Bill Nye’s awesome advice to students during Rutgers Commencement Speech

Bill Nye was invited to give the commencement speech this year for the Rutgers University Commencement.  While our favorite “Science guy” hit on a variety of points, he made sure to emphasize the importance of acting on climate change.  You can read the full transcript of the speech at Time Magazine.  Here are some highlights:

The oncoming trouble is Climate Change: It is going to affect you all in the same way the Second World War consumed people of my parents’ generation. They rose to the challenge, and so will you. They came to be called The Greatest Generation. I want you all to preserve our world in the face of Climate Change and carry on as The Next Great Generation.

That’s it; that’s our problem. We have almost 7.3 billion people breathing and burning an atmosphere, which is, in the planetary scheme of things, quite shallow. We all share the same air. That’s why our climate is changing. Denying it is in no one’s best interest. If you know any climate deniers, I’m sorry. But, try asking them this question: “Do you believe that it’s a conspiracy of health professional that is duping the world into believing that cigarette smoking causes cancer?” The scientific consensus on climate change is at least as strong as the consensus on smoking. Climate change is a real deal. So, hey deniers — cut it out, and let’s get to work.

Class of 2015, you have to vote! For those of you, who don’t want to participate — who don’t want to vote, would you please just shut up, so the rest of us can get things done.

Along with the evidence of common sense, researchers have proven scientifically that humans are all one people. We’re a lot like dogs in that regard. If a Great Dane interacts (can we say interact?) with a Chihuahua, you get a dog. They’re all of the same species. Same with us. The color of our ancestors’ skin and ultimately my skin and your skin is a consequence of ultraviolet light, of latitude and climate. Despite our recent sad conflicts here in the U.S., there really is no such thing as race. We are one species — each of us much, much more alike than different. We all come from Africa. We all are of the same stardust. We are all going to live and die on the same planet, a Pale Blue Dot in the vastness of space. We have to work together.

Kevin Ashton describes The Dumbest Question You Can Ask A Scientist! #science

Almost as a followup to our earlier post about How To Piss Off A Scientist, I ran across an article in Daily Beast – The Dumbest Question You Can Ask A ScientistKevin Ashton writes a terrific argument that the economic value of any type of basic science is as unknown as the potential discovery.

The dumbest question you can ask a scientist—or any other creator, inventor, or discoverer—about his or her work is, “What’s the economic value?”

Ashton includes historic scientific findings that at first seemed to have little or no economic value, but wound up having huge economic value – Hertz discovery of electromagnetic waves and Dobson’s discovery of atmospheric ozone.

Using quotes from physicist David Kaplan, in response to being asked what the value of finding the Higgs Bosun would be. Ashton examines the value of basic science more closely.

Add in the fact that the point of basic science is to know what’s unknown, and we see that the dumbest question requests the unknowable value of the unknowable consequences of an unknown thing.

The work of basic scientists like Hertz, Dobson, and Kaplan can only be driven by curiosity, not purpose. What is the value of a particular curiosity? There is no way to know in advance. Discovery is curiosity’s product; everything else, including immeasurable economic value, follows. We cannot know the worth of something we have not yet discovered. In science, as in all truly creative work, the joy is the rainbow, not the hope of gold at the rainbow’s end.

@ACSReactions Video: Accidental Discoveries That Changed The World #science #history


Throughout the history of science, many major discoveries came accidentally. Sometimes they came from recognizing potential in an unexpected product or waste. Other times, discovery came out of pure desperation from a seemingly dead-end experiment. Here are some of those happy accidents that ended up changing the world.

CauseScience weekly roundup of science news and goings on!!

This week was busier than usual and CauseScience didn’t get to post all of the awesome science-y things we wanted to. Here is a roundup of cool science news and happenings to check out!

The NIH has awarded $31 million to enhance diversity amongst biomedical researchers!

President Obama’s moratorium on controversial research about certain viruses is stopping some scientists research in its tracks.

A video in the world’s largest vacuum chamber confirms that a feather and bowling ball will fall at the same rate.

New study finds that the urban legend that NYC has 1 rat per person is wrong. It’s actually more like 1 rat for every 4 people.

Citizen science contributed to a groundbreaking air quality study published this week!

While GMO labeling measures in Colorado and Oregon failed at the polls, apparently Bill Nye is still on the fence about GMO‘s.

