Monday, December 22, 2008

Looking Ahead: Pres-Elect Obama's Science Advisory Team

As we prepare to leave campus for winter break, pause a moment to consider the new year and new possibilities after President-Elect Obama is inaugurated. The recently announced appointments for the science advisory team indicate that peer-reviewed scientific consensus will guide the administration's actions in science, health, technology and environmental issues.

This is expressed most clearly in Mr. Obama's own words:
"...the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources—it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us."

From the Science Team Rollout Radio Address
Listen to the NPR Story.

And to that I say, Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wind-Powered Radio in War Weary Southern Sudan

Living on Earth [Dec. 5] brings a remarkable story of community radio from the Sudan: energy technology innovation, human resilience, moving materials with people power, and community effort to bring journalism with integrity to hundreds of people in remote areas.

LOE's Bruce Gellerman interviews John Mussa, a reporter with Internews in southern Sudan. Read the transcript or download the MP3 version, and you'll no longer take your local radio station for granted!

After War, Wind-Powered Radio

"Twenty-two years of civil war destroyed Sudan’s electrical infrastructure, so locals have turned to wind and solar energy to power their new radio station."

Friday, December 05, 2008

'Tis the Gift Giving Season - Go Green & Support Social Justice

My inbox is overflowing with messages encouraging me to reduce waste, carbon emissions, and unnecessary spending on products that contribute to over-consumption and our non-sustainable culture. The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to give gifts that Do Good, and these messages show the seemingly countless ways to do so! Here are just a few of the Green Gift and Alternative Gift guides that have come my way. In addition to shopping locally and supporting Oberlin merchants (and artisans, whose works are sold in The Ginko Gallery and at Uncommon Objects of the FAVA Gallery) you might consider spending your gift dollars in support of environmental sustainability and social/economic justice, while honoring the people you love at the same time.
Shop also at the Alternative Gift Fair, to be held Monday-Friday, Dec. 8-12, from 11:30-1:30 each day, in the Bent Corridor of the Science Center. If you'd like a catalog of items offered at that gift fair, please contact me.

If you know of other great sources for sustainable, fair trade, and/or locally produced gifts, don't hesitate to add your comments. Thanks!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Faculty Publication: Dan Styer on Entropy and Evolution

Daniel F. Styer, John and Marianne Schiffer Professor of Physics and Astronomy, has published an article that brings together biology, thermodynamics and physics teaching.

Entropy and evolution. American Journal of Physics, Volume 76, issue 11 (November 2008), p. 1031-1033

Author's abstract: Quantitative estimates of the entropy involved in biological evolution demonstrate that there is no conflict between evolution and the second law of thermodynamics. The calculations are elementary and could be used to enliven the thermodynamics portion of a high school or introductory college physics course.

The article is accessible to all OhioLINK affiliates at the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center.

Interested in seeing current articles from other Oberlin science faculty? ISI Web of Science (also known as Science Citation Index) provides a quick way to search across all science disiciplines. Search "Oberlin Coll" as an address phrase, limit to 2008, and you'll find 40 papers in seconds.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Happy Founders Day! 175 Years of Classes at OC

Oberlin College opened its doors for classes on December 3, 1833. 175 years today! Frederick Scovill, the College’s first teacher, wrote in a letter to a friend dated December 13, 1833, “The grand object of this Institution is to educate those who shall be prepared physically, as well as intellectually and morally, to illuminate the world with the light of science and civilization.”

Learn more about science education at Oberlin at the College Archives, beginning with the very worthy Dr. James Dascomb, village and college physician, chemistry, botany and physiology professor, and, briefly, college librarian. Dr. Dascomb also taught sacred music, rhetoric, mathematics and civil law, among other courses, according to the 1836 Catalogue. This photo, courtesy of the Oberlin College Archives, was taken in the 1850s. The Archives department is a wonderful place to research our past.

The Oberlin Alumni Magazine for December 1961 includes a nice history of science education at Oberlin. It's available in the Archives or in the periodical stacks on the 2nd floor of the Main Library.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dance Your Ph.D.! Contest Winners Announced

If you start learning basic dance moves now, you may be ready to choreograph your own interpretive dance sequence, should the AAAS sponsor another "Dance Your Ph.D." contest. The 2009 contest winners depicted positron emission tomography, the role of vitamin D in beta cell function, and isoelectric focusing of asymmetric mutant hybrids (Indeed. A bit different from inspiration of the Fall Forward dancers, I assume). They will be honored guests at the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago. The dances are enormously creative -- take a look!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Take the BioScience Challenge

Action Bioscience, a Web-based educational resource of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, offers dozens of peer-reviewed articles on timely, critical issues, written for the non-specialist. Biodiversity, environment, genomics, biotechnology, and evolution are five of the major categories of bioscience "challenges" that impact our lives on a daily basis. Each category on the Web site includes excellent review articles by experts, with references for more reading. Sign up for ActionBioscience e-updates, and you'll be alerted when new articles are posted.

