Monday, December 22, 2008

Looking Ahead: Pres-Elect Obama's Science Advisory Team

As we prepare to leave campus for winter break, pause a moment to consider the new year and new possibilities after President-Elect Obama is inaugurated. The recently announced appointments for the science advisory team indicate that peer-reviewed scientific consensus will guide the administration's actions in science, health, technology and environmental issues.

This is expressed most clearly in Mr. Obama's own words:
"...the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources—it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us."

From the Science Team Rollout Radio Address
Listen to the NPR Story.

And to that I say, Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wind-Powered Radio in War Weary Southern Sudan

Living on Earth [Dec. 5] brings a remarkable story of community radio from the Sudan: energy technology innovation, human resilience, moving materials with people power, and community effort to bring journalism with integrity to hundreds of people in remote areas.

LOE's Bruce Gellerman interviews John Mussa, a reporter with Internews in southern Sudan. Read the transcript or download the MP3 version, and you'll no longer take your local radio station for granted!

After War, Wind-Powered Radio

"Twenty-two years of civil war destroyed Sudan’s electrical infrastructure, so locals have turned to wind and solar energy to power their new radio station."

Friday, December 05, 2008

'Tis the Gift Giving Season - Go Green & Support Social Justice

My inbox is overflowing with messages encouraging me to reduce waste, carbon emissions, and unnecessary spending on products that contribute to over-consumption and our non-sustainable culture. The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to give gifts that Do Good, and these messages show the seemingly countless ways to do so! Here are just a few of the Green Gift and Alternative Gift guides that have come my way. In addition to shopping locally and supporting Oberlin merchants (and artisans, whose works are sold in The Ginko Gallery and at Uncommon Objects of the FAVA Gallery) you might consider spending your gift dollars in support of environmental sustainability and social/economic justice, while honoring the people you love at the same time.
Shop also at the Alternative Gift Fair, to be held Monday-Friday, Dec. 8-12, from 11:30-1:30 each day, in the Bent Corridor of the Science Center. If you'd like a catalog of items offered at that gift fair, please contact me.

If you know of other great sources for sustainable, fair trade, and/or locally produced gifts, don't hesitate to add your comments. Thanks!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Faculty Publication: Dan Styer on Entropy and Evolution

Daniel F. Styer, John and Marianne Schiffer Professor of Physics and Astronomy, has published an article that brings together biology, thermodynamics and physics teaching.

Entropy and evolution. American Journal of Physics, Volume 76, issue 11 (November 2008), p. 1031-1033

Author's abstract: Quantitative estimates of the entropy involved in biological evolution demonstrate that there is no conflict between evolution and the second law of thermodynamics. The calculations are elementary and could be used to enliven the thermodynamics portion of a high school or introductory college physics course.

The article is accessible to all OhioLINK affiliates at the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center.

Interested in seeing current articles from other Oberlin science faculty? ISI Web of Science (also known as Science Citation Index) provides a quick way to search across all science disiciplines. Search "Oberlin Coll" as an address phrase, limit to 2008, and you'll find 40 papers in seconds.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Happy Founders Day! 175 Years of Classes at OC

Oberlin College opened its doors for classes on December 3, 1833. 175 years today! Frederick Scovill, the College’s first teacher, wrote in a letter to a friend dated December 13, 1833, “The grand object of this Institution is to educate those who shall be prepared physically, as well as intellectually and morally, to illuminate the world with the light of science and civilization.”

Learn more about science education at Oberlin at the College Archives, beginning with the very worthy Dr. James Dascomb, village and college physician, chemistry, botany and physiology professor, and, briefly, college librarian. Dr. Dascomb also taught sacred music, rhetoric, mathematics and civil law, among other courses, according to the 1836 Catalogue. This photo, courtesy of the Oberlin College Archives, was taken in the 1850s. The Archives department is a wonderful place to research our past.

The Oberlin Alumni Magazine for December 1961 includes a nice history of science education at Oberlin. It's available in the Archives or in the periodical stacks on the 2nd floor of the Main Library.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dance Your Ph.D.! Contest Winners Announced

If you start learning basic dance moves now, you may be ready to choreograph your own interpretive dance sequence, should the AAAS sponsor another "Dance Your Ph.D." contest. The 2009 contest winners depicted positron emission tomography, the role of vitamin D in beta cell function, and isoelectric focusing of asymmetric mutant hybrids (Indeed. A bit different from inspiration of the Fall Forward dancers, I assume). They will be honored guests at the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago. The dances are enormously creative -- take a look!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Take the BioScience Challenge

Action Bioscience, a Web-based educational resource of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, offers dozens of peer-reviewed articles on timely, critical issues, written for the non-specialist. Biodiversity, environment, genomics, biotechnology, and evolution are five of the major categories of bioscience "challenges" that impact our lives on a daily basis. Each category on the Web site includes excellent review articles by experts, with references for more reading. Sign up for ActionBioscience e-updates, and you'll be alerted when new articles are posted.

One of the highlighted articles considers polar bears and climate change, a very timely topic given the Defenders of Wildlife new report on the urgent need to act now to protect wildlife from global warming.

Read your way through the Web site and you'll be wonderfully informed on the most pressing issues in bioscience today - and better prepared to appreciate the Year of Science, to be celebrated in 2009.