Body Horrors blog posted a great piece on the history of miners and their unknown nemesis… the hookworm.

Can you tell when New Yorkers are slacking off based on twitter?? (gif: Carl Engelking)?


ScienceCareers posted an terrific article about Postdocs ‘speaking up’ for themselves featuring findings from the ‘Future of Research Symposium

Young student scientists are doing their part to help fight Ebola!‘s Absurd Creature of the Week is a beautiful sea slug with a secret weapon!

NPR fills us in on what the election results will mean for Environmental Policy.

#SharkWeek: Fact AND Fiction

It’s that time of year again, Discovery’s Shark Week kicks off for a whole week of shark-related stories, documentaries, raw video footage, and more.  I get sucked into this just as much as anyone else, but it’s important to keep in mind that not everything shown on Shark Week is fact… especially not recently.

Sure, the shows may not be as obviously fake as Sharknado (fantastic film, btw), but as shark week enthusiasts, I encourage you all to remain wary of what the real stories are and what are overly dramatized and fictionalized shark “fauxmentaries” put in place to hike up ratings. An article in Discover magazine breaks it down nicely.

The lasting issue is that Shark Week has not only failed to provide real, scientific programming: their constant campaign of fraud is damaging to shark science and conservation. “Frighteningly, they’ve somehow done the impossible and actually contributed negatively to scientific research.”

“Rather than having Shark Week engage the audience with stories of the very real (and quite enthralling) research going on with elasmobranchs, those of us in the field now spend our public outreach efforts debunking silly things like “mermaids” and the continuing existence of Megalodon.” *Quote from David Kerstetter, Assistant Professor at Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center.  

A lot of researchers agree that little truth remains on Discovery’s Shark Week… I’m not saying don’t watch shark week.  But keep in mind the next time you watch “Great White Serial Killer”, that what may be presented as fact, may in fact be a distortion of the truth!

3 year anniversary, more like SADniversary, since last space shuttle flight!

It has been exactly 3 years since the LAST flight by NASA’s Space Shuttle Program, officially called Space Transportation System (STC). The final flight, termed STS-135 was on the Atlantis on July 8, 2011.

The program, running from 1981-2011 launched over 130 flights and made several note-worty accomplishments:

  • the Discovery carried the famous Hubbel Space Telescope into space
  • Construction of the ISS
  • interplanetary missions
  • More!

The program can also be remembered for catastrophic events including the Columbia and Challenger disasters.

Sad to celebrate the 3 year anniversary of the end of this program. If you get a chance, be sure to check out the magnificent shuttles. Fascinating to see in real life:
Discovery– National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Washington DC
Atlantis– Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Enterprise– Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, New York City
Endeavor– California Science Center, LA

The Discovery, personal photograph from a recent trip to the Air and Space Museum

The Discovery, personal photograph from a recent trip to the Air and Space Museum

New mammals reported this week!! Why we need more #science

This week scientists reported discovering 4 new mammalian species. How exciting is that? I always think it is crazy that there are so many animals, plants, and insects that we don’t know exist.


The first new mammal this week was published in the Journal of Mammology, and is a new round-eared sengi, or elephant shrew. This species is smaller than the other members in the genus, and was shown to be genetically different as well. Very cool!

“Genetically, Macroscelides micus is very different from other members of the genus and it’s exciting to think that there are still areas of the world where even the mammal fauna is unknown and waiting to be explored,” said Jack Dumbacher from California Academy of Sciences in the US.

Sengis are restricted to Africa and, despite their small size, are more closely related to elephants, sea cows, and aardvarks than they are to true shrews.

The rest of the new species reported this week come from a partnership between the Tenkile Conservation Alliance (headed by Australians Jim and Jean Thomas) and Euan Ritchie. These species are all from Papua New Guinea and were discovered using camera traps. The group plans to return for specimen collection and genetic testing for further proof that these are unknown mammals. Can’t wait to see the findings published!

The Docopsulus wallaby, a small marsupial, was captured on camera, as well as a “Dumbo” mouse with giant ears, and an antechinus, a sort of shrew-like marsupial.

“It’s exciting, but at the same time we have a massive biodiversity extinction crisis at the moment and the sad thing is that we lose many species before we even know they exist.”

It is great to see that both groups reporting the new mammals mention that the discoveries highlight the need for environmental protection and conservation. Check the linked articles and websites for more pictures of the new species and more info!