science

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.


 
 

A Science Communication Consultation and Training Company Is On the Rise — and Needs Your Support

28092156_1519933643.7155_funddescription.jpg
 

Science Communication is something that is a hot topic these days.  The communication to the public about science is extremely important, because everyone is effected by science in their daily lives.  Proper science communication can change how the public looks at the world, how the world governments decide to act on certain issues, and can help in bettering the wellbeing of humans, animals, and plant life.

 

 

However, science communication is not the easiest thing in the world.  Not by a long shot.  There’s miscommunication, the boasting of bad studies, and some scientists don’t know how to go about science communication to the public at all.  While all scientists are definetely not required to communicate their science to the public, a lot of them want to learn.

 

 

That’s where SCIENCE ART FUSION comes in. 

 

 

Science Art Fusion is a ‘science communication consultation company that aims to bridge the gap between science and the creative and performing arts’, says Founder RK Pendergrass.

 

 

Earlier in March, she began a GoFundMe campaign hoping to raise money so that Pendergrass can create online courses “that goes into the nitty-gritty of narrative structure and what makes some stories so universally appealing, and helps science communicators figure out the best ways to apply these narrative skills to their outreach efforts”

 

 

Pendergrass herself is a professional performer and creative writer with over ten years of experience in these fields.  She says that she wanted to help share her knowledge with the science community “after seeing the importance of narrative being brought up time and again at science conferences and in discussions about science communication”.  

 

 

Pendergrass truly believes that there’s value in this knowledge for the science community, and believes that this type of art can be very helpful in getting this very important communication across.

 

 

In the two weeks that SCIENCE ART FUSION’S campaign has been online, Pendergrass has thus earned over $1,500 towards her 20K goal.  As she notes, starting a company is incredibly expensive.  Between the LLC cost, the cost of equipment, the cost of a website, and more.  Her hope is to raise $3,500 a month in order to support the website and herself up until August.    She wants to help hire and support other science communicators as well in the future to help continue to “bridge the gap” between the communications and their respective audiences.

 

 

Interested in helping out?  You can check out the GoFundMe here, or email RK Pendergrass at prelaunch@scienceartfuision.com for more information!

 
 

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.

 

Never Have Trouble Finding Places for Science on Your Vacation Again: Sci Sites!

SciSites logo.jpg
 

In January 2018, Dr. Lakshini Mendis launched a website for the purpose of inviting science to come along on your vacation.  While just about every large city in the United States, as well as across the world, typically has a science-related museum, or other science related activities to do while you’re visiting, sometimes they can be hard to find.

 

 

Dr. Lakshini Mendis is a trained neuroscientist, and now is a full-time science writer and editor herself.  After she gained her PhD, she traveled abroad a lot.  While she was abroad, she wanted to find these “STEM-related places” that she knew absolutely existed.  Finding them, though, was an entire adventure on its own.

 

 

Dr. Mendis found it to be a little frustrating and not very convenient that there wasn’t a place on the internet where you could go to see every science activity or public area in the location you were visiting.  Of course, you could Google things all day long, but the convenience just was not there. She wanted a “one-stop STEM related travel site”.  

 

 

VISIT THE SITE

 

 
 
Lakshini Mendis_profile 1.jpg

Sci-Sites.com is exactly that.  By noting where she has been on her science filled trips, and asking others where they have been, Dr. Mendis has created an easily-accessible space to fit her goal.  This site includes guest posts about these places, so that you’re not going in blind — as well as suggests science related spaces for every continent. No matter where you’re going on vacation, Dr. Mendis is making it so you have no excuse to not add science into the mixture.

 

 

Another wonderful thing about Dr. Mendis’ site is that it aids in visibility for not only STEM, and STEM-related public spaces, but also for the scientists and employees involved.  By allowing guest posts, scientists who have worked for specific museums and other STEM-related places can bring awareness to those said areas, as well as to the work that they do for that specific place. 

