Interesting post by Olivia Judson on "The Wild Side" in The New York Times about animal size. While on a trip to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, she became fascinated with the pygmy shrew, a teeny tiny mammal that weighs just a few grams.
In the piece, Judson muses on the potential causes of size differences in animals, such as how it affects the ability to fight, reproduce, and survive cold and heat. I was particularly fascinated by her question about how an animal knows what size it is supposed to be. What tells a creature to stop growing?
I have a personal connection to that question. I hit my grand size of 4'11" when I was 12. And then that was it! Puberty and family history combined to register me in the "petite" category for the rest of my days.
I have no problems being short. I kinda dig it, in fact. I have a feeling I'd be an entirely different person if I knew what it was like to see the tops of people's heads on a regular basis. I enjoy jumping up on counters to reach the stuff on the higher shelves. And I love that I can comfortably curl up in a coach airline seat and take a snooze. The only time it becomes problematic is when I go to concerts...I've pretty much given up on seeing anything where I have to stand and watch. There's always going to be some big dude in front of me blocking the view.
And speaking of guys, for a long time I was one of those girls that tall women hate. I was the short girl who dated tall men. The majority of my boyfriends throughout my life have ranged between 6'0" - 6'3", with an occasional 6'6" giant thrown in for fun. I used to blame it on biology, saying that tall men were attracted to short women because that meant our kids would come out average, and thus have the best chance of survival. Somehow, I don't think that comforted my glamazon lady friends.
To read Judson's full post, which includes a great list of notes/sources at the end, click here.
I want to go to this! Anyone feel like sending a cute lady reporter to cover this for them?
ScienceOnline2010, the fourth annual conference on science and the Web, has announced that it will be held on January 15-17th, 2010 in the Research Triangle Park area.
The free three-day event explores science on the
Web. On the planning wiki for the event it says:
Our goal is to bring together scientists, physicians, patients,
educators, students, publishers, editors, bloggers, journalists,
writers, web developers, programmers and others to discuss, demonstrate
and debate online strategies and tools for doing science, publishing
science, teaching science, and promoting the public understanding of
This is a conference to explore new ways in communicating scientific
exploration. Our conference addresses a variety of issues and
perspectives on science communication, including science literacy, the
popularization of science, science in classrooms and in homes,
debunking pseudoscience, using blogs as tools for presenting scientific
research, writing about science, and health and medicine. In addition
to being an internationally known hub of scientific and biomedical
research and education, North Carolina has numerous science blogs
written by a wide variety of people – see this listing of Science
bloggers located in North Carolina here.
Conference registration will open in Fall 2009. Right now you can sign up for advance notice about registration and other conference news.
While visiting Bova's site, I stumble across a link to an essay he wrote on tor.com about the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. Alas, when I click, I get the dreaded 404 article-not-found error. But the site, which I am unfamiliar with, is intriguing - the tagline is "Science Fiction. Fantasy. The Universe. And related subjects."
I pass up a post called "Buzz Aldrin is so GANGSTA" (so true!) to click on a tribute to one of my favorite sci fi authors, Octavia Butler. She passed away in 2006, and on July 22nd she would have been "62 and awesome," as described by writer Nisi Shawl. In the piece, Shawl talks about Butler's charismatic personality and her commitment to the increased representation of people of color in the fantastic genres. Butler's "Xenogenesis" series is still one of the most thrilling, sensual pieces of sci fi writing I've ever read.
Like science? You might want to start hanging out in Ballston, Virginia. According to an article in the Washington Post, Ballston is turning into quite the science hotspot. The Arlington County city is currently home to the National
Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Office
of Scientific Research, the Army Research Office and Virginia Tech's
Advanced Research Institute, among others.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced plans last
month to move to Ballston in 2012.
My favorite quote from the article?
...the agency needs [DARPA] additional space that fit its "very specific requests,
very specific needs," said Michael McGill, spokesman for the Public
Buildings Service of the General Services Administration's national
Would loooove to know about those "very specific needs," but I have a feeling that info will stay under lock and key. If we're lucky, the info will be de-classified sometime during our lifetimes...
I'm listening to an interview on KPCC with Chris Mooney, one of the co-authors of the new book UNSCIENTIFIC AMERICA: HOW SCIENTIFIC ILLITERACY THREATENS OUR FUTURE. In the book, Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum make a plea for enhanced scientific literacy and reintegrating science into the public discourse.
I tuned in mid-interview just as Mooney and the host (not sure who it is - someone who's in for Pat Morrison - apologies - will add his name later if I find out) were talking about science and religion. In the
book, Mooney and Kirshenbaum posit that religion and science do not have to be in
conflict. He criticizes the group he calls the "new atheists," anti-religionists who include Sam Harris, author of THE END OF FAITH, and Richard Dawkins, author of THE GOD SOLUTION: A REPLY TO THE GOD DELUSION.
Mooney says that he doesn't think that it helps the cause of science literacy to pit science against religion, with fundamentalists on one side and atheism the only choice on the other. Says Mooney, "The point in the chapter [in our book] is what does this have to do with science? Does it
help unify us, or perpetuate a culture war? It's important to understand the creationists
and what motivates them. It's tough to convince anyone to change their
minds, but attacking all that they believe in isn't going to do the
As an example, he mentions those
working in the trenches who are trying to teach evolution in places
like Kansas. He says that their experiences show that you don't win your point by taking the discussion all the way to atheism. Instead, he urges science as common ground. Says Mooney, "We all have to agree about a reality. We're not going to agree about
the supernatural. So we should agree about science."
Of course, this is much easier when the other side plays nice, which creationists are not always in the habit of doing. Mooney credits the Intelligent Design supporters with the brilliant maneuver of pushing for parity in the classroom for their beliefs. Rather than trying to have evolution omitted from the lesson plan, they instead insist that their theories be included in the discussion.
Regardless of my personal spiritual beliefs, I am an ardent believer in separation of Church and State. And in my book, that includes the classroom. If you want your kids to learn about your religion's views on the origins of the Universe, send 'em to Hebrew school or CCD or the mosque. And take the responsibility to be around to answer questions they may have about the differences between what they learn in religious classes and school. The school system isn't supposed to address those questions - parents are.