Posts Tagged ‘science’
In the U.S. as in other countries around the globe the push is on to improve students’ skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
Innovation is the name of the game. Computer technology is already transforming how we work, live and play and researchers are delving deeper and deeper into our bodies and surroundings. The knowledge economy is where we believe the well-paying jobs of tomorrow will be.
This emphasis on the hard sciences – biology, chemistry, math, physics – brought about a $260 million nationwide STEM effort to move U.S. students to the top internationally. President Obama unveiled the Educate to Innovate Campaign about a year ago. But the emphasis on the hard sciences has also given rise to efforts that threaten to diminish the humanities, sometimes referred to as the soft sciences: Squeezed by budget cuts, the State University of New York at Albany on Oct. 1 announced cost cuts that would eliminate all degree programs in French, Italian, the classics, Russian and theater. (Responses to this SUNY decision here and here.)
But it gets worse, Dr. Raymond Tallis, a British philosopher and poet, told a crowd of more than 100 Tuesday at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park.
Tallis is a retired neurologist who travels with a laptop and has neither a problem with Charles Darwin’s theory on evolution nor with modern medical research. What he has a problem with are efforts to, for example, explain moral judgments with the help of brain scans or to replace the human conscience in psychology, religion and the arts with the evolutionary drive to survive and procreate. Read more…
Like many farmers, Ted Sherrod double-crops, growing canola in the winter on the same land where he harvested sunflowers or safflower grown during the summer. But Sherrod’s “farms” are stretches of roadside or median across the state, and his crops are part of an innovative experiment designed to produce biodiesel for N.C. Department of Transportation vehicles.
Dr. Anu Sud’s two daughters were accomplished in science by the time they were in high school, in part thanks to coaching by their mother, who had been a cytogeneticist at UNC-Chapel Hill and at LabCorps. The older daughter attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and the younger, Shivani, won a $100,000 scholarship in the Intel Science Talent Search and numerous other top science honors when she was a junior and senior at Jordan High School.
When Shivani went off to Princeton, Dr. Sud was like many professional women who interrupt their careers to raise kids: should she return to her former career or try a new path? Then Shivani said to her, “Mom, why not help other kids like you helped us?” Read more…
Late in 2010, an epic ecological experiment in the Triangle will begin drawing to a close when carbon dioxide stops pumping from four massive rings of towers in the Duke Forest. Since 1996, more than 250 scientists at Duke and dozens of other institutions have measured the response of this forest ecosystem to the elevated amounts of carbon dioxide expected in the Earth’s atmosphere in the future. They’ve measured tree and plant growth, photosynthesis, leaf size, soil composition, root growth, and water use in the plots bathed in elevated carbon dioxide and in three other “ambient” control plots.
The first, prototype ring was built in 1994; six more came in 1996 (three controls and three experiments). Each ring consists of 16 metal towers in a 30-meter diameter. Computer-controlled instruments in the experimental rings bathe the interior of the plot in carbon dioxide. It’s called Free-Air CO2 Enrichment, or FACE. As opposed to “chamber studies,” in which plants are studied in carefully controlled growth chambers or greenhouses, the rings are open to nature. That means that mammals and insects can circulate freely and that natural events like hurricanes, ice storms, and droughts affect the research site. Read more…
The store was packed. The store sold out all the books before Scott was even done talking. The C-Span Book TV crew was there filming so the event will be on TV some day soon. Scott was also, earlier yesterday, on WUNC’s The State Of Things (the podcast will soon be online here) and the day before that he was on KERA’s Think with Krys Boyd (download MP3 podcast by clicking here).
Scott’s energy and enthusiasm are infectuos. He held the audience captive and often laughing. The questions at the end were smart and his answers perfectly on target. But most importantly, we all learned a lot last night. I think of myself as a reasonably curious and informed person, and I have visited at least a couple of infrastructure plants, but almost every anecdote and every little tidbit of information were new to me. Scott’s point – that we don’t know almost anything about infrastructure – was thus proven to me.
Vanessa Woods (website, old blog, new blog, Twitter) will be reading from her new book “Bonobo Handshake” (comes out May 27th – you can pre-order on amazon.com) at the Regulator in Durham on May 27th at 7pm, at Quail Ridge Books on June 9th at 7:30pm, and at Chapel Hill Borders on June 12th at 2pm.
I have interviewed Vanessa last year so you can learn more about her there.
I received a review copy recently and am halfway through. Once I finish I will post my book review here.
From Publishers Weekly:
Devoted to learning more about bonobos, a smaller, more peaceable species of primate than chimpanzees, and lesser known, Australian journalist Woods and her fiancé, scientist Brian Hare, conducted research in the bonobos’ only known habitat—civil war–torn Congo. Woods’s plainspoken, unadorned account traces the couple’s work at Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, located outside “Kinshasa in the 75-acre forested grounds of what was once Congo dictator Mobutu Sese Seko’s weekend retreat. The sanctuary, founded in 1994 and run by French activist Claudine André, served as an orphanage for baby bonobos, left for dead after their parents had been hunted for bush meat; the sanctuary healed and nurtured them (assigning each a human caretaker called a mama), with the aim of reintroducing the animals to the wild. Hare had only previously conducted research on the more warlike, male-dominated chimpanzee, and needed Woods because she spoke French and won the animals’ trust; through their daily work, the couple witnessed with astonishment how the matriarchal bonobo society cooperated nicely using frequent sex, and could even inspire human behavior. When Woods describes her daily interaction with the bonobos, her account takes on a warm charm. Woods’s personable, accessible work about bonobos elucidates the marvelous intelligence and tolerance of this gentle cousin to humans.”
Neal Lane, a physicist who in the late 1990s was President Clinton’s top science advisor, worries when he looks at federal spending on research and development.
Sure, federal spending on R&D more than tripled in the past 50 years to about $147 billion in fiscal year 2009, as Lane pointed out Saturday in a talk at N.C. State University. But R&D’s share of all federal spending has been shrinking from nearly 12 percent during the height of the Apollo program in the late 1960s to about 5 percent in 2009, according to numbers from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Lane, a professor at Rice University and a senior fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, is particularly concerned about federal funding for research in physics, mathematics and engineering, the disciplines that brought forth computers, the Internet and mobile devices such as the cell phone. Read more…
On Tuesday I went to the monthly pizza lunch at Sigma Xi, featuring a guest lecture by Dr. David B. Eggleston, Professor of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Science at North Carolina State University and the Director of Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST).
While Dr.Eggleston conducts research in several areas (and several geographic locationa), in this talk he focused on the ecology, conservation, and restoration of oyster reefs in North Carolina.