This week, the first of (hopefully) many Bay Area science festivals is taking place. There are events happening all around the Bay, and I will be covering some of them live via Justin.tv. Also, I’m lucky to be joined in the action by the wonderful Indre Viskontas.
Here is my estimated broadcast schedule (times are still subject to change):
Tuesday 7-8pm PT
Porchlight: Epic Fail
Hosts: Indre, Kirsten
Wednesday 11am-12pm PT
Retrain your brain
Wednesday 6:30-7pm and 9-9:30pm PT
Will We ever understand the brain
Hosts: Indre, Kirsten
Friday 11:30am-12:30pm PT
Friday 7-8pm PT CANCELLED
Saturday 1-2pm PT CANCELLED
Hosts: Indre, Kirsten
Discovery Days, ATT Park
Watch live video from drkiki on www.justin.tv Filed under Esoterica, Science Chat, The Science Word, This Week in Science | Comment (0)
So, people are moving to West Virginia to get away from electromagnetic radiation. They’ve chosen the particular area in WV because it is a “quiet zone” with little in the way of EM transmission going on (mainly so the government dishes listening to the rest of the world and signals coming here from space can hear things better).
This type of story is not new. People have been moving away from modern society for any number of reasons for years. I recall watching a made for TV movie some years back about a woman isolating herself from everyone and everything because she was convinced that chemicals (in paint, perfume, fabrics, etc.) were making her sick. It was depressing. I turned it off.
Scientifically, there is no concrete evidence that EMF radiation causes the symptoms related to electromagnetic hypersensitivity (specifically, we are talking about only that portion of the EM spectrum related to the production and transmission of electrical and magnetic energy — people with hypersensitivity report symptoms when computers or tvs are turned on, near cell towers, near power lines, in areas with wi-fi, etc.). The symptoms are real though, so there definitely is a cause. What that cause is has yet to be discovered.
It’s been suggested that EM hypersensitivity results from an unknown sensory transduction process, that the individuals’ physiological responses actually lie outside normal variability, or it is psycho-somatic in nature. There is a high likelihood that some percentage of those with EM hypersensitivity do fall in the fringes of what we call normal; we know about people with tetrachromacy (they can see more colors); there are super-tasters; kids can hear higher frequencies than adults (and, I can hear the high pitched whine of fluorescent lights and had to get rid of my old CRT monitor because its refresh rate was too slow).
I, personally, like the idea that it could be due to some unknown process. How cool to have some people with an extra sense for EMF! It wouldn’t be too surprising either, considering that we evolved in a radiation-bathed world. The question that rises from that knowledge is what kind of survival benefit would come from being able to sense EMF, and from the symptoms described, in a really unpleasant way? What other things do we sense unpleasantly? Noxious stimuli. Burning hot, freezing cold, sharp objects that could injure our skin, and so on. We need to sense things that could injure us in order to survive better.
Is EMF harmful then? Is the sensation and resulting behavioral response a brilliant survival mechanism? Well, if so, why is it only self-reported in 5% of Americans? Shouldn’t it be more widely spread? Could be that we are seeing evolution in action with this one… I suggest the geneticists get on it to look for evidence of the genes responsible.
Anyway, my bad news for those trying to get away from EMF radiation is that since they live in this universe, there isn’t really any place that is technically 100% quiet. Sure, they can avoid some specific EMF signals created and transmitted by people since there aren’t any cell towers or electrical wires nearby, and they’ve chosen not to use wi-fi, and in some cases even live without electricity; however, they are still subject to all the signals (”It’s like a particle and a wave, man…”) that bounce around inside our atmosphere. Just because they don’t have a television doesn’t mean they aren’t still being bombarded by TV’s EM waves. TVs are not magnets for TV broadcast signals; they’re more like a bird net that can be tuned to catch specific kinds of birds.
And, to the poor suffering seventy year old Nichols Fox from the BBC article, who said she felt the symptoms come and go when she used her remote control to turn the TV on and off, I just have one thing to say. TVs with wireless remotes are always on in a stand-by mode waiting for the signal from the remote control to “turn it on”. Ok, two things to say… the EM radiation emitted by a TV decreases exponentially with distance, so sit further away if you are worried.
