The Arctic waters are refusing to freeze

Like a petulant teenager, the Arctic and Antarctic ice is refusing to freeze. After record high temperatures this summer, and bolstered by persistent warm weather from the South, the sea ice that melted this summer is not refreezing.

This has all sorts of implications for weather patterns and low lying areas, all of which you can read about over at the Guardian!

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) close-up, Svalbard, Norway.

A visual compendium of glowing creatures

I find biology to be one of the most visually stunning disciplines luckily I’m not alone. An artist from Seattle (Eleanor Lutz) has started a year-long infographic design project.

Her first installment is visualizing bioluminescent organisms (see below, or check it out here).


Make America Informed Again

One thing that sprung out of the 2016 Presidential Election is the role that fake news played in the spread of misinformation, and potentially lead to the current disastrous result.

Sometimes this is because the editorial staff has a slant on an issue that they are actively pushing. But sometimes there’s simply bad reporting because it’s easier to do and can make you more successful than good reporting does. Even when addressing something as objective as science.

Think about it: a new study comes out, with a sweeping groundbreaking conclusion. There’s a press release that accompanies the study, if you’re a journalist do you:

  1. Only write about it if you, yourself, are an expert in the field, capable of digging into the details and evaluating it in the context of everything else known yourself?
  2. Consult with a slew of experts, assuming you’re not one yourself, to ensure you evaluate the release properly — as best you can — before you craft your narrative?
  3. Call a few people to interview them, writing down quotes, so that when you write about the study and its conclusion, you can add in either affirming or dissenting opinions from experts?
  4. Or do you simply write a catchy headline designed to highlight the new, spectacular conclusions, and base your story entirely on the press release?

Forbes wrote an article addressing this exact problem. 

Or if you want the TL;DR version watch this Last Week Tonight clip, where John Oliver explains how important it is to understand science.

This Thanksgiving, Be Thankful for Science

In a deeply divided country, some people are dreading going home for the holidays. The anticipation of political conversation, about who voted for who, and about the racist, misogynist bigot who is planning to soon lead the United States.

So instead of talking through some of these issues (although I encourage civil discord!), the New York Times has given us a list of science and health stories from 2016 that you can discuss instead!

You could talk about how science views fat and what we know about weight loss! Or instead of talking about fleeing the country, perhaps consider a move to Mars instead! Or you can talk about dogs, and what science knows about their relationships! 

Or you can talk about climate change, funding rates, the importance of teaching evolution and minorities in STEM! Not recommended by the NYTimes but always recommended by NiB.

Also, consider subscribing to the New York Times.


Defend the Role of Science in the New Political Era

The Union of Concerned Scientists has posted a statement worth reading (here):

Defend the Role of Science in the New Political Era

Independent science is critical to decisions on everything from climate change to lead poisoning to drug safety. But we are concerned that transition team members and those in administration leadership positions have a history of attacking and censoring science. We are concerned that an emboldened Congress may bring back legislation that rejects science and rolls back existing public health and environmental protections. And we are concerned that government scientists may not get the resources they need to carry out their agencies’ missions.
Please join Nobel Laureates, prominent scientists, and fellow experts on a statement outlining expectations for the use of science in the Trump administration.

Add your name to the statement today.

We will share this powerful statement with decision makers, opinion leaders, journalists, and others who will be charged with holding the Trump administration accountable for respecting the role of science in policy making.

Learn more about what the Trump presidency will mean for American science policy, and check out our blog series on the Trump administration.


Still reeling

As with most of my friends, I was shocked and devastated by the results of the presidential election.

In the aftermath, the real question for me was “What more can I do?”

I started by recognizing that I’m incredibly privileged. I have a job I love that pays me quite comfortably. I was able to get this job by pursuing my love of biology through three different degrees (BS, MS, PhD), due in no small part because my parents were able to support me. So, how can I help those that are not as privileged.

I have long donated to Down Syndrome Awareness and the National Down Syndrome Society, a cause dear to my heart. I also regularly donate to Planned Parenthood. I have increased both of these donations. I bought a subscription to the New York Times and the Washington Post, and became a recurring donor at NPR and Slate.

In addition, I have spent the last two weeks thinking about what can I do with Nothing in Biology. So here it is:

I will renew my promise to keep posting about the difficulties facing women and minorities in science.

I will be posting more about climate change, and the initiatives the new administration implements that are destructive.

I will post more about policy and how that effect the scientific environment in the US.

This will not become a “politics and policy” blog (although the thought crossed my mind repeatedly for a few days after Secretary Clinton’s concession speech). But it will become slightly more politically oriented. We started this blog as a “science outreach” project, and aim to be able to communicate science to non-scientists. I think understanding how the incoming administration will effect science, and climate is vitally important. It looks like the next four years will be a bumpy ride for everyone, and I hope my efforts at NiB will be a small voice reminding us that this is not normal.


Computers discover how to talk to other Computers… without humans…

Alice and Bob were trying to talk to each other without allowing anyone to eaves drop. Eve’s job is to figure out what Alice and Bob are saying to each other. Seems like the usual love triangle, likely the next chick flick movie due out this fall, right?

But Alice, Bob and Eve are all artificial intelligences. And Alice and Bob were not given a program to keep their conversation encrypted. They wrote it themselves. And no one knows how it works, except Alice and Bob.

I’m not saying that this is the beginning of Skynet, but it is pretty creepy. Do we consider AI biological research? Should we?

Read about it here.terminator_28453_4db5a1135e73d67af40067b5_1303953272-640x360