ICYMI: Last Week, Several Kid Hackers Hacked Into the U.S. Voting System – Two of Them Did So In About 11 Minutes.

ICYMI: Last Week, Several Kid Hackers Hacked Into the U.S. Voting System – Two of Them Did So In About 11 Minutes.

 

cyber-security-cybersecurity-device-60504.jpg

USA — At the DEFCON hackathon conference, held in Las Vegas, fifty kids attended, and several tried their hand at hacking imitation U.S. election websites. More than half of the children attendees, who were ranging in age from 7-years-old to 16-years-old, managed to succeed in doing so. One of them, 11-year-old Emmett Brewer, hacked into the imitation election website in just eleven minutes.

Of course, immediate response came from the media. TIME magazine covered the story, calling the hacking “alarming”. BuzzFeed News covered the event, too, although they gave the credit for the fastest hack to a girl the same age named Audrey. BuzzFeed interviewed Audrey Jones, who said that: “Basically what you’re doing is you’re taking advantage of it being not secure […] It took maybe a minute or so because I’m a fast typer.”

In fact, Audrey Jones, after being asked if it really took her ten to eleven minutes to hack the website said: “Well, I was pretty distracted at the time,” suggesting that she could have done so ever faster if she wanted to (video below).

Unsurprisingly, there was concern brought up by many people. Mostly, the media took on the idea that this DEFCON conference essentially showed that the voting system was completely insecure, “if a child can hack it”.  

The idea here being that if someone so young could figure out that these voting systems had been running on expired SSL certificates, the hackers in Russia that the US is currently accusing of meddling with previous presidential elections, certainly could.

The National Association of Secretaries of State itself was worried about DEFCON encouraging people to try to hack into the voting system, while simultaneously trying to assure people that the electronic voting system isn’t really that insecure.

In a statement quoted by the aforementioned TIME article, the National Association of Secretaries of State said: “While we applaud the goal of DEFCON attendees to find and report vulnerabilities in election systems it is important to point out states have been hard at work with their own information technology teams […] our main concern with the approach taken by DEFCON is that it utilizes a pseudo-environment which in no way replicates state election systems, networks or physical security. Providing conference attendees with unlimited physical access to voting machines, most of which are no longer in use, does not replicate accurate physical and cyber protections established by state and local governments before and on Election Day.”

That being said, Rachel Tobac was able to show how she learned how to get admin access on a voting machine that’s used in 18 states — and it takes only two minutes, and no tools.

https://twitter.com/RachelTobac/status/1028437783050776576

 

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 
 

We Were Nominated for the 2018 Sunshine Blogger Award!

We Were Nominated for the 2018 Sunshine Blogger Award!

 

Sunshine-Blogger-Award-1.png

    Being relatively new to blogging still, I was a little confused when I got nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by our great friend Stephanie Halmholfer.  (Who we interviewed here, and her great blog is here.) 

 

    The Sunshine Blogger Award is a great community award that is given to those whom you personally feel bring great positivity to the community.  Stephanie was nominated by Alex Fitzpatrick, who also has an amazing blog herself.  After you’ve been nominated, you answer the questions given to you by the previous nominee, and then you create more questions for those whom you’ve decided to nominate!  It’s a great pay-it-forward method to bring attention to bloggers of all sorts.

 

 

So …now to the questions Stephanie asked me!

 

 

What inspired you to start your website?

 

    I was hired on as an unpaid intern to a site that will remain unnamed.  Eventually, they were kind enough to promote me and start to pay me for my posts to their blog, but it quickly became a hassle.  At the time, that site was my only form of income, I only got paid once a month, and I had to fight for my paycheck every single time.  

 

    Quickly afterward, the site was hacked on several occasions, and the creators of the site decided it wasn’t worth keeping on.  Everyone got let go.  After some other unfortunate details that involved some complete rude behavior from my former editor, my Father suggested starting my own site, and here we are today.  It was quite the rollercoaster to get here, and maybe someday I’ll go into more detail. 

 

How would you describe your website in an elevator pitch?

 

    FemSTEM.com is a news site-slash-blog that, though aimed at women and girls, is a fun place to read about science for all.  We regularly interview great female scientists from around the world, as well as try to stay on top of STEM news as much as we can. Right now — we is me — and I’m a one-woman operation, but in the future, we hope to grow enough to hire others.

 

What part of your website are you most proud of?

 

    The part of my site I’m the proudest of is the part of the site I didn’t even write.  I owe so much to Melissa C Marquez, who wrote the phenomenal #STEMSaturdays series (here).  It’s absolutely incredible, and worthy of a read right now!

 

Is there anything you would like to include more of on your website?

 

    More posts in general, ha! Balancing FemSTEM, my personal life, and my work life has been increasingly difficult these days, but I’m learning.  I’m trying desperately to get my groove back and get back to writing posts three times a week.