I’m not saying we know everything about EMF radiation and public health. By all means, no. We have a lot more to learn, and thankfully scientists are doing studies to inform our future decisions. If you are worried about EMF pollution by human activities, do your best to limit your exposure. You might find yourself breathing fresh air a lot more often, which science has shown to be very good for you.Filed under Esoterica, TWiT | Comments (12)
I think this speaks for itself…
Many thanks to Jeff Steinmetz at Urge Productions for the pictures, Anastassia Babanskaia for the styling, and Kat Steinmetz for the make-up. These pictures were taken last year pre-pregnancy; I’m working to get back into the amazing shape I was in when these pics were taken. Note the intentional lack of a lab coat anywhere.Filed under Esoterica, Women in Science | Comments (8)
This morning, I was totally taken by the focus on epigenetics in this month’s issue of The Scientist magazine. It’s a fascinating area of study that looks at mechanisms of inheritance and development that fall outside the usual genetic mechanisms.
For years, researchers investigating inheritance focused solely on DNA and RNA as the blueprints for what makes us who we are. However, over the past 80 years research has amassed suggesting that there is much more to the picture. Namely, expression of genes can be controlled through one process termed imprinting or another called X-chromosome inactivation, and chemical modifications by structures, called histones, that wrap DNA into little bundles, and a process called methylation.
The various modifications to DNA or RNA affect the ways that genes get expressed (like if they get turned on or off, or are expressed more or less), but not the genes themselves. Darwinian natural selection and Mendelian genetics are still major forces acting on the genes themselves (so, don’t go off half cocked crying about Lamarckian ideas overturning over 100 years of evidence for the theory of evolution), but now we have a new tool to add to the toolbox to help us understand the very nuanced processes of adaptation and development.
From an article in The Scientist:
“Eric Nestler, a psychiatrist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, explained that behavioral researchers “are moving to a far broader definition of epigenetics which simply refers to any lasting change in gene expression mediated by an alteration in chromosomal structure.” ”
What I find fascinating, is the idea that these modifications can arise during an individuals lifetime. It’s a mechanism that has the potential to explain how experience during someone’s lifetime can 1) effect changes in their behavior and 2) effect changes in the behavior of subsequent generations.
Epigenetics is no longer like genetics, which can look at individuals, but preferentially looks at changes to populations on a generational timescale. Rather, epigenetics diverges from genetics because it can explore changes within and between individuals on multiple timescales: second to second, minute to minute, year to year, or generation to generation.
Again, from The Scientist:
“Szyf… speculates that behavioral epigenetics might end up showing that adult learning is simply development, continued. Perhaps, he says, “it’s all development, starting from preconception to death.” ”
If the articles from The Scientist aren’t enough for you, we did a review of epigenetic research on TWIS last year, and interviewed one of the leading epigenetic researchers, Dr. Andrew Feinberg, back in 2007. In both cases, the coverage starts in the second half of the program, so you will need to fast forward a little bit to get to the pertinent info.Filed under Esoterica, Reads and Watches, This Week in Science | Comment (1)
For the past several years, news of the decline of coral species and coral reef ecosystems has increased dramatically. Ostensibly, we are hearing more about corals as a direct result of the work scientists are doing to help us learn more and more about the tight inter-relationship between the Earth’s climate and the oceans.
Last year, I was involved in a project with The Video Project, Plankton Productions, Curriculum Corporation, The Learning Federation, and Specialty Studios to create a video series for students on the subject of climate change and coral reefs. The project was based on a presentation given by Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a globally recognized marine biologist, at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. I worked as the host of the videos, and as Creative Adviser, working closely with the Instructional Design consultant, Nancy Wolfberg, on the writing, editing, and animations.
The primary goal of the project was to create a series of short videos that science teachers could use as supplements to help familiarize students with the basic science of both coral reefs and climate change. Secondarily, but even more importantly, we wanted our videos to instill an understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry that students would take with them from the classroom to the real world. In doing so, we hoped to counteract the very depressing scientific statistics presented across the videos with a feeling of empowerment… we wanted to leave the students with the impression that they are capable and don’t have to wait for adults in order to substantially affect their environments.
Here is a little taste of our introductory video:
I’m proud to say that I think we achieved our goals. The DVD that is currently available through The Video Project is a valuable teaching tool:
“The DVD includes:
Four 8-minute video modules hosted by Dr. Kiki Sanford.
The modules feature Dr. Sanford and excerpts from a presentation by Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg:
- Introduction to Climate Change and Coral Reefs
- Coral Bleaching
- Ocean Acidification
- The Future of Coral Reefs.
The full 28-minute presentation by Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg.
