Tag: scientific literacy

This remarkable visualization by @ed_hawkins on climate change is pretty convincing.


By Ed Hawkins.

In a way, this comic nicely encapsulates some of the challenges with science communication (via @beatonna)



By Kate Beaton.

In a way, this is the scientific method distilled wonderfully in 6 panels.


By David Malki (Wondermark), hat tip to Matthew Francis.

Pretty sure this is the “peer reviewed” article with the most swear words ever.


“The International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology, a predatory open-access journal, has accepted for publication the marvelously titled paper “Get me off Your Fucking Mailing List.” According to Scholarly Open Access, researchers David Mazières and Eddie Kohler first prepared the manuscript in 2005, to protest spam conference invitations.”

Here’s a link to the actual paper (and back up link).

And this here, has to be the best figure EVER:


Via (including text) io9.com

Brilliant BRILLIANT Doonesbury on climate change.


By Garry Trudeau, via Washington Post

Scientists say the Joint Review Panel Report that approves the Northern Gateway Project is flawed and ignores science.


It would appear that our (Canadian) Government is poised to once again abhor evidence based decision making. Here, scientists have looked over the Joint Review Panel Report that is being used to push forward the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. In essence, they conclude (and for full disclosure, I am one of the signatories) that it “has so many systemic errors and omissions, we – the 300 signatories – can only consider it a failure.”

What are these flaws you ask? Well, the core problems have been outlined in a press release (see below for full press release), and are as follows:

1. The JRP failed to consider important impacts, such as the increased greenhouse gas emissions that could result from oils sands development and burning Northern Gateway oil products in Asia

2. The JRP reached conclusions contradicting the government’s own scientific evidence, including risks to large whales and other marine species.

3. The JRP unjustifiably dismissed the uncertain risks posed by diluted bitumen spills at sea as unimportant risks.

4. The JRP relied on an oil spill response plan that is not yet developed

5. The JRP relied on information from the proponent, without external evaluation.

6. The JRP failed to adequately articulate the rationale for its findings.

The open letter sent to the Prime Minister and asking him to reject the JRP panels can be viewed in full here. The report for the JRP can be downloaded here.

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I have to say that this continued anti-science behaviour from the Canadian Government is so devastating that I feel like the Harper Government now deserves its own meme: hence the silly meme above that is not only animated, but depicts the seriousness of the situation with an elevated facepalm category- the MEGAFACEPALM. Please share widely. (Note: a high quality animated gif can be found here).

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The full press release (June 3rd):


300 Scientists Denounce the Joint Review Panel Report
Their letter asks Prime Minister to reject JRP findings

Vancouver, BC (Tuesday, June 3, 2014) – Scientists from across Canada are asking Prime Minister Harper to reject the findings of the Joint Review Panel (JRP) in the federal decision to approve or reject the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.

In a letter to the Prime Minister signed by 300 scientists from several nations, including fellows of the Royal Society and Order of Canada holders, they say the JRP’s recommendation to approve the oil sands pipeline was based on a “flawed analysis of the risks and benefits to B.C.’s environment and society.”

“The JRP report has so many systemic errors and omissions, we—the 300 signatories—can only consider it a failure,” says UBC associate professor Kai Chan, who led the initiative with SFU assistant professor Anne Salomon and UBC professor Eric Taylor.

“The report does not provide the guidance the federal government needs to make a sound decision for Canadians about the Northern Gateway Project,” Chan says.

The scientists express concerns the Panel omitted important impacts and considered unbalanced, and in some cases, biased evidence that led to a faulty conclusion in its recommendation that Northern Gateway be approved. The JRP assessment, they say:

· Failed to consider important impacts, such as the increased greenhouse gas emissions that could result from oils sands development and burning Northern Gateway oil products in Asia

· Reached conclusions contradicting the government’s own scientific evidence, including risks to large whales and other marine species.

· Unjustifiably dismissed the uncertain risks posed by diluted bitumen spills at sea as unimportant risks.

· Relied on an oil spill response plan that is not yet developed

· Relied on information from the proponent, without external evaluation.

· Failed to adequately articulate the rationale for its findings.

The scientists also point to the Panel’s failure to provide an explanation of how it had reached its conclusions, especially the central one, that the project’s benefits justify its risks and costs.

Download the full letter here: http://chanslab.ires.ubc.ca/?attachment_id=2632 (English) http://chanslab.ires.ubc.ca/?attachment_id=2633 (French)

For More Information, Please Contact:

Kai Chan, Associate Professor, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, UBC: 778-839-9820, kai.chan@ubc.ca

Anne Salomon, SFU Assistant Professor, Resource & Environmental Management, SFU

Rick Taylor, Professor, Zoology, UBC: 604-822-9152, etaylor@zoology.ubc.ca

This is bloody brilliant. “What will climate deniers say after environmental catastrophe strikes?”

Sad, but brilliant, because I fear it’s spot on.

Tom the Dancing Bug

By Rubin Bolling, via Boing Boing.

A decidedly scientific way of thinking (that of course, needs to be tested) #funny by @JimBenton


By Jim Benton. Via reddit.

Joke paper on effect of real versus placebo parachute use whilst jumping out an airplane

To quote:

“As with many interventions intended to prevent ill health, the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation by using randomised controlled trials. Advocates of evidence based medicine have criticised the adoption of interventions evaluated by using only observational data. We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.”


Download the pdf here.

Brilliant cartoon commentary on climate change issues by Kudelka

The top one, in particular, is brilliant.





By Jon Kuldelka (you can also buy prints of these at the link).

Wonderful short video on quantum computers. Great discussion segue on the unknown, on science, and on inspiration.

Video by Google, produced by Lorraine Yurshansky

Some people think scientists exclaim “EUREKA,” but… #truth #funny (by @Twisteddoodles)


By twisteddoodles, available for purchase here.

One academic, out of the 9136 published in recent peer reviewed climate change research, rejects man made global warming.

And that’s just for all papers published from November 2012 to December 2013.


To quote: “I have brought my previous study (see here and here) up-to-date by reviewing peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals over the period from Nov. 12, 2012 through December 31, 2013. I found 2,258 articles, written by a total of 9,136 authors. (Download the chart above here.) Only one article, by a single author in the Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, rejected man-made global warming. I discuss that article here.”

By James Powell.

So what is this science literacy thing anyway? #scio14

O.K. Just in the preliminary stages of thinking a bit more about how I might want to moderate my session at the upcoming Science Online Together 2014 conference #scio14. For now, I just wanted to make sure I reprint my pitch (from here), so that I have it on popperfont.


“Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about “science literacy. A small part of this is because I’m trying to write a book on this very topic: a bigger part is because I’ve discovered that thinking about such things turns out to be far easier than writing about such things.

Anyway, what I (and many others) have surmised is that the concept of science literacy is very much a moving target. What you think it is, what the general public assumes it to be, and what academics make of it, tends to vary significantly. Benchmarks will differ enormously if you query a scientist, a farmer, an artist, a teacher, or even that family member of yours that can’t help but tune out whenever we science types open our mouths.

Part of the problem is that science literacy always sounds uncomfortably vague, like something you’re pretty sure you’re familiar with, but then on closer examination, realize that maybe you’re not. It’s a bit like asking someone whether they know what a computer is: they’ll always say yes, but ask yourself – do they really? It also doesn’t help that the concept itself is always in a state of relentless change – which has a lot to do with information ecosystems, with media challenges, with shifting science culture, and also (unfortunately) because of the subversive activities from the likes of L.P.W.L.T.B.L.’s (loud people who like to be loud), P.W.S.P.O.M.I.’s (people with strong political or monetary interests), and of course, the D.C.D.s (dangerously clueless douchebags).

And as if this doesn’t already sound a little hopeless, it turns out that plenty of research is suggesting that our biology is not very good at thinking scientifically anyway! So how about a session that digs a little deeper into all of this science literacy stuff? And also what our community tends to think about it? It seems to me something that could be quite interesting, possibly a bit eye opening for some, therapeutic for others, obviously interactive and in the best case scenario, useful overall. Useful, because ultimately, it’s not a bad way to piece together a big picture, and illustrate the nuances involved (it is a moving target afterall), all with a mind to help us understand why and how we might want to communicate science.”

More on this later, but for now – game on!

Periodic Table of Elements as Christmas Advent Calendar

Just a heads up: Popperfont is going to take a bit of a break until the New Year, but over at the Science Creative Quarterly, we have our Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza thing still in progress. Do check it out by visiting scq.ubc.ca, and by clicking the elements!


Students Try to Speak to a Federal Scientist. They Fail. On the Muzzling of Canadian Science.

What if there was a non-political research project that involved a collaboration between NASA scientists and Environment Canada scientists? How easy would it be for a journalist to talk to the scientists involved?

It turns out it would take only 15 minutes for something to be arranged with NASA. With Environment Canada, however, it would take the activities of 11 media relations people, sending over 50 pages of internal emails, before a list of irrelevant information was finally sent back – all of this long after the deadline had passed. This is what happened to journalist Tom Spears in April 2012.

With this, this Terry Podcast episode asks a simple question: If it was this difficult to get interviews for a positive science story, what would happen if a journalist needed to actually ask some tough questions? Please take a listen as this episode of the Terry Podcast examines the relationship between media and Canadian Government scientists, and questions whether the Harper government has politicized science.

