Tag: scientific literacy

Handy dandy “how do you feel about God and stuff” chart.

For discussions on concepts of evidence and the ability to prove something to be true (or inability as Popper would argue).


By Pablo Stanley, via Boing Boing

Break time! Catch up on celebrity gossip! OMG it’s the New Scientific Method!

Some satire from yours truly. Sad that for some, it’s close to the truth.

“Make an observation.

Take a photo of it with your phone. Apply cool looking image filter, tweak with selective blurring, and then share via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blog, etc.

Provide a trite but punchy comment that explains your observation. This is your hypothesis. OMG!”

Read on at McSweeney’s.

Talk about context in language. #phasesofmatter

The Indonesian word for water is air.

Via Futility Closet.

How to think when validating claims. This, from xkcd


From xkcd

A sound scientific take on astrological readings

Applicable for all signs:

“The coming year is likely to present challenges; these trials are when your true character will show. Trusted friends can provide assistance in particularly pressing situations. Make use of the skills you have to compensate for ones you lack. Your reputation in the future depends on your honesty and integrity this year. Monetary investments will prove risky; inform yourself as much as possible. On the positive side, your chances of winning the lottery have never been greater!”

By Tim Harrod, via Futility Closet

The scientific method with alien hypothesis slide #myfavouriteslides



A slide for talking about the scientific method, hypothesis, generation, and testing via experimental design. Oh yeah, and aliens.

The set-up is to provide context with a story about declining stork populations as well as lower fertility rates in a particular country (this actually happened, for instance, in China in the 80s).

Who is Hadi? He’s a colleague at UBC, who does very cool stuff.

Science things that are awesome…

(Also, all of these goofy pics are now being archived at a tumblr I just set up – scienceisawesomethatisall.tumblr.com)


O.K. Yesterday was our provincial elections (in British Columbia), and in the end, the Liberal party came out winning. There’s quite a few environmental issues that are in the forefront in my neck of the woods, not the least of which concerns the Northern Gateway pipeline.

The Liberals didn’t actually have the greatest platform on this (at least from an environmental or science policy standpoint), but here’s hoping the public continues to pressure them to do the “best” (re: what scientific expert peer review suggests) thing for the province, and indeed the planet at large.


Last Saturday, my lab opened up the entire ground floor of the Michael Smith Building to the public. This was in conjunction with Science Rendezvous, a cross Canada science festival, and in the case of UBC, organized by the Faculty of Science. In the house (so to speak) were folks from the Beaty Museum, Civil Engineering, Pathology, Physics and Astronomy, as well as the Engineering Physics Robotics lab (who also brought in their 3D printers). We also used the building as ground zero for a number of tours throughout campus.

All in all, a great day (and busy too!). In my space, I actually brought out about a dozen or dissecting scopes and collected a nice jar of pond scum. Kids (and their parents), with some basic instructions, were let loose to find whatever they could find in the pond water. Lots of cooties were found, protozoa and algae abound, but my favourite was this Hydra that I managed to get a decent picture of on my iPhone.


The scientific method – it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty much the best way out there on collecting your thoughts and information to make sound decisions. All the more so, if the decision is high stakes IMHO.

Why I Do Science



When I look out my office window, I see two sets of nucleotide bases – guanine and cytosine. I don’t mention this as an admission of psychotic delirium. The building where I work just happens to have a DNA molecule emblazoned on its windows. Admittedly, it’s an odd workplace view, but in my case it fits.

I’m a molecular geneticist—genomics, gene expression, cloning, and the rest of that good stuff – and these little guys are some of the fundamentals of what I study. In many ways, my field is actually about the flow of information in genes; how a code is represented in that mother of all blueprints and gets read to construct something so detailed and nuanced as life. My area of interest is how the information in that chain is used and communicated. It almost always happens in the same way; DNA to RNA to protein. It’s as good a slogan as any, and from time to time we even get to call it dogma.

More important than this dogma, is the way my field appears to me to be so much bigger than the molecules I study. Molecular genetics represents some of the most exciting, profound, communal, and frightening aspects of the collective scientific endeavor. Its speed of advancement defies belief, and its effects on the social, cultural, political and economical issues of the day do not afford the luxury of ignorance.

That’s why I sit at my desk and look at that DNA; to remind myself of the larger importance of those molecules on my window not only to myself, but to everyone else. I see that I am a participant in a greater flow of information—from expert to layman, from creating the trenches where research happens to leading the tours that engage our local community.