 

Is there anything new you would like to one day try with your website (e.g a new feature, add a podcast, etc.)?

 

    I’m working on so many things!  One is a Kids section that’s currently under construction, as well as a podcast!  I’ve actually recorded three episodes, but for one reason or another, things haven’t added up for me to actually get to posting them.  One day soon!

 

How do you promote your website?

 

    Twitter mostly! I’m trying to get into the Instagram realm, as well as move on top doing more science communication in real life!  In fact, I’m working on a project right now for #scicomm in real life, that you guys will hopefully hear about soon!

 

When working on a new post, what is your writing process like?

 

    The hardest part is finding the time and motivation.  Finding those two things at once is incredibly challenging.  It’s so often that I find some kind of motivation while I’m at my day job, and then finding I’m far too mentally exhausted to even try when I get home that day.  

 

    When I do get that perfect chemistry, research happens first if it’s a news article of some kind.  I find all the sources I can, link them in my reading list, and make an outline before I start writing the actual post.  Depending on how complicated the topic is, and how much I know about the topic to begin with, it can take me anywhere from an hour to a day to get the initial draft out.  Editing from there isn’t too hard.  

 

    If it’s an interview, I do all the research I can on the woman I’m interviewing.  If they have a website, it’s that much easier.  Then it takes me a good two to three hours to polish up the questions before I either send them via email to the interviewee, or I sit down with them via Skype or another IM chat.

 

    I really need quiet (or white noise) when I’m writing, otherwise I get horribly distracted.  I usually have a drink of some kind at my desk, and maybe a snack, so I don’t have to move for as long as humanly possible.  Once I’m in my mode, if I snap out of it at all, it’s very hard for me to come back to it.  

 

content continues after ad

 

 

Are there any forms of outreach that you’re interested in trying/doing more of, besides your website (e.g. presenting at Comic Cons, hosting a Youtube Show, etc.)?

 

    All I’m saying right now is the word ‘Trivia’.  :) 

 

What kinds of movies/books/music do you like (comics are included)?

 

    Oh, my goodness. I’m one of those people who loves almost everything?  Reading has been my passion for a long, long time.  I’m a big modern classics reader (i.e. books like the Great Gatsby and Animal Farm), as well as a big essays reader.  

    

    As far as movies, historical movies or period dramas (based on a real story or not) are my absolute favorite.  

 

    Music — I’m into Broadway music mostly.  Though, I’ll listen to nearly every genre.  

 

    And I adore comic books.  Well, that might be a slight exaggeration.  When I find a comic I like, I adore it.  I’m a big fan of DC (the Batman universe in particular. Barbara Gordon — aka Batgirl and Oracle — is a HUGE #STEM gal, especially in the 80s-90s era of comics), though they’ve failed me in a large way as of late.  

 

When you were a student (at any level), did you enjoy being in school?

 

    Yes, and no.  Like a lot of people, I struggled with math in a large way.  As the years went on, I found myself enjoying schooling less and less.  I got overly depressed in high school, and I let that and my math struggle get the best of me.  As a result, I finished high school a year late.

 

    When I found subjects I loved (Earth science, psychology, and English class for the most part were my favorites in high school), I really loved them and flew through them with flying colors.  However, the subjects I struggled with, I let them defeat me, and it made me really dislike school.

 

    I totally regret that.

 

 

 

What is a field of study outside of your own that you’re interested in?

 

    Nearly everything.  Which sounds like a cop-out, but it’s true.  That’s what makes this blog so much fun to write.  I love so many aspects of STEM, and I want to learn about everything.  If anything, this blog has taught me so much.

 

 

My Nominations!

 

    Technically, the rules say you want to nominate 11 blogs, but so many blogs have already been nominated!  I’m going to try my best to nominate as many people as possible.

Melissa C Marquez — Her Personal Blog and podcast

Fins United Initiative’s Bite Blog — Which is also Melissa’s, but it’s entirely different! 

Moms Can: Code — Blog

Her STEM Story — One of our biggest supporters, and previous sponsor!

 

My Questions!

 

  • What got your interested in your current field of STEM?

  • What is your favorite thing about blogging?

  • What’s your favorite method of outreach? Is it your blog? Why or why not?

  • What is your educational visual program, whether it’s a TV program, or a YouTube program (i.e. SciShow), etc.?

  • Who is your current STEM inspiration? 

  • What’s your favorite snack to have at your desk when you’re blogging?

  • Do you have a day job?  If so, what is it?  Is it STEM related?

  • This might be kind of a vague question, but what would you say the biggest issue plaguing STEM right now is?

  • I’ve noticed retailers are starting to hop aboard what I’m going to call the ‘STEM bandwagon’.  This is probably a good thing, as kids who see toys meant to encourage them towards STEM will be drawn to STEM as a whole, but do you see this being a retail fad, or something that will last for years to come? 

