Communicating Science Tablet


Now, More Than Ever, We Must Stand Up for Science

In this guest blog post for Scientific American, former CBS news anchor Dan Rather appeals to all scientists and science-minded communicators to be more visible in the public and political sphere(s).

He argues that because news reporters and editors tend to lack scientific training, scientific issues are not covered with the nuance and sensibility that is required for people to understand how science is relevant to their lives.

He believes that scientists and members of the press should interact more and that scientists should increase their visibility online and in the news to promote the exchange of ideas and garner interest in science.

This way, he argues, evidence-based research can have a greater influence on public perception of issues (such as climate change and Zika) that affect our country and the world. 


Best Science Podcasts

Freakonomics Radio: Bad Medicine Series 1-3:

Freakonomics is a podcast hosted by Stephen Dubner and produced by Dubner Productions and WNYC Studios.

Named for the book (and its sequels) co-written by Dubner and Steve Levitt, the podcast explores a variety of topics about the human experience as viewed through the lens of economists.

For example, recent podcasts have tackled the questions: Why Do People Keep Having Children?; How to Become Great at Just About Anything; and The No-Tipping Point; an episode about the economics of tipping for service.

Bad Medicine Series:

In the first episode, "The Story of 98.6," Dubner and several medical doctors and medical historians discuss how some of the scientific theories guiding medical practices have been debunked through a long history of trial and error. However, some erroneous ideas from history still persist today.

For example, the ideal human body temperature is still thought to be 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but in reality, there is a high degree of variability between people and within the same person throughout the day.

Philip Mackowiak, MD, MBA, a professor of medicine and medical historian at University of Maryland, discusses the methods used by the doctor who originally came up with this number, and why this number isn’t accurate for 92% of the population.

The second episode, "Drug Trials and Tribulations," covers the need to have clinical trials that are more inclusive of women and people with diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Because some medications are only tested on men, the side effects on women are not identified until the drug is already prescribed to the general population. Ambien, the sleep medication, is cited as an example of how men and women differ in their ability to metabolize a drug, and how this difference can be dangerous.

The third episode, "Death by Diagnosis," discusses how medical errors can lead to accidental death, which is the third leading cause of death in the US. Increasing the medical community’s awareness of medical errors and increasing error reporting, as well as identifying the risk factors associated with the experience level of the doctor, are all measures that can help to prevent accidental death.

Radiolab: Bringing Gamma Back

This podcast episode highlights the just-published breakthrough from Li-Huei Tsai, PhD, director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and Picower Professor of Neuroscience.

In Dr. Tsai's study, mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease were exposed to light at the same frequency of brain waves called gamma waves that occur in healthy animals. It was found that these light waves triggered the brain’s "clean-up crew," leading to the reduction of the neurofibrillary tangles and misfolded proteins that are hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease and subsequently prevent neural communication in the diseased brain.

In this episode, science journalist Molly Webster interviews Tsai to find out how these experiments evolved and how important and unexpected the findings are. The excitement behind the discovery is captured and complimented with Radiolab’s characteristic dramatic sound effects and unconventional story telling.

Big Picture Science: Skeptic Check: Aliens- The Evidence

Using the recently released movie, The Arrival, as a launchpad, this podcast episode features discussions about the search for extraterrestrial life.

Though the Big Picture Science podcast covers all areas of science, this episode gives a glimpse into the research conducted by co-host Seth Shostak, PhD, Senior Astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute.

Shostak and co-host Molly Bentley discuss the approach to searching for extraterrestrial life, what they’ve learned so far, and what other methods can be used to continue this search. 

Whether you’re a skeptic or a full-blown believer in alien life, rest assured that if alien life is out there, the researchers featured in their podcast are doing their best to make sure it will be discovered.

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