The public’s unwillingness to learn basic scientific concepts and scientists’ inability to communicate those concepts lead the public to reject promising research (such as genetic modification), ignore serious problems (such as global warming) and embrace dangerous nonsense (such as anti-vaccination rhetoric).
— Proposition from the Ph.D. thesis of Dr Wynand Winterbach, via Francois Malan on Facebook.
(This important message was brought to you by cpbotha.net, trawling facebook for interesting tidbits so you don’t have to!)
I’ve been dealing with a spot of blog writer’s block, hence the lateness of this post. I’d forgotten that these monthly instalments were initially intended to be extended status updates, with a spot of backyard philosophy every so often. Trying to come up with worthwhile backyard philosophy every week is just plain hard. This week I’m going for half a status update along with a list of possibly interesting sciencey tidbits.
- I’ve managed to release a stable version of DeVIDE, my Frankenstein-Borg software system for visualization and image processing, only about 2.5 years after the previous stable release. Go get yours fresh from the oven, it’s completely open source!
- It seems like yesterday when I got to design and teach the first MedVis Ninja course at the TU Delft. The fourth generation of students have just started with the course (partly the reason for pushing out a new DeVIDE release). The previous generations are kicking ass as we speak, and I’m proud of ’em all.
- I had the privilege of giving another invited talk, in Dutch, at the yearly conference of the Dutch Anatomical Society. In my talk, titled Data Visualization: Driving the human visual system for fun and profit, I introduced data and medical visualization, and then discussed three illustrative examples in more depth: high quality volume rendering (work by Thomas Kroes), diffusion tensor imaging (work by Jorik Blaas) and fMRI connectivity visualization (work by André van Dixhoorn).
That’s it for the status update. The sciencey bits I thought were worth mentioning are:
- There’s been some press lately about the letter to the Wall Street Journal, signed by 16 scientists, in which they try to make the case that climate change is really not such an issue. Climate change denialists everywhere rejoiced, I cringed. I really don’t like denialism. Fortunately, it turns out that I’m not the only one, and that there’s a story behind the story: The WSJ editorial board is severely biased against climate science. Another letter, signed by 255 real scientists (all members of the US National Academy of Science), dealing with the realities of climate change, was flat-out rejected by the WSJ. It’s a shame that the first factually dubious letter got so much of the press. Read more about the whole debacle in this Forbes article.
- A recent Psychological Science article contains the results of a study on more than 15000 UK inhabitants, as well as on a group in the US, that shows that lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, manifesting in for example right-wing ideologies or homophobia. Ha ha.
- In another not-so-surprising turn of events, it turns out that alcohol does indeed make you more creative. FrancoisMalan.com sent me, albeit indirectly, this Consciousness and Cognition article, titled Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving. Note the creative title, draw your own conclusions about the state of intoxication required for authoring a successful scientific article. Ahem.
Good science should be reproducible. Judging by the blood alcohol content and weight tables on Wikipedia, I should be more creative between 3 and 4 beers, a result I will certainly try to confirm during my next WHV writing session. It is left as an exercise to the reader to calculate my body weight based on this information.