  • What is the most common STEM misconception that you hear?  How do you combat it when you hear of it?

  • What’s your current project and what about it excites you the most?

 

    Dear Stephanie, thank you so very much for nominating me for this award.  It means the world!

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 
 

INTERVIEW: Science Engagement Research Partner Tina Blackmore

INTERVIEW: Science Engagement Research Partner Tina Blackmore

 

A few weeks ago, MARS INC. contacted me, asking me to interview four of their Women in STEM.*  Over the next few weeks, their interviews will be posting one by one.

This interview is with Tina Blackmore, who works as a  Science Engagement Research Partner for MARS.


 

Q:  Hello, Tina!  First of all, I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to answer some questions for our readers!

Tina Blackmore.png

My first question has to do with how you got to where you are today – the basics. I was told that you wanted to be a veterinarian as a teenager!  What sparked your love for animals and inspired you to try to get into veterinary work?

A: Although I only had pet hamsters as a small child, I used to have horse riding lessons, and with that also came frequent contact with all the dogs and cats that were residents at the riding school.

I have always loved solving problems and think that is why, in part, I enjoy science so much. Veterinary science seemed the obvious way to link the two by providing an ill animal treatment after diagnosing them. However, whilst my original desire was to pursue a career in veterinary science, I decided to re-think my career following a couple of weeks of work experience at different vet practices. So, I continued to follow my love of science through academia, which led me to research. When I was younger, it was never suggested that I could combine animals and science through research, yet it is due to this that I am in my current role. 

 

Q:  Now you work as a Science Engagement Research Partner.  What sparked the change in interests?

A: My PhD was about a common disease for ponies, which meant I met a lot of horse owners who were keen to find out more about the research project. This allowed me to explore the ways in which I could explain the ideas, aims and results of my work to non-specialist audiences, whilst maintaining scientific accuracy. As a result, I developed an interest in science communication and a passion for making science accessible to anyone who wants to know more. This then led to my current role as the Science Engagement Research Partner for WALTHAM, part of Mars Petcare. 

 

Q: What basic message do you hope that your particular brand of science communication gets across?  What strategies do you use to get your point across?

A: All of the science communication at Mars Petcare ladders up to demonstrate how we can deliver our vision: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS™. There are a number of ways in which we do this, but our activities and campaigns are underpinned by scientific studies. WALTHAM, as a Mars Petcare research centre, is the primary publisher of original peer-reviewed papers and therefore a significant contributor to science communications by Mars Petcare. The key findings of these studies are then amplified by the Global Science Communication team across numerous media outlets. 

 

Q:  Other than science communication, what does your job at MARS as a “Science Engagement Research Partner” for Pet Nutrition entail?

A:  Mars Petcare now has over 70,000 Associates (employees). Ensuring that everyone understands how the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition and its science contributes to the ecosystem is essential. We do this by sharing the work we do with visitors to the pet centre on a guided tour, in addition to internal communications. This is supported by the Communications teams at WALTHAM.

 

 

content continues after ad

 

 

Q: What would you say is your favorite part of your job?  What is the most rewarding portion?

A: It’s really rewarding to be able to share the great science we do at the pet centre and how this extends to support all the areas under the Mars Petcare banner. I love being able to aid peoples understanding in an area that excites them. Comments like ‘wow, I never knew that’ epitomise that feeling. 

 

Q:  Do you have any advice for those getting into science communication? 

A: Speak to as many people as possible about an area of science that really excites you. Your passion will shine through, and being able to explain a topic that you know so well to those with limited knowledge in the area provides valuable learning experiences.

 

 
This article was not sponsored.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 
 

INTERVIEW: Senior Technologist Ana Garcia-Marchan

INTERVIEW: Senior Technologist Ana Garcia-Marchan

 

A few weeks ago, MARS INC. contacted me, asking me to interview four of their Women in STEM.*  Over the next few weeks, their interviews will be posting one by one.

This interview is with Ana Garcia-Marchan, who works is a Senior Technologist for MARS.


Q :  Hello, Ana!  First of all, I want to thank you very much for taking time out of your day to answer some of my questions for my readers!

So, for my first question, I want to ask something basic:  What exactly is your job in STEM?  I was told that you were a Senior Technologist at MARS.  What does that entail exactly?

Ana Garcia Marchan.jpg

A: Being a Quality & Food Safety (Q&FS) Senior Technologist really means being an advocate for quality of our Mars Food products, including Uncle Ben’s and Seeds of Change. I work with factory managers and maintenance teams to help lead multiple Quality Management Processes, including Mars’ Internal Audit and Q&FS Management Review. Through risk assessment, I help drive improvements in Mars’ current manufacturing processes and systems by collaborating with different departments and implementing creative solutions to issues. For example, if an incident occurs and a product is placed on hold, I will not only investigate the incident but develop corrective actions to ensure that this does not occur again. 

