I spent the first few hours today in an uncanny glow. On opposite sides of the planet, in utterly different realms, scientists and political leaders had, in two very different ways, accomplished the unthinkable.

The first instance actually hit just before I went to bed. News broke late yesterday that President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping had come to a binational agreement on targets for climate pollution reduction. Scratch that; it sounds too dull for what it means.

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A few weeks back, blog-reader Anson Kennedy sent me an idea for a Well Said/Say What? The article in question, “Evolution’s Random Paths Lead To One Place,” describes the work of Dr. Michael Desai at Harvard University to perform large-scale evolution experiments on baker’s yeast. I re-read it today, and realized it would make a great companion to my Misconception Monday post on randomness (or lack thereof) in evolution.

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Working at NCSE inevitably leads to lots of discussion about the nature of science literacy. All of us, and just about all of our supporters and allies, are pretty passionate about promoting science literacy. And yet, when you start digging around, the whole question of what science literacy even is gets fuzzy.

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Denial: a big word loaded with emotion. But, like many things in life, denial is a continuum: from full blown outright dismissal to more subtle avoidance, like looking the other way. 

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It may be possible to teach about energy without ever digging into the dynamics of human-caused climate change. (Quick note: I don’t  endorse that tack, but it’s possible.) Indeed, many energy education programs sidestep or avoid climate change altogether.

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08.28.2014

In my last post, “The Curious Incident of the Fly in the Night,” I told a story about Mimi Shirasu-Hiza as an example of how scientists sometimes find that—in Shirasu-Hiza’s words—“what might look like ‘noise’ is potentially ‘signal’.’” Noting that her fruit flies were more likely to get sick and die if they were infected at nighttime led her to important discoveries about the effects of circadian rhythm on immune response.

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This week on Fossil Friday, I bring you another fossil from our Fossil Fan, Gerald Wilgus. Gerald photographed this fossil while on his motorcycle adventure across the West. I felt like I could really relate to this fossil in particular—not because of its vegetarian lifestyle or love of water, but being eight months pregnant, I feel about as big as this fellow, lugging its unwieldy body across the Miocene plains. Ugh!

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As I have mentioned in previous posts, I used to work for a textbook company. When I first started, there was a wonderful woman who was the departmental expert on anything related to the nature and process of science. She was the go-to person for all our introductory “this is science, kids!” chapters. When she retired, everyone panicked because we knew that she left behind a tremendous void that, frankly, no one was interested in touching since introductory chapters tend to be both pretty dry and full of pitfalls.

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This week's Fossil Friday comes from another Fossil Fan: Gerald Wilgus!  Gerald snapped this picture on his travels through the Ashfall Fossil Beds site in Nebraska earlier this week.  Dating from the Miocene, this is just a small piece of the entire body - and I won't tell you which part as I like to keep our fans on their toes (hint! hint!).

Can you identify this fossil? First person to get it wins bragging rights for the week!

 

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In a recent post, I wrote about the establishment of a new Statistical Board of Reviewing Editors at Science magazine – a response, in part, to emerging concerns about poorly applied statistical methods in published research results. As I wrote, I believe that the establishment of a new research board is characteristic of how a healthy scientific community should react to signs of problems: no one benefits when insufficiently justified results are published.

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