Archive for September 15th, 2010

The Tea Party's War on Science

By Chris Mooney | September 15, 2010 9:41 pm

Following on this post, I want this to be the topic of a future Point of Inquiry show.

My question: Who’s the guest? Who’s best equipped to speak to this?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Hurricane Julia Shatters Seasonal Records

By Chris Mooney | September 15, 2010 7:12 pm

There’s a reason Jeff Masters stands unrivaled as our top hurricane blogger. Let me just quote his analysis of Hurricane Julia, after the storm surprisingly reached Category 4 intensity yesterday:

This morning’s unexpected intensification of Hurricane Julia into a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds has set a new record–Julia is now the strongest hurricane on record so far east. When one considers that earlier this year, Hurricane Earl became the fourth strongest hurricane so far north, it appears that this year’s record SSTs have significantly expanded the area over which major hurricanes can exist over the Atlantic. This morning is just the second time in recorded history that two simultaneous Category 4 or stronger storms have occurred in the Atlantic. The only other occurrence was on 06 UTC September 16, 1926, when the Great Miami Hurricane and Hurricane Four were both Category 4 storms for a six-hour period. The were also two years, 1999 and 1958, when we missed having two simultaneous Category 4 hurricanes by six hours. Julia’s ascension to Category 4 status makes it the 4th Category 4 storm of the year. Only two other seasons have had as many as five Category 4 or stronger storms (2005 and 1999), so 2010 ranks in 3rd place in this statistic. This year is also the earliest a fourth Category 4 or stronger storm has formed (though the fourth Category 4 of 1999, Hurricane Gert, formed just 3 hours later on today’s date in 1999.) We’ve also had four Cat 4+ storms in just twenty days, which beats the previous record for shortest time span for four Cat 4+ storms to appear. The previous record was 1999, 24 days (thanks to Phil Klozbach of CSU for this stat.)

WHEW. Here’s an amazing picture (again, from Masters) of the two Category 4s over the open Atlantic earlier today:

Two Category 4s

Taking Science to Where the Peeps Are: NFL Football!

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | September 15, 2010 1:12 pm

This is a guest post by Darlene Cavalier, a writer and senior adviser at Discover Magazine. Darlene holds a Masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a former Philadelphia 76ers cheerleader. She founded and cofounded to make it possible for lay people to contribute to science.

Lots of chatter recently here and here among science bloggers debating and distilling the merits of various forms of science communication. Novel, broad approaches to reach new audiences were discussed. I hinted at one such approach in the thread and now I’d like to share the details.

I’ve been working with the National Science Foundation, NBC and the National Football League on The Science of NFL Football, a video series featuring current and former NFL stars and scientists to demonstrate and explain the multiple scientific concepts, core to the game of football.

The football action is broken down using a Phantom camera, which captures the players’ movement at rates of up to 2,000 frames per second. Players provide insights and scientists give blow-by-blow accounts of the specific scientific principles such as Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, kinematics and projectile motion. The Phantom video shoot was overseen by the NBC Olympics Production Group, which also provided research and technical support throughout the project.

Steve Capus, President of NBC News said, “NBC is extremely excited to offer this creative video series that combines science education and a sport that so many kids know and love.”

That’s right. We’re going to where the adults and kids are. Or, as NYTimes reporter Joanne Gerstner put it in this piece, “It’s almost like telling kids their favorite food was entirely made of really healthy vegetables.” In this same Times piece, Soraya Gage, executive producer of NBC Learn adds “… Getting the athletes to talk about what they do hooks the kids and the students. And when it’s coming from an idol, a sporting hero, they sit up and listen.”

