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Almost Saturday Science Video: Oxygen

10 Dec

So this video isn’t chemically perfect: oxygen atoms and hydrogen atoms tend to hang out in pairs most of the time. But I can’t argue with its creative spunk. Enjoy!

Video by Christopher Hendryx (his website)

Hat tip: Joanne Manaster, also known as Twitter’s @sciencegoddess

Scientist hobbies and grand gestures

25 May

Scientific research can seem all-consuming, and sometimes it is. But I think one critical component of creativity is to have an outside hobby that allows you to get your head out of the game for a little while. So, when I saw this article in the latest issue of the HHMI Bulletin, I felt the need to share Harvard Medical School’s Amy Wagers high-flying hobby. I love that she was willing to share her trapeze-loving side of herself. Being a stem cell researcher takes guts, so it’s not all that surprising to me that she likes the adrenaline rush.

Wagers had always loved heights, but her spontaneous foray into trapeze made her curious to try other sky-high stunts. When she and another junior faculty member at Harvard collaborated on their first paper and got positive comments from Nature, Wagers came up with a plan: “If this very first paper for both of us gets in,” she told her collaborator, “we’re going skydiving.” The paper was accepted, and Wagers booked a sky dive in Newport, Rhode Island. Though her collaborator conveniently forgot the date of the booking, Wagers went ahead and jumped. “Then I decided whenever my lab had an important paper published, I would go skydiving.”

Most research laboratories have some way to celebrate major milestones– maybe a champagne toast. I have no personal desire to jump out of a plane, but I really love her approach. Major accomplishments deserve recognition, and skydiving is a grand gesture. If I were her collaborator, I’d probably be tempted to chicken out. But if I did, I also think I’d regret it.

Five great science blogs

10 May

Blogging is tricky and developing a good one requires both a command of the topic and a unique and entertaining angle. That’s a tough balance, but as far as I’m concerned, each of these five science blogs get it right.

  • Not Exactly Rocket Science: Written by British science writer Ed Yong, the majority of these posts are based on a single scientific study. Yong finds some new quirky finding and describes what it means for the everyday person. Though science journalists often lament that science news is disappearing, this is one format where reporting on new studies is alive and well.
  • I think of Pillownaut as the classic weblog. As an astronaut for NASA, she has a fascinating job and she’s entertaining. As a result, the journal concept works. I want to hear exactly what she’s thinking about.
  • Cocktail Party Physics: I’ve never met Jennifer Ouellette, but anyone who writes about both science and Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets serious props in my book. This blog involves a few other contributors, too, but it really is my favorite type of conversation, the rambling type that you might have at a bar or party with a smart new friend.
  • Science journalist Carl Zimmer has won a major science journalism award for his blog, the Loom. It’s exactly the right mix of telling his readers where he’ll be appearing next, new science information, and a wonderful gallery of science-based tattoos.
  • At Smithsonian’s Surprising Science blog, Sarah Zielinski also serves up news along with analysis. I particularly like a recent post where she picked up on a  study in which a researcher argued that animals filmed in documentaries have a right to privacy. I tend to agree with her that any violation of privacy is probably outweighed by the increased public awareness for the needs of animals, but I’m glad she highlighted it.

With so many great science blogs out there, what are your favorites?

Mars video interlude

3 May

Mars, the many missions to study the planet, and the question: is there or was there some kind of life on the planet?

When I was working on a Mars-related story recently, a researcher pointed me to this hilarious Dutch commercial.

Not a bad way to pass the time while we wait.

Merry Christmas from Webb of Science

24 Dec
Christmas lights in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

seasonal glow

They Might Be Giants and Schoolhouse Rock

17 Sep

How did I get so lucky? Seriously.

A little while ago, I came across this post in Nature News’s blog about the new kids’ album from They Might Be Giants. And. The. Videos. My neighbors probably heard me scream with glee, and then I made an impulse buy on iTunes–which I rarely do. Honest. Wow, I’m gushing, but this is sooo much fun.

“Like a box of paints that are mixed to make every shade. . . ” And, yes, “elephants are made of elements.”

As I was watching– and though I know I’m dating myself as a late Gen-Xer when I make this statement, I couldn’t help but think, “This is the best thing since Schoolhouse Rock!”

Which leads me back to somewhere between 10 am and noon, I was listening to a segment on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC (my local NPR station) about the healthcare reform bill. All the sudden I heard something along the lines of “clearly he learned his civics from Schoolhouse Rock!” complete with the matching audio clip. I’ve had “How a Bill Becomes a Law” in my head all day. Note: I’m not the only one of Brian’s listeners who had a “SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!” moment (see comment #12 from M in Brooklyn).

They Might Be Giants singing about chemistry + Schoolhouse Rock = a fun day in my world.

Considering that I don’t have a school-age child, is this geeky or childish or both?