One of the highlighted articles considers polar bears and climate change, a very timely topic given the Defenders of Wildlife new report on the urgent need to act now to protect wildlife from global warming.

Read your way through the Web site and you'll be wonderfully informed on the most pressing issues in bioscience today - and better prepared to appreciate the Year of Science, to be celebrated in 2009.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What's that Stuff? C&EN Online makes it easier to find out.

Have you seen the new look for the American Chemical Society publications, including the member's news weekly Chemical & Engineering News? C&EN features regular elucidating columns with entertaining information about the chemicals we encounter in everyday life - perfect for the non-chemist and chemical savvy alike.

What's That Stuff? considers contact lens solutions this week. Have you stopped to wonder what's pooling around that contact lens as you tease it out of its lens case? Or given any thought to be benefits of the moisturizing agent polyvinyl pyrrolidone as opposed to, say, your own spit? No? You might want to find out!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yeah! New Books for your Thanksgiving break

Want to read something that isn't required yet still engaging and educational? Todays' new books shipment offers some wonderful choices! Here are just a few to tempt you:
  • Mean and lowly things by Kate Jackson, is a naturalist's glaringly truthful account of snakes, science, and survival in the Congo.
  • A Supremely bad idea by Luke Dempsey follows three mad birders and their quest to see it all through 8 states, 1 foreign country, 129 towns, 34 national parks and "too many alarming motel rooms" to chase the most beautiful and rarest birds the country offers. [Listen to Bruce Gellerman's interview with the author on Living on Earth, Sept. 12]
  • David and Richard Garfinkle's Three steps to the universe offers a guided tour from the sun to black holes to the mystery of dark matter throughout the entire universe.
  • What the nose knows (Avery Gilbert) explores the science of scent in everyday life. One could only wish for scratch and sniff cards to make it complete.
  • Peter Pringle brings us the story of Stalin's persecution of one of the great scientists of the twentieth century, in The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov.
There are plenty more, so come on in and browse the new books area! Or browse the new list online.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

ACS Publications Unavailable this Weekend

On the weekend of November 15–16, 2008, the American Chemical Society Publications website will be unavailable as they deploy a dynamic new web delivery platform, hosting all 34 ACS Journals on a platform rich with new features and functionality. A flash-based demo showcasing many of the features and benefits of the new site is available at:

Download what you need before 8:30 a.m. Saturday!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Former CIA Director Woolsey on National Security and Oil

From Scientific American special editions, October 2008:
For National Security, Get Off Oil
Former CIA director R. James Woolsey says America's oil dependence is a grave threat
By Stephen D. Solomon

"At R. James Woolsey’s farm in southern Maryland, solar panels on the roof of his house send electricity back to the utility grid when his family is not using much power. And he drives a Toyota Prius hybrid with a conversion kit that enables him to recharge the car’s battery pack using an extension cord and household current."
Read more at Scientific American online > Special Editions > Energy > Automotive Technology

Interested in learning more about hybrid cars and other energy technologies, from a physics perspective? Here's a fascinating new book that has just been cataloged on OBIS: Physics of societal issues : calculations on national security, environment, and energy / David Hafemeister. New York : Springer, c2007
Available online to OhioLINK libraries at Link there from OBIS.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Forward linking" in JSTOR

JSTOR continues to expand in the number of journal titles archived and in the wonderful flexibility of its search features. It also provides an easy way to jump from the archive to more recent issues of any journal title, through links to publishers' web sites and the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center when appropriate.

BROWSE BY DISCIPLINE is a quick way to see all of the content in a broadly defined subject area. The biological sciences are well-represented in JSTOR, but physical and chemical studies are plentiful in the General Science category. See, for example:

Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Vol. 358, No. 1766, Jan., 2000

Science into the Next Millenium: Young Scientists Give Their Visions of the Future: II: Chemistry and Biological Physics.

Science titles added to the JSTOR archives in the past few months include:
American Biology Teacher
Botanical Review
Economic Botany
Flora Neotropica
Folia Geobotanica

Create a MyJSTOR account, and you can take advantage of some great new features, such as exporting saved citations directly to RefWorks.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Have you tried RefWorks yet?

RefWorks is the newest bit of bibliographic nirvana the library offers. Okay, that's a wildly inaccurate overstatement and misuse of the true meaning of nirvana - but RefWorks is pretty darn nifty all the same. Get your references in order, all in the same electronic folder for a specific project or paper, have them formatted for you in just about any style you desire, share your references with research team members, and get in-text citations inserted in your manuscript as you write... all from a web-accessible server that you can access from any networked computer anywhere. Export citations directly from dozens of databases into your RefWorks account, and it even saves those handy FIND IT links to the full-text. You can also import all of those references you've stored on your computer with some other bibliographic management utility, and have the benefit of accessing those citations from anywhere! Want more information? Contact me and I'll walk you through the process - or get started on your own at Create your individual account and you'll be on your way.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Intriguing Reference Titles on the New Book Shelf.

