2014 – Scientific American style! The top 10 stories and 10 notable women scientists we lost

Scientific American is celebrating science from 2014!

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Check out the Scientific American readers’ top 10 stories of 2014.

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Also, don’t miss the Maia Weinstock’s In Memoriam post about 10 Notable Women Scientists we lost in 2014.

Looking back on the year that was, science mavens may notice that tributes to those who’ve passed on in the preceding 12 months are far more often filled with stars of stage, screen, politics and sport than with the pioneering women and men who have bettered our society through discovery and invention. This is especially true of women, whose contributions to the sciences are often overlooked or underappreciated. The following list of 10 women in science who left us in 2014 offers a nod to individuals whose tireless work made the world a better place, both in their lifetimes and for years to come.

Ready for flu season?? Influenza is widespread in most of the US -reports @CDCgov @CDCflu

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that influenza is now widespread in 36 states. (gif credit – CauseScience, using map images from CDC FLUVIEW).

A mutated strain of the flu has caused the virus to spread to epidemic proportions, the CDC said in a new alert.

Thirty-six states — most in the Midwest — are experiencing flu cases at widespread rates, according to the latest data from the governmental body. Just a handful, like California, Alaska and Hawaii, had local or sporadic flu activity.

Weekly reports on influenza are available at the CDC website, and also using FLUVIEW – the CDC’s interactive tool. More in-depth information about this years influenza outbreak can be found here.flu;Also, don’t forget to get your flu vaccine if you haven’t already!!!

[tweet https://twitter.com/CDCFlu/status/549969131689476096]

Federal Health Agencies 2014 Year in Review

2014 review of federal health agencies – CDC, NSF, NIH etc from ResearchAmerica!

Research!America Blog

Photo credit: NIH.gov Photo credit: NIH.gov

From advances in diabetes research to record approval of drugs to treat rare diseases, taxpayer funded research and the effective employment of regulatory tools played a significant role in improving the health and wellbeing of Americans in 2014. Below is a year-end roundup of research highlights and scientific achievements from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Science Foundation, Food and Drug Administration and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

To fuel this momentum in scientific discovery and development, policymakers must commit to robust funding for the federal health agencies and policies that support private sector innovation. Take action today and tell your elected officials to make research for health a…

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Check out the most popular BRAIN FACTS of 2014!! @Brain_Facts_org

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Neuroscience Nerd Out!!! Check out the most popular posts on BrainFacts.org from 2014!! Follow BrainFacts on twitter for lots of awesome brain and neuroscience facts in 2015 – @Brain_Facts_org

[tweet https://twitter.com/Brain_Facts_org/status/549627223859531777] [tweet https://twitter.com/Brain_Facts_org/status/549628477176303616]

#Ebola Update: FDA approves 3-hour Ebola test from Roche, Ebola case count surpasses 20,000!

The FDA has approved a Roche test for Ebola that detects the virus in 3 hours (LightMix Ebola Zaire rRT-PCR). More info here.

New case counts from the World Health Organization indicate there have been more than 20,000 Ebola cases in the current West African outbreak.

More than 20,000 people have been diagnosed with Ebola virus and more than 7,800 have died of it, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization. It’s a new milestone in the ever-worsening Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, and it shows Sierra Leone has more cases than any other country.

Amazing time-lapse of Earth from International Space Station, courtesy of @Astro_Alex!!

Alexander Gerst’s Earth timelapses

Watch Earth roll by through the perspective of ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst in this six-minute timelapse video from space. Combining 12 500 images taken by Alexander during his six-month Blue Dot mission on the International Space Station this Ultra High Definition video shows the best our beautiful planet has to offer.

Of Science and Celebrities…

Featured in Slate, a blog post on female celebrities… and their passion for science.  An interesting perspective, and a warning to be a bit more critical of celebs who advocate for science:

Science, Celebrities, and the Perils of Promotion

Promoting science can be tricky. In general it’s fun and rewarding. I have a passion for science, and I wear it happily for all to see.

But there are minefields afoot. Of course there are people who deny science, and they will let the vitriol flow if you happen to stick a toe into their territory. There’s also the issue of diversity, including topics like women in science as well as people of different backgrounds, color, beliefs, and so on. I’m all for promoting more inclusion in science: the more the merrier! Reality is, and should be, for everyone.

But how to do this, how to actually promote these ideas, can get interesting.

