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Shuttered natural history museums fight for survival amid COVID-19 ‘heartbreak’

shuttered natural history museums fight for survival amid covid-19 ‘heartbreak’

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Closed for the pandemic, the Field Museum of Natural History hosted a socially-distanced blood drive in its empty, cavernous halls.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

By Elizabeth PennisiMay. 28, 2020 , 8:55 PM

Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

A few months ago, retirement was the furthest thing from David Thomas’s mind. “Then the world went upside down,” recalls the archaeologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In March, the coronavirus pandemic forced the museum to close its doors. No more school groups thronging the interactive exhibit on color, no more corporate dinners or lines of international tourists waiting to pay $23 a head to marvel at gems and fossils. The museum’s income plummeted 60%.

Leaders first asked for early retirements. By early May, they had sliced the staff of 1100 by 20% and furloughed an additional 250 staff. All other full-time employees now work 3 days a week, mostly from home. Thomas opted to retire early, along with four of the other 38 curators. “It was the right thing to do,” he says.

Around the world, natural history museums are shuttered and reeling. On Tuesday, the California Academy of Sciences announced it was furloughing or laying off 40% of its staff. “We …

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Forced into battle

forced into battle

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Bispecific antibodies unleash T cells against cancer by physically tethering them to tumor cells. Amy Boland has gone through many ups and downs since she noticed lumps under her arms 12 years ago and learned she had cancer of the lymph system. For about 6 years, conventional chemotherapy helped shrink her lymphoma tumors, but they started to grow again. A succession of other cancer therapies, including a bone marrow transplant and a class of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors, either failed or only brought temporary relief. In one elaborate effort, physicians harvested her T cells, engineered those immune cells to kill her lymphoma, and infused them back into her body. The cancer vanished, but 2 years later bounced back. “Nothing was really working,” says oncologist Stephen Schuster of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). So in October 2018, Boland joined a clinical trial testing another way to harness her immune system to kill the tumor cells. The idea of the trial, which Schuster co-leads, was to use a molecular rope known as a bispecific antibody to tether her natural T cells to the tumor cells so the immune warriors would attack. Like the engineered T cells she had received earlier, the experimental infusions sometimes …

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For Top U.S. Virus Experts, Faith and Science Work Together

for top u.s. virus experts, faith and science work together

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NEW YORK — The relationship between faith and science has faced its share of strain during the coronavirus pandemic — but for some scientists leading the nation’s response, the two have worked in concert.National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins founded a nonprofit focused on “the harmony between science and biblical faith.” Anthony Fauci, NIH’s senior infectious disease specialist, has said he isn’t active in organized religion but credited his Jesuit schooling with burnishing the values that drive his public service. And Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, describes his faith and his public health work as mutually reinforcing. “One of the great things about faith is, you can approach life with a sense of hope — no matter what the challenges you’re dealing with, that there’s a path forward,” Redfield told The Associated Press. The influence of faith on some of the government’s top coronavirus fighters illustrates its complicated connection to science. While tensions over public worship’s effect on public health amid the pandemic – with President Donald Trump declaring religious services “essential” – personal spirituality, in all of its forms, remains an unquestioned guidepost for some scientists guiding the U.S. response. …

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‘We need science in the Senate’: Trish Zornio endorses former primary rival John Hickenlooper

‘we need science in the senate’: trish zornio endorses former primary rival john hickenlooper

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Scientist and educator Trish Zornio on Thursday endorsed one-time Democratic primary rival John Hickenlooper, saying the former two-term governor has what it takes to deny Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner a second term.“John is, without a doubt, the best candidate to go up against a Republican incumbent senator when Democrats need to build back the majority,” Zornio said in a statement. “John knows how to bring people together. I admire him for his ability to build diverse coalitions of voices and expertise to win statewide in Colorado twice.”Zornio, a first-time candidate who reminded voters at every turn that there aren’t any scientists in the Senate, said she trusts Hickenlooper to bring a science-based approach to policy.


“Now, more than ever, we need science in the Senate, and I know John will listen to scientists to confront the issues of our time such as climate change and health care,” Zornio said.Hickenlooper, who worked as a field geologist early in his career, is facing former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in a June 30 primary.

“Colorado is lucky to have Trish Zornio’s leadership and crucial voice for science in our politics and I am proud to earn her support,” …

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Teaching experimental science in a time of social distancing

teaching experimental science in a time of social distancing

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Practical exercises via video conference at Université de Bordeaux during lockdown: students and teachers measure a pendulum together with their smartphones. Credit: Ulysse Delabre, Author provided

When lockdown measures were announced in France and other countries, secondary-school teachers and university professors had to quickly make the transition from classroom teaching to remote education. As a result, practical work was often abandoned—experiments were no longer possible without a lab, test tubes, oscilloscopes and other equipment.

