ScienceSeeker Awards: The best of the best

The results of the  inaugural Science Seeker awards have been announced! Nominated by your excellent selves and judged by superstars  Fraser CainMaggie Koerth-Baker, and Maryn McKenna, the list of finalists and winners is a wonderful sampling of fine science blogging from the past year. Congratulations to all!

I got strangely nostalgic going through the list because it reminds me how fun it has been making my ScienceSeeker picks over the past year or so, even if I was a bit unreliable about blogging them!

 

Blobologist-approved reads: oops, is it May?

Apologies, my dear, neglected readers, for posting so infrequently, but things have been a little hectic in the House of Blob this semester. Sadly, this meant there was no time for blogging. On the positive side, I did at least spend that time writing about science, InDesigning up a storm, creating a hella professional social media strategy for a clinical research group and building a pretty respectable looking website for a local non-profit.

But now I’m left with a blobology backlog that I will address with the following strategic plan:

1) Present my ScienceSeeker picks from the past few months, even though they are now horrifically out-of-date

2) Post a couple of my favourite science writing class assignments

3) Mix myself a Dark ‘n’ Stormy

I might not follow this plan in the prescribed order.

My ScienceSeeker editor’s picks: The semester shell-shock edition

The Unresolved Mysteries of the Mold in Your House
Contains the answer to the question, “What do your dishwasher and fruit bat’s colon have in common?”
Rachel Adams at Your Wild Life (guest)

When #chemophobia isn’t irrational: listening to the public’s real worries.
Part of the on-going conversation about chemophobia, which is the blanket distrust that many people feel towards anything they consider “chemical.” But shouting at people that they don’t understand what that word means doesn’t help anyone, least of all chemists.
Janet D. Stemwedel at Doing Good Science

How genetic plunder transformed a microbe into a pink, salt-loving scavenger
A tale of genetic thievery on an epic scale.
Lucas Brouwers at Thoughtomics

How to protect lions?
Can we really protect lions by fencing them in or by hunting them?
Colin Beale at Safari Ecology

Ducks Meet the Culture Wars
A beautifully written defense of basic science and the point of studying duck penises.
Carl Zimmer at The Loom

The Narcissism of De-Extinction
If you follow me on Twitter you might have noticed that the TedX DeExtinction conference got me uncharacteristically irritated and even made me break out some ALL CAPS OUTRAGE. Thankfully, by the time I extricated myself from TweetDeck Hannah Waters was already ON IT, explaining much more thoughtfully and lucidly than I could why it was just ALL SO ANNOYING.
Hannah Waters at Culturing Science

Roller Derby Teammates Give Each Other Bacterial Hugs
Roller Derby teams are close and so are their skin microbes.
Kate Clancy at Context and Variation

The two ideas to fix the gender balance that do not make me cringe
Two recent (at least, they were recent when I made this pick) initiatives for addressing the fact there are not enough women in the most powerful positions in science.
Eva Amsen at Occam’s Typewriter (guest)

There Should Be Grandeur: Basic Science in the Shadow of the Sequester
On the risks posed to basic research by the sequester. Featuring the line: “paying for basic research is a bet a society makes on its future.”
Tom Levenson at Scientific American Guest Blog

Buzzsaw Jaw Helicoprion Was a Freaky Ratfish
So paleontologists finally solved the mystery of where to put the the spectacular buzzsaw jaws on their Helicoprion reconstructions.
Brian Switek at Laelaps

Blobologist-approved reads: Privilege, pigeons, polyester, paleontology & pythons

My ScienceSeeker editor’s picks: The between conferences edition

A field guide to privilege in marine science: some reasons why we lack diversity by Miriam Goldstein at Deep Sea News

A much-needed list of the barriers that can prevent people from making it in science. If you’re a scientist, I insist that you read this.

A Dream Deferred: How access to STEM is denied to many students before they get in the door good by Danielle Lee at The Urban Scientist

Miriam Goldstein’s field guide prompted an important post from Danielle Lee, in which she shares her stories from the trenches of high school science fairs. Even if you’re not a scientist, I insist that you read this.

Pigeons: Darwin’s Unappreciated Avian Assistant by Michael Wheelock at The Incubator

Why pigeons and not finches should be remembered as Darwin’s best feathered friends.

My Sweaty Valentine by Rebecca Guenard at Scientific American Guest Blog

Why is it that polyester always make you smell so bad? Rebecca turned her sweaty synthetic experience at ScienceOnline2013 into a wise-cracking journey into the science of B.O.

Why Paleontology Is Relevant by Sarah Werning at The Integrative Paleontologists

Turns out it’s not just because paleontologists often teach anatomy to med students.

Calories aren’t right on labels and maybe that’s OK by David Despain at Evolving Health

Does a doughnut = an apple? Does a calorie = a calorie? Does a whole rat = a blended rat? The answers to these questions and more in David’s fascinating write up of a AAAS meeting session on counting calories.

 

 

 

 

Blobologist-approved reads: poos, penguins & professors

My ScienceSeeker editor’s picks: The dying January edition

This Penguin: An Unexpected Journey by Elizabeth Preston at Inkfish

This is the story of a disoriented penguin in a hood and ear muffs. This is a story about science.

Fecal Transplants: A Clinical Trial Confirms How Well They Work by Maryn McKenna at Superbug

The ether has been awash with poo stories recently, but none have been more block-busting than the first clinical trial of fecal transplants. Also, it’s nice to hear good news reported by McKenna, since good news tends to be scarce on the “terrifying emerging disease” beat.

