Skip to content

science literacy

What Gender Is a Coconut?

Sometimes seemingly nonsense questions have interesting answers. Few plants are as emblematic of the tropics as the coconut palm, Cocos nucifera. This tree can be found on just about every postcard depicting a tropical beach, anywhere in the world, and for good reason. Coconuts are improbably suited to human cultivation in places where few other… Read More »What Gender Is a Coconut?

So, Your Social Media Presence Is Being Overrun With Covid Denialism

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: over the last 15 months, your social media presence has become overrun with “COVID denialists,” anti-vaxxers, and other outspoken skeptics of accepted science.  They co-opt your comment threads to spread conspiracy theories and harass people who support vaccines, wear masks, and believe SARS-CoV-2 exists. Maybe you don’t even… Read More »So, Your Social Media Presence Is Being Overrun With Covid Denialism

2017 Cool Science Gift Guide

  • by

If it nerds, gift it! At last! Our seasonal round up of online gifting opportunities that will tickle the corners of your nearest and dearest science nerd’s heart. Although there’s a plethora of tacky science stuff out there—hanging a caffeine molecule on a pendant chain is so last year, and not at all scientific IMHO—I’ve… Read More »2017 Cool Science Gift Guide

Einstein, or it’s okay to say “what?”

  • by

512px-E=MC^2_(7852234992)June 30 marks the anniversary of publication for physicist Albert Einstein’s first paper on special relativity. On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies (1905) sets out Einstein’s theory on the relationship between space and time, establishing relativity for time and distance, and the absolute nature of the speed of light. As one of his four annus mirabilis [Latin: “miraculous year”] papers published in Annalen der Physik science journal the year that he obtained his doctoral degree, Einstein’s paper turned the concepts of space and time inside out—or upside down. It also set him on track to incorporate gravity into a general theory of relativity 11 years later, which observations from LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) have only recently proved correct.

Read More »Einstein, or it’s okay to say “what?”

Halley’s comet, impending doom and communicating science

  • by's_Comet_-_May_29_1910.jpgOn May 18, 1910, Halley’s comet made its closest recorded contact (0.15 astronomical units,* or approximately 23 million kilometres) with our planet, and the Earth passed through its tail. The event was full of scientific excitement and wonder, since photographic plates and spectroscopy were newly available to researchers. With these new tools, astronomers and the public got a better view of the comet itself and also a first inkling of what it contained.

Exciting times for science!

Read More »Halley’s comet, impending doom and communicating science

A selection of cards from one Phylogame deck. © The individual artists (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 CA)

Muses: David Ng

  • by

Dr. David Ng is definitely our kind of person. In addition to being smart as a scientist, he’s an excellent and inventive communicator with a great instinct for creating hooks. He’s also very skilled at devising relatable premises that are truly capable of carrying a scientific discussion. I wrote a lot about this in my… Read More »Muses: David Ng

Do you accept the quest? – Reading and understanding a science paper

  • by

Jason bringing Pelias the Golden Fleece. Marie-Lan Nguyen, 2006 (Public Domain)Science papers—the everyday tales of slaying research dragons and finding buried treasures. Not just for stereotyped nerds in white coats, or wild-haired Einstein lookalikes. You can read them too. With the rise in open access publishing, more are available to lay readers outside academia’s ivory towers.

But what are they all about? And why would you want to read one?

Firstly, there are two types of science papers: primary research, where excited doctoral students and their senior advisors showcase their latest research and launch it into the international science world, and reviews, which round up current knowledge and up-to-date thinking in one subject area. Although the reviews give a broad overview of the current state of scientific play, the primary research papers are the ones that generate the excitement with their sensational headlines.

And this is the reason you might want to take a peek at the primary source material itself—is the headline a fair summary of the paper? Is the press release an accurate representation of the research?Read More »Do you accept the quest? – Reading and understanding a science paper