Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Are Hackers Using Your Laptop Microphone and Speakers? Sneaky.

Disconcerting news just received from the American Institute of Physics (AIP) InsideScience News Service [via]

Computers Can Be Hacked Using High-Frequency Sound

A computer's microphone and speakers can covertly send and receive data.
By: Ker Than, ISNS Contributor
Inside Science News Service  December 11, 2013

(ISNS) -- Using the microphones and speakers that come standard in many of today's laptop computers and mobile devices, hackers can secretly transmit and receive data using high-frequency audio signals that are mostly inaudible to human ears, a new study shows. (continue to full article text)

Monday, December 09, 2013

Everything That Lives Will Die

With these stark words begins a musing on a fundamental fact of life: not every person dies at the same age and there is wild variation in length of life among different species.  A giant fungus in Michigan has been alive since the Ice Age, while a dragonfly lives just four months, and a mayfly perishes within a few hours.  What accounts for these differences?  Read about it in:
The Long and the Short of It: the science of life span and aging / Jonathan Silvertown.

Also on the new book shelf:  Beyond the God Particle, by Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman with Christopher Hill. They write:  "While most scientists expected a vast assortment of new discoveries, new 'super' particles, and bizarre new forces [from work conducted on the European Large Hadron Collider], all we have so far is the single Higgs boson.  The discovery, while important, has resulted in even more questions, the main one being, Who ordered the God Particle, and what is it telling us?"

Fascinating reading in these and other new books just received.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Nelson Mandela's legacy for science and medicine in Africa

Nelson Mandela's influence on human advancement and social development is incalculable in this small space, and millions of people will mourn his death for some time to come.  I will highlight just one achievement that may not be immediately celebrated in the countless remembrances that will be written and shared:  the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST).
"The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha is one in a network of Pan-African Institutes of Science and Technology located across the continent. These institutes, which are the proud brainchild of Nelson Mandela, envision to train and develop the next generation of African scientists and engineers with a view to impacting profoundly on the continent’s development through the application of science, engineering and technology." (NM-AIST About Us)
Our condolences to all who loved President Mandela.  May his legacy inspire all of us and many future generations to live our lives so that others might also thrive.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Stardust and Our Once and Future Planet

December is a month for looking back and looking ahead.  Several new books in today's shipment will help you do just that:  looking very far back, to the beginning of time, as well as considering future possibilities for scientific research.

Here are a few titles to entice you to stop by and gather food for thought, to balance food for feasting in the holiday season.

The Cosmic-Chemical Bond: chemistry from the big bang to planet formation
The Earth as a Cradle for Life: the origin, evolution, and future of the environment
The Stardust Revolution: the new story of our origin in the stars
Time, Space, Stars & Man: the story of the big bang

Don't get so lost in the past that current challenges are overlooked, however!  In particular:

The Science of Crime Scenes
A Piece of the Sun: the search for fusion energy
Groundwater for the 21st Century
Should We Eat Meat?
Our Once and Future Planet: restoring the world in the climate change century.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is that print copy so important?

I was about to print this notice, perhaps in multiple copies on colored paper in an eye-catching font, to place strategically around the public workstations.  The irony of doing so stopped me.  Hopefully, you also will give careful thought before you use more energy, paper and print supplies.

Reported by the Center for Information Technology, November 25:

"Since the start of the semester on August 27th, Oberlin College has printed 745,885 pages. That's 5.58 trees consumed, 2,022.1 kg of CO2 produced, and 127,319 equivalent bulb hours used."

Presumably, that's just the printing done at public printers, and doesn't take into account the reams of paper used in offices.

Yikes.  It's especially worrisome when we see large number of printouts left behind on the printer.  They couldn't have been that important, eh?

Friday, November 08, 2013

Some lines you've not heard before

Snippets of paragraphs from new books received November 5.  They speak for themselves. Come read!

Over 1000 seals were dying in year as a result of marine debris entanglement [from off-shore fishing practices] in Australian waters.
Fur seals and sea lions.

This minuscule angle would be formed by drawing lines from the top and bottom of Lincoln's eye on a penny in New York and have them come to an apex in Paris. Dreams of other worlds.

The phyla were, after all, born in the sea, and so, if we want to see them, to the sea we must return.  Telling our way to the sea.

There is a full-fledged moral economy of inaction to ensure that our response to climate change and energy scarcity falls short of what is required. The future is not what is used to be.

Need we be paralyzed by the existence of limitations to our ability to gain fully accurate knowledge?  Absolutely not.  The why of things.

Indeed, our self-concept is defined in large measure by how the self fits into not one but many groups of other human beings.  The making of the mind.

