[Open] Science Sunday-29.11.09

By Fabiana Kubke 29/11/2009

Cool science on the web made availabe by people who like to share….

About the language of open access

I am a big supporter of open access. But as I ponder on its virtues, I also ponder about its reach. As we move towards making our work available to the public through open access publishing, I wonder whether the language in which we write our work will continue to represent a barrier for true public reach. It is a difficult one, most of the jargon we use is required to express ourselves with precision and without ambiguity.

Then this week I came across this PLoS One article by David M. Lambert, Lara D. Shepherd, Leon Huynen, Gabrielle Beans-Picón, Gimme H. Walter, and Craig D. Millar that I think has bridged this gap. The article describes some genetic studies they did on museum specimens of the extinct huia, and although I would normally give a short summary of the article, this one is worth a read by scientists and non-scientists alike.

Great finds on the web:

  • Ed Yong from ‘Not exactly Rocket Science’ has a great blog on an article that looked at vision in hammerhead sharks
  • Brandon Keim has a great article on Wired Science on ’paleoart’, the creation of 3D representations that bring our ancestors to life
  • Dr Zen from ‘NeuroDojo’ has a great blog on hummingbirds, their song and their tail sound (and how it all evolved)
  • And if you aren’t yet convinced about the beauty of science, check out these beautiful pictures of fluid dynamics from New Scientist.

Become a citizen scientist

As a biologist I often get asked a lot of questions about biology, most of them of the form

’I heard that <insert favourite rumour here>. Is that true?”

Most of the time, I don’t have the answer, and more often than not, the answer is not there. These are the ‘rumours’ of science that prompted Matt Halstead, John Montgomery and I to actually try to seek the answer. For that reason, we opened a webpage at popscinz.wordpress.com where the data can be posted and, hopefully, rumours be put to rest (one way or another).

We launched the website with a very simple rumour about Tuis, and we are hoping that New Zealanders of all ages (but especially the younger ones) will tell us when and where they spot these fantastic birds.

In the future, we hope that schools will take advantage of the site to gather data for science projects, or communities will gather data that they need to put forward to their local councils, and so forth. It is, in itself an experiment, one that we think could be a lot of fun. So visit the site, and if you spot a tui please let us know here!

And my favourite tweet has to be this by @MsBehaviour, the first data point in the Tui project. Thanks Helen!