 

It’s another way, that’s totally different and completely unique to the current world of Science Communication, to get the science communication ball rolling.  It’s a great way to get the entire family involved with STEM and the people directly involved in STEM fields in a fun and relatable way.

 
 

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.

Opinion: Let's Stop Taking Celebrity Advice on Health

By Andrew Campbell - Flickr

By Andrew Campbell - Flickr

 

TAKING CELEBRITY ADVICE ON HEALTH IS GETTING OUT OF HAND

Tom Brady is a hotshot celebrity NFL player, if you haven't heard of him before.  If you have heard of him, and watch the NFL to any extent, you either love him with a passion, or hate him with one.  So, as plenty of celebrities tend to do, Tom Brady recently came out with a book back in September.  (We're all talking about it now because he was in the Super Bowl this past season.)   The kicker?  It's not about his NFL career, or his family, or anything along those lines.  No -- it's about his diet.

 

That might be okay if it didn't try to go off about the 'science' behind what he eats, and how it lowers his PH balance, and help speed recovery to the body.

 

Vox.com covered this story, having spoke to scientists about Brady's health claims.  They asked Stuart Phillips, a professor in the department of kinesiology at McMaster University, about Brady's claim that his diet effects the PH balance (lowering it, specifically) in his body.  He told Vox:"It’s next to impossible — in fact, I can’t think of an instance — where people have been able to change their blood pH with diet.  So there’s zero foundation for the notion that alkaline and acid foods [are] able to do anything to your body.”

 

His anti-inflammatory diet (which, to be noted, is not bad in itself) doesn't speed his recovery as he claims, either.  At least, there's not scientific backing for that claim.  "I don’t know a morsel of new scientific knowledge [supporting] what Tom Brady would like for you, that his dietary practice is linked to his career longevity or his success as an athlete.” Phillips had continued with Vox.  They had asked others, too, who said that the only post-excerise diet that had been scientifically shown to speed body recovery is "is getting enough carbohydrates to replenish glycogen that’s been depleted after a workout, or protein to help with muscle building."

 

Tom Brady is Far From Being the Only Celebrity to Spread Pseudoscience On Health, And He's Not the Worst Either

 

As Vox explained, Tom Brady's diet is actually good for you (though it is a little on the extreme side), and if you were to follow his diet, you most likely wouldn't hurt yourself.  Though, it should be noted that any major diet change should be expressed to a doctor, because every diet effects everyone differently. The harm of following celebrity advice though, for reasons that are not based in science is a real issue however.

 

Take Gwyneth Paltrow, who we have discussed before. She is arguably the worst offender in spreading health pseudoscience in recent history.  The celebrity, probably known to most as playing Pepper Potts in recent years, has her own website in which is is constantly writing about the health benefits of stickers and putting external items into specific holes in your body (don't do this unless it has been recommended by your doctor).  When explaining her supposed science on these topics, she doesn't ever mention her supposed experts, and she has been known to block her critics on social media, which doesn't add any credibility to her.

 

Then take supposed celebrity doctors as Doctor Oz, who has been in court many times for advertising false claims, and you have a major problem on your hands.

 

This Common Problem Really Shouldn't Be One

 

You'd think it would be common sense not to listen to everything anyone spouts off.  You would also think it common sense to not blindly follow someone just because they are rich and you see them on your television all the time...  however.  This is where we run into this problem.  People blindly following their idols, the men and women they look up to because they seemed to have "made it".  So they must know what's going on!  They must have the best diet, fit for everyone.

 

The bottom line is that they don't.

 

People have a very hard time thinking for themselves in cases like this.  There is actually a diagnosable mental illness known as celebrity worship syndrome "Anxiety, depression, high stress levels, poor body image, isolation, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors: All of these have been linked to celebrity worship syndrome because the patient's energy is focused entirely on someone who may not even know who they are," Says Medical Daily.

