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This Week in Science 2017–11–19


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/11/19

“Mona Nemer is used to changing people’s minds.

When she was 17, Nemer and her fellow students had to fight to get her all-girls high school in Lebanon to open a science stream, academic courses that weren’t offered to them because they were female.

It was the 1970s, but school administrators didn’t think girls went into careers that needed science, says Nemer.”


“The black wings of a butterfly have provided a simple way to improve the light gathering abilities of solar cells. It is the latest example of how science turns to nature to find elegant solutions to technical problems.

Solar cells are a wonderfully clean way to turn sunlight directly into electricity with no moving parts and no pollution. But since their current invention more than 60 years ago, they have suffered from inefficiency. Early versions only converted about 1 to 2 per cent of the sunlight falling upon them. That has been improved to roughly 20 per cent today, but that still means 80 per cent of the sunlight is not being used.

Part of the problem is that solar cells tend to have smooth surfaces, which act as partial mirrors, reflecting sunlight back into the sky rather than absorbing it. It was in an attempt to make the surface of solar cells less reflective, and therefore absorb more light, where the scientists turned to the butterfly.”


“The man known as the Pope’s Astronomer will give a free lecture this week at the University of Victoria.

The head of the Vatican Observatory will give a public lecture on science and faith on Thursday, something organizers hope will address the controversy surrounding Governor General Julie Payette’s comments linking belief in God with astrology and climate change denial.

Brother Guy Consolmagno, who has post graduate science degrees from MIT and the University of Arizona, will separately address UVic’s Physics Department and the general public.”


“OAKLAND — Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis found an incredibly receptive audience at Limmud FSU, an international Jewish educational organization for Russian-Jewish youth, in Oakland, California on November 18.

He spoke about Israel being a powerhouse of science, technology and innovation, positing two reasons for this: The first, he accredited to the “brilliant minds through the years,” and then asked the audience to guess the second reason.

“Immigration from the former Soviet Union,” a woman offered up.

“Exactly,” Akunis said, noting that in the late 1980s and early 1990s 1.2 million Jews from the former Soviet Union made aliya. This, he said, was a great boost to the sciences and is reflected today in the success in the hi-tech spheres and in the innovations in math, science and chemistry.”


“ These are waves in space created by fluctuating electric and magnetic fields. The waves have characteristic rising tones — reminiscent of the sounds of chirping birds — and are able to efficiently accelerate electrons. Scientists have long known that solar-energised particles trapped around the planet are sometimes scattered into the earth’s upper atmosphere where they can contribute to beautiful auroral displays. Yet for decades, no one has known exactly what is responsible for hurling these energetic electrons on their way. Recently, two spacecraft found themselves at just the right places at the right time to witness, first hand, both the impulsive electron loss and its cause. New research using data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes Mission and FIREBIRD [Focused Investigations of Relativistic Electron Burst Intensity, Range, and Dynamics] II CubeSat has shown that a common plasma wave in space is likely to be responsible for the impulsive loss of high-energy electrons into the earth’s atmosphere. — Science Daily”


“I likely can’t count the number of times I have spoken or written the words science-based. It is a mantra of sorts. And for good reason.

Technology is the most important competitive advantage for Canadian agriculture. This is how we are going to compete with emerging exporters and key international competitors.

The alternative to science-based is regulations born out of the whims of the latest internet expert. To say that most of these so-called experts are in the category of the snake oil salesmen would be a bit of an insult to the purveyors of snake oil.”



In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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