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Jim Proctor

Game Changer | This American Life - 1 views

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    Just heard this podcast, and it's a really great example of situated research, in this case on fracking in Pennsylvania. The story is divided into two acts: the first concerns the role of scientists in the controversy, and the second concerns the politics of small towns caught up in gas exploration. I'd strongly recommend it, if only to suggest to your families over the winter break what situated research can look like!
Jim Proctor

Telling the Story of the Brain's Cacophony of Competing Voices - 2 views

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    This week in ENVS 220 we'll be discussing a variety of qualitative analysis methods-including narrative analysis, typically consigned to the humanistic side of the Great Divide. But this article tracks a neuroscience pioneer who discovered how spinning coherent stories is how a part of our brains works...no matter how partial or factual the evidence. Perhaps culture and the mind work in similar ways, but at different scales?
Micah Leinbach

Me vs. Rachel Carson - 3 views

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    After getting some fairly audible gasps in class after questioning Silent Spring today, I wanted to justify myself a little bit lest I be burned at the stake as some sort of heretic. The paper above is a brief and neat explanation of American academia's role in legitimizing ecology as a science, and touches on how Carson (and other's) pushed it back towards being a values-oriented natural history built heavily out of ideas that one could perhaps fit under the framework of "romanticism."

    Just to back myself up further, here (http://onlineethics.org/CMS/profpractice/exempindex/carsonindex/kroll.aspx) is another article highlighting Carson's work as "subversive silence", i.e. very value/advocacy driven. Also highlights her focus on critiquing a certain type of laboratory science for being controlling - notably, one of romanticism's main tenants is a criticism of the rationalization of nature.

    Neither of this takes away from the fact that Carson was a) a decent scientist and b) wrote a book that did a lot of good. I'm not trying to dive into the "we could've stopped malaria" arguments she gets a lot, because I think that is a straw man argument. Nor do I think that it is bad to combine knowledge and values - quite the opposite. I simply think that a work that forced scientific depictions of its subject to change in response to public frameworks of thinking should be regarded as a great political work, not a great scientific one.

    I think it may be time to move beyond Silent Spring, certainly as a work of science, and perhaps even as a work of politics, and place it on the pedestal of history that it rightly deserves.
Micah Leinbach

Political Science, but for real this time. - 2 views

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    A (humorous - but maybe kind of serious) op/ed on testing political philosophies scientifically. Quote that helps sum it up:

    "What do politicians do when they think they have a great idea? They just go and implement it. It's like someone thinking he's got a cure for cancer and immediately injecting it into everyone he can. That's a madman, not a scientist. You always have to at least try out your idea on monkeys to make sure it doesn't kill them."
Jim Proctor

Scientists Spar Over Fish Populations - 0 views

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    Another reminder that anything like a global fisheries assessment is a complex matter, based on all sorts of assumptions and models.  The upshot: either things are terrible, or they're just not great (e.g., 70 vs. 33 percent of all stocks estimated to be declining). One of the challenges: how extrapolate known longitudinal data on fish stocks to the many others that are less well monitored?
Peter Vidito

Techno-Sponge "ShamWows" Oil Spills (Popular Mechanics) - 0 views

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    "At the National Science Foundation, Paul Edmiston is handed a refreshment-a bright orange bottle of motor oil. Undaunted, the chemical engineer from the College of Wooster proceeds to make himself a drink. Here's how Edmiston cheats death-and what it could mean for oil-spill cleanup technology."
Julia Huggins

Bird conservation leads to tree death - 0 views

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    Saving endangered species throws off entire ecosystems. As much as I support science's role in the environmental movement, this article is a pretty good reminder that a "science-can-and-will-fix-all" attitude can be dangerous. It's also a good reminder of just how little we know and understand about ecosystems. We should definitely make sue that fundamentalist beliefs about environmentalism (save all endangered species first and foremost, for example) dont get in our way of actually doing something progressive.
Micah Leinbach

How to share science? - 0 views

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    Its important to remember how much scientific knowledge is affected by cultural context in how it is both accepted and understood. Science cannot escape the pressures placed upon it by the cultural and societal ways of human beings, at least so far. Speaking as someone who has covered scientific research for a public audience via the PioLog and in other projects, its not fun playing the translator between the technical experts and "the common man", as it were. A lot gets lost - and its hard to know whats valuable, and what isn't. Or what wasn't even understood in the first place (I'm far from the best person to be writing about research relating to the structure of Gecko hair follicles - a problem that can be found throughout journalism. Journalists do not always understand what they're writing about, and can cast it in ways that are often far off the mark. Its an odd business).

    So here we have an example of science trying to use other means of communication to get across that translation. But do scientists have the time, and should they have the responsibility, of having to expend resources not only on their studies, but on communicating them - and their implications - to the public? By getting away from journalism, do we risk facing a more significant or intentional sort of bias? I don't know what the right way to share science, its process, and its results with the public is, but I do think creating alternatives to the primary model is a useful thing. The current journalistic model has its strengths, but it has its weaknesses as well. Perhaps creating multiple ways of doing this will be useful.
Micah Leinbach

Biosphere 2 - 0 views

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    Classic environmental experiment, complete with social drama, business plots, and accusations of meddling by cultish groups. The video touches more on the idea of whether or not an alternative biosphere is possible. Interesting to note that this one relied heavily on fossil fuels - it was not entirely a closer system then, as far as my limited research tells me. Still a very intriguing experiment, for better or for worse.
Emma Redfoot

Science Friday Archives: Healthy Eating - 1 views

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    I found this discussion very applicable to Environmental studies symposium.  It discusses not only why Americans do not eat healthy as well as how much energy americans waste by throwing away foods.  Annually America throws away as much energy in food as Switzerland uses for all energy purposes.
Julia Huggins

Solar cells thinner than wavelengths of light hold huge power potential, Stanford resea... - 1 views

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    Promising research on the science side of environmentalism. Solar panels that are thinner than the wavelength of light allow for longer "captivity" of the proton, and thus "absorb more than 10 times the energy predicted by conventional theory." This relates to our ENVS 160 unit regarding the limits to growth. More technology = changing limits, once again.
    The article ends with a slightly unsettling note however: Fan, one of the researchers is quoted, "Where this will have a larger impact is in some of the emerging technologies; for example, in organic cells." Oh technology, are you a friend or foe?
Peter Vidito

Dale Jamieson and Jay Odenbaugh « Philosophy TV - 1 views

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    In this conversation, Jamieson and (LC's own!) Odenbaugh discuss how climate change raises novel philosophical concerns and underscores traditional ones.  Climate change, they explain, poses a challenge for both consequentialism and its alternatives, and brings out questions about our obligations to future generations and about the moral status of non-humans. Further, the public controversy over climate science involves questions about the epistemology of testimony, the value-neutrality of science, and action under uncertainty.
Jim Proctor

Science and the Gulf - Editorial - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    What if it's true that the effects of the BP oil spill are far less serious than originally predicted?  It would not mean that nothing bad happened at all, nor that no changes are needed to business as usual , but maybe we need to reconsider the perennial sky-is-falling rhetoric of environmentalism.
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