Please listen and share:

RSS | MP3 | iTunes | Smartphone App 
CiTR 101.9FM: Every Other Wednesday, 1PM |

Via The Terry Project

This is for people who don’t think Nature Deficit Disorder is a thing & don’t think folks are disconnected from biodiversity.





And, yes, even this.


Via Buzzfeed.

You know it’s all good, when you have to read Wookiee research papers. Wookienomics: it’s a thing… #starwars


Note: eventually, some of these (I suspect) will be published in full at the Science Creative Quarterly.

The 2013 Candy Hierarchy



Click on the image for larger graphic.

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– We suggest photocopying at 129% – LTR to 11×17 –

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The “Candy Hierarchy” represents a thoroughly authoritative attempt to scientifically measure and classify Halloween Candy by assessing “joy induction.” More or less. Since 2006, Cohen and Ng have curated these rankings as an ongoing longitudinal study, one which reassesses itself through the use of the newest technologies (often teeth and jaws) and robust scientific peer review (comments). This article therefore presents the latest rankings with insight into the complex cultural underpinnings of “sweet” things. Specific notes of interest are two fold: (1) the emergence of a child-centric sucro-fructo-tastic gummi/chewy/taffi layer into the upper strata and (2) the recent prominence of corporatized corn fructose agents potentially, but we doubt it, influencing the hierarchy. Speaking of corporate influence, we are proud to be sponsored by Sweetum’s this year. Sweetums!: When fructose jitters can’t wait, try Sweetums, an American delight! In conclusion, these findings continue to demonstrate the enormous challenge in monitoring the constantly changing landscape of candy joy induction. Except, of course, for Whoppers – Whoppers still blow. And, good god, if I get one more box of Nerds. They’re gone. It’s done. Boom. Drop the mic.

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This year, we had money. Gobs of money. Like lots and lots. If Everlasting Gobstoppers were money and not gobs used to stop things, we would be that. So much money it was crazy town for a while. It’s like, this year for Halloween we’re not going to be giving out Toblerone; we’re going to be giving out 3D printers that make Toblerone. But don’t let’s get all braggy. Our point is this: we got big cash and we did fancy research.

And what did this research look like? Well, all sorts of scientific things—things like booking time at CERN to collide candy corn and chocolate bars together in an attempt to explain why some fundamental particles (bodies) have (more) mass; things like using next gen sequencing methodologies to elucidate the genetic variation within populations of same-flavored and different-flavored Starbursts; things like setting up a Dancing-with-the-Stars-like competition where we had animated FTIR machines (which we printed with our disposable 3D printers) spit out competing glucose fingerprint codes to see which danced the best. Was most of this wasted time, effort, and money? Sure, maybe…the CERN data showed that colliding candy together at high speeds resulted in smaller bits of candy (intriguing); the Starburst genome project essentially suggested that Starbursts don’t, in fact, have genomes (curious); and it’s not clear that Dancing FTIR thing even made sense. But it’s not for us to decide the findings’ value. That’s what the peer community is for. Who knows how this knowledge might one day be applied? Besides, the stuffed coats at Sweetum’s tell us we can’t actually make the good data public until Sal in marketing vets it. I think this discussion is supposed to be redacted, actually. Rob, can you go check on that before this runs?

Regardless, we can state this: lo and behold, this year’s hierarchy reveals a bi-modal fracturing at the top strata. Previous rankings had found chocolate dominance at the top. The new hierarchy reflects discoveries made in the last year whereby some kids don’t think chocolate is top tier. Seemed like bullshit at first—because, really? Non-chocolate? But data don’t lie. So check out the graphic above.

Know what else? After years of failed get-it-right fast schemes, in this scheme we got it right. And fast. With some methodological retooling, more data sets, further research, and hundreds of additional peer review comments, the hierarchy is now entirely correct. There will be no need for comments. You can turn the internet off now. Yes yes, we said that last year, and the numerous years before. But that was before Twitter was big so nobody really read this. People always say they’re super confident, and you can never believe them, and don’t ever trust who ever acts like they’re one hundred percent certain. It’s just, if someone says something is entirely correct, you have to be a bit skeptical, right? But this time we are one hundred percent confident; this hierarchy is entirely correct. Why? Because of that corporate sponsorship. That’s why we’re proud to thank Sweetum’s Good Times High Fructosery for funding this year’s hierarchy. Sweetum’s, the quicker picker upper. Anyway, the scientific process is largely structured by corporate mechanisms and economic considerations, we’re told. Scientific research is underwritten by commitments to those problems our funders deem worthy of study. Right? And so here we are. Lots of sugar. Eventual diabetes. Meager dentistry. Yum.

