This article kicks off a new organizing threat “Tomorrow’s Earth” with an optimistic and correct editorial. Pointing out that 50 years ago Hardin published the “Tragedy of the Commons” (in Science), Berg lays out that today’s challenges can be traced back to those identified by Hardin. At that time, Donald Kennedy (then the editor) pointed out that the big question “is whether scientific evidence can successfully overcome social, economic, and political resistance.” That is our challenge! (As an example, the article “Enhanced photovoltage for inverted planar heterojunction perovskite solar cells” … )
Better understanding and communicating the history of our planet is key, and “Learning from past climatic changes” helps with this. The letters section including a big piece on ingenuity, looking at “Education for the future” – my take away was that there are a large number of new demands on the education system, but I don’t see a decrease in many of the “old/traditional” demands. This is a challenge for our schools and universities.
The psychology paper “Prevalence-induced concept change in human judgment” had an interesting conclusion that “social problems may seem intractable in part because reductions in their prevalence lead people to see [notice] more of them.”
The report on “Rising bedrock may delay ice sheet collapse” summarizing the research “Observed rapid bedrock uplift in Amundsen Sea Embayment promotes ice-sheet stability” was really interesting – the role of isostatic rebound of the Earth’s crust is pretty amazing! I learned all about it from Southeast Alaska but it makes sense as an issue in Antarctica.
The progress of the MeerKAT radio array and the implications for progress to the Square Kilmeter Array (SKA) is good to read about in “Observed rapid bedrock uplift in Amundsen Sea Embayment promotes ice-sheet stability“. The SKA is an amazing effort by society for science (radio astronomy in this case).
The cover article on Aztec human sacrifices “Feeding the Gods” was interesting and morbid. It reminded me of our visit to the catacombs in Paris.
The policy forum on “Combating deforestation: From satellite to intervention” was great but struck me as optimistic in this current time of the decline of U.S. scientific input to national policy and international engagement. The piece calls for “on the policy side, institution building, along with related civil-society engagement … to facilitate effective action within complex government frameworks.” I’m afraid we aren’t in a period of “institution building” – but hopefully we’ll survive this “creative destruction” (I’m not sure how creative it is…)
And finally, for some good, hardcore, physics nerding – “A precise extragalactic test of General Relativity.” Always good to confirm GR outside our galaxy on the kiloparsec scale!
This week was a less than typical issue for catching my interest. The news blurb on NASA priorities was good – the Pew Research Center survey and the interview w/ Bridenstine (NASA Administrator). The update on the status of the Baobab trees was sad: Africa’s strange, old baobab trees are dying (a Nature article, highlighted by Science). Update on the potential for the U.S. getting coordinated and funded for quantum research is hopeful. The article and insight on machine learning for imagery was also interesting.
As always, plenty of interesting stuff. What struck my interest in this week’s Science Magazine:
Mars stuff!! Nasa Curiosity rover hits organic pay dirt on Mars (News/summary section), Organic molecules on Mars (insights), Background levels of methane in Mars’ atmosphere show strong seasonal variations (neat, and so tantalizing!), Organic matter preserved in 3-billion-year-old mudstones at Gale crater, Mars.
Bees understand zero!?!? WOW! What a cool experimental design and interesting result! Numerical ordering of zero in honey bees. (“Bees demonstrated an understanding that parallels animals such as the African grey parrot, nonhuman primates, and even preschool children”)
Bonus: I have tracked male/female ratios in obituaries – something I take note of when I’m looking through. I’ve started to write down and share. This weeks obits in Science: 1 male, 0 female.
Lots of good stuff in this issue:
Katharine Hayhoe’s (@KHayhoe) has the lead off editorial that “Facts are not enough” – science is necessary, but not sufficient. Engaging with people and coming together rather than being divisive is needed.
In the news – great news about Mars rover’s drill reviewed. Bad news about the ABI instrument on GOES-17 having problems with the cooling system and making the daytime IR observations fail.
The Galaxy Builders talks about major improvements in galaxy simulations – cool! And then at a smaller scale, the update on planetary science about “Dunes across the Solar System” describes the New Horizon observations that “Pluto joins Earth, Mars, Venus, Titan, and perhaps even the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerismenko demonstrating that the mobilization and self-organization of granular material into dunes occur throughout the Solar System.”
From the academic world, policy forum looks at graduate education with “Student-centered, modernized graduate STEM education” describing “central to the success of this plan will be a readjustment of the incentives that drive so many attitudes and behaviors throughout the graduate education system.” Lots of work remains!