I suppose this isn’t a fashionable reason to do science. Perhaps a more proper reason is to talk of the glory and honor of being “first” —the first to discover, to see, to understand. But in my mind, that privilege is severely limited to just one or a few. Frankly, I have my sights on something bigger: a privilege that can be shared with as many people as possible; to make science come alive.

Scientist to citizen to decisions made – wouldn’t that make a lovely dogma as well?

Science affirmation via Instagram

I’ve been mucking around with Instagram lately and having quite a bit of fun, especially with the addition of the Over app which lets me add text to the images. Anyway, I’m going to try and do “science affirmation” pictures as often as I can, along the vein of my “Science is Awesome” t-shirt. Here are the first three below. Follow me on Instagram if you want to see more.





4th Grade Science Quiz: Dinosaurs: Genesis and the Gospel


Via Friendly Athiest, via Fresh Photons.

Wordsworth on poetry and science #lovely


By Maria Popova from Brain Pickings.

Lisa Congdon’s Wonderful Adventures in Hand Lettering – Science Edition.






By Lisa Congdon. Top one available as a desktop wallpaper.

Halt you villains! Unhand that SCIENCE! (Great webcomic by @Gingerhazing)


Really enjoying this Nimona webcomic by Noelle Stevenson. Plus, she is also responsible for this hilarious tumblr called The Pokeymans Project, which is simply described as:

“Pokemon drawn from description alone by someone who doesn’t know anything about Pokemon.”

Will have to write about that one later, because it is an AWESOME segue into the art of scientific observation and descriptive writing (especially when it comes to biodiversity stuff).

Yo Mama Jokes Indexed by Professional Employment

By Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Teaching scientific editing – Shrimp Running On A Treadmill With The Benny Hill Theme

Useful when teaching abstract writing (could this wording be any more concise and perfectly descriptive).

Also, it’s a shrimp running on a treadmill with the Benny Hill theme.

Graph: In which chocolate consumption strongly correlates with likelihood of getting a Nobel Prize.

Well… by way of the country the Nobel Laureate belongs to… (p.s. this is tongue in cheek, but good as a slide to talk about the old correlation versus causation issue)

“Dietary flavonoids, abundant in plant-based foods, have been shown to improve cognitive function. Specifically, a reduction in the risk of dementia, enhanced performance on some cognitive tests, and improved cognitive function in elderly patients with mild impairment have been associated with a regular intake of flavonoids. A subclass of flavonoids called flavanols, which are widely present in cocoa, green tea, red wine, and some fruits, seems to be effective in slowing down or even reversing the reductions in cognitive performance that occur with aging. Dietary flavanols have also been shown to improve endothelial function and to lower blood pressure by causing vasodilation in the peripheral vasculature and in the brain. Improved cognitive performance with the administration of a cocoa polyphenolic extract has even been reported in aged Wistar–Unilever rats.

Since chocolate consumption could hypothetically improve cognitive function not only in individuals but also in whole populations, I wondered whether there would be a correlation between a country’s level of chocolate consumption and its population’s cognitive function. To my knowledge, no data on overall national cognitive function are publicly available. Conceivably, however, the total number of Nobel laureates per capita could serve as a surrogate end point reflecting the proportion with superior cognitive function and thereby give us some measure of the overall cognitive function of a given country.”

By Franz H. Messerli, M.D. from Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates (October 10, 2012DOI: 10.1056/NEJMon1211064), via New England Journal of Medicine.

A robot that screams? Seems like an appropriate image to talk about the nuances of basic vs applied science.

By KC Green at Gunshow.

On the importance of meta-analysis and why bacon might make you live longer.

Love this, and sooo gonna use it in class to discuss the importance of meta-analysis (i.e. the reasons for a correlation aren’t always obvious, so you need to compare multiple studies which happen to provide insight into multiple variables).

From Abstruce Goose.

Great Quote: “Science is not a sacred cow. Science is a horse. Don’t worship it. Feed it.”

Picture taken at the California Science Center. Quote by Abba (Aubrey) Eban. Interestingly, throughout the web, this quote seems to be misattributed to a mysterious “Aubrey Eben.”

On a lark, astronomers call themselves astrologers for a day. #funny

By Mark Heath at NoBrow Cartoons.

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