 

 I also participate in external audits and inspections from the Mississippi Department of Health.

 

Q:  I was also told that you, as a biochemistry major, believe that STEM plays a huge role in the food industry.  Would you elaborate on why you believe that STEM has such a large role in the industry?  Sometimes, I believe this aspect of STEM gets overlooked.

A: STEM is really about bringing together the principles of science, technology, engineering, and math to; innovate, work on complex and interesting projects, and achieve a common goal.

Having been a biochemistry major, I see similarities between the food industry and biochemistry because both are complex and diverse. Metabolic pathways (biochemistry) and the food industry have steps that convert substrates/raw ingredients into a finished product. Each step is critical, complex, and is the key to the next step. In biochemistry, specifically in a metabolic pathway, each reaction produces a product, and that product becomes the substrate for the next step. Similar to biochemistry, the food industry takes raw materials and converts them into a finished product with the goal of getting consumed. 

I love being able to apply my knowledge of biochemistry to the food industry and being a part of a team that brings products to life. 

 

Q: What would you say the main goal of your STEM field is?

A: The main goal of my STEM field is to apply the concept of biochemistry not just to the processes that occur within living organisms but relate the same processes within day to day activity. 

 

Q:  How did you begin to pursue this career? What made you interested in this line of work?

A: Growing up, seeing my mother’s ability to use raw ingredients to create a meal sparked my interest in STEM. Many can cook, but I was so impressed by the science behind the art of cooking and how my mother mastered both. Once I got to school, science courses really gave me that hands-on learning experience and reinforced my educational aspirations within STEM.

 

content continues after ad

 

 

Q:  What does a typical day in your job look like?  And what’s the most exciting part of your day — or something about your job that you enjoy the most?

A:  Freedom- let me explain… My job is not the same every day. Although I have responsibilities and deadlines, I love that each day is different. One day I may be pulling a cross-functional team and brainstorming solutions to a particular problem and another day I may be leading quality and food safety training. 

 

Q:  Do you work in a laboratory?  Or does your field of STEM require that your work in other places that may not be seen as common places that science is conducted?

A: My field of STEM requires me to work in a manufacturing plant which is not what you would expect. There seems to be a misunderstanding that if you have a STEM degree, specifically a science related degree, that you must work in a laboratory. 

 

Q:  If you had some advice for girls or other women looking to pursue your career, what would you say to them?

A:  I encourage young women to reach out to resources (teachers, those who work in STEM fields, community groups, friends, family, etc.) to learn more about the endless possibilities within STEM. Don’t be afraid to apply to competitive schools or seek out learning opportunities within STEM wherever you may be. Join a STEM related club or activity and get involved in whatever way you can. The creativity and innovation that stems from STEM-related fields is essential to creating impactful, positive and far-reaching change.

 

 
This article was not sponsored.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 
 

Work Burnout Can Have Damaging Effects on Your Mind and Your Physical Body

Work Burnout Can Have Damaging Effects on Your Mind and Your Physical Body

 

niklas-hamann-418782-unsplash.jpg

 

You may love your job, you may hate your job — but either way, a lack of control over your work or work environment, frustration in the workplace, or even a lack of hope after entering into a job can cause what’s called “work burnout”.

 

Burnout is not clinical depression, as research has indicated that the two are “separate entities”.  However, they seem to share similar qualities, especially in cases where the person is suffering a severe case of burnout.  

 

What is Work Burnout?

 

Work burnout is a kind of chronic stress that can lead to mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion.  Burnout is something that creeps up on you over time, the longer you have stress that hasn’t been addressed.  The severest cases of burnout can cause an individual to not be able to function on an effective level both in their professional and personal lives.

 

Burnout is something that anyone in any kind of job can develop, and this includes STEM fields.  

 

 

RELATED:  #STEMSaturdays by Melissa C Marquez — The Talk People Rarely Have — Getting Real About Mental Health

 

 

content continues after ad

 

 

In fact, women in STEM are more likely to suffer burnout according to research released in early 2017.  Two researchers, Daphne Pedersen and Krista Minnotte, who are both professors of sociology at the University of North Dakota, surveyed 117 people working in STEM.  About 30% of the responses were from women, and on average, they reported higher levels of job burnout than the men who responded to the questionnaire.  

 

This is most likely due to employers not making their women employees feel like they fit in, says a professor from the University of Reading, Avril MacDonald.

 

 

What Damage Burnout Can Create

 

As brought out at the outset, work burnout and have many harmful effects on the mind and body.  

 

(Resourced from Psychology Today) For one thing, maybe the most obvious symptom of work burnout, this amount of stress can cause chronic fatigue.  Over time, people suffering from burnout start to feel a lack of energy that they were not used to before, and can become physically and emotionally exhausted as the burnout continues. 

