Friday, January 18, 2008

Science blogging conference

The 2nd Annual Science Blogging Conference started today, Jan. 18, 2008, with the main sessions taking place tomorrow at the Sigma Xi headquarters in Research Triangle Park.

Anton Zuiker and Bora Zivkovic, radical and revolutionary science communicators, have again pulled together an interesting group of scientists and other bloggers to keep the revolution alive.

If you've missed it, check back on the blogging conference site for wrap-up information, and plan to get your butt down here next year.

Rivers and Climate Change on the East Cost

This week's issue of Science has a good research study on rivers in the mid-Atlantic states. It's the geomorphic equivalent of hormone replacement therapy studies that showed HRT was bad for most women: everything you thought is wrong.

The Science study shows that the meandering twists and turns that characterize eastern rivers and streams result from man's influence.

The news would make a good lead-in for a feature on climate change and rivers. Rivers are important economically (commerce, fishing, tourism) and socially (imagine a river abandoning a town) for the eastern states: how will climate change affect yours?

Typically, scientists who study the Earth look at what happened in the past to predict the future. But the nature of rivers has changed so much, it will take a new paradigm to figure out what the future holds for coastal and river communities.

Brent McKee, chair of UNC's marine sciences department, studies how rivers respond to rising sea level (one of his sites is the Roanoke River). The huge influence of human activity on rivers makes it hard for McKee to judge whether the Roanoke and other rivers will lose their deltas, flood the coast, jump and take over other, smaller streams, etc., as sea level rises. To answer these questions, McKee and others are using field work, satellite imagery and other techniques like mapping the surface with airborne lasers.

Dam nation

Restoration Systems LLC

The US is pock-marked with dams that no longer generate power, bridges that can't hold up a Tata and roads that go nowhere.
They're not doing nothing, of course. They're continuing to affect the environment and the immediately surrounding ecology.
So what are we supposed to do with them?

Use them to the environment's advantage, Martin Doyle says in a Science policy paper about infrastructure decay and ecology restoration.

When dams are removed, like in this photo, it's been shown that the ecology makes a quick comeback. That's what happened to the endangerd North Carolina shiner, a cute little minnow, when a dam was peeled off the river near Carbonton, N.C., as seen in the photo.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

To drink or not to drink

This nifty study shows biological and genetic links clinks to addictive behavior, namely alcoholism.

Instead of bating subjects with booze, the researcher tested how well they make complex decisions. Novel. She showed that it's more difficult for people with alcohol addiction to think through ... to come to a ... to decide ... that their working memory doesn't work as well and they ... like when you're doing long division in your head and you can't remember what number you carried and then when you do you can't remember what you were supposed to add it to, so you just blurt out a number. It's because their frontal cortex is a little different.

Temple Grandin also talks about frontal cortex and poor working memory in her book, "Animals in Translation," when discussing autism. Just so you know.

Dec. 26, 2007 issue of Journal of Neurosci

slide show

U's press release

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

In other science news...

Duke University today launched its new on-line research magazine, cleverly named Duke Research. It's a monthly that is updated on the web, and via subscription email. Look for lots of cool multimedia, like movies, slideshows, and interactives that show researchers in their native habitats doing what they love. If you simply must participate, you can post discussions on stories, or ask a question of a Duke expert.

I mean, aside from monkeys teaching robots to walk, that's pretty much the big news out of Duke today.
Yesterday's NYTimes , wrote about NASA's probe spinning past Mercury with a shutter going nuts, but a UNC prof and his undergrad student got to Mercury before NASA. Sort of.
Check out how prof. Gerald Cecil and Dmitry Rashkeev saw the dark side of Mercury.

Check out the SOAR telescope they used, a continent away.