Upon stepping out of my tent around midnight for relief from the sauna-like atmosphere, I found the group alive with scorpions... the place was seething with them, with barely room enough to place a foot between the pale, translucent bodies.  Chasing kangaroos.

The sound of dozens of hoofs hitting the road rippled towards us like thunder, and then in a flash the herd burst around the corner.  Consumed: food for a finite planet.

What kind of fundamental theory of particle physics is it that can't predict the masses of its constituent elementary particles?  Farewell to reality.

Friday, November 01, 2013

A Flurry of Publications by Faculty and Students

The following publications were recently indexed in the Web of Knowledge.  Oberlin faculty, staff and students are indicated in bold font.

Getschow C. M., P. Rivers, S. Sterman, D. C. Lumpkin, and K. A. Tarvin. 2013. Does gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) response to heterospecific alarm calls depend on familiarity or acoustic similarity? Ethology 119:983-992. [OhioLINK EJC] also @ Wiley Online Library.

Goderis S., B. M. Simonson, I. McDonald, S. W. Hassler, A. Izmer, J. Belza, H. Terryn, F. Vanhaecke, and P. Claeys. 2013. Ni-rich spinels and platinum group element nuggets condensed from a Late Archaean impact vapour cloud. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 376:87-98. [OhioLINK EJC]

Grether, G.F., C. N. Anderson, J. P. Drury, A. N. G. Kirschel, N. Losin, K. Okamoto, K.S. Peiman.  2013.  The evolutionary consequences of interspecific aggression. in
Year in Evolutionary Biology.  Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 1289 48-68.

Hinckley T. M., P. Chi, K. Hagmann, S. Harrell, A. H. Schmidt, L. Urgenson, and Z. Zeng. 2013. Influence of human pressure on forest resources and productivity at stand and tree scales: The case study of Yunnan pine in SW China. Journal of Mountain Science 10:824-832. [OhioLINK EJC]

MacInnes M., S. Kozimor, K. Boland, and J. Rowsell. 2013. Dithiophosphinates as an approach to the separation of actinides and lanthanides. Abstracts of Papers of the American Chemical Society 245.

Oertel C. M., C. C. Easterday, L. R. Dedon, and M. Zeller. 2013. Chiral inorganic motifs in two polymorphs of hydrothermally synthesized Pb2O(C6H5COO)(2). Abstracts of Papers of the American Chemical Society 245.

Free Access to Elsevier Publications of 2013 Nobel Prize Winners

Scientific publisher Elsevier is providing free access to Elsevier-published research from the 2013 Nobel Laureates in the fields of Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Economics. Thank you, Elsevier, for granting open access to a significant body of research.  Begin at the Elsevier Nobel tribute page.
"Elsevier congratulates the 2013 Nobel Laureates and their prominent findings in the fields of Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Economics. We feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with these remarkable scientists, either through publishing their ground-breaking work in our journals and books or in their role as editors, editorial board members and reviewers. In recognition of these extraordinary scholars, we have made a collection of their work, published with Elsevier, freely available."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wally the crawler in fizzy Barkley Canyon

Science News, Oct. 19, 2013:  Real time monitoring of the seafloor in six underwater research stations connected to the Internet with fiber optic cables - this is the NEPTUNE observatory (Canada site).  Science News describes an amazingly broad research study of the biological, chemical, physical, geological and acoustical features of the ocean floor, including deployment of a robot named Wally that monitors methane bubbling up from a seafloor canyon more than 850 meters deep.  This issue is on the current reading rack now, adjacent to the circulation desk.  Stop in and read more: the potential for massive tsunamis if too much methane is released all at once, due to warming waters or a change in pressure; video footage of a northern elephant seal slurping up a hagfish in one gulp; seismometer recordings of both whale songs and an earthquake; the vitality and dynamism of ocean ridges.  The NEPTUNE observatory involves scientists around the world and its "online viewing portal" may be accessed by anyone. See Interactive Oceans at Univ. of Washington (NEPTUNE U.S.).

Monday, October 28, 2013

"mostly our cities are a herp's worst nightmare" - John Marzluff

"This is what we are doing to the animals around us: we are pushing them out, running them over, isolating their populations, changing their sex, modifying their genes, making them mini-toxic waste sites, turning them into freaks, suppressing their immunity, changing their night into day, and stacking the deck in favor of non-native invasives." -- from Urban herpetology / edited by Joseph C. Mitchell, Robin E. Jung Brown, and Breck Bartholomew.  Forward by John M. Marzluff.

Over 100 authors, 40 chapters of research studies across most continents, 13 case studies and countless cited references make this a formidable tome: an urgent plea for conservation and a recognition that biological diversity and reasoned co-existence of humans with other species just as essential for a healthy urban environment as it is for a wilderness preserve.  On the new book shelf.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Eclectic collection in the new book area - thank you, Bruce Simonson

Mysteries of terra firma.
Thanks to donations from professor of geology Bruce Simonson, we have a very interesting array of books in the new book corner.  They represent just a few of the many overflowing boxes of  donated volumes that Bruce has carried into the library over the past several years, and they reflect a wide area of research and general interests.  From deep ocean life to objects in space, from mining astroids to deceitful practices of mining on earth, and solving the riddle of navigation for sea-going vessels (Edmond Halley's doing), these donations expand our collection in new directions. Fun and interesting reading, here!  See the new books list.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Theoretical chemists win Nobel Prize - combining different approaches into a cohesive methodology

The American Institute of Physics' Inside Science [written by Chris Gorski] does a wonderful job of explaining the significance of the work that led three scientists who collaborated in the United States to share in the 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

"The prize goes jointly to Martin Karplus, 83, from the University of Strasbourg, in France, and Harvard University, Michael Levitt, 66, from Stanford University, and Arieh Warshel, 72, from the University of Southern California, 'for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems'."

I also liked Richard Harris' analogy, heard on NPR's Morning Edition, of a "chocolate and peanut butter" combination, to explain how blending quantum mechanics and "ball and stick type models" (i.e., classical mechanics) of chemistry have led to a transformation in our understanding of chemical reactions.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Nobel Prize Week! Great work rewarded, accolades all around.

Yesterday's announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine to James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof "for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells," may have left you wondering what sort of machine is inside your cells.  The Nobel Prize press release explains it quite nicely: "Each cell is a factory that produces and exports molecules. For instance, insulin is manufactured and released into the blood and chemical signals called neurotransmitters are sent from one nerve cell to another. These molecules are transported around the cell in small packages called vesicles."  I especially appreciate the analogy to a busy port, with the challenges of traffic congestion, docking and timing handled by genes encoding specialized proteins and the aid of highly targeted neurotransmitters.  Incredible activity taking place inside us, every nanosecond!  It is worth noting that Schekman, a professor in the department of molecular and cellular medicine at the University of California at Berkeley, is editor in chief of eLife, an open-access, scientist-driven journal founded in 2011. Read more at Chronicle of Higher Education.

The work of the physicists lauded today, François Englert and Peter W. Higgs, is more familiar to the lay reader, given popular media attention to the Higgs boson.  Nobel Prize in Physics press release:  "for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider."  Check out this book for some broader context: The infinity puzzle : quantum field theory and the hunt for an orderly universe / Frank Close.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Peer review - gotta have it, open access or not

John Buhannon, visiting journalist at Harvard and contributing correspondent for Science, conducted a fascinating "sting" operation by submitting a bogus scientific manuscript describing fictional cancer-related research to hundreds of open access journals.  The results were both disturbing and enlightening: more than 150 journals accepted his manuscript for publication, despite significant errors in methodology and data representation that any scientist knowledgable in the field would have spotted within minutes.  Buhannon summarized his findings in an interview with Renee Montagne of NPR this morning.  The implications for lack of peer review are obvious, as is Buhannon's appreciation for open access journals that rejected his manuscript, thanks to effective reviewers and editors at those publications.  Now to help students understand and appreciate that piece of the scholarly communication process, and able to determine the extent of peer review backing any article published online.
Listen to Morning Edition.  Read the paper at Science (an open access article - thanks, Science!).

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Beautiful books of Rivers, Mountains, Brains, Plants, People, Rare Creatures... even Art

This week's delivery of new books features so many enchanting volumes, full of lovely photographs with text that elucidates and expands our ways of knowing.

Feeling Beauty: the neuroscience of aesthetic experience, sets the theme. It's the only book we have classified in NX (you'll find nearly all of the NX books in the art library).  It's rather exotic for the science library, with illustrations of both art and music in the center section - how cool is that?

Over the Rivers and Over the Mountains offer gorgeous representations of landscapes with the turn of every page.  The beauty of our world is both stark and sensuous in these volumes; full of lush forested floodplains, jagged peaks, sinuous streams, and steep cliffs.

Rare: portraits of America's endangered species will inspire you to learn more about these finely photographed plants and animals.  From the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly to the largest mammal, it is a book of exquisite beauty and urgency, to live our lives in such a manner that all fellow creatures are also able to thrive.

