10 April 2014

Mapping fantasy: The story behind the Game of Thrones geologic maps

Image by Miles Traer.

Science fiction can be a really cool gateway for sharing science fact. Earth science is imaginative, and can draw on pop culture, like the HBO show Game of Thrones. My graduate school friend and Generation Anthropocene co-producer, Miles Traer, recently brought science fact and science fiction together over this show in a hilariously awesome and super fun project.


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7 April 2014

How climate modelers became calendar models

Climate scientist Kátia Fernandes graces the cover of the 2014 Climate Models wall calendar. The punny calendar, imagined by two science writers at Columbia University, redefines what it means to be a climate ‘modeler’. Image credit: Charlie Naebeck.

With some trepidation, we knocked on the first climate scientist’s door. Although we’re seasoned science writers at major research institutions, the request we were about to make was far different from our usual ones for interviews or images from field expeditions. We had decided to create a 2014 Climate Models wall calendar, using climate scientists as models, in the belief that humor can be used to deliver serious messages in a less serious, but still meaningful way.


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1 April 2014

Scientists must use more jargon for public to appreciate science, study shows

When trying to captivate the public, consider using words like “anisotropy” to really get people’s attention. Study the word cloud above for more great jargon to slip into everyday conversations. Wordle by Olivia Ambrogio, AGU.

Most of the public is turned off by scientists’ overly accessible and personalized descriptions of their work, new research shows.


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17 March 2014

St. Patrick’s Science Limericks

It's a sham-rock! Get it?

Enjoy the greatest tradition of the holiday: science-themed limericks!


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11 March 2014

Calling for Science-Themed Limericks: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Style!

TPS Leprechaun

The best way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is to write a science-themed limerick–and then get it featured on The Plainspoken Scientist!


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3 March 2014

Geo fashion, Wikipedia and Reddit: New social media tips for scientists

Lynn Soreghan, Prof. Univ. of Oklahoma, was one of the women scientists featured in Kim Cobb's blog on fashion at the Fall Meeting. Wrote Cobb: "I love the
effortless-ness of the outfit, impeccably accessorized,
with matching coat and boots. It's 'earthy' but modern,
 and the vest adds a touch of academic elegance."
Credit: Kim Cobb

One of the most well-read posts on Kim Cobb’s blog is not about her travels around the world as a paleoclimatologist or her visits to congressional offices on Capitol Hill. It’s a 2012 post about women’s fashion choices at the AGU Fall Meeting that got people talking. Cobb highlighted this occasional dilemma for women in the sciences, showing photos of several successful AGU outfits and also alluding to more serious …


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24 February 2014

Illustrated IPCC Haiku?

The illustrated IPCC haikus. Images and haikus by Gregory Johnson.

“I didn’t deliberately set out to distill the Summary for Policymakers of the latest IPCC report into illustrated haiku. But, one weekend when I was too sick to leave the house, I found myself inspired by its ‘Headline Statements’…”


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20 February 2014

Even Stephen is hawking his science differently

Stephen Hawking demonstrated recently how the traditional process of sharing research results is changing when he uploaded a paper about black holes to the web. Photo credit: NASA.

CHICAGO – Last month, Stephen Hawking uploaded a two-page commentary about his new ideas about black holes to arXiv, a preprint server hosted by Cornell University Library covering research in physics, mathematics, computer science, nonlinear sciences, quantitative biology and statistics.

The paper generated buzz among journalists, who reported on Hawking’s commentary, and it also took off on social media and in the blogosphere where others in the scientific community commented on, discussed and contested Hawking’s ideas.

What Hawking did — posting his thoughts to the site rather than going through the traditional channels — and the commentary that ensued would not have been possible a decade ago, Carl Zimmer, a columnist with The New York Times, told an audience here Feb.13 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).


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18 February 2014

Really Reaching the Public, Face-to-Face

Peter Foukal, second from right, stands next to the East Point Solar Observatory (EPSO) during its inauguration in 1995. Foukal built the Nahant, Mass., observatory to share the wonder of astronomy with the public. From left to right are Mrs. Stephens, Nahant Elementary School science teacher; Dr. J. Ayres, Director of the Northeastern Univ. Marine Sciences Laboratory, Nahant; Peter Foukal; and , R. Carter, Chair of the Nahant School Board. Photo by Elisabeth Foukal.

This past summer I was able to provide a young couple with their first view of Saturn through a telescope, and afterward they told me what a profound experience this look into space had been for them. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen such an emotional response since I opened the East Point Solar Observatory, a small public observatory in Nahant, Mass., in 1995. But listening to them reminded me how lucky we scientists are to pursue a career that brings out such warm feelings in our neighbors. It also made me wonder whether the effectiveness of our national approach to public outreach might be increased by more face-to-face contact between scientists and the public.


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14 February 2014

Science Valentines!

Tina Lavanga took this astronomy-themed valentine photo of her husband, Tom.

Whether you adore Valentine’s Day or despise it, you’ve got to love a clever valentine—especially if it’s science themed. Consider these great examples, and let your heart beat faster as you contemplate the timeless beauty of science merged with romance.


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