Two of the new titles we received in our latest shipment of new books are:
Both are excellent sources for succinct and clear explanations of complex phenomena. Reading through the first title is far more entertaining than one might suspect, covering ancient to very recent principles, laws and theories in one alphabetical sequence. From Ptolemy's Theory of a Geocentric Universe to Schneider's Theory of Biological Systems and Climate Change, the 2-volume set covers a lot of ground. Just scanning the table of contents is enlightening, given the wide range of subjects offered. Take a look!

The Senses is far more in-depth in its presentation, providing longer articles on very specific topics (Neurotransmitters in the taste pathway; Aquatic animal models in the study of chemoreception; and Genomics of invertebrate olfaction are just three articles out of 220 or so). Each article is supported by numerous references to primary literature, so this is a very good starting point for research. Good illustrations and photographs add to its usefulness.

There are many other enticing books on the new book shelf - stop by and enjoy looking at the book covers and reading blurbs, at least, in between class and lab.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Intro to Permaculture: Ecological Edible Landscapes

Invitation to a Workshop on September 20, sponsored by OEFFA and Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Explore the basics of permaculture, a system of design that uses principles and processes found in nature to create food, fuel, and fiber for people, while caring for the earth and its inhabitants.

Focus on edible forest gardens; gardens which look and function like forests and provide food for people in urban and rural homes alike. From the design through planting and care, expert designers Josh Beniston of Habitats Landscaping and Brett Joseph of Conneaut Creek Farm will tell how to create such a garden anywhere.

$45 OEFFA members/ $60 non-members. Class size is limited so sign up early! Please bring your own brown bag lunch.

To register, send your check, along with your name, address, phone number and email to: OEFFA Workshops, 41 Croswell Road, Columbus OH 43214. Questions can be directed to or 614-421-2022.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Classroom A
1 Wade Oval Drive, University Circle, Cleveland OH 44106-1767
Saturday, Sept 20 - 9am-5pm

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Get Oriented! New Student Tours of the Library on Friday

All of the campus libraries offer orientation tours for new students on Friday [complete orientation schedule, pdf]. You could make a day of wandering through all of our spaces! We suggest that you choose just one branch library to visit in addition to the VERY important introduction to the Main Library in Mudd. Plus, you get cookies and punch (maybe lemonade) when you take the Main Library tour... nice.

Science library tours are Friday afternoon @ 1:00, 1:30, 2:00 and 2:30. Only 20 minutes in length! You'll get to practice using the movable, compact shelving, find the current issue of Nature, check out a good study carrel to claim for the semester, and take a post-tour nap in a window seat, if you're so inclined. Nappers always welcome. See you Friday!

Friday, August 15, 2008

From Waltzing Planets and Nanostructures to Volcanoes and Flamingos

New books arrived last week, by the dozens. Quick, while there are just a few lovely weeks of summer left, grab a new book and head for the shade of the nearest tree on your lunch break. So many fascinating titles to explore! In addition to the tantalizing keywords in our blogpost title, we have new books on wildlife conservation in China, genomic approaches to stem cell biology, mycorrizhal symbiosis, scientific exploration of the dreaming brain, bacterial communication, and biogas generation from waste. You're sure to learn something new by even a cursory review of the new book shelf!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Science Library, circa Summer 2002

I came across this photo while sorting through a drawer recently, and felt nostalgic at the sight of so many print journal issues! Just look at all those lovely things. The biology section of the current journals area is practically overflowing. This was taken early in the summer of 2002, after our first academic year in the new Science Center, and we were apparently gathering journals for binding (note the stacks of issues lying on top of the low shelving). Within just a few months more than 70 of these print titles were cancelled, in favor of online-only access at the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center, and we have continued to reduce the print collection since then. How quickly things can change!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New Faculty and Student Publication: FitzGerald, et al., Phys Rev B

Stephen FitzGerald and Affiliate Scholar Jesse Rowsell have collaborated with a number of OC students to publish new research findings in Physical Review B. Student collaborators and their anticipated (or actual) dates of graduation are listed at the end of this posting.

S. A. FitzGerald, K. Allen, P. Landerman, J. Hopkins, J. Matters, R. Myers, and J. L. C. Rowsell, "Quantum Dynamics of Adsorbed H2 in the Microporous Framework MOF-5 Analyzed using Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Spectroscopy"

Physical Review B 77, 224301 (2008).

