Monthly Archives: December 2014

How Vaccines Work- A Comically Funny Explanation

We’re all about making science fun and easy to understand here at Science Is OK. Vaccines can be one of the more misunderstood aspects of modern science. After all, you’re putting a dead pathogen in your body and expecting your body to develops antibodies. Which it does.

The NIB is a website that uses humor and comics to explore sociological issues. That includes vaccines. Click here to read their explanation of vaccines and some of the recent controversies. Do vaccines cause autism? No. They explain why Andrew Wakefield’s study was a sham from the very beginning. Should we be afraid of chemicals in our food? Well some, of course, but chemicals are everywhere (and the names can sound very scary) but the comic has a fantastic explanation why it’s important to not let the highfalutin words scare you away.

I can’t recommend this comic enough and if you haven’t already…please get your vaccines, especially the little ones.

How to tell if it’s Real Science

Telling the difference between real science and pseudoscience can be a challenge. Thankfully the folks at Compound Interest have created an easy way to help you figure it out. (This should be hanging up in every newsroom.)

courtesy: Compound Interest; www.compoundchem.com

Forget the Doppler, Use a Warbler

Oklahoma is right in the heart of tornado alley, of course, and doppler radar salesmen probably have a field day in the Sooner state. Well, maybe our illustrious meteorologists should add a few golden-winged warblers to their storm predicting arsenal.

A recent study published in Current Biology shows that songbirds can “hear” a storm come from miles and miles away. The study reports that golden-winged warblers left the southern part of the United States last April just before a massive tornado outbreak. The birds went to Colombia (the country, not to South Carolina), then came back to eastern Tennessee only a few days later.

Researchers believe the songbirds heard the storm’s infrasound. That’s a very low pitched sound created as the storm begins to build. According to the Newsweek article, the line of thought that birds use infrasound isn’t new. It’s believed homing pigeons used it as well. But this is the first time scientists have hardcore data backing up the claim.

Could you imagine Bob the weatherman going to the TV station’s roof to check on his golden-winged warblers instead up pulling up that fancy-schmancy Doppler radar? Yeah, me either.

Women In Science

Have you seen the commercial that depicts a little girl growing up, along the way getting more and more discouragement about pursuing science? She’s told not to get her dress dirty or to be careful and let her brother handle a power drill. At the end, it looks like she’s taking notes about a science fair but, really, she’s just putting on lipstick. It packs a powerful message about girls, science, and societal expectations.

The National Science Foundation conducted a study that found girls and boys have the same attitude about science in elementary school. By fourth grade 66% of the girls and 68% of the boys showed an interest in science. But, to me, the telling aspect of the study found that both boys and girls in the second grade draw a scientist as a man, specifically as a white man.

Research done by the National Girls Collaborative Project showed that women are more likely to go into the biological sciences as opposed to computer sciences or engineering. As an example, 44% of the chemists and material scientists in the United States are women but only 4% of the mechanical engineers are women.

So why the discrepancy? Researchers say there are number of factors from cultural norms to ethnicity to economics. I’ve interviewed some very successful female scientists in the past few months. In the video above they explain what they think needs to happen to get more women in science and why we need to take a good long look in the mirror and make some serious societal changes.

How People Are Made

No, this isn’t that kind of post but an amazing look at how humans are formed in the womb. Eleanor Lutz is a designer in Seattle but has a degree in Molecular Biology.

She created a fantastic GIF showing the development of an embryo to a human. It’s packed with info. and some cool graphics.

12-16-14

courtesy; TabletopWhale.com; Eleanor Lutz 2014

You can follow Lutz and her science illustration blog here.

 

This Scientist is OK- Dr. Robert Nairn

Dr. Robert Nairn is a professor of environmental science at the University of Oklahoma. He’s developing a passive water treatment system to cleanup the Tar Creek superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma. So what better time to feature him in our This Scientist is OK segment. He talks about how his high school biology teacher got him started on the path to a career in science. At the 1:32 mark he drops a Carl Sagan reference about why he loves science. I love this quote on why science is important,  “The kind of work that we do does have an influence on our quality of life, our economy, on everything that is important to us a as a nation.”

Cleanup at Tar Creek

The Tar Creek watershed is a mess. The land in northeast Oklahoma is home to one of the largest Superfund sites in the country. It was contaminated by lead and zinc mining that began in the early 1900’s and ran until 1967. Billions of dollars worth of ore was taken from the ground, but it came at a serious cost to the environment. Waste from the mines seeped into the watershed, contaminating the groundwater. That water eventually finds its way to the surface making it dangerous for anyone who comes in contact with it.

Tar-Creek Robert-Nairn

Dr. Robert Nairn from the University of Oklahoma has been working to clean up the water for the past decade. He and a team of engineers, students, and environmental scientists are working to build a passive water treatment facility in Commerce. They’ve been testing different methods to clean the water and are getting closer to finding a solution. They plan to begin designing and building the facility sometime in 2015.  Dr. Nairn and his team recently received a $1.6 million grant from the Department of Environmental Quality to continue his work.

I had the chance to catch up with Dr. Nairn recently as he checked on the progress of the clean up. I also learned why he’s dedicated his life to turning Tar Creek from a Superfund site to a super clean site.

Evidence of an Ancient Lake on Mars

The Mars rover Curiosity continues to turn up amazing finds on the red planet. This time NASA says it’s found evidence of an ancient lake. How? They base that on the way the rock is laying. “The cross-bedding — evident as layers at angles to each other — reflects formation and passage of waves of sand, one on top of the other. These are known as ripples, or dunes,” wrote a NASA official.

Click the link and check out the fascinating images.

Aquilops is Making Big News

Aquilops americanus is making big news across the world of paleontology. The small horned dinosaur was discovered by a team of scientists including a University of Oklahoma paleontologist. Its discovery and what it means is making news all over, so I thought I’d pass on a few links if you want to read more about it.

This is a behind the scenes look written by one of the scientists who worked on the fossil.

A history of the project from another scientist who worked on it.

From that same blog on how the reconstruction was made.

This is from the artist who designed the artwork depicting Aquilops.

The original paper on PLOS ONE.

National Geographic

Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs (perhaps the most interesting name for a dinosaur blog!!)

International Business Times

Here’s an article on cbsnews.com

This is from nbcnews.com

Foxnews.com