Back to Work! Autonomy and the Stress of Being a Professor by Kate Clancy at Context and Variation

Many people wrote excellent responses to that silly Forbes column about how professors have the least stressful job, but the one that got me the most riled up was this one. If you’re in academia, it might kick you in the guts, and it might make you feel empowered, and it might do both.

 

 

Blobologist-approved reads: Sexy slime molds and sleep cravings

My ScienceSeeker editor’s picks for this week: The dying semester edition

Starving to be Social: The Odd Life of Dictyostelium Slime Molds by Alex Wild at Compound Eye

Slime molds sound gross. But they are not gross, they are AWESOME. And here is proof they can be beautiful as well.

Re-Awakenings by Virginia Hughes at Last Word About Nothing

Fascinating story about hypersomniacs, who just can’t get enough sleep, and the scientists who think it might be caused by imbalance of a mysterious “sleep molecule.”

Blobologist-approved reads: Time for some navel gazing, DNA testing, natural selecting and group decision making

My ScienceSeeker editor’s picks for this week: The dying swan edition

Thanks to the chaos of becoming a full-time student again, it’s been mostly impossible to blog my ScienceSeeker picks for the last few months. But today I’m stuck at home with pleurisy and a mandate to take it easy, so here goes:

Weaving together the DNA of parenthood by Nathalia Holt at Backstory

Backstory is an interesting new blog at SciLogs, and last week’s post was the moving story of a mother who responded to her son’s rare genetic disorder by starting a direct-to-consumer genetic testing company. It’s easy for me to get cynical about DTC genetic testing, but I had never thought about it from exactly this perspective before.

The Death of Natural Selection by Laura Jane Martin (a guest post at Scientific American Blogs)

This post is a reflective response to recent chit-chat about nature’s “right to evolve,” a proposal that to me sounds deeply confused and misguided. Martin poses a seemingly simple question: “…is there a species, anywhere, with an evolutionary trajectory that has not been affected by humans?”

Political animals by Miss Behavior at The Scorpion and The Frog

Given its obvious relevance to politics this week, Miss Behavior asks a pertinent question about how social animals make group decisions, given that the individual members are neither terribly bright, nor terribly well informed. This is awesome.

After 2 Years Scientists Still Can’t Solve Belly Button Mystery, Continue Navel-Gazing by Rob Dunn (another guest post at SciAm blogs)

So you’ve probably heard of Rob Dunn’s belly button biodiversity  project. If you haven’t, you are missing out big time and you should read his post, and possibly all of his other guest posts at SciAm. If you have heard about it, you should read this anyway, not so much because it describes the interesting results that they just published in PLoS One, but because it does a great job of describing what it’s like to fall down the rabbit-hole of a new research problem. One question leads to another, and another, and the more work you do, the richer and more interesting and more confusing it gets. And then you meet the guy who hasn’t washed in years.

How to find the best science online

So you need to navigate the oceans of sciencey-goodness online? But you don’t want to be washed ashore on the rocky promontories of pseudoscience and crap? Then I have some excellent news for you.

The ScienceSeeker  team have radically revamped ScienceSeeker.org into a searchable, filterable, feedable, lovable beast of an interface. You can read the list of new bells and whistles, or you could just sail on over and try it out.

Blobologist-approved reads: Sharks and slugs and PhDs

My ScienceSeeker editor’s picks for this week:

For those of you with cable TV, it’s Shark Week!  But for those of us with only an internet connection, it’s also Shark Week! And also Cow Week!

And in non-shark-week-related news:

  • I’ve been enjoying the Soapbox Science series at Nature blogs, and this week’s series on the future of PhD training is no exception (also check out #PhDelta on twitter). So far, my pick is a distillation of PhD disillusionment in PhDelta: PhD2.0 and anecdotes from the trenches by Jeanne Garbarino
  • Finally, the Last Word on Nothing seems to be making a little name for itself as the place to go for kinky/beautiful slug sex: TGIPF: Slug Sex Redux By Cassandra Willyard (WATCH THE VIDEO, PEOPLE).

Blobologist-approved reads: Bad guys and risk, olympic metals, cunning proteins

My ScienceSeeker editor’s picks for this week

  • Finally, an effective way to explain absolute vs relative risk to absolutely anyone in 5 tweets: Explaining Risk: Know Your Aristotle by Trisha Greenhalgh at PLoS Medicine’s Speaking of Medicine
    (spoiler: use a bad guy)
  • In a new series on the molecules that make biology interesting (think ‘Molecule of the Month’) Eric Sawyer at Bio 2.0 discusses a class of transcription factors that look slick, follow their own weird rules, and cunningly manipulate the DNA of other organisms: Molecular Zoo: The TALE’s Tale

Blobologist-approved reads: Icefish, cancer stem cells, fusion chromosomes

My ScienceSeeker editor’s picks for this week

Sorry for the extended hiatus in my picking activities. I’d give you excuses, but they all involve me having too much fun to find the internet, and I don’t want to make anyone cranky.

(In case you haven’t come across them before, Antarctic icefish are some badass fish. They don’t have red blood cells. Antifreeze runs through their veins. They dominate the almost-freezing waters of the Southern Ocean. They also don’t have swim bladders, which means they spend most of their time resting on the ocean floor, taking it easy. Really easy. I once overheard a pair of tourists commenting on a very real pair of icefish in an aquarium, complaining about the use of plastic fish models in place of real fish.)