Thanks to Jesse Rowsell for providing this information: "Employing hydrogen as an energy carrier continues to be a lofty goal, with significant technological challenges remaining unmet. Storing the supercritical gas, both safely and efficiently, is a particularly difficult endeavour for vehicular power generation, i.e. using fuel cells. To improve hydrogen storage densities, several classes of sorbent materials have been identified. Only a handful of analytical tools are currently available to assist scientists in understanding the interaction between H2 and these materials, some requiring very expensive instrumentation and limited resources, such as nuclear reactors.

"Our work involves the use of a compact infrared spectrometer equipped with a sample chamber that can be pressurized with hydrogen gas and cooled to temperatures approaching 10 K (-263°C). Under these conditions, hydrogen molecules stick to the surface of the sorbent material and their rotational and vibrational motion--which is quantum mechanical--can be analyzed. Ultimately, the spectral data provide information on the strength of the H2 binding at discrete sites on the material's surface, allowing an assessment of its performance. As we analyze a wider array of sorbents, correlations between their structures and properties should emerge, providing some direction for enhancing their hydrogen storage efficiencies."

Student collaborators:
Jesse Hopkis 2009
Patrick Landreman 2008
John Matters 2008
Kelty Allen 2007
Ross Myers 2007

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The mighty Mustard seed: an alternative to methyl bromide and a green fuel source

Methyl bromide is an effective and highly toxic biocide used widely in strawberry fields of California. It is also one of the last major contributors to the hole in the ozone layer. The EPA has established more stringent guidelines for pesticide use, to protect agriculture workers, and alternatives to methyl bromide are actively being researched. Living On Earth considers one promising alternative in this week's show: ground-up mustard seed being developed by Farm Fuel Incorporated. Listen to the radio show [download mp3 file] or read the transcript.

Farm Fuel Inc. is also involved in developing biodiesel for transit buses. Scott Doggett, a contributor to Green Car Advisor, tells more in his post "This Biodiesel Plan's a Spicy One!"

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Geological Context for the Wenchuan Earthquake

The July issue of GSA Today, published for members of the Geological Society of America (GSA), includes an indepth study of the geological and geophysical factors of the recent deadly earthquake in China.

Given the world-wide interest in this devastating event, the GSA has made the article available for open access.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The books just keep on coming!

Another large shipment of new books brings many more possibilities for your summer reading list. Continuing the garden theme, we offer Gods and goddesses in the garden : Greco-Roman mythology and the scientific names of plants, by Peter Bernhardt. There is something for everyone on the new book shelf, whether you're looking for an explanation of the placebo effect or want to explore the color of butterfly wings or are anxious to identify a spotted tail quoll (see color plate 1 of Trees, truffles, and beasts for a close up of that carnivorous marsupial). The universe and solar system are featured in several new titles, as is sedimentary geology. Not to be missed is Bonk: the curious coupling of science and sex, by Mary Roach, best-selling author of Stiff. Alternative reproductive tactics provides a rather drier but no less fascinating approach to studying sexual behavior. Do stop by and find a book for yourself. Gracious, it is nearly the end of June! So many options, so little time ...before required reading takes over students' lives.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Reading is Here!

Our newest shipment of books includes great titles to see you through the summer. Chemistry in the garden by James Hanson, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, is a fine introduction to natural products chemistry in common plants possibly growing in your own backyard.

The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter "is at once a history of ideas and an exploration of modern science and the frontiers of human knowledge" [from the publisher, Princeton Univ. Press].

There are dozens more on the new book list! Selected keywords from the list will whet your appetite for good reading: Archimedes, Hiroshima, stem cell ethics, feminist science, DNA & evolution, nanosilicon, death in the Cretaceous, seashells, parasitoids, sexual behavior, synergy, biomass combustion, hydrogen future, neuroeconomics, Amazon, stream ecology...

stop in and check out a few. Heard of a good book we should order? Tell us! email aricker at Thanks.

Friday, May 30, 2008

New Report from NSTC: Effects of Global Change on U.S.

The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) has released its report, Scientific Assessment of the Effects of Global Change on the U.S., dated May 2008.

As reported by Andrew C. Revkin in the New York Times (May 28, 2008, p. A14), "The rise in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from human activities is influencing climate patterns and vegetation across the United States and will significantly disrupt water supplies, agriculture, forestry and ecosystems for decades." Among the more sobering conclusions of the report are the predictions of wide-spread water shortages in the western U.S., with dire consequences for populations and agriculture, and the migration of invasive species adversely impacting ecosystems throughout North America.

Healthy biodiversity, essential for ecosystem maintenance, is predicted to suffer as species struggle to adapt to rising temperatures, and conditions that encourage parasitic-induced disease as well as competition for resources and suitable reproductive habitats. From the Executive Summary: "The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g., flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification), and other global change drivers (e.g., land use change, pollution)." Read the Summary and Findings.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Faculty publication: A. J. Roles in Evolution, May 2008

Angela J. Roles, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology, has published a portion of her doctoral dissertation in this month's issue of Evolution:

"Fitness effects of mutation accumulation in a natural outbred population of wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum): comparison of field and greenhouse environments."
vol. 62 (May): 1066-1075.

