After putting together a list of lists of top science stories from 2013, I figured I would make one of my own. Some of these things caught my eye recently, others are older than 2013. Either way, here’s a few things science that I thought deserved a look last year:
Maybe one of the biggest stories, at least in terms of scientific misinformation, concerned the failed Japanese nuclear reactor in Fukushima. A nuclear meltdown is big news, and the disaster in Japan is only the second time a level 7 event has occurred worldwide. The fact that the plant was on the coast and that possibly contaminated fluids leaked (and may still be leaking) into the ocean is surely cause for alarm. Or is it? Last year multiple alarmist articles popped up, going viral across social media spreading misinformation like wildfire. One of the best summaries of the science behind what actually happened can be found here (spoiler alert: nothing to see here, folks. Although you might want to check out where your fish oil pills come from!)
The end of the year is upon us, which means year-end wrap ups. Here is a brief, non-exhaustive list of lists of the Best Science Stories of 2013. I never seem to have enough time to peruse these, so I am storing them here for myself; of course I hope you enjoy these as well!
I love the arcs of Neptune and Pluto with their long, slow revolutions vortices. Watching this makes me feel a bit uneasy, much like I imagine Pope Clement VII must have felt when hearing Copernicus’ heliocentricity theory for the first time. But as Kottke warns, take this with a grain of salt – I don’t buy the “lagging” bit. The follow-up is even tripper and had me wondering such deep thoughts as, “Gee, I wonder if it matters how close to the Galactic Plane we are right now?”
Two things that caught my eye this morning, the first is a story about students gaming a professor’s grading scheme on the final exam:
“‘The students refused to come into the room and take the exam, so we sat there for a while: me on the inside, they on the outside,’ Fröhlich said. ‘After about 20-30 minutes I would give up…. Then we all left.’”
Why would the students boycott? Because the prof curved his grades based on the top performer… so if the top score was a 0, then everyone gets an A! The prof was cool about the whole thing, but he has since changed his protocols so it can’t happen again. Full story here.
Ever thought about getting a tattoo? Perhaps you already have one, maybe you are totally against the very idea. I personally don’t have any, but I’m not against them – I just haven’t found anything I’d like to have permanently imprinted on my body. This may, however, have changed this morning, when I saw this:
which of course sent me on a random walk through nerd tattoos on the web, and wow there are a lot! Including this one, based on Darwin’s original mock-up of the tree of life:
Now I’m imagining where these would look good on me. Do you have any science tattoos? Would you consider getting one?
Good news today! It seems that the Aquarius Reef Base mission has secured funding… enough funding to keep it alive anyway, if not actively doing science. Full story from BoingBoing here, self-promoting links to where I’ve talked about this before here, flickr photostream of pictures of Aquarius so that you can spend too much time dreaming about diving on an awesome undersea lab here.
Climate change is making headlines today, after President Obama spoke directly on the subject yesterday in his 2nd inaugural address:
“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.
Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.
We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries. We must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure, our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
– Barack Obama
Stirring words, and yet I was quite surprised to hear them. Not only because the topic of climate change was nearly absent during the recent election cycle, but also because the latest Draft Climate Assessment Report, what will eventually be the official government stance on the subject, was released at 4:30PM on a Friday, the time-slot reserved for low-priority federal news. What does the report say? In short, we’re all screwed: climate change is real, it’s already happening [by the way, did you hear that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the US?], and we are not doing nearly enough to slow it down.