A little back story. Originally pitched this as a series featuring the many procheerleaders who are scientists and engineers. Why? These women are remarkable. They are the real deal and they are passionate about inspiring young women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. And, obviously, they are provocative (i.e. attention grabbers). As scientists/engineers AND procheerleaders, they epitomize opposing stereotypes. Turns out, they’re also proving to be influential role models and mentors to middle school girls, in particular. Before you snicker or roll your eyes, keep in mind that 1.4 million gals are cheerleaders and they look up to these women. You can bet plenty of these young science-minded cheerleaders are feeling torn between identities. Follow an interest in science? Or be jocks or cheerleaders? Science Cheerleaders say, “both.”

I chose to emphasize these so-called Science Cheerleaders because they speak from personal experience and they all have a good story to tell…and I can empathize with them. For years, while working at Discover Magazine, I kept secret my identity as a 76ers cheerleader for fear of being dissed. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. In fact, it’s partly due to my past cheerleading relationships that this NFL, NBC, NSF partnership came to be! As the NFL video segments are released on (about once a week), a procheerleader-turned-scientist or engineer will introduce the segment and we’ll link to an online interview we did with her. I think you’ll enjoy them and it’s one way of broadening distribution among young women. If Science Cheerleaders aren’t your thing, have no fear. The segments will be aired without the cheerleader-tie ins on NBC,, and

Without further ado, here’s the official announcement of the Science of NFL Football series. Hope you and your fellow football fans enjoy learning about the science and engineering of NFL football. (Oh, and that Science Cheerleader series pitch? Just wait.)

Al Roker, Lester Holt, and Deuce McAllister kick off the Science of NFL Football on this Today Show clip. The 10-part video series starring past and present NFL stars was produced in partnership with the NFL, NBC, and the National Science Foundation. As the segments are released each week, I’ll pop back here to The Intersection and provide a brief description and link to the new segment.
Visit and NBC Learn for more information and to download supplemental lesson plans available free to educators.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements, Guest Posts

The Clinton Global Initiative

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | September 15, 2010 10:45 am

Next week, I’ll be attending The Clinton Global Initiative in New York City where heads of state, corporate leaders, philanthropist and social entrepreneurs will convene to discuss innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

The four action areas this year are:

  • Empowering Girls and Women
  • Strengthening Market-Based Solutions
  • Enhancing Access to Modern Technology
  • Harnessing Human Potential

I will be blogging and tweeting (#cgi2010) from the conference. You can also follow CGI at:

1. CGI YouTube page:

2. YouTube Interview with President Clinton: YouTube’s CitizenTube project:

3. CGI Webcast: Webcast channels and schedule at Includes all “stage” sessions during the Annual Meeting.

4. Twitter: The official hash-tag for this year’s meeting is #cgi2010

Picture 6

It's a Busy Hurricane Season After All

By Chris Mooney | September 15, 2010 9:47 am

600px-Hurricane_Julia_2010-09-14_1237ZBack in August, I was wondering whether this hurricane season would live up to expectations. Sea surface temperatures were at record highs, and the pre-season forecasts were dire…but for the most part, the storms themselves had not yet appeared.

Well, that’s all changed now. With Earl, Igor, and now Julia–which unexpectedly exploded into a Category 4 storm last night; pictured at right–we’re already slightly above the long term average for an Atlantic hurricane season. We’ve had 11 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 4 intense hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). The average year has 10 storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense ones.

So we’re particularly high in the hurricane intensity category already, and there’s quite a ways yet to go in the season. The strongest storm ever observed in the Atlantic, 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, occurred in October.

What all of this says to me is that we’ve been exceedingly lucky that with the exception of Hurricane Alex in June, there has not been a single hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico this year (or, for that matter, the Caribbean). Instead, they’ve all been out in the open Atlantic, and the steering currents have bent them away from the North American landmass (which will surely be the fate of Igor and Julia as well).

Given the climatic conditions out there, if these steering currents were to change–or if a storm were to suddenly appear in the Gulf or Caribbean with some ample time over water–my fear is that we could have a Category 4 or 5 in a place that could really hurt us.

Eric Berger has more analysis of how this storm season stacks up against previous ones–and how the pre-season forecasts are looking right now.


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