All Posts Tagged With: "science"
Environmental adviser misrepresented credentials
When Maurice Dusseault heard the news, his reaction was, “Dammit, dammit, dammit. That shouldn’t happen.” Louis LaPierre—then chair of New Brunswick’s new Energy Institute, where he was Dusseault’s colleague, and an esteemed scientist—had lied about his Ph.D. in ecology. In revelations that have shocked the scientific community, it turns out that LaPierre, who received the Order of Canada last year for his environmental conservation work, doesn’t have such a degree. Instead, he has a Ph.D. in education with a focus on the environment. He lied about his master’s degree, too—it’s in environmental education, not wildlife ecology.
LaPierre has refused interviews since he first told Radio-Canada a mix-up in his resumé accounted for the false claim that he received a doctorate from the University of Maine. But last week, he issued a statement admitting he “misrepresented” his credentials.
LaPierre was already at the centre of New Brunswick’s debate over how—or if—the province should develop its shale gas reserves. His 2012 report on the topic helped shaped the government’s plans to allow exploratory drilling. He recommended the province establish an energy institute to provide independent scientific input on public policy decisions over energy resources and, earlier this year, the government picked LaPierre to chair the new body. He resigned the position last week.
Protesters want evidence-based policies
OTTAWA – Hundreds of frustrated scientists clad in their telltale white lab coats descended Monday on Parliament Hill to demand that the Harper government stop muzzling scientists and cutting research funding.
“What do we want? Evidence-based decision-making!” chanted the protesters as they gathered in the shadow of the Peace Tower, complaining about what they see as the government’s efforts to commercialize research.
The very fact that such a typically apolitical group felt the need to make their voices heard speaks volumes, said Jeremy Kerr, a biology professor at the University of Ottawa.
“As a commentary on the state of affairs, when people like me start showing up wearing their lab coats having come from their laboratories, things are pretty bleak,” Kerr told the crowd.
The fundamental message is “simplicity itself,” Kerr said: “Sound policy needs sound science.”
“The facts do not change just because the Harper government has chosen ignorance over evidence and ideology over honesty.”
SickKids to bring 2,000-plus scientists under one roof
TORONTO – Light pours in from gracefully curving windows that soar three storeys above the floor, illuminating clusters of comfy couches in a space that soon will be humming with the voices of scientists. It’s a place to chat over coffee, trade details of their latest research and hopefully light the spark of medical discovery.
The lofty space is part of one of several “neighbourhoods” in Sick Kids’ new research tower in downtown Toronto, which will bring together the venerable hospitals’ 2,000-plus scientists under one roof after decades of being scattered in five different locations.
More than 10 years in the planning and construction, the 21-storey Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning officially opens Sept. 17, a mere few minutes walk from the hospital renowned for the invention of Pablum and the discovery of the genes behind Duchenne muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis.
StatsCan expects feds to drop $10.5 billion
Statistics Canada says the federal government is expected to spend less on science and technology in the coming year.
The federal agency says spending for the 2013-14 fiscal year is expected to decrease 3.3 per cent from the previous period to $10.5 billion.
It adds research and development is expected to account for two-thirds of anticipated science and technology spending.
The finding is contained in Statistics Canada’s annual survey of all federal government departments and agencies believed to be performing or funding science and technology activities.
The survey, released Tuesday, covers the period from Sept. 10, 2012 to Jan. 11, 2013.
Statistics Canada says spending on science and technology has been steadily decreasing since 2009-10.
Prof. Pettigrew on students ditching STEM
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal seems awfully disappointed in America’s science students, zinging would-be science grads for switching majors when they learn that science and math are hard.
The Journal cites a new paper that looks at data from Berea College which does, indeed, find that science disciplines tend to be the ones that university students switch out of, not into. Their results accord with my own anecdotal sense: many students start in science but find that it’s not for them and change to the arts or what have you. Moreover, in my experience, few arts students have much academic interest in science per se—and many of them actively fear mathematics—so few students switch into science. This, more or less, is borne out by the numbers in this particular study, for, as the authors conclude:
We find that students enter college as open to a major in science as to any other major, but that relatively few students finish school with science as their outcome. This occurs because, relative to other majors, students are both more likely to leave science (if they started in science) and are less likely to change into science (if they started in a major other than science).
Ontario offers support
The Ontario government says it has found common ground with the federal government and other partners to keep a world-famous experimental research area open in the northwestern part of the province.
The province says it will provide operating support and work toward an agreement so the “important science” conducted in the Environmental Lakes Area near Kenora can continue.
The remote region of 58 pristine lakes has been used since the late 1960s for groundbreaking freshwater studies.
Government accused of not sharing environmental research
Federal policies that restrict what government scientists can say publicly about their work are about to be put under the microscope.
Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault has agreed to investigate how government communications rules on taxpayer-funded science impact public access to information.
Legault is responding to a detailed complaint lodged by the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and the ethics advocacy group Democracy Watch.
Their lengthy report — “Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy?” — laid out repeated examples of taxpayer-funded science being suppressed or limited to pre-packaged media lines across six different government departments and agencies.
Science Guy’s talk sells out at University of Ottawa
Bill Nye the Science Guy, star of the eponymous children’s television show that aired from 1993 to 1998, drew what organizers say was the biggest crowd for an event held by University of Ottawa students in nearly four decades.
Elementary school kids, university students and others packed the Ottawa Convention Centre’s biggest room on Thursday evening and listened to the 57-year-old man tell science jokes, personal stories and plead with them to fight climate change and make a difference in the world.
Nye began with the story of his father, who was a prisoner of war in China during World War Two. To tell how much time he spent in the camp, Nye’s dad used a shovel as a sundial. That story was passed down from father to son, and so the science guy became obsessed with sundials, developing what he jokingly called SOD (Sundial Obsessive Disorder). Because of this fascination, he started two projects. MarsDial created three sundials for rovers that were flown to the red planet. The second project, EarthDial, is a program that allows people all over the world to make sundials and learn about astronomy, the scientific method, “and our place among the stars.”
Research could help solve mystery of universe’s origin
Construction has begun on a new radio telescope in British Columbia’s south Okanagan that will act like a type of time machine and help astrophysicists travel back to better understand the composition of our expanding universe.
The $11-million project is being built at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory southwest of Penticton, B.C., and will use components from the cellphone industry to capture and turn radio waves emitted six to 11 billion years ago into a three-dimensional map.
It’s the first research telescope built in Canada in more than three decades and includes scientists from the observatory, the University of British Columbia, McGill University and the University of Toronto.
“It’s almost like time travel,” said Kris Sigurdson, an astrophysicist from UBC and co-investigator on the project. “It’s looking back into the past and how the universe was at that time and it’s just amazing.”
“Spaun” learns patterns and uses new knowledge
A team led by a scientist at the University of Waterloo has created the world’s largest functional brain model and it’s the first to cross “the brain-behaviour gap,” Prof. Chris Eliasmith tells Canada.com. “Spaun” can learn patterns and then uses that new knowledge to answer questions. The team’s research was published Thursday in Science. Tenille Bonoguore of Waterloo communications explains more:
Spaun uses only its brain to understand images it sees, and “move” its virtual arm. In short, it uses the same processes that your brain does to pick up a cup of coffee.
“It has been interesting to see the reactions people have had to Spaun. Even seasoned academics have not seen brain models that actually perform so many tasks. Models are typically small, and focus on one function,” says Eliasmith, who is jointly appointed to the departments of philosophy and systems design engineering, and cross-appointed to computer science at the University of Waterloo.
On the legacy of race researcher Philippe Rushton
Over the past couple of weeks, academics were discussing the death of Western University’s Phillipe Rushton, a professor perhaps not familiar to many of today’s students, but who was, for a little while, among the most hated men in Canada.
Until the late 1980s Rushton had been a reasonably well-respected psychologist whose work on altruism was frequently cited. But then, he published a series of papers claiming that the three main human racial groups—whites, blacks, and Asians—could be grouped according to a wide range of racial traits, including intelligence and various sexual characteristics, with whites typically falling between blacks and Asians.
Not surprisingly, many took Rushton’s theories as thinly-veiled, or, indeed, not-at-all-veiled racism. They saw his essential claim as being that blacks were inherently inferior to whites, and many called for the psychologist’s resignation. At one point, Rushton was required to teach his courses by video to prevent on-campus unrest.
Curiosity photos compiled into neat video
NASA’s Curiosity Rover is impressive. It has been remotely controlled from earth and managed to cut through rocks with it’s laser. But until now, we were mostly watching it through still photos. Check out this video that someone put together using photos from its descent to the red planet:
Aquatron laboratory will test cleanliness of ballast water
Jane Gerster, The Canadian Press
Dalhousie University is working on a system to test the cleanliness of ballast water, the only such facility in Canada, just as new regulations could be introduced that would govern what ships could discharge at ports around the world.
The Aquatron laboratory is scheduled to conduct its first tests of ballast water at the Halifax school later this month.
“We have to imitate a ship taking on ballast and then we hold the water so that represents transit of the ship going somewhere,” said John Batt, the manager of the research facility. “Then we test the water on a de-ballast.”
Batt said water will be pumped through a control system and a ballast water management system separately. The results will then be compared and the tests will be repeated with different salt water levels.