To overcome this problem, some educators used digital simulations, while others analysed existing data. But people familiar with experimental science know that simulations and simple analysis do not replace the lab bench and real experiments. The role of science is to help us to understand everyday phenomena and “real” experiments are absolutely essential.
As academics working in the field of physics, we have been reflecting about developing new forms of practical work that allows for greater student autonomy for several years now. At Université de Bordeaux and Paris-Saclay, we asked our students to create their own experiment, and in some cases, to conduct them independently with smartphones or Arduino boards, an open-source solution for experiments with electronics.
Lockdown was a great chance to test autonomous …

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Science predicts the future

science predicts the future

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Humans are an inventive lot and science and technology has transformed our lives. There’s a dark side to some of the ways we use science but there’s also hope that it will solve some of our most pressing problems such as climate change and genetic diseases. Scientists on the cutting edge in a range of disciplines imagine how their discoveries will be put to use to solve the problems of the future.Recorded 30 October 2019 Royal InstitutionSpeakers Anna Ploszajski  -Materials scientistDame Julie Slingo- former chief scientist UK Met OfficeAarathi Prasad – geneticistPhil Ball- science writer

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How a Contrarian Scientist Helped Trump’s EPA Defy Mainstream Science

how a contrarian scientist helped trump’s epa defy mainstream science

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In March 2017, a scientist named James Enstrom rattled many public health experts by publishing a study concluding that there was no link between fine soot air pollution and premature death.The finding was drastically at odds with the consensus of medical researchers and with the evidence from nearly three decades of previous research.
But it was in line with arguments that Enstrom, a physicist-turned-epidemiologist, had been making for years. His dissent had played an essential role in his ascendance as a folk hero to far-right conservatives who oppose most environmental protection policies in the United States, especially those put in place by the Obama administration.
Enstrom argued that his analysis refuted one of the most influential papers in environmental health science: a 1995 study by the American Cancer Society showing that fine particulate matter pollution—or PM 2.5, as it is known—is associated with early death. PM 2.5 is produced primarily through the burning of oil, coal and wood.
 
Enstrom, 76, said he based his study on long-hidden cancer society data from an inside source whom he did not name. Throughout the article, which appeared in the journal Dose-Response, he took jabs at institutions that he believed had long marginalized him, including the …

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Confused by the science behind Covid-19? You’re not alone – KVIA

confused by the science behind covid-19? you’re not alone – kvia

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Try out this riddle: If you could double over a piece of normal notebook paper 42 times, how thick would it be?

The answer, though fanciful, illustrates just how hard it can be to understand exponential growth and doubling, two pieces of math that explain the spread of viruses like Covid-19.

Because by the time you made the 42nd fold, your stack of paper would reach the moon. It’s not just a handy fact for trivia night: It shows how exponential growth can result in numbers that are nearly incomprehensible.

“There’s so much in the news that takes a better understanding of math concepts than what we all seem to have,” said Pam Wasserman, the senior vice president for education at the nonprofit Population Connection. Working with university faculty who train new teachers, Wasserman sees firsthand how challenging the ideas can be.

“Math concepts are really hard,” she said. “It’s not a surprise that the general public has a hard time grasping these.”

Americans scored an average of 63% on a series of questions measuring factual scientific knowledge in the most recent report on public understanding of science and technology put out by the National Science Board. We’re …

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Confused by the science behind Covid-19? You’re not alone – KRDO

confused by the science behind covid-19? you’re not alone – krdo

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Try out this riddle: If you could double over a piece of normal notebook paper 42 times, how thick would it be?

The answer, though fanciful, illustrates just how hard it can be to understand exponential growth and doubling, two pieces of math that explain the spread of viruses like Covid-19.

Because by the time you made the 42nd fold, your stack of paper would reach the moon. It’s not just a handy fact for trivia night: It shows how exponential growth can result in numbers that are nearly incomprehensible.

“There’s so much in the news that takes a better understanding of math concepts than what we all seem to have,” said Pam Wasserman, the senior vice president for education at the nonprofit Population Connection. Working with university faculty who train new teachers, Wasserman sees firsthand how challenging the ideas can be.

“Math concepts are really hard,” she said. “It’s not a surprise that the general public has a hard time grasping these.”

Americans scored an average of 63% on a series of questions measuring factual scientific knowledge in the most recent report on public understanding of science and technology put out by the National Science Board. We’re …

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Brainerd Public Schools: Kern advocates for teaching creationism in science | Brainerd Dispatch

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Tim Murtha, director of teaching and learning, presented materials for seventh grade life science and eighth grade physical science curricula to the board Wednesday, May 27, as a recommendation from Forestview Middle School science teachers and the district advisory committee. The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Science Dimensions curricula presented are designed to address Next Generation Science Standards, a multi-state effort to create new education standards rich in content and coherent in manner across various disciplines and grade levels. Content for seventh grade life science classes under the new curriculum includes: heredity and inheritance; structure of molecules and organisms; interactions, energy and dynamics in ecosystems; and evolution. Content for eighth grade physical science classes includes: matter and its interactions; motion and stability; energy; and waves and their applications.

Students at both grade levels will learn the content through exploring phenomena or engineering problems; looking at data and empirical evidence to understand phenomena and solve problems; developing possible explanations of phenomena; designing solutions to engineer problems; and communicating reasons, arguments and ideas to others. “It provides for (teachers) an organizational spine around which to wrap their OER (open educational resources) work,” Murtha said of the curricula. And in the event further distance learning is …

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