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1. Because like, score! (Bcsizemo, 2010)

2. a.k.a. God’s Candy

3. These may be rolled to a friend.

4. Not sure if this should be included. Systematics are still on going – denomination appears to be key.

5. Like that fish you’ve seen on television. You know – the one which looks like it can breathe air and stuff.

6. Appropriate ranking may depend entirely on date of purchase versus date of opening. Experts in this field often refer to this dichotomy as “fresh CCE” versus “stale CCE,” or FCCE versus SCCE (Beschizza, 2011). Note that its interior has also been described as “pustulent.” (Petersen, 2010)

7. Sometimes spousal influence forces these placements as with, ahem, this primarily southern delicacy.

8. Blame the children on this one, Canadian children too. Also, sponsored by Sweetums (“Sweetums!: When fructose jitters can’t wait, try Sweetums, an American delight!”) whose corporate dollars may or may not be messing with your heads.

9. Always a contentious subject with a rich history of controversy. Briefly: Candy Corn, as of 2006, remained unclassified, but as of 2007 had been tentatively placed in the Upper Chewy/Upper Devonian. 2008: no sighting. This year, we have elected to place in a new tier, although what this means exactly has yet to be determined.

10. Includes comparable Commonwealth version of “Smarties.” (Devo, Legionabstract, gadgetgirl et al, 2011)

11. Although has also been classified as packing material (Cunning, 2010)

12. Placed solely to acknowledge, make fun of, and possibly undermine British opinions. Google it, but be careful when you google it (2012).

13. This is from EU pressure, known in diplomatic circles as the “Hornby Concession” (see his many footnotes from the 2012 version).

14. In which we acknowledge the complex underpinnings of this here Candy ranking exercise: apparently, the wrapper of the Ferrero Roche gets a higher ranking than the candy itself (due to high artwork potential). (Son of Anthrodiva 2012)

15. Whoppers blow.

16. The authors are curious as to which neighborhoods you belong to.

17. Also a hot mess of debate. Not to be confused with hot messes involving actual persons named “Mary Jane.” (Girard, franko, lexicat, Easton, Petersen, Halloween_Jack, 2012)

18. The discontinued candy, not the equally rankable discontinued board game.

19. Oh smack, can you even imagine if you got Fritos?

20. You know, we don’t even know what this is, but, hell, your sister marries an Australian, they have a kid, now you’ve got a niece, and you want a nice life for her, you want her to have a stake in the hierarchy, so okay, Aussie Lollies — Picnic bars, cherry ripe, Frys Turkish delight, probably something Chazzwozzer-based too, knock yourself out.

21. In a word, surreal… Plus grandpas with eyepatches always make everything better. Pretty sure, this is reproducible. (Gyrofrog, petertrepan, Koerth-Baker, Olsen 2012)

22. By some accounts, these two are actually one and the same (Gadgetgirl, 2010)

23. Yet some would be just as well to be left off. Bit-o-Honey, for example, might be called a lower tier member, but why bother? It says to your trick-or-treaters, “Here, I don’t care, just take this.” The lesson of Bit-o-Honey is: you lose. Doorstep offers of lectures in civics, too. You’re making a social statement–“I hate you and everything you represent”– when you give these out.

24. Yes, we really meant fruit that is healthy, clean-cut upstanding fruit that takes time from its gym membership and all the demands that come with it to contribute a positive message of citizenship and camaraderie to the community. This isn’t a typo of healthy for healthful. (see U.M.H. 2011)

25. Research has further defined this relationship. Currently, it has been suggested that Blackwing Pencils > Hugs > Creepy Hugs > Pencils. (Lobster, Prufrock451, and Warreno, 2010)

26. Unless it’s something caramel, pronounced “caramel.”

27. Unless you eat them properly. To quote Anonymous, 2010: “The trick to realizing how brilliant and delicious Now ‘n Laters are is a two step process. The first step is to carefully read the name of the candy. “Now ‘n Later.” What does it mean, you ask? Well, it implies that the candy will be different “now” (when you put it in your mouth) and at some point “later” in time. A small leap of logic takes us to the second step: be patient. You need to suck on it for a while until it softens. If you skip this step, the Now ‘n Later will be an inedible, rock-like colorful brick quite worthy of the low end of the hierarchy. But if you are patient in your candy-eating process, oh the rewards you will reap!”

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Originally published at Boingboing.net.

Alexander Bell sends a pic #funny via @beatonna

Almost peed my pants when I read this. Plus I love it, because it’s a perfect commentary on the diverse nature of science culture (i.e. we can be silly and crude as well as science-y). Would be wonderful if, one day, Ms. Beaton decides to do a book on science history – heck, I would even love to commission that sort of project (ooh ooh – maybe a “famous folks in science history” phylo deck?)


By Kate Beaton.

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