 

This gives way for these celebrities, whether they mean to or not (and many of them do mean to in order to sell products) to hurt their fans.  Health claims that are not based in science are everywhere in our society, constantly.  It doesn't help in the least that some of these claims are being peddled by people who know that they have a very large following that will do anything they say, or buy anything that they promote.  People as a whole really need to stop looking to celebrity advice on maybe anything, but especially as far as health goes.

 

If you need health or diet advice, go visit your doctor. They have been medically trained in fields that these celebrity figures have not been.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

Crowdfunding for Science? Yes, Please!

neonbrand-258972-unsplash.jpg
 

Crowdfunding has proven to be an excellent way to get projects started and accomplished.  We need money to just about do everything in this world, and crowdfunding is a great way to get everyone involved in big projects that everyone can benefit from. In fact, according to a 2015 article in Forbes, studies have estimated that crowdfunding has raised over $34 billion (US) worldwide.

 

While crowdfunding is not a new concept, it wasn’t until the early 2000s where sites became available with the sole purpose of crowdfunding projects, consumer goods, charitable needs, and more.  Kiva, IndieGogo, and KickStarter are great ones you’ve probably heard of.

 

Most of these crowdfunding sites don’t have a particular, closed theme.  When you look at the selection of what you can support, they’re a bit all over the place.  Everything from music albums, to shoes, to public displays of artwork.  So, Eric Fisher had an idea.

 

 
7853DFDA-A9E7-11E6-9969-BA8ACE8206F8-image-e9bc4b27d3ebfe569efc158e2df06458cebed00784ea4e2f081c87399a41436c.png
 

 

Eric Fisher founded Labfundr in 2017.  His idea?  To create a crowdfunding website to host research undertakings and science projects.

 

Visit the site here!

 

Now, this isn’t the only crowdfunding site of its kind. In fact, as Fisher points out in his press release, similar sites exist in the US and in the UK.  However, there was an English-speaking country that didn’t have this provision yet.

 

Labfundr is Canadian based, and in its short life they’ve already begun to crowd fund with their small team of members.  They hope to continue to grow, and continue to help fund more and more research projects.

 

The types of campaigns that can be created on Labfundr include: Research projects, campaigns to cover travel expenses to conferences or training courseseducational outreach events, equipment purchases, and themed initiatives.

 

It’s completely free to create and launch a campaign, and to keep them going, they do charge a 9% fee on contributions, plus any credit card fees.

 

If you want to check it out, and maybe start a research project of your own funded by Labfundr, you can find out more about them 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 things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Does Climate Change Contribute to Depression, PTSD, and other Mental Health Problems?

createherstock-hey-curl-isha-gaines-copy-1000x500.jpg
 
Originally Posted April 4th, 2017

 

The American Psychological Association recently came out with a study suggesting that climate change is bad for our mental wellbeing, and can aid in developing mental illnesses such as depression and PTSD.

 

The study was paired with ecoamerica.org, a company that “builds institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate solutions in the United States”, as well as with Climate for Health, a “national initiative led by a diverse network of health leaders from across the health sector representing key health care, public health, clinical, and medical institutions and associations”.

 

This isn’t the first time this thought has been addressed, and it won’t be the last time.  “The mental health effects of climate change are gaining public attention,” says the study (page 21). “A 2016 government report (U.S. Global Change Research Program) reviewed a large body of research to summarize the current state of knowledge.”

 

This particular study separates the effects of climate change on mental health into two categories: acute impacts and chronic impacts.

 

The acute impacts are “immediate and severe psychological trauma,” according to the study.  These would be things like how a climate change-induced disaster may immediately create a toll for those who got hurt because of the impacts, who’s loved ones or loved pets got harmed as a result, or even property damage.

 

Because of these immediate impacts, though “for most people, acute symptoms of trauma and shock are reduced after conditions of security have been restored,” illnesses such as PTSD and depression can develop.  For instance, according to the study, one in six people who were affected by Hurricane Katrina (2005) have met the criteria needed to be diagnosed with PTSD.