This issue was not yet accessible on either the BioOne or OhioLINK EJC servers at the time of this posting, but it will be very soon. In the meantime, you can read the print issue in the library.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

US Lists Polar Bear as Threatened Species

From the Natural Resources Defense Council, taken from Associated Press and NRDC Press Release, May 14:
"Faced with Scientific Evidence on Global Warming, Court Order, and Public Pressure, Government Grants Polar Bear Endangered Species Act Listing Due to Global Warming."

Despite listing polar bear as a species requiring protection under the Endangered Species Act, the first such listing attributed to loss of habitat due to global warming, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said it would be "inappropriate" to use the listing as an impetus to address global warming generally or reduction of greenhouse gases specifically. Learn more at Defenders of Wildlife.

Darwin Online

On this date… May 14, 1856

Charles Darwin, then 47, sits down in the study of his country home in Down, England, and starts to write On the Origin of the Species.*

You can now read Darwin’s publications and correspondence online!

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online

The Darwin Correspondence Project

*from: The Illustrated Almanac of Science, Technology, and Invention.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Amphibians Slipping Away: one third of all species threatened

From Defenders of Wildlife eNews:
"Frogs, salamanders and other amphibians are on a slippery path to extinction. Habitat loss, disease, global warming and other factors are taking their toll. Worldwide, a third of these key players in the web of life are considered threatened -- making amphibians the most vulnerable group of animals in the world.

"This month, Defenders Magazine profiles the plight of these slick critters -- and takes a look at what people are doing to save them."

Learn more about amphibians in this recent book in our reference collection:
The ecology & behavior of amphibians / Kentwood D. Wells

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Laptop policy updated - 2 iBooks available for overnight use.

Please read our revised lending policy for the laptop loaners, available to students, faculty and staff with current and valid OCID.

Highlights: iBook G4s may go out overnight - but must be back by 10am the next day (Mon-Fri) or by 1pm the next day if borrowed on Friday or Saturday afternoon. There is now a penalty fee of $20 (ouch!) for unauthorized overnight use, so PLEASE pay attention to the due time and our closing times!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Robert Krulwich honored by Webby Award selection

Fans of Radio Lab will heartily support the selection of Robert Krulwich, OC '69, as an Official Honoree of the 12th Annual Webby Awards. Robert Krulwich — and his team of Odd Todd and BPP Video Producer Win Rosenfeld — were honored in the Online Film and Video - Best Use of Animation/Motion Graphics category, for their cartoon feature It's All About Carbon, part of NPR's Climate Connections series.

Visit the site:
Global Warming: It’s All About Carbon, Cartoon Series Main Page

Friday, May 02, 2008

'Fearless' Campaign Covered by NPR

Tune into for yesterday's story on Oberlin's Fearless campaign. It's interesting listening, and Dan Bobkoff of member station WCPN in Cleveland does a good job of presenting different points of view.

All Things Considered, May 1, 2008 · A top-notch Ohio college's two-year-old marketing campaign — "We Are Oberlin: Fearless" — is the subject of internal mockery from Oberlin students.

Thanks to Kolleen for sharing this.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An April Shower of New Books!

The last week of April has showered us with new books, thanks to those fine folks working in the main library who order, process and catalog new materials. Look at all of these great new titles! No fewer than eight books are devoted to climate change and global warming; some are focused on the politics of implementing solutions, others present scientists' findings, two are devoted to predictions of how global warming will change Earth and human society, and one considers governmental censoring of Dr. James Hansen. Hansen was one of the first to bring the climate crisis to the public's attention, with testimony to Congress in the 1980s.

The Guardian (April 7, 2008) reported on Hansen's latest paper, co-published with eight others in arXiv, on appropriate targets for levels of atmospheric carbon.

Books on animal societies and behavior are also well-represented in this latest shipment: rhesus monkeys, gorillas, turtles, rodents, hornbills, eagles, ants and lizards - oh my! There are plenty of titles to entice those of you reading chemistry, geology, physics and other aspects of biology as well.

