Category Archives: Science

Mundane Moonday: Sidewalk Shadows

My Mundane Monday challenge picture for this week has the ultimate frame: the moon for Mo(o)nday!

Corvallis OR, where I am currently staying, was in the path of the totality for the 2017 solar eclipse. I came here to watch after dropping my daughter off at university.

SidewalkShadow

If you don’t have eclipse glasses one good way to watch a partial eclipse is to look at the shadows around trees. Each gap in the leaves acts as a pinhole camera, showing an image of the crescent sun.

CrescentShadow

These shadow pictures were taken after totality, as the moon was uncovering the sun again. Since I came all the way here to watch the eclipse, I decided to stay until the bitter end, until you couldn’t see the moon any more at all through the glasses.

WatchingEclipse
It’s really a phases of the moon T-shirt but who’s counting?

There are better pictures online by professionals, but here is mine of totality at 10:17 am on the OSU/Corvallis campus. I could see the corona and stars, and it was very cool–literally! I had to put on a sweater.

Totality
I know this one is not mundane, but I couldn’t resist!

 

Thursday Doors: Stanford Medical Center

The last time I lived in the SF Bay area, I was a PhD student at Stanford University. I graduated from the Neurosciences Program, an interdisciplinary program for studying the brain that includes faculty from both the School of Humanities and Sciences and the School of Medicine. Even back then, in the early 1990s, brain science seemed to me to be the field of the future, an exciting time full of promise to understand both the world and ourselves. I thought, rightly, that you could spend an entire career, an entire lifetime, studying the brain, and never get bored or tired of it. The tagline for this blog, The Brain–Is Wider Than The Sky, is taken from Emily Dickinson’s poem with that first line.  Continue reading Thursday Doors: Stanford Medical Center

Communicating Science Through Art

WATWIC-Bright-TuqBlkThis is my first post for the “We are the World” Blogfest. (It’s a day late, just like yesterday’s Thursday Doors post on Friday. Time doesn’t always move in a linear fashion in my world.) To participate in this blogfest, join us on the last Friday of each month. As the co-hosts say, “no story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.”

Continue reading Communicating Science Through Art

Book Review: The Moon by Whale Light, by Diane Ackerman

The Moon by Whale Light and Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodilians and WhalesThe Moon by Whale Light and Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodilians and Whales by Diane Ackerman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is an appealing, attractively packaged collection of four essays on animal behavior, all of which originally appeared in the New Yorker. While the subject matter is interesting and entertaining, reading this book can be even more educational if attention is paid to what it reveals about current perceptions of scientists and issues of “animal rights” in the general media.

Continue reading Book Review: The Moon by Whale Light, by Diane Ackerman

Book Review: They’re Not Dumb, They’re Different by Shiela Tobias

This review was first written in 1992, and I wonder how much has changed. The projected shortfall in scientists has not come to pass. It is more difficult than ever for PhDs to get jobs in science. But the challenge of public scientific literacy remains.

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They're Not Dumb, They're Different: Stalking the Second TierThey’re Not Dumb, They’re Different: Stalking the Second Tier by Sheila Tobias

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This independently funded book, called an “occasional paper,” probably isn’t available in the local bookstore. I came across a largely favorable review of it in Science magazine, and sent for a copy. It addresses the question “what turns people off science?”

Continue reading Book Review: They’re Not Dumb, They’re Different by Shiela Tobias

Book Review: Bully for Brontosaurus by Stephen Jay Gould

Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural HistoryBully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently unearthed some book reviews that I wrote when I was in Neurosciences graduate school at Stanford in the early 1990s. There I was the editor of a student newsletter called the “Neuron Free Press,” and we published book reviews about Neuroscience topics. 

This newsletter was published while the internet was coming into its own, before blogs. The dead tree versions of these reviews that I found at the back of an old file cabinet may be the only copies still in existence.  The books are no longer new but I think each one has retained its relevance and stood the test of time.

The first book covered is Bully for Brontosaurus, reviewed back in Autumn 1991 when its author, the great evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, was still alive and writing. I think it’s especially appropriate for Darwin Day.

Continue reading Book Review: Bully for Brontosaurus by Stephen Jay Gould

Mundane Monday: Rock Wall

A sculpture on the campus of Stanford University. Constructed of sandstone from university buildings destroyed in the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes
Photo credit: Stone River, tripod.andygoldsworthy.com

While out hiking or geocaching, especially in Massachusetts but also in California, you end up seeing a lot of rock walls. But this particular mundane-looking wall is part of a larger sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy called Stone River on the Stanford Campus.

The sculpture wasn’t here yet while I was attending graduate school; it was built in 2002. It is made of sandstone bricks from campus buildings damaged in the earthquakes of 1906 and 1989, among others. The local sandstone is known for its color and the pinkish hue it reflects, especially at sunset. Continue reading Mundane Monday: Rock Wall

Book Review: Walden Warming by Richard B. Primack

Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau's WoodsWalden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods by Richard B. Primack

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The best part of this book is its founding idea. The author Richard Primack, a professor of Biology at Boston University, compared the information in Henry David Thoreau’s journals with his own modern day research to understand and measure how the climate and the plant and animal species of the area around Walden Pond in Concord MA have changed over the past 150 years. Continue reading Book Review: Walden Warming by Richard B. Primack

Book Review: This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a little late to this party, and I admit that I initially picked this book up simply as research for my SF novel set in the year 2074. I felt I needed a reality check. I wanted to know what experts thought the world would actually look like then, since we’re not there now and it’s unlikely I’ll be there to see it when we are. Continue reading Book Review: This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein