Greetings, intrepid seekers of scientific knowledge and useful trivia! The longest month of the year is more than halfway over, and we are still alive. At least I presume so, since I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it if that were not a reasonable presumption. Thus we’ve much to be thankful for that has nothing to do with how many snowflakes will collapse the roof, or the exact wind chill projection that equals instant frostbite in a 50 mph pre-March breeze…
In case you missed it, there was an entire week (Feb. 4-10) of science blogging called “Science Week” – when an entire stable of science bloggers committed to at least one blog a day actually focused on… Science! This may seem a little bit strange to blogophyles who reasonably presume that science blogs must *of course* be about science, but this is unfortunately not always the case. At least, not among the most popular science blogs, which are primarily about politics, ideological posturing, “Culture War” polemics, popular book promotions, pretty pictures of diverse subjects, and (predictably, given the demographics) sex. Normally, one could say that science blogs aren’t all that different from other blogs, except that the bloggers are scientists! But not during “Science Week”!
Some bloggers during Science Week focused on “The Basics,” which any seeker will find most informative, on just about every scientific subject you can think of. A website was established just to list and link to the science coming forth from Science Week. Just Science is still available and plans to keep separating the science from the opinionating, which I have bookmarked because it’s a lot easier than wading through hip-deep mud in less discriminating science blog feed collections. Here you’ll find links to everything from A Primer on Dixon Imaging to … How Science Determined I Will Be The Next Jackie Chan. Yes, there’s also some sex, and quite a bit about the politics of global warming, but even those things can be scientific if they’re approached *as* science. A very useful archive.
I found one of the most satisfying expositions on the philosophy behind Science Week over at Chaotic Utopia, in a blog entitled A Dangerous Knowledge. Karmen’s prose reminds me why I have such a fondness for science, even while knowing that the knowledge is provisional and forever changing. I think she ought to get it published in a little book that all science students could carry around just behind their pocket protectors every day – something that could replace the now obsolete (but fondly missed) slide rules we used to depend upon back before they invented pocket calculators.
And for all those cold February nights (or dismal upcoming March days) when questions without apparent answers nag at our winter-weary minds, there is the Ask A Biologist project reported and linked by Darren Naish at his blog Tetrapod Zoology. Brainchild of Dr. David Hone of Munich’s Bayerische Staatssammlung fur Palaontologie und Geologie, feel free to ask – and get answers! – to questions like “how much of the Jurassic atmosphere consisted of dinosaur farts” or “how far can a flea jump in the space station”? That should keep both you and the kids busy until it’s finally warm enough to go outside again!
And since February does have one thing going for it – Valentine’s Day – I can’t let the month go without covering a little of the sex out there in science blogs. Coturnix at A Blog Around The Clock hits a lover’s home run with his blog Sex On The (Dreaming) Brain. He translates and analyzes a paper written in his native Serbian language for us, examining the erotic dreams of college students, who most of us recall to be a highly-sexed group of people.
For those whose love life is less solidly booked than the average sorority girl or varsity player, there is a predictable surge in sales of love potions right around the middle of February, along with Voodoo dolls around the end of February (go figure…). Chris over at Mixing Memory takes an extended look at magical thinking in the blog Could It Be Magic? Extreme Apparent Mental Causation, examining the psychological tendency to believe in magical powers despite science’s notable rejection of the premise.
An interesting take on the subject of strange ideas people often take away from news reports about medical research was blogged by Robert Roy Britt in Virgos More Likely to Puke During Pregnancy. My mother was a Virgo, but never talked about being particularly sick during any of her pregnancies. I’m a Gemini, and had morning, noon and middle of the night sickness for seven solid months both times – couldn’t even keep water down! A good overview of why we shouldn’t believe everything we read, and a reminder once again of the scientific adage that statistical correlation does not equal causation.
Finally, in view of February’s celebration of love, sex, chocolate, roses, and all things arguably romantic, here’s a photo reproduced on several science blogs in time for Valentine’s Day. I call it “Endless Love” and admit I did shed a tear when I saw it. I hope those notoriously un-romantic science-diggers left these lovers where they lie, because it would seem a terrible shame to pry them loose for no better reason than to grind their bones or display their skulls.