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This Week in Science 2018–01–28


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

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

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/01/28

“After years in darkness, a NASA satellite is phoning home.

Some 12 years since it was thought lost because of a systems failure, NASA’s Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) has been discovered, still broadcasting, by an amateur astronomer. The find, which he reported in a blog post this week, presents the possibility that NASA could revive the mission, which once provided unparalleled views of Earth’s magnetosphere.

The astronomer, Scott Tilley, spends his free time following the radio signals from spy satellites. On this occasion, he was searching in high-Earth orbit for evidence of Zuma, a classified U.S. satellite that’s believed to have failed after launch. But rather than discovering Zuma, Tilley picked up a signal from a satellite labeled “2000–017A,” which he knew corresponded to NASA’s IMAGE satellite. Launched in 2000 and then left for dead in December 2005, the $150 million mission was back broadcasting. It just needed someone to listen.”


“It’s been 200 years since Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein created a creature in an experiment so gruesome it immediately became the stuff of horror legend.

But Shelley’s tale is more than a scary fable. Thanks to a new interactive online experience, it’s also a way to teach kids about science.

Frankenstein200 is a multi­media project designed by researchers at Arizona State University and funded through a grant by the National Science Foundation. It uses Shelley’s tale of scientific hubris to get children thinking about such things as robotics, bioengineering and why humans create.”


“BEIJING, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) — China has gained its say on the international stage in science and technology in 2017, said an official of the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST).

Wan Gang, president of the association, made the remarks at a session of CAST Friday, highlighting Chinese scientists who took top posts at major international organizations last year.

For instance, Gong Ke, head of Nankai University and an expert in electronic engineering, was elected president of the Paris-based World Federation of Engineering Organization, the largest international organization on engineering, becoming the first Chinese scientist to serve as president of the organization.”


“Recently, Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, urged scientists to share their problem-solving innovations with the public in more accessible ways, including by using vernacular languages. This kind of openness and accessibility is important and needed. While most scientists publish their work in academic journals, only 10 people, on average, read a given article in its entirety; so clearly, the general public is not being reached that way.

Translating complicated concepts that are jargon-heavy into terms and ideas the public can understand is not always easy. But, increasingly, scientists, university and research institutions, government institutions and others are trying to find ways to do it. Professional societies like the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Entomological Society of America offer a wide array of tools and programs like science communication courses and science policy fellowships to help scientists with dissemination. The National Academy of Sciences even recently released a report, “Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda,” to help scientists effectively communicate their research. An example of an international effort is the Imagine Project initiative, through which scientists take their research out of the laboratory and share it with rural and indigenous communities in Africa and Latin America.”


“ A convergence of events this week caused me to think about perspectives on science in the United States. While preparing to deliver the Founders Week lecture at the University of Georgia, I was reminded that 1 in 4 Americans still think the Sun revolves around the Earth. A day later a well-meaning adult learned that I was a meteorologist. The person immediately stated that we really do not know how to forecast the weather and just guess. I hear this statement enough that it is clear that most people have no idea that complex mathematic equations describing fluid flow are solved on computer models to make forecasts. At that moment, I began to ponder the well-known lag in U.S. science literacy. I decided to query my friends via social media. They represent a melting pot of socio-economic, cultural, racial, religious, and economic backgrounds. I deliberately sought a Main Street America perspective rather than the “ivory tower” literature. Here is what I distilled.”


“In 2008, Andrew Dolejsi died from injuries sustained in a car accident just days before he was going to turn 27.

Driving four friends home, Dolejsi died when the vehicle went off the road in icy conditions. His family would bury him on his birthday. Turning tragedy into something positive to help others, Andrew’s parents Eva and Ladislav began hosting an annual fundraiser every January as a means of coping with their loss.

At first, a modest gathering of friends and family at the Shark Club, the celebration quickly outgrew the social confines of the downtown bar and lounge. Five years later the couple moved the event to larger venues, eventually settling into a dinner and auction format at a hotel ballr”


“But in her latest book, the Belgian philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers defends the right of scientists to be political, by which she simply means the requirement to be relevant. And as part of this, she argues a need for “slow science”.

Found in translation

I was recently tasked with translating her book, Une autre science est possible!, originally published in French in 2013. It’s now available in English as Another Science is Possible: A Manifesto for Slow Science.

In her book, Stengers says that in order for the work of scientists to be relevant, they have to negotiate with a broader public and respect their questions. Things like: Why are you doing this work? What will it be used for?

The public might have to be prepared to wait for an answer, because the scientists are “still working on it”. But we have the right to be included in the conversation, she argues, as an “intelligent public”.”


“The upside of the sustained cold snap that hit Toronto earlier this winter was that the parkland alongside the Humber River, just a block from where I live, became skiable. The first time I hobbled down the hill in my cross-country boots, balancing my skis and poles on my shoulder, I felt like an intrepid explorer — until I saw the network of tracks already carved into the snow.

As a spectator sport, cross-country skiing is preparing for its quadrennial moment in the spotlight, with a strong team led by medal contender Alex Harvey of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., heading to Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics. But the steady stream of urban skiers I’ve encountered in the last few months offer a reminder that the sport also has broad grassroots appeal — for very good reason, as these recent research findings show.

Skiers live longer

In the 1980s, Finnish researchers started following more than 2,000 men in and around the town of Kuopio, looking for factors that would predict longevity. One of the baseline questions they asked each subject was how much he skied.”



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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