 

The chronic impacts are sustained impacts such as the relationship between heat and aggression.  “Lab-based experiments and eld-based surveys have demonstrated a causal relationship between heat and aggression,” says the study. “In other words, as the temperature goes up, so does aggression.”

 

The rising heat has also been thought to deteriorate social communities.  Because being outside is uncomfortable in hot, sticky weather, people are more likely to stay indoors to be cool.  The more this happens, the more anti-social the human race as a whole can become.  A lack of social interaction has been shown to contribute to depression.

 

Are There Solutions?

 

Short of just solving negative climate change as a whole, there are some things that can be done.

 

The study suggests that mental health professionals become literate as to what’s going on with climate to better understand the impact it may have on their clients.  Individuals who are not mental health professionals are encouraged to have a safety plan for if and when a major weather disaster happens, and to learn “resilience interventions” (pages 53-55) to help themselves out as much as they possibly can.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

 

These "Beyond Curie" Posters are Perfect For Your Classroom

maybritt.png
 
Originally Posted February 27th, 2017

This design project headed by design strategist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is anincredible collection of 32 women who pioneered STEM fields in one way or another.  Beyond Curie is a project meant to bring light to these women, and while not ignoring the incredible feats that Marie Curie did herself, everyone knows who she is.  This project is meant to diversify the knowledge that students have of these incredible women, and every dollar that Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s Kickstarter makes beyond what production costs are will go toward the Association for Women in Science.

 

Who Exactly are the Women Included?

 

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s design project includes every woman who has ever won a Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine/Physiology, as well as 16 other women who brought their own dose of amazing to the science table.

 

Women noted include, but are not limited to, Lise Meitner, Mae Jemison, and Maryam Mirzakhani.  Each poster has a very unique design, meant to bring out what each scientist did in her work, as well as add some wonderful color to the classroom (or even your home if you so choose — forget those boy band posters!  Put these in your girl’s room).

 

What’s the Story Behind This Project?

 

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is the founder of The Leading Strand, an initiative built on the idea that scientists and designers need to be brought together in order to help the world better understand science in the first place.  Phingbodhipakkiya has applied the same principle behind her initiative to her poster project.

 

Phingbodhipakkiya became interested in neuroscience herself when she could no longer dance thanks to a severe injury she suffered from in college.  “I desperately wanted to understand why I couldn’t move as gracefully as I used to, and began studying the intricacies of how the nervous and musculoskeletal systems work together,” Phingbodhipakkiya told me.  When she began to study Alzheimer’s, and realized that the urgency of the work was not being properly displayed, that’s when she turned to design.

 

“I realized, as scientists, we needed to be better equipped to convey the vital urgency of our work.  I gained a new sense of purpose and made it my mission to learn how to use design to shine a light on science.”  And that lead to The Leading Strand.

 

When Phingbodhipakkiya approached me, I asked her what her inspiration behind the  Beyond Curie project was, specifically.  “Like many people, I was feeling pretty upset after the [US] election,” she told me. “and thinking a lot about how I could get more involved.”  That was when one of her friends, who worked on the Hillary Clinton campaign, told her to pick a cause that she cared deeply about and support it in a way that only she could.

 

“That’s what led me to do Beyond Curie,”  She said.  “I wanted to celebrate the rich history of women kicking [butt] in STEM fields, to show that our world was built by brilliant people, both male and female and of all backgrounds, and to inspire the next generation of young women to go into STEM fields.” -- Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya / The Verge / “When Design Meets Neuroscience”

 

How’s the Project Doing?

 

As it would seem, this project has been doing wonderfully.  Phingbodhipakkiya turned to Kickstarter to fund this project, and says she’s had a great turn out.  In fact, as of the writing of this article, people have given over $18K to the project, when the Kickstarter’s goal was only placed at $1,000.

 

“…It’s been great to have people sharing their ideas and stories,”  Phingbodhipakkiya said. “Many educators have reached out sharing how they’ll use the posters to inspire young women in their schools and events.”

