Of Schemes and Memes

Best of Nature Network, NPG staff blogs and Scitable: 12 – 18 November


This week, GrrlScientist discusses how Natural History collections are important and can be used to research diseases. She presents us with a video which takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour through the largest and most complete ornithology collection in the world:


Birds of paradise, courtesy of AMNH, 9 November 2010. Image: Matthew Wills (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License).

Safe Spaces

This week’s guest blogger is Rosemary Randall, a psychotherapist, founder of the community-based charity Cambridge Carbon Footprint and the nationally acclaimed Carbon Conversations project. She argues for the importance of Safe Spaces when tackling difficult-to-discuss subjects such as climate change:

The ‘safe space’ is not one which feels cosy but one which allows creativity and change to occur. It is safe enough to think, to feel, to question, to become uncomfortable, to be upset, to argue, fall out, make up and survive. If the safe space becomes merely comforting or self-congratulatory it is not doing its job.

Continuing the theme of successful communication, Scitable’s blogger Dave Deriso believes that making difficult science accessible to the general public, via engaging talks and inspiring writing is challenging but important:

Although science’s mystique is charming, it is also her fatal flaw. Scientists, and especially those who write about science, need to be acutely aware of this double-edged sword. The masses fear what they do not understand, and consequently, and largely due to the poor communication ability of scientists, a lot of great ideas are misconstrued as threats to society. How many zombie films start out with a science experiment gone wrong?

Podcast time

Nature’s weekly Podcast includes some “excruciating” new research on pain sensation, considers how to create something out of nothing and looks at climate targets post-Kyoto Protocol.

Make sure you subscribe for free to the Nature Podcast. All you have to do is copy and paste this URL into iTunes or your preferred media player: Nature Podcast rss feed.


The Frontier Scientists have featured a guest post from Carin Ashjian, a member of The Arctic Winter Cruise 2011. The Arctic Ocean in winter remains a mystery in many ways and the cruise’s goal is to explore the early winter ocean conditions – biological, physical, and chemical – in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas to better understand what happens there during winter:

Late last night we conducted a station to the south of Bering Strait. The wind was howling and blowing snow sideways. The station went very well though and we caught a treasure trove of plankton in our net. Large amphipods swimming madly through the jars like shooting stars. Krill darting back and forth. And copepods. It was a great tow, with so many copepods and krill. The plankton group all fell to, sorting and photographing animals into the night until finally quitting at 2 or 3 AM.


Photo: The CTD being deployed off the side of the ship during the blowing snow last night (Photo by Sam Laney)

Continue reading the post for more updates and photos.

Aurora, aurora

In Barbara Ferreira’s latest post, she links out to a beautiful video showing the Northern lights over Fairbanks, Alaska:

Chris Mooney’s ‘Reality Fights’

On Tuesday afternoon, Paige Brown attended a talk at the Manship School of Mass Communication. Chris Mooney, a science journalist and Doctor of Political Science, along with Everett Young, discussed the increased incivility and political polarization in American politics. In order to archive the conversation from this talk, Paige has made a Storify collating tweets from the event. To whet your appetite, you can find a screen shot below:


Do check out her post to read the full Storify.

A blow for stem cell research


The Spoonful of Medicine blog has reported that the company which pioneered embryonic stem cell research is walking out on the research area it helped to create. Geron, based in Menlo Park, California, announced that it would kill off its stem cell program — and its landmark clinical trial of a treatment for spinal cord injuries — so that it can focus on cancer therapies.

For supporters of the technology, Geron’s exit is a blow. “This is very unfortunate for the field,” says Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell Technology, the only other embryonic stem cell company with regulatory approval to conduct clinical trials in the United States. “It is a big deal. It certainly puts a lot of pressure on us to deliver now.”

You can find out more about Geron’s decision in the report.

Alternative medicine?

Viktor Poor’s latest cartoon shows how alternative medicine works:

alternative medicine.png


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