A very sad update on “U.S. budget targets fish and wildlife work” that the cooperative research units (CRUs) are getting removed from the President’s budget request.
“The effect of partisanship and political advertising on close family ties” is an interesting look at “politically divided families” and the impact on the length of thanksgiving dinner!
Finally, “Ancient genomes from Iceland reveal the making of a human population” confirms what we heard on our recent visit to Iceland – about 1100 years ago, many Scandinavian men went to Ireland and “found” (“borrowed”?) Irish women (princesses?) for their wives and then went to Iceland. Interesting genomic study!
I was most taken by the news this week – Sweden cancels Elsevier contract (public access to science!) and New head for DOE science (congrats to Chris Fall on the nomination). The B612 update on planetary defense was also interesting to see.
My personal highlights from the May 18, 02018 Science Magazine.
The big change in scientific publishing is still not resolved. A good update from the AI community. “Boycott highlights AI’s publishing rebellion”
A rigorous look at what the difference between 1.5C and 2C in global warming means for species: “The projected effect on insects, vertebrates, and plants of limiting global warming to 1.5C rather than 2C” “When warming is limited to 15C as compared with 2C, numbers of species project to lose >50% of their range are reduced by ~66% in sects and by ~50% in plants and vertebrates.” Let’s get our act together!
My dad passed away from glioblastoma two years ago, so I was especially interested in the “Anatomical transcriptional atlas of a human glioblastoma” research report. While the paper describes a fantastic new resource for researchers, I did note that they found “… insufficient statistical power for analysis of this mutation…” and “We did not identify any mutation … that predicted overall survival better than..” However – “This atlas and the associated database .. will serve as a useful platform for developing and testing new hypotheses related to the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of glioblastoma.” Great work of building a foundation to move forward!
The cognitive psychology report (“Efficient coding explains the universal law of generalization in human perception” was a good piece about a new approach to understanding how generalization is done – with measurable predictions about how this approach is better.)
In a great, pure awesome geology piece (quite readable!), Myrow et al describe “Rapid sea level rise in the aftermath of a Neoproterozoic snowball Earth” in which they analyze thoroughly a sedimentary structure in Australia to determine sea level rise rates of 20 -27 cm / years. YOWZA! The detailed description of the geological analysis to determine that is amazing.
Finally, the plasma physics analysis of waves modes in an insterstellar cloud in “Magnetic seismology of interstellar gas clouds: Unveiling a hidden dimension” was really cool. I mean, who doesn’t love some good magnetohydrodynamic analysis of a ~10 parsec structure that is about 150-200 parsecs away from us, to determine that it isn’t actually a cylindrical cloud as had been assumed – but because of the observed plasma wave normal modes, it must be a flat sheet like cloud. Awesome!
And of course, the better measurement of the neutron lifetime done here at LANL is reported in this issue.
Also, there is really depressing news that NASA is canceling the carbon monitoring research program.
A packed issue with plenty to read.
The challenge of privacy and personalized medicine was the highlight this week – and it is a thorny problem with no easy resolution. The editorial “Global data meet EU rules” and the Policy Forum on “Scrutinizing the EU General Data Protection Regulation” were the most compelling articles this week. Others were interesting, but didn’t grab my full attention.
The data/privacy issue was also recently highlighted on NPR’s Science Friday.
Gaia ESA data trove released – 1.3 billion stars! I’m really intrigued by this data release. I’d love to carve a little time to see about digging into it.
Robotic weather balloon launchers in AK – Some tensions related to automated atmospheric profiling by robotic weather balloon launchers. Cool technology, but workforce and expertise impacts.
A few interesting quantum entanglement articles.
(Note: I decided to start my personal weekly highlights from Science Magazine – simply to add a bit of discipline on trying to keep up with the important news vs the political noise (see the Long Now’s Pace Layer thinking blog). I also am partly experimenting with evolving my relationship with social media – so this feeds to twitter automatically. I value the networking aspect of social media, but not the noise and intrusiveness – in part this is an experiment in trying to find the balance for myself. Feel free to play along!)
(p.s. This is the time for biology, and while I love all the beautiful molecular diagrams – definitely art! – I’m a physicist, so almost every week there is a bit too much bio for my tastes – my bias will show, I’m sure, so I might as well acknowledge it! And then, if I highlight a bio item, it must really be broadly interesting.. 😉