 

And for those who are preparing to support the March for Science, she’s created posters just for that cause as well.

 

Beyond Curie has been featured on FastCompany Magazine, and in Global Citizen.

 

Where Can You Find Out More?

 

You can find the many more of the designs at her Kickstarter, which of the publishing of this article will have about 14 more days to go. Although her project has already been funded far over what was needed for the project to begin with.

 

“I think encouraging young people, especially young women, to go into STEM fields science is so important. And one way to do it is through stories.”  Phingbodhipakkiya has a wonderful TED Talk on this subject, located here and well worth a watch.

 

How about it teachers? Will you decorate your classroom with these? I want one for home.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

 

If You're not Watching Emily Graslie, You're Missing Out

emily.png
 

Emily Graslie, of YouTube’s The Brain Scoop, only has a little over 300,000 subscribers, and in this day-and-age of the internet, that isn’t a lot. However, she’s not lacking the viewers because her content isn’t great — it is great. Her educational content, backed up by the Chicago Field Museum, is something worthwhile. Educators on YouTube have made more strides to make the internet more than just jokes and cat videos, and Emily Graslie is one of the best out there.

 

Her channel started from very humble beginnings. Emily Graslie was discovered by Hank Green, a man who is known for his innovation on YouTube with the help of his brother. Hank Green visited a little museum in Montana called the “Phillip L. Wright Zoological Museum”, where Graslie volunteered. Green, who runs a vlog channel with his brother, recorded the experience and the tour Graslie gave him on camera for his viewers to see. Green was taken by Graslie’s comfort in front of the camera, and the loyal vlogbrothers subscribers loved her, too. Green began to back up Graslie in making a YouTube channel of her own, where she would be educating people on animals, taxidermy, and how museums were run. Soon enough, she was contacted by the Chicago Field Museum, and she was offered a job there.

 

Now, The Brain Scoop is run out of the Field Museum.

 

Nearly four years later, though, and not enough people have payed attention to the strides her channel is making. From encouraging young women to join in STEM fields, to keeping people up to date on scientific news (in her new segment called “the Natural News”), to using her time and energy to educate as many people as possible. I don’t think she’s getting the attention she deserves.

 

Before reaching the Field Museum, Graslie was worried she’d have to shut down the show. They weren’t receiving the funding they needed. A lack of viewers left them unable to pay the small team behind the camera, and even Graslie herself.

 

Some of the problem may lay with the fact that she wasn’t doing weekly videos. Even with a small team behind her, doing the editing and whatnot, it takes a lot of time and effort to come out with these videos. Between doing all the research, the shooting, the editing, and the processing, a small team can only handle so much. However, Graslie has stated recently that they will be back to making weekly videos soon, and hopefully this will help up their viewer count.

 

Graslie’s videos cover a wide range of topics that can appeal to many different audiences. She’s gone so far as to skin a wolf on camera for people to watch how taxidermy works. She also goes into more simple subjects, such as the difference between horns and antlers, that can appeal to younger viewers. She has humor thrown throughout to keep viewers entertained, and her quirky personality is something that’s enjoyed by all. She’s extremely intelligent, and she showcases this without being in your face about her knowledge. Her only goal is to educate people as much as she possibly can.

 

It should be noted that it’s not as though Graslie has gotten no attention for her channel. Early on in the channel’s life, she was featured on the Scientific American website for her work.

  “I mean …that’s pretty awesome,”  — Emily Graslie about being featured on Scientific American

 

She has even had the opportunity to give a TEDtalk (which you can view here), all about the value of curiosity — a topic she holds dear.

 

Considering the small size of her channel, it has done well, regardless. However, it still deserves more attention. The Brain Scoop proves to be everything education should be. Free, allowed to the public, easily accessible, fun, worthwhile, and engaging. If you enjoy learning and science, you’re really missing out if you’re not watching The Brain Scoop.

Originally Posted on LinkedIn by Mariah Loeber

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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