 

This can then lead to insomnia, because even if you feel tired, it can be hard to fall asleep and stay asleep due to the amount of stress.

 

This kind of long-lasting lethargy can lead to effects on the mind, such as lack of attention and concentration, as well as forgetfulness.  As the burnout becomes more severe, this can translate to depression and irritability that can become almost uncontrollable if it remains untreated.

 

We have all heard statistics that say that stress is on a steady incline in the US.  As far as burnout goes, many people from the ages of eighteen to twenty-nine knew of someone who was professionally diagnosed with work burnout.  54% of that demographic (of the people surveyed) didn’t know someone diagnosed with burnout, but 46% of people did know someone diagnosed with burnout.  

 

24% of people in that age ground said that the person they knew who was diagnosed with burnout was themselves.  

 

If you know someone, or you are someone, suffering from burnout: help needs to be found.  Whether in the form of finding a new job that causes less stress, taking a long vacation (if one can afford it), or professional counseling, burnout needs to be treated before it gets out of hand. 

 

List of free emergency hotlines via pleaselive.org.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 
 

Archival Opinion: YouTube’s Educational Program Crash Course is Incredibly Important in Our Media Age — And Here’s Why

Archival Opinion: YouTube’s Educational Program Crash Course is Incredibly Important in Our Media Age — And Here’s Why

 

Originally Written in 2016 and posted on LinkedIn.
Revisited in 2018 with updated information.

Not Sponsored by Crash Course or its parent company, Complexly. 

maxresdefault.jpg

 

Six years ago, YouTubers John and Hank Green came together with others to create innovation. A free, easily accessible, learning program. It taught you the basics of American History, World History, English Literature, and much more. This wasn’t the first time someone had made a channel or website that allowed free education. Khan Academy had been around since September of 2006, but at the time, they only taught math. John and Hank Green began to make what education was available online more accessible and more varied, proving that education can be completely free.

 

The business is mainly funded by voluntary donations. Through the service, Patreon, subscribers can give as much money as they want towards Crash Course, allowing the company to continue going. In late 2014, they also became partnered with PBS Digital Studios, allowing them a bigger budget, which then allowed for them to have more and more content as the years have gone on. As of the writing of this article, Crash Course has gathered over 5 million YouTube subscribers, and over 450 million views. They’ve also created Crash Course Kids, aimed at younger viewers.

 

As of 2018, Crash Course broke off from PBS Digital Studios and is not under the parent company Complexly, run by the Green Brothers themselves. 

 

The videos Crash Course provides are used in various schools around the world. They have also begun to create worksheets to go along with their curriculum, and those are slowly coming out to help schools teach along with their programming. Including the one show produced on Crash Course Kids, there have been twenty-one different seasons of Crash Course, all varying in topics.  

 

All of the aforementioned information explains just the beginnings of why Crash Course is so important in our day and age. It is using a medium of innovation, allowing free education to anyone who has access to the internet. With its colorful cast of hosts, it’s amazing graphics team, Thought Café, and its topics of huge interest, it makes learning fun, easy, and most importantly, available to nearly everyone. 

 

From public and private schools, to those who are homeschooled, to those who haven’t had a formal education in any form. Education, in many cases, can be very inaccessible. From public schools that are shutting down, to incredibly expensive colleges that put people into debt, to places in the developing world who don’t even have access to schools in some cases. Crash Course is doing what it can to provide for the needs of those who can have access to the internet. Of course, this doesn’t account for everyone, but it is a huge step in the right direction.

 

content continues after ad

 

 

So, if Crash Course has been going on for this long, why are we bringing it up now? The company was under a little bit of fire in 2016 (when this article was originally written). A course by the name Human Geography came out on the channel, and after two episodes were released, the season was promptly removed from YouTube. Why? Inaccuracy. Now — before you think I’m about to debunk everything written above, I’m not. In fact, this is another reason why Crash Course is so important in this digital age.  

 

In a small video released on October 31st, 2016, John Green addressed the controversy. He said that Crash Course was “hitting the pause button” on the Human Geography course in order to re-work it. Without hesitation, Green went on to explain how the company attempted to grow Crash Course’s video content, and curriculum, without raising their budget and without increasing their staff.  “That,”  John Green said, “was a mistake.”  

 

This lead to factual mistakes, poor editing, and rushed production. John Green also said that the tone of the episodes were “too strident”, or harsh. Green went on to mention some specific mistakes made in the episodes. This mistake resulted in a product that hadn’t been as good as Crash Course’s previous series. 

