It’s pretty safe to say that 2016 sucked a big one. Adding insult to injury, the worst day of the year for me (and likely many of you) just happened to fall on my birthday–November 9th. But, before we slam the door on this year (and look forward to next? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), let’s reflect on some memorable science in the media in 2016. Continue reading Year-in-review
Taking leaping strides back, he held tight to the rock in a firm grip. He gazed left, then right, scanning the horizon for just the right moment. The ongoing battle in front of him means he doesn’t have much time. Just as he reacts to a bengal tiger pouncing to his right, he sees his opening and unleashes the bomb. The tiger doesn’t stop and plows right into his midsection. Others join the foray and soon there’s a pile, thousands of pounds on top of him, crushing. He might have a broken rib and he definitely lost his breath for a moment. As the pile lessens and he’s helped up by one of his own, he shakes away the ringing in his ears, and looks up to witness his success.
This NFL season should be full of intrigue. Will Ezekiel Elliot plow over all front lines? Will Jim Caldwell, Mike McCoy, and Gus Bradley still have their jobs at the end of the season? Will any AFC East team dethrone the 4-game Bradyless Patriots? Will Colin Kaepernick’s stance–or lack thereof–result in a season-long seat on the bench? Will mermaids rise from the ocean to cheer William Hayes and the newly relocated LA Rams?
I bet you thought this piece was going to be about concussions. Although that is an ever-present issue for football players, what I really want to discuss is Rams defensive end William Hayes’ anti-science diatribe on the HBO show Hard Knocks. Continue reading Hard knocks on science
14 years after we’ve last been fascinated by Mulder and Scully’s investigations of paranormal activities on prime time, the duo went back to work at the FBI’s X-Files in a 6-episode mini-season. This season was just enough to whet fans’ appetites with fond memories of their favorite stories (Eve, anyone?) and infuriate us with a cliffhanger ending. But it was the bookended storyline linking episodes 1 and 6, that made my scientist blood boil (FYI–just a saying, tissues would be incinerated long before blood could boil).
Whether you’re decorating a tree, lighting a kinara, spinning a dreidel, or just doing festivus like the rest of us, your end of the year festivities are full of science!
Continue reading Is your Santa a Chinese physicist?
In a blitz of media frenzy, Charlie Sheen recently announced he is HIV positive. So, should we care?
Before saying anything else, absolutely and unequivocally: YES! Raising awareness for disease is always a good thing. Remember that ALS ice bucket challenge? Even a disease like HIV, which for the general public is a has-been, benefits from media attention. To the medical and scientific community, HIV is so much more. HIV remains the number 1 infectious disease killer and top-funded research area. Despite not yet having an effective vaccine (the Holy Grail of infectious disease if there ever was one), we’ve made enormous progress in understanding this unwieldy virus.
So, we’ve all seen this stupid dress. It’s beaten us over the head with the white & gold or blue & black debate that I won’t belabor anymore now, we’re over it. But the truth is, this was a great optical illusion, probably the best I’ve ever encountered. Unlike all of the colored circles and squares, lines and zig zags that make up most of the illusions out there, this is a dress. It’s something that someone could wear out on the town. How often have you turned to a girlfriend and remarked, “wow, I really love that white & gold dress,” just to be rebuffed, “thanks, but it’s black & blue”? Could we really interpret colors differently out in the real world?
When I first learned that Jurassic Park 4 aka Jurassic World had been greenlit, I was cautiously excited. Just kidding – I was mostly really excited. I’ve been a dinosaur enthusiast for, quite literally, forever and it’s been over a decade since the last sub-par Jurassic Park sequel, Jurassic Park 3 (whose highlight was a spinosaurus vs. T.Rex battle that I feel obligated to share with everyone). Obviously, we were overdue for an ill-advised return to the dinosaur-filled islands of the Caribbean. Continue reading The Park is Open – Again!
When I was one month old, my parents took me on my first trip to India to visit my grandparents and extended family. I was a healthy baby, but a vulnerable one as I had not received most of my vaccinations yet. Thanks to herd immunity – a result of most people around me on the flights, in the airports and in my extended family being vaccinated – I was safe. The recent outbreaks of easily preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough have frightened me because I think of all the people who cannot be vaccinated, including babies or people with compromised immune systems or allergies. They rely on the rest of us getting vaccinated to stay safe. Unfortunately, even when armed with facts, it can be frustrating to argue one’s case with members of the anti-vaccine movement. But sometimes a (moving) picture really does speak a thousand words.
This past summer, I served as a preliminary judge for the Biomedical Sciences category at the 2014 Jackson Hole Science Media Awards. When I saw that one of the finalists was entitled “Jabbed – Love, Fear and Vaccines,” I panicked, assuming that this documentary was going to promote the spurious link between autism and vaccines. I was pleasantly surprised to find that “Jabbed,” produced by the Australia-based Genepool Productions, excellently illustrates the science behind vaccines while also addressing fears about vaccination. The documentary went on to win the best Biomedical Sciences program at the Jackson Hole Science Media Awards (note: while the original “Jabbed” documentary is unavailable for viewing outside of Australia, you can view a trailer for the program here). Genepool Productions also collaborated with NOVA to produce an American version of this program, entitled “Vaccines – Calling the Shots,” which utilized some of the same footage in “Jabbed” and can be viewed in its entirety here (it originally aired in September). While I found the latter to be jumpier in its editing, it is also better tailored to an American audience. Both “Jabbed” and “Vaccines” pack a lot of punch, interspersing interviews with prominent researchers, anecdotes from several different families from around the world and graphics to illustrate how the immune system works (if you have only two minutes to spare, watch this short video because it’s both adorable and accurate). While this could have ended up being an information overload, the stories are balanced to provide insights into not only the spread of infections, but also the spread of misinformation and fear.
The CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory is a nerdtastic comedy about a group of highly intelligent but often clueless physics guys and their wannabe actress gal pal. The later development of a pair of female characters as biologist girlfriends has mitigated some early complaints of too much sausage (though, to be fair, not very much testosterone), but it also added a much needed range of geekery to the ensemble.
One of the greatest unspoken aspects of The Big Bang Theory has been the assorted attire of the group. From Raj’s Cosby sweaters to Howard’s retro belt clips, every element of these characters’ clothing is meticulously chosen and meaningful to their personalities. My favorite clothing choice has been the various tee shirts worn by Sheldon and Leonard. Like the physicist characters that adorn them, many of these tee shirts have a scientific element (albeit mostly carbon). Here are a few of my faves: