February 24, 2015

Attack of the Bots (quest for the data)!

Is this the signature of an advertising bot invasion? To find out, look over the following three graphs and then compare with this post on a traffiic surge involving Bitcoin and the Ukraine from Summer 2014.

1) traffic spike over a period of 36 hours.

2) traffic entering blog from a large number of short URLs (some belonging to advertising networks).

3) traffic going to no specific set of posts (traffic patterns are not much different that that of a typical week).

February 12, 2015

Darwin Day Short

He did it all for the finches (and their beaks).

Here's wishing everyone a Happy Darwin Day for 2015 (Darwin's 206th posthumous birthday)! Here is a short pictoral profile. And check out the hashtag #darwinday on Tumblr for more features and events. And, as a bonus, here is a new paper in Nature [1] that uses genome resequencing to better understand the adaptive variation in finch beaks.

Young Darwin

Middle-aged Darwin

Old Man Darwin

[1] Lamichhaney, S.     Evolution of Darwin’s finches and their beaks revealed by genome sequencing. Nature, doi:10.1038/nature14181 (2015).

February 8, 2015

Scientific Paradigm Network

Sometimes, a picture is worth 1000 morsels of food for thought. Here is a map of selected scientific topical categories courtesy of Seed Magazine and Map of Science. In this graph, each of the 776 categories is a paradigm with an epistomological basis. The linkages between them represent shared papers between paradigms. Visit the Information Esthetics website for more information (reprints of the poster version are sold out). Having been originally published in 2006, the arcs of the network (citation information) are bit out of date. The overall topology, however, is still valid.

January 26, 2015

Science and Politics or Science versus Politics?

A few items on the intersection of politics and science (and the tension between the two). First up is an infographic that shows the relative frequency of various "science and engineering words" during the annual State of the Union (SOTU) address by all US Presidents since Teddy Roosevelt. The "science and tech" category is at the bottom, and has been an increasingly important component of these speeches over the last 40 years.

Related to societal relevance is the whole issue of political will and action on science-related topics. This is particularly true when it comes to policies that address Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). This point was not missed during the 2015 SOTU. However, one might wonder how effectively climate policy can be when most politicians have a cursory (at best) technical understanding of scientific issues. Perhaps advocacy for science policy (e.g. lobbying) is not enough after all -- perhaps we need more scientist-politicians.

COURTESY: 350.org

Many discussions of global warming (mostly involving denialists) involve an appeal to the scientific consensus. While the consensus does point strongly towards the reality of a human-induced warming of the planet, the discoveries that lead to this consensus were individualistic quests for data. The data were not voted into existance, and neither can consensus on a scientific issue [1]. While skepticism should come into play when considering the implications of findings, it should not play a role in judging conclusions drawn from isolated findings. For one example, please see this article by Ethan Siegel on Starts With a Bang! blog on why science by democracy (or popular consensus) does not represent how science is actually done.

A call for scientist-politicians? COURTESY: Grady Carter blog (for the montage).

The final item in this post in a new Kickstarter/film initiative to bring awareness to the American space program. "Fight for Space" is a project to bring awareness of budgetary cuts to our scientific endeavors and the pressure to fulfill politically-approved missions. To change this state of affairs, check out the Planetary Society's advocacy efforts. The scientific mission of NASA has been yielding significant returns as of late [2], so help to keep this momentum going.

COURTESY: SaganSense Tumblr.

[1] The popularity of a set of ideas do not mean that they are scientifically credible. For more, see this article from Why Evolution is True regarding the lack of evidence for but popular persistence of proposals involving a divine origin of life.

January 24, 2015

SciNote: the science blog

I would like to announce the ramping up of a new science blog I am involved in called SciNote. Initially hosted (and still active) on Tumblr, SciNote is a collection of submissions by contributors, editors, and content discoverers. As of this month, I will be serving as the editorial supervisor. So check out the SciNote blog today. Perhaps you will be interested in submit content, supporting the blog's mission, or even joining the staff (on a voluntary basis).