.

And that’s only the beginning… Go take a look.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Education, Marine Science

The Moon Is A Not-So-Harsh Mistress

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | November 13, 2009 3:23 pm

story.moon.nasa.govWater on the moon… Just wow!

According to NASA, this discovery may ‘hold the key to the history and evolution of the solar system‘ if the water is billions of years old. Potential sources include molecular clouds, solar winds, comets, or even somehow activity within the moon itself. There’s already discussion about the potential for development of a lunar space station. Phil’s got the details.


What Are the Most Sucessful Examples of New Media Science Communication?

By Chris Mooney | November 13, 2009 12:54 pm

This is a subject I’m thinking about this morning, as I’m presenting to my fellow Knight Fellows about the new media, and specifically about blogging. Ironically, though, I’m going to argue that blogging is not the best or most effective form of existing science communication online, for many of the reasons outlined in Unscientific America. But trying to be positive rather than negative, I’m also going to point out what is: Viral YouTube videos that introduce nonscientific audiences, in the millions, to scientific thinking in a very thoughtful and memorable way.

What are the best examples of such videos? Well, I’m open to suggestions, but I see two particularly outstanding cases out there. In first place, viewed by over 5 million people, is the hilarious “Large Hadron Rap,” probably the best PR move CERN ever made:

In second place, meanwhile, I’d highlight Oregon high school teacher Greg Craven’s “The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See,” explaining in a truly convincing fashion that whether or not you believe global warming is caused by humans, logic still compels you to support the need to take action. This one clocks in at well over 2 million views:

In my view, these videos are by far the best examples of using new media to get the word out about science. What do others think, either about the best and most widely watched YouTube vids or other new media innovations? And does anyone want to argue back with the case for blogs?


Why Chimpanzees Are NOT Pets

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | November 13, 2009 10:49 am

In February, 55-year-old Charla Nash made headlines around the world when she was brutally attacked by a friend’s 200-pound pet chimpanzee. She decided to reveal her disfigured face on Oprah this week and I am posting a clip* because I have extremely strong emotions concerning this particular issue–foremost as a result of my conservation biology background and also due to my friendship with science writer Vanessa Woods and her husband, evolutionary anthropologist Dr. Brian Hare. Together they study sanctuary orphans in Congo and often mothers have been killed so the babies can be sold as pets.

Most people still do not seem to understand the gravity of this issue. After watching, make sure to read Brian’s original guest contribution on the science behind why chimpanzees are not pets below the fold.

(A warning to readers of graphic content.)

The Science Behind Why Chimpanzees Are Not Pets
by Brian Hare, Evolutionary Anthropologist at Duke University

ngamba b 074Last month, a 200 pound male chimpanzee named Travis mauled a woman outside the home where he has been living with his owner Sandra Herold. Charla Nash was nearly killed by Travis and now has life changing wounds to her face while Travis was stabbed by his owner with a butcher knife and shot dead by the police.

Was this incidence preventable or just a freak accident? Should chimpanzees and other primates be kept as pets? What is the effect of the primate pet trade not only on the welfare of these “pets” but on their species survival in the wild? To answer these question I consider what science has to say and draw on both my own work on domestication and over 50 years of research by primatologists on wild chimpanzees. Read More


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