The Most Silent Spring, ‘Going Grad’ and Neuronal Equality

Filed as Features on April 3, 2007 6:46 am

Happy April to one and all! This year it went from freezing all the way to mid-summer 80+ degrees in 12 hours, making me just that much more concerned about global warming. In this science blog round-up I’m going to start out with some positively apocalyptic signs and omens almost as weird as the fact that dogwoods beat azaleas this year for early blooming. Before I get into regular old ‘weird science’ and brain-stuff, that is.

First on the list is Water: More Precious Than Oil by GrrlScientist on her blog Living the Scientific Life. She cites some scary statistics about the hundreds of millions of people in the world living with water scarcity. And that’s before getting on the supply and demand statistics suggesting even worse scarcity in the future, to which pollution issues just add one more layer of concern.

In this rich nation where people advertise their hipness about ecological concerns by purchasing filtered tap water in half-liter plastic bottles (produced with petroleum and used to take up space in landfills) that really is more expensive than gasoline, greater water awareness couldn’t hurt. Think about children in the third world dying of choera, typhoid, malaria and dengue before buying your next bottle of tap water. In fact, save those plastic canteens and fill ‘em up at your own tap! That would be a pretty good first step.

The second item on the Armageddon list might make expensive tap water pale a bit in comparison, though. Seems we are in the midst of a worldwide mass die-off of honeybees, and that could wipe humans off the planet a lot quicker. John Lynch over at Stranger Fruit introduces us to Colony Collapse Disorder with a link to the New York Times, which is reporting disappearing bees in 24 states. Katherine Sharpe of Page 3.14 tells us to Bee Very Worried about the situation, given that agriculture depends upon honeybees for pollination.

A broader Google search on the situation returns reports coming in from all over the world – Europe, Britain, all of North, Central and South America, Australia, Africa and Asia. So it’s not like we can just import a few queens from someplace else to bail out our food crops. Albert Einstein once predicted humans had only four years of life left if the bees die, so this situation is definitely worthy of more attention from biologists than the ever-popular “Culture Wars” between atheists and religious folks about who’s smarter and who has the best interests of the world at heart than anybody else.

That’s a hint for all you science watchers and science bloggers out there – get off your high horses (and lazy duffs) and DO something for a change! Our time is running short.

Of course, there may already be enough pressure on young scientists, as Chad Orzel tells us in When Grad Students Snap. We may have to start changing our cultural perspective a little bit, so that when someone blows a mental gasket we say they’ve “gone grad” as opposed to “going postal.”

Luckily, musings about things cognitive have been popular over the last couple of weeks, so there’s plenty of good sci-blog material out there to help us re-shape our perspectives. Chad leads off with a pertinent question, How Many Philosophers to Change a Light Bulb?, which is funny even though it doesn’t offer much hope for getting real answers.

A better bet comes from Michael at Peripersonal Space, hosting Encephalon 19: Emotion and Reason Match Postponed Due to Flares on the Pitch, Hooliganism! Here we are offered links about scientists arguing, rat metacognition, the top 10 psychology studies and PTSD in women (among many other juicy tidbits).

While we’re on the subject of thoughts, Josh Rosenau at Thoughts from Kansas blog offers some thoughts on Equality in the American perspective, and where we stand on the road to making it real for everyone. This is excellent historical and theoretical analysis any student of culture should find useful in shaping their own thoughts on the subjects.

Chris Chatham at Developing Intelligence blog lists and explains for us 10 Important Differences Between Brains and Computers. These ten distinctions are well articulated, and should prove to be excellent material in any zombie encounters, anywhere, any time!

Finally, if encounters with the “more cerebral than thou” crowd – or just unmanly zombies – gets you tied up in knots, Suzanne Franks from Thus Spake Zuska offers “Just Say Know”: Musings on Measuring Brains. That oft-cited male ego claim that men are better than women because their brains take up more room? Utterly passe (meaning we ladies can go ahead and bring up the subject of pit bulls who turn bad because their skulls are too small). I say “Right On, Sista’ Girl!”

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