 

“Crash Course needs to have a point of view, but it also needs to be intellectually rigorous and to acknowledge the diversity of opinion and research within a field, and we didn’t do that.”  - John Green
 

John Green went further to explain how they would address the problem. They’d work with more experts on the courses, and spend more times on the scripts. He then acknowledged that this change would slow down their production — and then he said something I found key. “Ultimately, I think it will also improve our videos.” 

 

This is exactly why, in this world where education comes along with greed, Crash Course is so important. Green admits to the flaws within their system with no defense and no poor attitude. They brought down the videos and explained how they were going to fix the problems. They also say they’re going to take their time.  

 

content continues after ad

Assuming this rings true, and Green and the rest of the staff at Crash Course do just this, what we’re seeing is rare. An apology without an excuse, and without a political answer. If this is true, we’re seeing a company put their product before their profit, and more importantly, we’re seeing a company put education before profit. This is rare, which is sad and frankly sickening, but it seems to exist somewhere, at least. That somewhere is Crash Course.

 

I’ve been following Crash Course since day one. I have not watched all their series, but the ones I have, I have enjoyed thoroughly. I have gained much knowledge from their videos, and I am thankful for them, too. It’s more engaging than an expensive textbook, and it encourages me to learn more. I’m not learning to pass a test — I’m learning for the sake of learning.

 

One of the series I did not see was Crash Course Human Geography. However, I’m glad I’ve yet to view it. With Green and the Crash Course team re-working the series, I have faith that it will come back as factual and much better. It’s not a blind faith, either, from viewing their other series.  

 

Green also thanked everyone who gave him and the team constructive criticism.  “You make the channel better for us and for all those who watch it,” Green said. “Snarky or abusive comments that don’t come from a place of generosity are really hard to respond to with anything but defensiveness, but we’ve been really lucky at Crash Course that there are so many kind and careful critiques, and we’re very grateful for them.”

 

It’s also worth noting that John Green only blamed himself. He said that if we’re mad at anyone, we should be mad at him. He didn’t blame anyone else for his mistake, and made sure to note that the presenter of Human Geography was not blamed for his misstep.

 

You can check out Crash Course on their YouTube Channel, here.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 
 

Dinosaur Skeletons Are a Hot Comity — It’s Too Bad Science Can’t Afford Them

Dinosaur Skeletons Are a Hot Comity — It’s Too Bad Science Can’t Afford Them

Edited June 17th, 2018 -- Corrected typos.
 
justyn-warner-571482-unsplash.jpg

 

June 4th came and went, and with it, an almost complete dinosaur skeleton to a French art collector. 

 

The beast that lays nine meters long (almost 30 feet), and two-and-a-half meters tall (8.2 feet), went on auction in Paris, France on Monday, June 4th.  Some believe it could be the skeleton of a species that has yet to be identified, and it’s about 70% complete.  According to Quartz, this skeleton was excavated between 2013 and 2015 in Wyoming, USA.  

 

It sold to the aforementioned art collector for $2.3 million. 

 

The auction was criticized before and after it took place by many scientists.  The nonprofit organization Society of Vertebrate Paleontology argued in a letter that “scientifically important vertebrate fossils are part of our collective natural heritage and deserve to be held in public trust”, rather than left in the hands of any private ownership.  Why was this point argued?

 

The fear is that privately auctioned off skeletons can become lost to science — especially those of major discoveries as the Society believes it to be.  “…There is no guarantee,” said Voa News, quoting the organization. “That privately held pieces will be open to all scientists for research purposes.”  

 

That being said, Reuters reported that the unnamed buyer of this skeleton plans on lending it to a museum, and that will allow it to be studied by scientists.  

 

 

content continues after ad

 

 

But these kinds of auctions are becoming more and more popular and common according to the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, David Polly, the president of the organization, told Nature.  In fact, the auction house that sold off this latest skeleton sold a Mammoth and another dinosaur previously, according to the Reuters’ article mentioned early. 

 

The more common these auctions become, and the higher the price margin goes, the less access scientists will have to the Earth’s history.  Even if the particular buyer of this skeleton does give scientists access to it, that doesn’t mean that every private buyer will.  The auction house also claims that some of the proceeds from this auction will go to two charities working with endangered wildlife, but the Reuters article that reported on that claim doesn’t mention which charities.  

 

The solution to this would be calling off these auctions, or giving more funding to museums and scientists so that they could afford these purchases.  Neither of which seem like they’re goals within reach at the moment. 

 
 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 
 

China Thinks They May Have Found One Surviving Baiji Or Chinese River Dolphin

 Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

 

CHINA — In 2006, a survey conducted in December found a species of River Dolphin — known as the Baiji, or Chinese River Dolphin — to be functionally extinct.  When an animal is classified as such, this means that there’s only a handful of survivors left, and that the odds don’t look good for the species to make a comeback.  12 years after the survey, China thinks they may have found at least one surviving member.  That could mean that, possibly, there’s even more out there.

 

 

What’s a River Dolphin?

 

A River Dolphin is basically what it sounds like.  It’s a dolphin that survives in freshwater; it only lives in rivers.  This is not a formal classification of dolphin, but it’s an easy way to distinguish between the kinds of dolphins most people are aware of, and the four recognized species of river dolphins (with various numbers of subspecies).

 

There’s a few reasons why river dolphins aren’t as well known to the general public.  For starters, they don’t have a wide range.  There are only a few different species of river dolphin, and they are all restricted to small habitat areas.  

 

Another reason is that there are not many river dolphins in captivity.  The reasons for this range, but some of the problem has been that getting the animals to reproduce while in captivity has not proven to be successful. On top of this, in the 1950s to the 1970s, many Amazon River Dolphins were captured and sent away to be placed in captivity across the world, but out of the 100 that were sent, only 20 survived.  Currently, only three river dolphins are in captivity; one in Venezuela, one in Peru, and one in Germany.

 

 

Why Are They Endangered?

 

We only know for sure that some species of river dolphins are endangered and face extinction.  For example, the data for the Amazon River Dolphin is data deficient, or in other words, we don’t have enough information on the species to list it on the IUCN scale of endangerment. 

 

However, with that said, many species of River Dolphins are extremely vulnerable to habitat destruction, which helps lead to their endangerment.  Because they have such small habitat areas, when part of that habitat is taken over or destroyed, it can effect the entirety of the species.  

 

This is exactly what happened to the Baiji river dolphin.

 

Waste from the surrounding area of the Yangtze river, where the Baiji was once found, covered the water.  Ship traffic became a huge problem, as the Yangtze developed because of economic growth in China.  Noise pollution also played a role as the area of the Yangtze became more and more populated.  

 

The last verified sighting of the Baiji was in 2004, two years before they were declared ‘functionally extinct’.

 

So …if China Did Find a Baiji, What Does That Mean?

 

Unfortunately, we don’t quite have the answer to that question.  It would take a lot of work to get to a time where the Yangtze river is save enough for the Baiji to thrive.  “…Destructive fishing methods such as high-voltage electrofishing, floating gill netting, and muro-ami, a technique that uses encircling nets with pounding devices, should be strictly forbidden, and any violation should be punished to protect both the dolphins and their prey,”  Said Hua Yuanyu, a scientist who has been surveying and studying the species since the 80s.  

 

Basically, the Yangtze River would have to become a protected area via the government if there is any hope to save the Baiji.  

 

That said, Hua also said that the “reappearance of the baiji is another piece of evidence of the improved Yangtze ecology,” which by all means, is a very good sign for this particular animal.  Another glimmer of hope is that the Baiji “does not live in solitude,” and live in schools, according to Li Xinyuan, who is a Baiji dolphin enthusiast and was there when the photo of what they think is the Baiji was taken.  

 

On top of all of this, several fishermen have been confirmed to have seen the Baiji for themselves. 

 

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 

Science Communication: Consider the Source

createherstock-RemoteOffice-Sebastien-gaudin.jpg
 

Previously Published in 2017

 

SCIENCE COMMUNICATION -- We've all seen health products, mental health products, or other services claim that what they're doing is backed by real science.  Whether they're making wild claims about how much weight you're going to lose, or saying how much better they're going to make your life in general, they often times say that they're backed up by science.  Even dating websites claim they have science behind them.

 

These claims may do one of two things to you:

1) They may make you more skeptical about the product or service.

2) They may make you trust the product or service more than you might have originally.

 

Obviously, for the company trying to take your money, the latter option is more ideal.  But the average consumer needs to be more skeptical.  Just because some science is behind a product, that doesn't necessarily mean it's trustworthy.  You have to consider the source.  How do you go about considering the source of a scientific study, though?  How do you know what to look for?

 

Considering the Source: Where Did the Study Come From?

 

In 2017, Vox Media produced an article showing how companies like OceanSpray got away with saying that their cranberry juice could reduce urinary tract infections by 40%.  However, that study that OceanSpray boasted was co-funded by the company themselves.  On top of that, the study was co-authored by OceanSpray.  And the study and similar ones like it have had a lot of people fooled.  Doctors have gone as far as to suggest to their patients that they drink cranberry juice when suffering from an UTI.  The author of this article knows this from personal experience.

 

It wasn't as though the study was completely lying, either, which helped boost their supposed credibility.  Cranberries do have compounds that fight off bacteria, but you'd have to drink a LOT of cranberry juice to see any kind of result whatsoever. "People would have to continuously drink the juice twice a day in serving of 150 mL for an indefinite period of time."

 

When looking at a study, was it funded by the company promoting the product?  Was it authored by the company promoting the product?  Is the study helping promote the product at all?  All of these things should raise red flags when looking at a study.

 

Considering the Source: Is a Celebrity Talking About it?

 

The average person take celebrity opinions far too seriously.  Let's just admit that right off the bat.  This can be a huge problem, unfortunately.  It's lead to countless people attempting detox teas because Kylie Jenner posted them on instagram (and got massively paid to do it, too). Detox teas have unwanted side effects, and will mostly help you lose water weight more than anything else as they are a diuretic.  They're not the miracle weight loss product that celebrities and instagram influencers claim they are.

 

And the Kardashian-Jenner family aren't the only ones at fault here.  People like Gwyneth Paltrow have made a business surrounding products that supposedly have science backings.  However, Paltrow's website GOOP is being investigated for at least 51 deceptive health claims.  These claims hurt people on the regular, because if their favorite celebrity is doing it -- they should too!  It means it must work!  In reality, we have to remember that these people are not scientists and are getting paid to promote these products.

 

Considering the Source: Did you Find it on Social Media?

 

Social media is similar to the aforementioned celebrity point.  They may not be getting paid to promote these tweets, but they are getting the instant gratification of likes and retweets.  This was a an issue to Megan Lynch, a student of Economic Botany herself.  When I asked about what other ways we need to consider the source of scientific claims, she said she watched a lot of scientists retweet "spammy" tweets without questioning the fact that these tweets didn't have a source associated with them.  We're all susceptible to this kind of behavior, too, so we have to be aware of that and realize what we're doing before we do it.

 

Considering the Material: Peer Reviewed Articles

 

It's not just the sources of articles and "facts" we need to be wary of.  Even the articles we find we can trust the sources from have faults, flaws, and can be misleading.

 

Dr. Emma Yhnell brought this up to me when asked, saying "articles are often changed depending on reviewer comments".   And it's true.  On top of this, peer reviewed articles have other flaws such as the competition factor.  "Academic competition for funding, positions, publication space and credits has increased along with the growth of the number of researchers," Says a New Republic article written by Stefano Belietti.  "Science is a winner-take-all enterprise, where whoever makes the decisive discovery first gets all the fame and credit, whereas all the remaining researchers are forgotten. The competition can be fierce and the stakes high. In such a competitive environment, experiencing an erroneous rejection, or simply a delayed publication, might have huge costs to bear."

 

Because of the competition of science just to get into a journal, let alone have your study make it big, this can cause biases to be formed that could negatively effect the article.  Science should be neutral and unbiased, but it's not infallible by any means.

 

Considering the Material:  What was the Sample Size?

 

Is the article hiding important information from you?  Seeing how large the sample size was and how the variables were controlled is extremely important.  And a lot of times, the sample sizes to articles are small.  They're small enough that they can't really say for sure that the conclusions they came can be considered a scientific fact now.  But often times, despite this, that's how the conclusions from the research comes off, especially when being reported on by the mainstream media.  If the study doesn't even tell you how big a sample size was, or hides from you how the variables were controlled, that should be a warning sign for you to be more skeptical towards the study.

 

Science needs skepticism.  Without it, there would be no science at all really.  Without questioning things, finding sources, and doing your own research, you're blindly trusting in fallible humans.  And the bottom line is that we will realize that we made mistakes in our research, or made mistakes in promoting that research.  However, the more aware of it we are, and the more cautious we make ourselves, the more we can avoid promoting pseudoscience and faulty science as absolute fact.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 

Help Us Donate to the Mars Generation!

 
train-like-martian-sidebar-2.png
 
 

Last year, we did our best to help donate to the Mars Generation and to help them reach their goal of $20,000!  We were able to help them, and we raised almost $150 for them. 

 

This year, we want to raise 8x that.

 

 
 

The Mars Generation is a non-profit that helps kids get excited about STEM.  Started by Abigail Harrison, or as many know her, Astronaut Abby, in 2015, The Mars Generation has been helping children get into Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math ever since.  

 

This year, it's their 3rd Annual #TrainLikeaMartian challenge.  The challenge 'is a week of fun activities that brings awareness to the importance of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) education, space exploration, and physical fitness to students and adults around the world' according to their website.

 

Last year, FemSTEM got involved, and we want to get involved again.

 

We did some of the challenges ourselves, as well as started a fundraising page to help raise them up to their goal!

 

Here is our current fundraising page to help them out this year!

 

If you donate, all of the money goes directly to the Mars Generation -- we don't see any of it.  This is not sponsored by them in any way, shape or form, it's just a fun way to help our fellow STEM-lovers help others!

 

And -- if you donate $25 or more, you get entered into their daily prize drawings as well as their grand prize drawings.  You can learn more information about their prizes here.  On top of that, you'll get a handwritten thank you card from us no matter how much you donate (as long as you donate through our fundraiser here).  

 

What are you waiting for!!

 

DONATE NOW

 
femstem_mars_gen.png

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.