The uncertain life of a squirrel

“Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believ’d.” from The Political History of the Devil by Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) As Benjamin Franklin said, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. For squirrels, taxes are no certainty. Death, on the other hand, is. The chance encounter with the small corpse of a black squirrel was an affecting reminder of the fleeting nature of life – of the certainty of death.... Read more


Is Psychology really science? Why, yes it is!

The following is a guest blog post by Tanya Karam, @PsychAllDay on Twitter. In my own research in science and environmental communication, I've recently discovered the importance of human psychology in understanding human processing of scientific information and human behaviors toward the environment. So I asked Tanya to write a blog post about the science of psychology... Enjoy! On the first day of the first psychology class I ever taught, before I was able to get through the syllabus, a student... Read more


Lab Grown Organs and Artistic Computers in Fifty Years?

The Pew Research Center released the 2014 survey of U.S. adults (1,001 participants, surveyed by land-line or cell phone interviews) regarding their views on technological advancements in the next 50 years. Over eighty percent of the participants said that "People in need of an organ transplant will have new organs custom made for them in a lab" and roughly half of the participants felt that "Computers will be as effective as people at creating important works of art such as... Read more


The News Release Is Dead, Long Live the News Release

Credit: Photo credit: Marcela, WikiMedia Commons “The news release is dead.” If you work in journalism or public relations circles, you’ve heard this before. But institutions keep rolling out news releases. Are news releases actually still effective or has their time passed? It depends on how you look at it. How News Releases No Longer Work I don’t think news releases are dead. But I do think that news releases no longer work the way they used to. For a... Read more


OpenSciLogs is here: The Evolution of Popular Science

The first #OpenSciLogs story project - meant to be participatory, "open notebook" science blogging - is here! Check out our Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign page, and participate in the story yourself via this Google Doc! Indiegogo Campaign Page: OpenSciLogs by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.... Read more


Journal Club: What’s old is new again: newly discovered songbird family is ancient

SUMMARY: Scientists analysing songbird DNA discovered that the spotted wren-babbler is neither a wren nor a wren-babbler, nor even a babbler. Instead, it represents an old evolutionary family that has no close living relatives. Spotted wren-babbler, Elachura formosa (previously Spelaeornis formosus). Image: Per Alström/SLU [doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.1067]. A newly published study has uncovered a previously unknown family of songbirds that is represented by just one species. After analyzing one of the largest and most comprehensive songbird DNA databases amassed so far, researchers... Read more


Crusading for invertebrates: effective outreach in schools

Imagine going into schools with live insects and spiders: it becomes about controlling the excitement, dispelling fear and culturing curiosity. This is what Minibeast Mayhem does every day! Sally-Ann Spence is known in the Twitterverse as “Minibeast Mayhem”, an educational outreach program for schools in the UK. I have been incredibly impressed with her program, and based on what I read and see on Twitter, she is an extremely gifted and successful crusader for invertebrates. Whether it’s stick-insects or spiders,... Read more


Macedonia creates €8m fund for SME innovation

The Macedonian government has launched a Fund for Innovation and Technology Development, aimed at boosting R&D activity at small and medium-sized businesses. The fund is financed by a loan from the World Bank to the tune of €8 million over the next three years. It is expected to fund innovation projects in ICT, agriculture, tourism and renewable energy, preferably with a local collaboration agenda, says Jasmina Popovska, the fund's director. “The point is to create jobs through growth of SMEs... Read more


Predicting the effect of anomalous sea ice loss and increasing sea surface temperatures on global storm systems

Azara Mohammadi – To become a PhD candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Soumik Basu moved from his home in Kolkata, India to a region infamous for its “below zero” weather: Interior Alaska. Basu left warm weather and his family (not to mention his mother’s cooking) because “The climate is changing, so I wanted to study how these changes in the climate affect the storm activities over the Northern Hemisphere.” Specifically, Basu came to UAF to understand variability and... Read more


New Study Shows Surgical Checklists In Operating Rooms Are Less Effective Than Assumed

The patient has verified his or her identity, the surgical site, the type of procedure, and his or her consent. Check. The surgical site is marked on a patient if such marking is appropriate for the procedure. Check. The probe measuring blood oxygen content has been placed on the patient and is functioning. Check. All members of the surgical and anesthesia team are aware of whether the patient has a known allergy? Check. These were the first items on a... Read more


Q&A: Science adviser to the president of Macedonia

Macedonia, a country of just over 2 million people, held the first round of its presidential elections yesterday (13 April) with the next round scheduled for later this month. The small, landlocked nation in South-East Europe has some 1,000 full time scientists, mainly in the public sector, and invests less than 0.3% of its GDP in research and development. Its national research system is “centralised and underfunded” and private research sector is “still rather weak thus rendering research in the... Read more


EU link to Balkans’ science threatened

The long-term future of a steering platform on research that brought warring Balkan nations and the EU ­together through science is uncertain after the project that hosted it ends. EU officials are now scrambling for alternative avenues to keep the hard-won cooperation going in this troubled region. The project – WBC-Inco.Net – and the steering platform were lauded for their achievements at the project's final conference in Vienna, Austria in March. The platform was set up in 2006 as part of wide-ranging and systematic EU support... Read more


Birdbooker Report 316

SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts. “Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin. Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.) Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them!... Read more


Measles Pop Quiz: Social Media Edition

Let’s try something new. I predicted that my story on a ‘Measles Outbreak Traced to a Fully Vaccinated Patient for First Time’ would generate a cloud of comments on Facebook (Science Magazine + ScienceNOW). Like a storm offshore, I saw it coming. So I posed extra questions to my sources that could cover the eventual deluge. So here is a true-or-false pop quiz on measles based on reader comments and answered by the extra reporting that couldn’t fit into a... Read more


Morsels For The Mind – 11/04/2014

Every day we provide you with Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast to nibble away at. Here you can fill your brain with the most intellectually stimulating “amuse bouches” from the past week – a veritable smorgasbord for the cranium. They’re all here for you to load up your plate – this week’s “Morsels for the mind”. Enjoy! If you do nothing else, make sure to check out the “Reads / views / listens of the week”. **** Feather, fur &... Read more