Details his scientific findings about the impact of climate change on coral reefs, with charts, graphs and other visuals.
A Detailed Teacher’s Guide.
Featuring an innovative group discussion format (Climate Café), templates for team-based
investigations and presentations, a glossary, Science magazine reprints, and a comprehensive
list of other resources and links (on the DVD-ROM section).
Visual Resources for Student Presentations.
Video clips, animations and other resources (on the DVD-ROM section).
All video segments are illustrated with footage from renowned underwater filmmaker David Hannan.”
I think the Teacher’s Guide is brilliant. It takes engagement with the material to a whole new level in and outside of the classroom. Additionally, source materials and all of the animations are available for the students to use in their own research and presentations, giving them the opportunity to put their own spin on what they learn.
So, if you are a science teacher (or home school your kids!), or know someone who might be interested in this teaching resource to supplement their teaching of climate change and coral reefs, please pass this information along!
If you are a teacher or student in Australia or New Zealand, where I believe these videos are available through the Curriculum Corporation, please let me know what you think of the video project. I’d love your feedback.
Also, Specialty Studios and The Video Project will have a booth at the 2011 National Conference of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) in San Francisco. I hope to be able to make an appearance at the event, and be able to talk with teachers in person about our labor of love. However, it’s rather close to the due date of my first child, so I will be sure to keep people apprised of developments.
I hope people enjoy and get much use out of our creation. It took the devotion and hard work of many talented individuals to see it to completion.Filed under Esoterica | Comments (5)
How are things going? Well, great!
Nano is growing steadily, and according to all markers my pregnancy is progressing without any issues (I won’t say without any hiccups because Nano has those all the time). I’m in the middle of trying to do my usual job of creating science programming while at the same time trying to plan for my maternity leave. The juggling is fun. Really.
I’m also trying to figure out things like what kinds of diapers to buy and where to put the baby’s things, while I try to ignore the fact that I am going to have to go through with labor whether or not I like it. Seriously, I am in denial that this is actually going to happen. Can’t I just have this little guy spring fully formed from my forehead? No? Fine.
We still haven’t decided on a name. There are several contenders, but every time I say them for a while I end up really disliking them. Not good for a name I might potentially be saying several hundred thousand times (at least) over the course of years.
IF you are interested in the progression of things, check out the following videos, which were harvested from TWiT’s Justin.tv feed by gldisater:
5 more weeks to go people…Filed under Esoterica, The Afterlife | Comments (3)
The answer is most likely no. Yet, the internet is a-buzz with contemplation about the subject of this coming Thursday’s press conference.
“As a NASA fellow, she now has the support and time to continue in hot pursuit of all things arsenic-based in collaboration with the ASU NAI team and the U.S. Geological Survey. Her current data are so exciting she can’t discuss them, even here! A few more experiments and she should have all the data she needs to demonstrate her hypothesis may well be verified…stay tuned. But really, in the end, its not just about arsenic. It is about looking at what is and thinking about what might be and, importantly, how to find it. When the dust settles, we will then see how we can and should “Follow the Elements” to lead us to what we might think of as new and novel “biology”- seemingly alien and yet potentially all around us! Iron, arsenic, copper, bismuth… its a whole periodic table out there. And yes, you too may be “off your trolley ” enough to jump in! But high risk, high gain….and the future of science! These data will speak louder than any speculation… again, stay tuned…”
What we probably have to look forward to is an announcement about data from her Mono Lake research that combined with the research of others on the panel will suggest possibilities for arsenic-based life here on earth and on other planets in the solar system. Felisa has been working on the idea of a “shadow biosphere” for a few years now, and just might have the evidence to support it finally.
So, no, not the finding of life, but evidence that we should be looking at things a different way in order to close in on it. That’s my guess.
Update: Oh, and The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, has a great post telling you all to chill out about it already… maybe in a few more words than I’ve used here to paraphrase him.Filed under Esoterica | Comment (1)
We are officially into the third trimester!!! The home stretch…Esoterica, The Afterlife | Comments (2)
Each week since I informed TWIT viewers that I’m pregnant, I’ve done a check-in on-camera to let people follow along with the pregnancy’s progress.One of my regular audience members, known as gldisater in the chatroom, has created highlights from the broadcast on Justin.tv. It’s really neat to look back and see how much things have changed in just a few short weeks.Here are the broadcast highlights in order from the first to the most recent… enjoy!:
And, that’s all so far, folks!Filed under Esoterica | Comments (4)