Sense about Science: Publications and resources

Ik vat snel even de About-sectie van de website van Sense about Science samen, om dan een ingekorte lijst te geven van absoluut te lezen publicaties over wetenschap, wetenschapsvoorlichting en kritisch denken. Afronden doe ik met een link naar de volledige lijst.

Sense about Science is een organisatie die een elementaire kennis van, of beter, zin in en voor wetenschap wil verspreiden. Via de website publiceren de de mensen van SaS artikels en commentaren, en geven ze wetenschapsadvies. In hun databank zitten de namen van zo’n 5000 wetenschappers die hun medewerking verlenen, van Nobelprijswinnaars tot PhD-studenten. SaS werkt samen met wetenschappelijke organisaties, wetenschappelijke uitgevers, beleidsmakers, het publiek en de media. Door middel van campagnes delen ze tools om het wetenschappelijk en kritisch denken te stimuleren.

Speciaal voor de homo legens schreven de goede lieden van Sense about Science een razend interessante reeks bij elkaar die u gratis naar believen kan downloaden. Hieronder vindt u de eerste publicaties van de eerste webpagina (van drie). De volledige lijst vindt u hier.

  • Making Sense of Statistics
    This guide is not a lesson in statistics. It provides the questions to ask and identifies the pitfalls to avoid to help us get behind news stories that use statistics.
  • Making Sense of Chemical Stories
  • The guide flags up the more serious misconceptions that exist around chemicals and suggests straightforward ways to evaluate them.
  • Making Sense of Testing
    The guide presents a few insights and highlights common misconceptions about having health tests and scans.
  • Making Sense of Screening
    The guide addresses misconceptions about how screening works, its limitations and the calculation of benefits and harms to bridge the gap between the active debates of the scientific community and the concerns raised by the public.
  • Making Sense of Radiation
    Together with scientists, engineers and medical professionals we identified some of the tools that they themselves rely on to help deliver a clearer picture of what radiation is, what it does and what it can’t do.
  • Making Sense of GM
    In the guide scientists and agriculturalists explain what is the genetic modification of plants and why scientists are doing it, putting GM into the context of developing plant breeding.
  • Public Views on Scientific Evidence
    Ipsos MORI study conducted for Sense About Science.
  • Making Sense of Weather and Climate
    We worked with climate and weather scientists to review how weather and climate issues are discussed in media coverage and policy debates and address what they noticed were frequent misunderstandings.
  • I’ve Got Nothing to Lose by Trying It
    A guide to weighing up claims about cures and treatments.
  • Standing Up For Science
    A guide to the media for early career researchers.
  • Standing Up For Science II
    A guide to promoting good science and fighting misinformation.

[Ctrl-P] Steven Novella: “Alternative Engineering”: A Postmodern Parable

Voor deze copy-paste een oudere tekst van Steven Novella, neuroloog, voorzitter van New England Skeptical Society, medisch consulent voor, fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry en JREF en opperhoofd van de podcast The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.

Novella, onthou die naam!

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Steven Novella, M.D.: Alternative Engineering”: A Postmodern Parable (2003)

A new phenomenon is sweeping the country, gaining the attention of both consumers and manufacturers alike. Increasingly disenchanted with the cold metallic world of modern technology, people are looking closely at more natural alternatives. Collectively called Alternative Engineering (“Alt Eng”), a host of new and old methods are gaining scientific and journalistic respectability.

Alec Waterstone is one such self-styled alternative engineer. He has no degree or formal training in engineering, which, he explains, is an advantage: “My thinking is not limited by mathematics, logic, or any stodgy old mechanistic paradigm. I do not have to pay homage to the likes of Newton or other Western male pedagogues. My complete lack of training frees me to consider unique and innovative solutions to engineering problems, unfettered by the annoying constraints of “reality.”

Energy-Based Bridges

Alec’s latest project is a design for a 1200-foot non-suspension bridge. He claims the bridge will be able to span this distance without pylons or overhead suspension, and will be supported only by the ancient art of Feng Shui. “This wisdom, which is thousands of years old, is the art of channeling energy through design and form. This energy can be used to support a 1200-foot bridge, or even larger structures.” City planners are intrigued by these designs, because such bridges will cost less than half as much as conventionally designed bridges.

Alec is also quick to point out that ancient Chinese documents reveal absolutely no accounts of collapsing suspension bridges. His technique’s safety record is, he argues, unparalleled. “How else would it have survived all these years if it didn’t work?

Anthony Trellis, a professor of engineering at State-of-the Art University, claims that Alec’s designs run contrary to basic principles of physics and materials science. An exasperated Trellis commented, “A bridge based upon Waterstone’s designs simply could not stand. It would be unsafe in the extreme.”

But Alec is not perturbed by such criticism. “Of course professor Trellis does not like my designs, because they challenge his precious status quo and turn his world upside-down. But the protectionism of the old guard is starting to crumble, like one of their obsolete buildings,” he retorted at a recent symposium for progressive thinkers who agreed that those who fail to jump on the bandwagon will be left behind. His talk to a standing-room-only crowd also accused the American Society of Civil Engineers, the steel industry, and other “vested interests” of trying to suppress his views.

Skeptics have suggested that before we spend millions of taxpayer dollars on such projects, and subject American motorists to the unknown risks of driving over a Waterstone bridge, Waterstone’s basic principles should at least be tested to see whether they work. This is especially true since his designs seem to run contrary to conventional wisdom. But Waterstone responds:

I”m too busy designing bridges to jump through some skeptic’s hoops. They will never be satisfied, anyway. The American motorists should be free to decide for themselves if they wish to drive over one of my bridges. I respect their intelligence and ability to make smart decisions for themselves. They don’t need to be told by some bureaucrat, or professor in an ivory tower, which bridges are safe and which are not.

Professor Trellis and other naysayers argue that individuals should not have to be scientists or engineers in order to drive safely over our bridges. Regulations are not designed to limit freedom, but to provide a basic level of safety and protection for the public. This attitude, however, is increasingly being dismissed as overly paternalistic and protective.

Lees hier verder.

Het Denkgelag, the movie

Op 17 oktober 2013 vond Het Denkgelag Royale plaats. Daniel Dennett, Massimo Pigliucci en Lawrence Krauss lieten, in toom gehouden door Maarten Boudry en een Duvel of wat, hun licht schijnen over de grenzen van de wetenschap en het nut van de filosofie daarbij.

De heren organisatoren van Het Denkgelag hebben niet alleen een fantastische avond in elkaar getimmerd die quasi vlekkeloos verliep. Ze hebben het hele evenement ook nog eens digitaal vastgelegd voor het nageslacht. Chapeau!

Chemisch versus natuurlijk

Een zeer korte, maar heldere uitleg over het pseudo-onderscheid tussen ‘chemisch’ en ‘natuurlijk’ uit 2010. Moeilijker hoeft dat niet te zijn. Moeilijker hoeft men dat niet te maken.

[Ctrl-P] Tia Ghose: “Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words

se7enWetenschap en het grote publiek (waaronder ondergetekende): we zijn nog lichtjaren verwijderd van een globale kwantumsprong voorwaarts. Het is maar een theorie, natuurlijk.

Tia Ghose, schrijfster verbonden aan de website Livescience, zette 7 termen op een rijtje die vaak door niet-wetenschappers misbruikt worden, al dan niet bewust.

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Tia Ghose: “Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words

Hypothesis. Theory. Law. These scientific words get bandied about regularly, yet the general public usually gets their meaning wrong.

Now, one scientist is arguing that people should do away with these misunderstood words altogether and replace them with the word “model.” But those aren’t the only science words that cause trouble, and simply replacing the words with others will just lead to new, widely misunderstood terms, several other scientists said.

“A word like ‘theory’ is a technical scientific term,” said Michael Fayer, a chemist at Stanford University. “The fact that many people understand its scientific meaning incorrectly does not mean we should stop using it. It means we need better scientific education.”

From “theory” to “significant,” here are seven scientific words that are often misused.

Lees hier verder.


Oh ja, de woorden zijn:

  1. Hypothese
  2. Theorie
  3. Model
  4. Skeptisch
  5. Nature versus nurture
  6. Significant
  7. Natuurlijk

24 november 2013: Dag van de Wetenschap

richting morgenVolgende maand, op zondag 24 november 2013 vindt een nieuwe editie van de Dag van de Wetenschap plaats. In heel Vlaanderen zijn er die dag publieksactiviteiten rond wetenschap en technologie.

Aan de hand van lezingen, opendeurdagen, workshops, … wil men jong en oud prikkelen, informeren en sensibiliseren voor het belang van wetenschappen.

Informatie over tal van activiteiten op de Dag van de Wetenschap vindt u op de volgende websites:

atoompjes te bouwen, Leuke website om zelf

atom26 ijzerVan waterstof (H, Hydrogenium) tot ununoctium (Uuo), op de webiste Build an Atom vindt u ze allemaal terug, het hele klasje van Mendeljev. Netjes geïllustreerd, met de nodige informatie over het aantal neutronen en protonen, de spinbeweging van de elektronen, de schil etc.

Bij wijze van voorbeeld heb ik links de afbeelding voor ijzer (Fe) geplakt. Elke overeenkomst met het Atomium is puur toevallig.

Verder bevat de webpagina nog een link naar een schaalmodel van een (vereenvoudigd) zuurstofatoom. De kern van het schaalmodel (het proton) van het schaalmodel heeft een doornsee van 1000 pixels, wat inhoudt dat het elektron in het model zo’n 50.000.000 pixels verder staat. Met andere woorden, met een 19-inch-scherm gaat u er niet geraken.

[Ctrl-P] Adam Frank: Welcome to the Age of Denial

AdamVoor deze kopie-plak heb ik gekozen voor “Welcome to the Age of Denial”. Dit opniestuk van Adam Frank verscheen op 21 augustus, in The New York Times en het leek mij de moeite om de tekst een maand later nog eens te serveren.

Frank, een natuurkundige geïnteresseerd in “the intersection of astrophysical fluid dynamics, stellar evolution and supercomputer simulations”, laat wat stoom af over het gemak waarmee wetenschappelijke feiten ondergeschikt worden gemaakt aan ideologieën en hoe sociaal aanvaardbaar, bon ton zelfs, dat in deze tijden blijkbaar is.

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Adam Frank: Welcome to the Age of Denial

In 1989, when “climate change” had just entered the public lexicon, 63 percent of Americans understood it was a problem. Almost 25 years later, that proportion is actually a bit lower, at 58 percent.

The timeline of these polls defines my career in science. In 1982 I was an undergraduate physics major. In 1989 I was a graduate student. My dream was that, in a quarter-century, I would be a professor of astrophysics, introducing a new generation of students to the powerful yet delicate craft of scientific research.

Much of that dream has come true. Yet instead of sending my students into a world that celebrates the latest science has to offer, I am delivering them into a society ambivalent, even skeptical, about the fruits of science.

This is not a world the scientists I trained with would recognize. Many of them served on the Manhattan Project. Afterward, they helped create the technologies that drove America’s postwar prosperity. In that era of the mid-20th century, politicians were expected to support science financially but otherwise leave it alone. The disaster of Lysenkoism, in which Communist ideology distorted scientific truth and all but destroyed Russian biological science, was still a fresh memory.

The triumph of Western science led most of my professors to believe that progress was inevitable. While the bargain between science and political culture was at times challenged — the nuclear power debate of the 1970s, for example — the battles were fought using scientific evidence. Manufacturing doubt remained firmly off-limits.

Today, however, it is politically effective, and socially acceptable, to deny scientific fact.

Lees hier verder.

[Ctrl-P] David Dixon: Amateur scientists vs. cranks

pseudowetenschapDavid Dixon presenteerde een greep uit de correspondentie van pseudowetenschappers, “the crazy, the naive and the stubborn”. Hilarisch, grappig, confronterend. Een excellente inleiding tot de pathologische wetenschap.

Het volledige begeleidende artikel vindt u op boing boing. De video duurt een uurtje, geen twee zoals aangegeven, en dateert van juli 2012.

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This is video of a talk given last year by David Dixon, assistant professor of math, science and engineering at Saddleback College in California. He used to work in the Physics Department at California Polytechnic State University, which, like many physics departments around the world, received loads of correspondence from non-scientists who thought they had come up with earth-shattering, game-changing hypotheses that needed to be shared.

Now, sometimes, laypeople come up with good ideas that should be explored. But many of these letters are better classified as the work of cranks — folks who had big ideas, cared deeply about those big ideas, but who were dead wrong… and utterly impervious to the idea that they might be wrong.

Nobels 2013: Physics goes to Higgs and Englert

englert“This year’s prize is about something very small that makes all the difference,” said Staffan Normark, permanent secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, in making the announcement today that Peter Higgs and François Englert had won the physics Nobel. Normark also name-checked the ATLAS and CMS detectors at CERN in his announcement.

The award goes to Englert, of the Free University of Brussels, and Higgs, of the University of Edinburgh, “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass subatomic particles”.

The researchers behind the so-called ‘Higgs particle’ have been widely expected to gain a Nobel at some point, especially after CERN confirmed the detection of such a particle in July last year, which is required in the standard model of physics.

The prize announcement states:

The entire Standard Model also rests on the existence of a special kind of particle: the Higgs particle. This particle originates from an invisible field that fills up all space. Even when the universe seems empty this field is there. Without it, we would not exist, because it is from contact with the field that particles acquire mass. The theory proposed by Englert and Higgs describes this process.

Bron: Nature Blogs