Against hatred and intolerance we need education and civil courage. This is what Nobel science and Nobel peace is about.

Bishop emeritus Gunnar Stålsett, in a speech at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway.

You can read his speech on the importance of science and peace in society on the blog of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.

It’s all about balance. Without my writing, I would feel very isolated. The world is such a beautiful and complex place, and science only has limited access to its wonders. Science is dominated by strict rules which preclude emotions, and I would never allow my emotions to influence my research. So, to balance out my life, I write fiction and take photographs.

President Trump and his team are pursuing what I call a ‘control-alt-delete’ strategy: control the scientists in the federal agencies, alter science-based policies to fit their narrow ideological agenda, and delete scientific information from government websites

Can Game Theory Help Save Our Forests? | JSTOR Daily

The JSTOR blog recaps current research projects that try to implement game theory methods to work against poaching, illegal logging, and other threats to global fauna and flora (”green security games”): 

Although these technologies are still in their pilot testing phases, these projects demonstrate the power of applying computer science to help protect our world’s remaining wild places.


Can Game Theory Help Save Our Forests? | JSTOR Daily

Science Shows People Who Still Read Fiction A More Empathetic

Interesting article on the benefits of reading fiction, including activating areas of the brain responsible for visualizing movement or emotional transportation. One caveat: I’m not sure if I entirely agree with their separation between literary fiction and popular fiction, because those labels are manifestations of the canon and arbitrary to a certain degree. More complex literature seems to lead to enhanced empathy. I’m not entirely sure if that is the same differentiation as literary popular young adult fiction.

Choice quote from psychologist David Comer Kidd:

“The same psychological processes are used to navigate fiction and real relationships. Fiction is not just a simulator of a social experience, it is a social experience.”

Good thing my new year’s resolution is to spend more time reading fiction, preferably in printed book form. If I am able to concentrate enough, few things recharge and calm me down as well as a good book.

Science Shows People Who Still Read Fiction A More Empathetic

“Americans can figure that out for free.”

I’m not exactly sure how much funding from the National Science Foundation projects in American Studies/Cultural Studies get, but this might be a harsh blow to U.S.-based academics working in my field. It’s definitely chipping away at academic freedom : 

A measure limiting National Science Foundation funding for political science research projects passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, quietly dealing a blow to the government agency.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) submitted a series of amendments to the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, the Senate bill to keep the government running past March 27. One of those amendments would prohibit the NSF from funding political science research unless a project is certified as “promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.”

And his argument quoted in the HuffPo article sounds like statements I heard from STEM-majoring friends of mine when we were fresh out of high school and in college: We’re not doing real science anyway. 

(Pro tip: Discussing Foucault usually shuts the real science students up.)

[TW: discussion violence against women, rape, preeclampsia and miscarriages]

I struggle to see anything adaptive in this. I struggle to see any benefit that could outweigh this cost.

Finally, most perpetrators today are men the victims know. Many, many rapes are part of a broader suite of intimate partner violence behaviors. The idea that preeclampsia could somehow be a pregnancy avoidance mechanism assumes that the rapist is not the woman’s partner, has not in fact had sex, consensual or not, with her for a number of years. It seems likely to me that the kinds of rape we have today are similar to the kinds of rape we had in the ancestral period.

The science behind all of this is straightforward. Akin could have had some assistant or intern look it up in minutes via Google Scholar or PubMed, as a few paper abstracts would have been more illuminating than whatever he was reading. But Akin wasn’t interested in the science, he was interested in how well he could use fear and false information to control women.

In all that powerlessness, that is one thing women have to fight back. When women have the right information they do not have to withstand the claim that they can’t get pregnant from rape, or it must not have been that stressful if they are pregnant. Women and their children who have survived preeclampsia do not have to endure another man telling them that it is a mechanism to avoid rape, or that they could reduce their chances of preeclampsia next time if they’d only swallow. A clear picture of reality dispels the gloom of sexism better than any cleverly worded blog post ever could.

Here is Some Legitimate Science on Pregnancy and Rape | Context and Variation, Scientific American Blog Network

This is a great, concise and easily understandable text on the science rebuking Akin’s claims regarding ‘legitimate rape.’

via Melissa Harris-Perry