A while back I was skimming my Twitter stream, and saw that my friend Christina Ochoa had retweeted a fun graphic created by Elise Andrew of I F’ing Love Science:

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Graphic by Elise Andrew

The picture is titled “Actresses with a passion for science” and shows five such women: Hedy Lamarr, Lisa Kudrow, Mayim Bialik, Natalie Portman, and Danica McKellar. I know how important it is to have good role models for kids and how girls need more support in getting into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Like it or not, actors and other famous people bear weight, so showing famous actresses who love STEM in my opinion is a pretty good thing.

So I retweeted the picture, adding “Love this” to it.

Then things got interesting.

Within minutes I started seeing responses about Dr. Bialik. Yes, “doctor”; she has a Ph.D. in neuroscience. The thing is, she also holds a number of beliefs with which I and many others disagree, some of them very strongly. For example, she’s a spokeswoman for a group called Holistic Moms—they support homeopathy, aprovably worthless and arguably dangerous bit of “alternative medicine.” They are also strongly anti-vaccination, and Bialik herself supports anti-vaxxers (she has stated she has not vaccinated her own children, a position I am strongly opposed to).

I knew all this when I retweeted the picture. I’ll admit, I hesitated before doing so, specifically because of this. Is promoting this picture also promoting anti-science beliefs? Looking at the responses on Twitter, a lot of people think so. I see their point, but I also don’t think this is quite so black-and-white.

I do strongly disagree with many of Bialik’s beliefs. But I also know that she is a high-profile actress, starring in The Big Bang Theory where she plays a scientist. Her character, Amy Farrah Fowler, is a biologist and is commonly seen doing work in the lab and talking about her research with her friends. I’m quite fond of her character; she’s a passionate scientist, a decent person, a dork, emotional, analytical, and has trouble being objective when assessing her relationship with her significant other. I know a lot of people like that. I am people like that.

On top of that, Bialik has promoted science herself. For example, I urge you to take a few minutes and watch this delightful video where she does a great job talking up science:

Clearly, she can be a positive role model for science. However, we must have a care. The same people who might be inspired by her pro-science message might look into her more and find that she holds some less-supported beliefs, some that are anti-science.

So is using her in that montage of pictures a good thing or a bad thing? I would argue it’s neither, but the good outweighs the bad. The facts are that she is a scientist, she is an actress, and the picture was about actresses who are scientists. In point of fact, celebrities can be influential, and it’s a good thing that people see science supported by celebrity.

But of course we should also be careful not to put celebrities on too high a pedestal. Yes, Bialik has beliefs unsupported by science. But so does everyone. I imagine if we dig into the histories of the other four women shown in the picture we’ll find all sorts of things that go against the foundations of science, just as you would if you examined anybody’s thoughts. I have met my fair share of scientists who believe in one thing or another without evidence, or despite it. Heck, you can find Nobel scientists who fall into that category, ones who have supported clear crackpottery.

I’ll note I’ve dealt with this before when I was at an event with a Miss Utah; though she and I would disagree strongly on a number of topics, she was also an outspoken promoter of STEM, which is why she was there. And I wasglad she was there, doing what she did. Think of it this way: If you knew of someone who did a great job taking down psychics, but also thought global warming was a hoax, would you then stop praising them for their work against psychics? It’s not an either-or thing; I would hope you would continue to praise them where appropriate but also take them to task where needed, too.

While you might dismiss those ideas and think less of the person holding them, that doesn’t necessarily subtract from their contributions to science. In this case, Bialik has done a lot to raise awareness of science and women’s contributions to it. Celebrating her (and the other four actresses) for that is great, and that was the sole purpose of the picture, and it’s appropriate to praise her there.

That doesn’t mean I am forgiving of Bialik’s beliefs at all. And in fact her presence in the picture has brought attention to them, which I think is also a good thing. A lot of folks agree with her when it comes to health issues, and that’s a big problem in this country; I’ve been clear about that for years.

That’s what I meant about this not being black-and-white. We’re all shades of gray, and if you really only want to praise people who are absolutely the perfect icons of science in every way, well, good luck finding them. You’ll be looking a long time.

As for me, I will continue to support science the best I can, and also support women in science. That’s the bigger picture here, and one we should all bear in mind.

Meet Niki Werkheiser, who is pioneering space exploration @NASA!!!

Leo King has written an awesome piece for Forbes.com profiling NASA’s Niki Werkheiser! Her work includes the 3D printing of tools and more on board the International Space Station!! Check out the profile!!

Niki Werkheiser, a NASA project manager, is no ordinary scientist. She is bringing about a transformation in the entire future of space exploration.

Her personal development to become a pioneering woman working in technology is equally remarkable.