Friday, April 25, 2008

National DNA Day

I hope you are already aware that today is National DNA Day. And the day is half gone at the time of this posting... tsk! Now, if there is one thing we can all celebrate - and I do mean ALL - it is Deoxyribonucleic Acid! Gracious, we would be nothing without it, and Earth would be quite a different place. So give thanks for your genetic code, much of which you share in common with the rest of living organisms (evolution is a MARVELOUS thing). Squirmy worms, flying fowl, leaping lemurs... and us! Not so different on a molecular level, really.* There's still time to chat online about all things DNA-ish. Talk with the scientists at

*How similar are we to those other species? I'm glad you asked! Here's the answer I received to that question on
Mary Schueler, Ph.D. : Generally, human DNA is most similar to more closely related species like the great apes - chimp, gorilla, and orangutan. These are more closely related to us in evolutionary time. Species that have been separated from us for longer periods of time share less similarity. As you compare with species farther away from us on the evolutionary tree, we observe that DNA sequences that code for proteins are conserved while other sequence is not. This is thought to be due to the necessary function of the proteins in the life of the cell. If the sequence changes, the cell can't survive. We are less than 90% similar to most other species. Even within the primate lineage, as compared to old world monkeys, protein coding sequences can vary by as much as 15% (be 85% similar). As you move further away to mice and flies and yeast, the percentage similarity falls off quite a bit.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day! Get out there... read a book in the shade.

And what a glorious day it is.
Lie on the grass.
Breathe in the scent of magnolias.
Love the earth.
Take a book out with you!

A few suggestions:
Or Listen to the audio recordings of speakers at the Climate Change Solutions symposium... an excellent way to remind us that every day is Earth Day.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Climate Change Solutions for Ohio - Symposium highlights

Reporting from the Climate Change Solutions Symposium in the Science Center's West Lecture Hall : here are a few of the solutions highlighted so far this morning -
  • The technology that will save humanity "The solar energy you haven't heard of is the one best suited to generate clean electricity for generations to come." By Joseph Romm. April 13, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How Science Will Heal the Earth

On the current periodical display shelf this week is Discover's special issue: How Science Will Heal the Earth. Read how to go carbon neutral, learn what food has no carbon footprint, and the daring plan to reclaim water.

Also check out A Science Fair for a Better Planet: "A contest to show Discover—and the rest of the humans—how to help Mother Earth". You can enter your own ideas in what is being billed as the World's biggest Show and Tell.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ScienceDebate 2008 - an appeal to the candidates

Sciencedebate 2008 is a citizen-led initiative to focus the presidential debate on matters of scientific inquiry and the urgent need for accurate scientific information in policy decisions. The call for presidential candidates to engage in a science-focused debate is rapidly becoming more wide-spread and publicized, with thousands of individuals joining the effort. Read the policy forum piece in the April 11 Science magazine, and see the many other news highlights at the Sciencedebate2008 web site.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Celebrate Science Poetry During National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month! A fine time to read science in verse - or communicate science in verse.

"Shall not geology, which is the first science in affording scope for the imagination, be brought into favor with the Muses, and afford themes for the Poet?"
—Edward Hitchcock, Jr., 1849

You would surely enjoy the The Biochemist's Songbook (take to your next fireside sing-along and amaze your friends with references to complex biochemical pathways). offers an entire section on poetry.

The poetry collection in the main library is brimming with science-themed compositions - go explore books with call numbers that begin PS3551, for starters. You can spend a life-time there.

Submit your own science poetry here! Just leave a comment with your creative lines. We'll post your submissions in the science library at the end of April. An award (very modest, possibly edible) might be in the offing!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Go Green with GreenFILE from EBSCO

EBSCO has released a new, free, database for environmental literature. Give it a try!

From the EBSCO press release:
GreenFILE offers a unique perspective on the positive and negative ways humans affect the ecology. The initial release will include abstracting and indexing for more than 600 titles, including comprehensive coverage – from to volume 1, issue 1 to present – for Bioscience (back to 1964), Conservation Biology (back to 1987), Journal of Ecology (back to 1913) and Journal of Environmental Planning & Management (back to 1948). The total number of records is approximately 295,000, and full text is provided for more than 4,600 records from open access titles.

Check out our DVD collection

We've recently pulled the DVDs out of the closed cupboard behind the circulation desk and put them in the browsing rack along with the CD-ROM collection. It's right on your way to the iMac lab - so pause there for a moment, and see what's available. It's a very small collection, but offers excellent viewing (and educational!) opportunities.

See the list of DVDs owned by the Science Library [pdf].

Monday, March 31, 2008

Cognitive Neuroscience of Music

Robert Zatorre, co-editor of The Cognitive Neuroscience of Music, will be on campus for a lecture on April 2.

Stop by the library for a look at some related reading now on display in the front window. Although this book and other closely related titles are currently checked out from Oberlin's library, you can find other copies available through OhioLINK.

Downtown bookstores offer copies of Zatorre's work, along with two other fascinating books for the general reader : Daniel Levitin's This is Your Brain on Music and Musicophilia: tales of music and the brain, by Oliver Sacks.

Read a chapter or two, even if you think you don't have time - it's good for the brain! Possibly even better if you take a break and sing or play an instrument in between chapters...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Break is coming! Need access from off-campus?

