Head over to my storify of the session to learn more!
— Christie Wilcox (@NerdyChristie) November 21, 2013
As most of my friends on the mainland don longer sleeves and more layers, it’s hard not to be a little smug about living in paradise. While, in their neighborhoods, leaves are falling off of trees and icy winds threaten to bring snow, I can throw on a T-shirt and shorts, grab a picnic basket, and hike to a scenic overlook for lunch. But Hawaii’s ever-sunny weather comes with one side-effect that can be deadly serious: year-round, Hawaii has bees.
Over 1.1 million people follow the twitter account @GoogleFacts, a fun account that spouts off random bits of information. According to their bio:
“You can learn a lot of things everyday. When you doubt our facts, just Google it.”
So you can imagine my surprise when a friend pointed out this little factoid:
Sharks are immune to cancer.
— Google Facts (@GoogleFacts) October 22, 2013
If you follow this blog at all, you know that this particularly pernicious “fact” is one of my biggest pet peeves. Why, you ask? Because it’s really not true. Completely, totally, 100%, proven-beyond-a-doubt false. And whoever decided to post this completely untrue statement just misinformed more than A MILLION people. Just look at how many favorites and retweets it got!
Perhaps even more importantly, if you simply take their own advice…
Come on, Google Facts! You can do better than this.
The science blogging community has been rocked by an intense sexual harassment scandal involving, of all people in the world, the blogfather, Bora. I know a lot of my friends are experiencing a multitude of emotions, from anger to confusion, even remorse. I can’t speak for them, but I can explain why I have stayed fairly quiet about the issue.
Jason Isley, cofounder and managing director of ScubaZoo, has taken a lot of pictures of marine life. He’s a brilliant photographer, and his incredible images reveal the breathtaking beauty of the underwater world. But after taking thousands of pictures of everything from inverts to fish, Jason wanted a change of perspective. “I was running out of ways to maintain my passion,” he explained on flickr. Even the vibrant nudibranchs had lost their spark. “I’ve shot them from countless angles and under a variety of lighting configurations,” he said. “I really wanted to do something entirely different. Something off-the-wall.”
This week I’m in Miami for the first-ever ScienceOnline Oceans! I’ll be sharing my experience with you all soon, but to tide you over, here is my favorite ocean-themed post from my old blog, Observations of a Nerd
“Christie! Christie!” My four-year old cousin tugs eagerly on my jacket. “I wanna see the fishes.”
“Ok, Tuna, we can go see the fish.”
My little cousin loves the word ‘tuna’. She says it all the time. Tuna, tuna, tuna. Everything is a tuna-face or a tuna-head. She doesn’t even like tuna (she doesn’t eat it), but she loves the sound of the word rolling off her tongue. Finally, her nanny threatened that if she kept saying ‘tuna,’ we’d have to start calling her it. My ever so adorable cousin’s response was, of course, “TUNA!” So now that’s her nickname. She’s Tuna.
To manage modern fisheries, scientists have to quantify and monitor populations of animals that live hidden in the vast depths of our oceans. Simply getting the data needed to get a glimpse of what is there now can be difficult, but it’s downright maddening when they try and look backwards to understand how populations of species have changed over time. Some areas have detailed catch records—others, don’t. Sometimes you get a few good decades of government data followed by long gaps in information. But that doesn’t mean the data aren’t out there; sometimes, information is hiding where you least expect it. Scientists have collected fisheries data from photographs, newspapers, and local cultural leaders. Now, a trio of ecologists have tapped another unexpected resource to fill in a 45 year gap in fisheries data in Hawaii: restaurant menus.
Got a burning science question? Send it to Ask@DiscoverMagazine.com and we’ll try to answer it here or in a future issue of the magazine.
If you haven’t noticed, us Discover Magazine bloggers have weaseled our way into the print version through a new monthly feature called Ask Discover. You ask, we answer. Last month Neuroskeptic took on dreaming, but this month, it’s all about intercellular chatter:
Recently, BuzzFeed came out with what sounded like a really interesting article: 16 Things No One Knows About The Ocean. I’ve been a fan of BuzzFeed lists before, and some are humorously accurate. But when I clicked through to read the list, I was disappointed. This wasn’t their usual hilarious-because-you-know-it’s-true-even-if-you-don’t-want-to-admit-it style post, or even an awe-inspiring-fact roundup. It was mostly, well, wrong.
The post begins: “Welcome to the last frontier on Earth. Sure, the oceans are terrifying and the Kraken might have been real, but the things we don’t know could fill a thousand documentaries on the Discovery Channel.” Perhaps the allusion to Discovery is all the more fitting given their recent penchant for faux marine science, but that’s no excuse for this shoddy list riddled with factual errors and pseudoscience. I know BuzzFeed community content is produced by a suite of random people, but come on—they need to have some kind of quality control! As a marine scientist, I just couldn’t let it slide.
So here is a point-by-point explanation of what BuzzFeed doesn’t apparently know about the oceans:
In all species, some males are simply better looking than others. They have the right shape, dance, color or attitude to make the ladies of their species swoon. It’s generally assumed that good looks come from one thing: good genes. Win the genetic lottery and you’re set. Get a bum hand from mom and dad and, well, you can always try to mate again next year.
In turkeys, male come in one of two varieties: dominant and sexy or subordinate and, well, kind of plain. The dominant males have all the things female turkeys want like lots of bright, red flesh over their beaks. The subordinate males don’t stand a chance with the females, but that doesn’t mean they stand around and do nothing. They actually help get their more attractive brothers laid, thus helping pass along their genes through kin selection.
There was just one thing that didn’t sit right with scientists: how can closely related male turkeys—brothers that share 50% of their DNA—look so different? How can one be drop dead gorgeous while the other is nothing to gobble at? Read More