Scores range from 36 in Sierra Leone to 86 in South Pacific
The health of the world’s oceans has been assessed on a country-by-country basis for the first time. Overall, they got the passing grade of 60 out of 100. Canada’s received 70. The international team behind the list included University of British Columbia fisheries experts. From UBC:
The team undertook the first global quantitative assessment of ocean health and created the Ocean Health Index (http://oceanhealthindex.org), published today in the journal Nature. To calculate the overall score, ecological, social, economic, and political conditions were evaluated for every coastal nation in the world.
The scores for individual countries ranged widely: from Sierra Leone, with a failing scores of 36, to Jarvis Island, an uninhabited, relatively pristine island in the South Pacific, with the highest scores of 86.
Canada is among the top performers with a score of 70 while the U.S. received 63 and the U.K. received 62.
Hundreds protest on Parliament Hill
Hundreds of scientists donned in black made a sober march to Parliament Hill today, where they gathered to mourn the ‘death’ of something they knew well and loved: evidence.
Ottawa scientists organized the protest, which was orchestrated to look like a funeral, to oppose was what they say is a deliberate campaign by the federal government campaign to reduce the capacity of federal institutions to collect evidence and bring it forward to inform citizens.
They were provoked by the elimination of the mandatory long-form census last year, and recent closure of a laboratory that monitors climate change in Nunavut.
Organizer Katie Gibbs told the CBC that regardless of political ideology, the importance of facts is something all Canadians should agree to preserve:
“Regardless of the decisions that the government decides to make, our democracy depends on an informed public.”
Two new Thiel Fellows are Canadian
The Thiel Foundation announced its second class of 20 Under 20 on Tuesday. The 20 new Thiel Fellows, all 19 or younger on Dec. 31, will each get $100,000 to pursue innovative scientific and technical projects, along with guidance from tech entrepreneurs, investors and scientists.
Billionaire Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, created the fellowships because he believes university and governments aren’t the only routes to innovation.
“Pundits and hand-wringers love to claim that universities are the only path to a successful life. In truth, an inquisitive mind, rigorously applied to a deep-rooted problem can change the world as readily as the plushest academic lab,” Thiel said.
“In 1665 when Cambridge University closed due to the plague, Isaac Newton used his time away to pursue self-directed learning and ended up inventing calculus,” he added.
This prof eschews flash-bang demos (but he is into peeballs)
Students are instructed to write their resumes.
“A large part of my role as a teacher,” says Lucy, “is not just teaching the subject, but teaching what the opportunities are and where to find them.”
Lucy is known for his research in chemical analysis. But he’s also known for helping students connect chemistry to their future careers. That’s one reason he won a 3M National Teaching Fellowship. On Campus is profiling the winners.
Without summer jobs in chemistry, Lucy might never have become interested in the field.
Tom Harris dismisses 142 “corrections”
A group of scientists has released a report condemning a Carleton University professor who taught a course centred on the idea that climate change is not caused by human emissions.
Tom Harris taught Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective to mostly second-year non-science students between 2009 and 2011.
The Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism says in its report entitled Climate Change Denial in the Classroom that Harris hosted speakers who argued that climate change is not caused by humans but hosted “no scientist speaking to the generally accepted consensus.”
Canadian university researchers among international team
Two teams of nearly 3,000 scientists from around the world, including researchers from 10 Canadian universities, announced this week a new milestone in the hunt for the Higgs boson, a particle that explains the existence of mass.
Scientists at the CERN Physics Research Centre in Geneva, Switzerland presented evidence on Dec. 13 pointing to the existence of the Higgs boson, coined the “God particle” by the American Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman.
The teams worked independently for 21 months inside the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator, to re-create the conditions at the time of the creation of the universe—the Big Bang. The experiments produced the same results: scientists determined that the Higgs boson has a mass between 128 and 525 gigaelectron volts, in the lower regions of the energy field.
The researchers are quick to point out that the news another step in the process, not a definitive discovery. Still, University of Toronto physicist Robert Orr tells the Toronto Star we owe a lot to the elusive Higgs boson: “The whole world we live in is based on the science of electromagnetism. Our whole society has evolved from that: iPads, cameras, lights, computers.”
Meet JoVE. It’s peer-reviewed. It’s indexed. And it’s fun.
Are you tired of reading textbooks and journal articles? Imagine if you could research your lab report or learn an experimental technique by watching a YouTube video.
I just learned that you basically can, thanks to the Journal of Visualized Experiments. It’s like YouTube, except you’re not watching videos of kittens playing patty cake or people doing stupid stuff with trampolines. JoVE publishes peer-reviewed research just like any other academic journal, but in video format. It’s even indexed in PubMed Central, which is the Google of biochemical and life sciences research. At five-years old, JoVE may be the only journal of its kind. But one can imagine there will soon be more like it.