The sun is shining and Spring Break is just one day away - surely a better outlook than yesterday's drizzle which became falling slush before the snow set in once again. I hope everyone who plans to leave campus for a well-deserved week of relaxation and recreation does that just - but if you must also squeeze in a bit of research and need access to our subscription resources (how could you go a week without reading Nature and Science online?), remember to visit this page for login instructions. Easier still, download the VPN client from the CIT web page and launch that for seamless access to everything the library offers online.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Birds of the World - on our shelves

We have now received 11 volumes of the acclaimed Handbook of the Birds of the World, published by the Spanish publishing house Lynx Edicions. This is a monumental work, gorgeously illustrated with color plates, and certain to be a valued source of important information for decades. We will continue to receive volumes as they are published, as a wonderful complement to the Birds of North America (available online and in print).

Read reviews of published volumes from various journals archived in the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center. Wikipedia provides a very nice overview of the set, complete with all contents of volumes published to date. The most recently received volumes are on display with the new books, others are in the reference section.

Image taken from the jacket cover of vol. 8: Broadbills to Tapaculos, illustrated by Frances Jutglar. Black-and-red Broadbill (Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos).

Friday, March 14, 2008

African plants photographed and desribed in Aluka is a new resource for the library, offering many digital collections at one site. Its mission is to build a "digital library of scholarly sources from and about Africa." Aluka is an international collaboration, bringing together in one digital resource materials that are archived around the world. Read more about Aluka and explore the plant database. Enjoy the picture of the day, which frequently highlights a plant from the archive, including the Pretoria African Plant Slide Collection, just one of many collections contributed to Aluka.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dragons and Damsels! Flies, that is... in OdonataCentral

OdonataCentral, sponsored by the Texas Natural Science Center of UT Austin, is just about the coolest thing since a new insect order was discovered in 2002. If you are an Odonata enthusiast (and why wouldn't you be?) this will become a favorite way to view dragonflies and damselflies without leaving your keyboard. The distribution maps are searchable and interactive, so you can locate, within seconds, all reported occurrences of a given species within a certain locale. Give it a try! In addition to the maps, OdonataCentral offers hundreds of amazing photographs (Red Saddlebags is just one example of exquisite detail), detailed identification records, an extensive bibliography of journal articles with its own search interface, back issues of the journals Bulletin of American Odonatology and Argia, and a well-organized list of related Web sites.

Thanks to Dr. John C. Abbot, Curator of Entomology, Texas Natural Science Center of University of Texas, Austin, for making such a fine and reliable source of information openly accessible, and to all contributors of OdonataCentral for building the database. John Abbott is author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas and South-Central United States, which you can borrow through OhioLINK.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Under a Green Sky: Global Warming & Extinctions

Along with numerous other eye-catching titles on the new book shelf (come by and browse!), we have Peter Ward's latest monograph on mass extinction:

Under a Green Sky - Global Warming, Mass Extinctions of the Past and What They Can Tell Us About the Future.

Here is a snippet from the Booklist review:
"Paleontologist and science writer Ward combines tales of his own punishing fieldwork with a piquant history of the controversies that have dogged scientists seeking the cause of the "mother of all extinctions" in the Permian period. This provides the foundation for a stunning discovery: evidence of past greenhouse extinctions. As Ward carefully parses the data and its implications, he observes, 'the key to climate change seems to be both the level and the rate at which carbon dioxide rises in the atmosphere,' no matter its source."

The library owns several other books by Ward, equally useful for understanding the relationship between global climate and biodiversity.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tuna: the Decline of a Once Vast Species

The Diane Rhem show for Wed. Feb. 13 featured a very lively conversation among host Diane Rehm and her guests:

Jackie Savitz, Pollution Campaign Director, Senior Scientist, Oceana

Carl Safina, founder of the Blue Ocean Institute, adjunct professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, and author of "Voyage of the Sea Turtle," "Song for the Blue Ocean," and other books [search OhioLINK catalog by author].

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

John Connelly, president, National Fisheries Institute

Listen to the show for a compelling account of overfishing and pollution that has caused a collapse of the blue-fin tuna population in the western Atlantic, and will undoubtedly lead to extinction without intervention on an international scale.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's Darwin Day! Celebrate Genetics, Evolution and Diversity.

February 12, 1809 to April 19, 1882

Darwin Day Celebration is an "international recognition of science and humanity." On this 199th anniversary of Darwin's birth, take a few moments to marvel over the amazing interactions of genetics, habitat, adaptation, predation, mutation, and exploration that led, over millennia, to the satisfying specimen of biological achievement that is you.

We have a gazillion books and journal articles to help you learn more! Even a video or two.

Find genetics related videos from the OhioLINK Digital Video Collection by searching Genetics as a subject heading, limited to material type Videos. Genetics & Evolution, from Films for the Humanities & Sciences, summarizes the theory of natural selection and describes the process of trait inheritance.

Wonderful books about Charles Darwin await your reading pleasure in the library. Browse just a few of them now on display at the science library circulation desk, along with selected other titles on evolution, biological diversity, and genetics.

