People are more afraid of insects than of death, or so says a survey that Zuk cites a bit skeptically. (Heights and public speaking are supposedly scarier than both.) Surveys aside, bugs certainly have a PR problem, and Zuk is out to win friends for them.
Her wry, amiable volume makes a case for appreciating the wonders and weirdnesses of the most numerous of animals. As she puts it, an insect-of-the-month calendar might not have to repeat a species for well over 80,000 years. The book thus falls into the paradoxical tradition of the why-not-to-hate-bugs book that appeals especially to people... (p. 28)
Gerd Gigerenzer is director of the Center for Adaptive
Behavior and Cognition at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. He is also director
of the Harding Center
for Risk Literacy in Berlin.
He studies how people can make effective decisions given limited time and
information. Gigerenzer also explores ways to improve statistical understanding
and communication. He has trained U.S. federal judges and physicians
in several countries on how to understand risk and uncertainty. Behavioral
sciences writer Bruce Bower asked Gigerenzer about statistical illiteracy ...
We have a well-honed ability for branding the undesirable
attributes of “others.” This natural human tendency has evolved and persists
for a reason: The definition of an outcast group helps society to delineate its
“normal” boundaries. But this inclination can also breed counterproductive
stigmas that are rooted in ignorance and that too often translate into
staggering individual, social and economic costs. This makes the need to
understand and confront these types of stigmas much more than a purely academic
Sociologists like Gerhard Falk are quick to distinguish
Found in: Behavior, Biology, Body & Brain, Psychology and Science & Society
Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a Nobel laureate in physics, has advocated for energy thrift. During a September visit to Washington, D.C., he spoke with senior editor Janet Raloff about how he believes the United States can tackle what he sees as a looming energy crisis.
You’ve said the United States needs to launch an energy research program that’s comparable to the Apollo mission. What did you mean?
That we need big investments and that our country needs to act quickly. In that respect, the programs would be similar. But the Apollo mission was essent... (p. 32)
In 1993, the U.S. Congress cut off funds for the
Superconducting Super Collider, or SSC. After years of planning, two years of
major construction and $2 billion spent, the most enduring achievement of the
stillborn project was a tunnel from nothing to nowhere near Waxahachie, Texas.
The SSC would have enabled us to explore nature in more
extreme conditions — higher concentrations of energy — than ever before. It
would have yielded fundamental new insights into the origin of the universe and
the nature of matter, space and time. Thousands of scientists devoted big parts...
In Doubt Is Their Product, published in April,
epidemiologist David Michaels describes the growing corporate practice of
“manufacturing” scientific uncertainty to thwart regulation of products that
appear to pose risks. Michaels encountered the practice firsthand with
beryllium, a metal used at U.S. nuclear weapons facilities, while he was the
Energy Department’s Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health. Now
head of George Washington University’s
Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy, or SKAPP, Michaels spoke
with senior editor Janet Raloff about t...
Eugene Spafford is executive director of Purdue
University’s Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and
Security, one of the world’s leading centers for information security. His
research focuses on issues related to securing computers, networks and their
data against criminal activities and failures. He has testified before various
congressional committees, advised agencies within the executive branch and
worked with the U.S.
military and the FBI. Here, freelance science writer Susan Gaidos questions
Spafford about computer security issues.
On July 21, at
the Euroscience Open Forum in Barcelona, members of the European astronomy community
participated in a discussion about why their space program has failed to engage
public interest in a manner comparable to programs in the United States.
Organized by Dirk
Lorenzen, a physicist turned journalist for German public radio, the session
was titled “Reaching for the Stars: Research in Heaven, Communication in Hell.”
Lorenzen, a longtime reporter on space science and technology, began by
pointing out that the public, both in Europe and elsewhere, knows little of the
Excerpted comments from a panel discussion at the World Science Summit that addressed the topic of the role of science in foreign affairs. Among the participants were the esteemed scientists Harold Varmus, David Baltimore and Nina Fedoroff.
Found in: Science & Society
SN Editor in Chief Tom Siegfried remembers the late physicist John Wheeler, who coined the term "black hole" in 1967, with excerpts from conversations the two had engaged in over the past two decades.
Found in: Atom & Cosmos and Physics