An online course on Evolution, Creationism, and the Nature of Science,

Online Course: Evolution, Creationism and the Nature of Science

Monday, February 11, 2008

C&EN Online!

Thanks to our subscription through OhioLINK, we now have access to C&EN Online (Chemical & Engineering News, the magazine for American Chemical Society members). Our access includes the archive of issues from 1998 to the present, as well as the ACS 125th anniversary issue and the Jan. 12, 1998 issue celebrating 75 Years of C&EN.

The bottom left corner of C&EN's home page offers a number of special features, including C&EN blogs, Critter Chemistry, Green Chemistry, and Climate Change. The last three are collections of articles and news specific to those subjects. Enjoy reading this weekly news magazine from ACS.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Web of Science database search updated

The ISI Web of Science database, which includes Science Citation Index, has a completely new search interface. Check it out! Let us know what you think - leave a comment here or email

Monday, February 04, 2008

Across the Universe Day: Beatles' Song Beamed to Polaris

For the first time ever, NASA will beam a song -- The Beatles' Across the Universe -- directly into deep space at 7 p.m. EST on Feb.4.

The transmission over NASA's Deep Space Network will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the day The Beatles recorded the song, as well as the 50th anniversary of NASA's founding and the group's beginnings. Two other anniversaries also are being honored: The launch 50 years ago this week of Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite, and the founding 45 years ago of the Deep Space Network, an international network of antennas that supports missions to explore the universe.

As part of the celebration, the public around the world has been invited to participate in the event by simultaneously playing the song at the same time it is transmitted by NASA. Many of the senior NASA scientists and engineers involved in the effort are among the group's biggest fans.

Read more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How is Global Warming Affecting Your State?

The National Wildlife Federation has developed 52 fact sheets, detailing the effects of global warming on wildlife in every state, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. See the list for all areas. Download the pdf for Ohio.

From the Ohio fact sheet: "Rising temperatures and drops in lake levels in the state will likely change the makeup of entire ecosystems, forcing wildlife to shift their ranges or adapt." Each fact sheet includes solutions for global warming that are specific for the state or region.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Philica features transparent peer-review

Philica is an online, open-access journal accepting manuscripts in any discipline. It describes itself as "instant academic publishing with transparent peer-review" and currently features 121 articles and observations. Submitted papers span the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, with greater numbers of articles in astronomy, physics, biology and chemistry. Music, philosophy, political studies, anthropology, and history are just some of the other disciplines represented, so it is truly multidisciplinary.

Learn more at the Philica site, taking special note of the essay "What's the problem with academic publishing?" and the list of articles needing review. You may find a paper that you are uniquely qualified to review, and are invited to do so.
To write a review, simply click the link at the bottom of the article or observation.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Open Access Papers Draw Readers' and Media Attention

Recent papers published in Public Library of Science are grabbing attention from readers and the media alike, owing to the research presented and open access nature of PLoS articles. Here's a bit from the PLoS Blog, submitted by Rebecca Walton:

In "Cryptochromes Define a Novel Circadian Clock Mechanism in Monarch Butterflies That May Underlie Sun Compass Navigation," published in PLoS Biology, Steven Reppert and colleagues reveal that the circadian clock of the monarch uses a novel molecular mechanism, heretofore not found in any other insect or mammal."

Read the story by the Associated Press in Google news as well as Walton's blog entry and papers in PLoS.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Barack Obama: Pushes for Evidence-Based Science Policy

Science considers the support for scientific research among the presidential candidates in the Jan. 4 issue. Considering the credentials of Barack Obama seems particularly timely, following his win among Democrats in the Iowa caucus.

The Science news article illustrates Barack's support for science policy and research based on factual, peer-reviewed evidence:
"Deborah Burnet, a pediatrician at the University of Chicago who studies the connection between obesity and diabetes, says Obama displayed the same evidence-based philosophy whenever she invited the Harvard Law School grad and community organizer to lecture her class on racial disparities in health. The 30-something Obama would urge her students to think about "how to use scientific inquiry to make intelligent public policy," says Burnet."

Read the full story (DOI: 10.1126/science.319.5859.28a). For on-campus users or your Oberlin login required.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Top 25 Science Stories of 2007 - from Scientific American

Scientific American extolls the top 25 science stories of the past year in their Dec. 21 Weekly Review, including "some exciting new developments and discoveries: human skin cells were transformed to stem cells; primates came within a hair of being successfully cloned; scientists found that if they killed the virus behind some cancers, they might also kill the cancer; the discovery of a new planet with the most Earth-like characteristics yet observed; and, the unveiling of the first quantum computer."

Check out the entire list, from antibiotic resistant infections, California wildfires and James Watson to the disappearance of the Yangtze River Dolphin.

Sign up for Scientific American e-newsletters.