Many other new books await your viewing pleasure!  Visit the new book corner for some visual delights.  These pictures really are worth thousands of words.  go toNew book list.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Alcoa! Founded Oct 1, 1888

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported yesterday that Alcoa kicked off its 125th Anniversary, observing Oct. 1, 1888 as the founding of the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, "after Mr. Hunt and a handful of other steel executives bought the rights to Mr. Hall's patent for a low-cost way to smelt aluminum. Mr. Hall had made the discovery two years earlier."

Charles Martin Hall made that discovery in the woodshed behind his family's home on East College Street, as every Oberlin student should know, with the encouragement and guidance of Oberlin College chemistry professor Frank Fanning Jewett.  Emeritus Professor Norman C. Craig tells an inspiring story of the race to discover what ultimately was called the Hall-Heroult process:

Craig, Norman C., "Charles Martin Hall-the young man, his mentor, and his metal", Journal of Chemical Education (1986), 63(7), 557-9.

Oberlin celebrated Hall's discovery in 2011.  In a private email message today to the Administrative and Professional Staff Council, a retired member of the Alcoa company pointed out that the legacy of C.M. Hall to Oberlin was dependent upon the establishment of the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, which ultimately led to today's Alcoa.  Oberlinians are very grateful for the inventive genius and philanthropy of Charles Martin Hall, and to the industrialization that made his process so successful.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Corals, Holocene Reefs and Energy Conservation: new Oberlin publications

These Oberlin-authored publications were indexed in Web of Knowledge this week (Oberlin affiliated authors indicated in bold font):

Calcification by juvenile corals under heterotrophy and elevated CO2
Drenkard, E. J.; Cohen, A. L.; McCorkle, D. C.; de Putron, S. J.; Starczak, V. R.; Zicht, Alice. E.
 Coral Reefs, 32 (3):727-735; SEP 2013 [view at OhioLINK EJC]
(Alice Zicht '12 graduated with a degree in geology and is now at Rutgers University, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, New Brunswick, NJ)

Holocene reef building on eastern St. Croix, US Virgin Islands: Lang Bank revisited
Hubbard, Dennis. K.; Gill, I. P.; Burke, R. B.
 Coral Reefs, 32 (3):653-669; SEP 2013 [view at OhioLINK EJC]

Returns to residential energy efficiency and conservation measures: A field experiment
Suter, Jordan F.; Shammin, Md Rumi
 Energy Policy, 59 551-561; AUG 2013 [view at OhioLINK EJC]

Thursday, September 12, 2013

16 Science Faculty and Students Indexed in Web of Knowledge, Summer 2013

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Eight publications by 7 faculty and 9 student co-authors were indexed in Web of Knowledge this past summer.  The individual authors are:
  • Norman Craig, emeritus professor chemistry, with alumni Yihui Chen, Yuhua Lu, Christopher Neese and Deacon Nemchick
  • Stephen FitzGerald, professor of physics, with alumni Kirill Tchernyshyov and Christopher Pierce
  • Abby Halperin, OC ‘12 with honors in biology
  • Yumi Ijiri, professor of physics, with current senior Chetan Poudel
  • Marta Laskowski, associate professor of biology
  • Maniah Mehta, professor of chemistry, with alumnus Benjamin Altheimer
  • Karla Parsons Hubbard, professor of geology
  • Jesse Rowsell, assistant professor of chemistry
Their articles have publication dates from June through August 2013:
Altheimer, B. D., S. Pagola, M. Zeller, and M. A. Mehta. 2013. Mechanochemical Conversions Between Crystalline Polymorphs of a Complex Organic Solid. Crystal Growth & Design 13:3447-3453.  pdf in EJC
Craig N. C., Y. Chen, Y. Lu, C. F. Neese, D. J. Nemchick, and T. A. Blake. 2013. Analysis of the rotational structure in the high-resolution infrared spectra of cis,cis- and trans,trans-1,4-difluorobutadiene-1-d(1) and trans,trans-1,4-difluorobutadiene-1,4-d(2). Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy 288:18-27. pdf in ScienceDirect
Deline, B., K. M. Parsons-Hubbard. 2013. Experimentally observed soft-tissue preservation near a marine brine seep. Palaeontology 56:893-900.  pdf in EJC
FitzGerald S. A., C. J. Pierce, J. L. C. Rowsell, E. D. Bloch, and J. A. Mason. 2013. Highly Selective Quantum Sieving of D-2 from H-2 by a Metal-Organic Framework As Determined by Gas Manometry and Infrared Spectroscopy. Journal of the American Chemical Society 135:9458-9464.  pdf in
Hardiman, B. S., C. M. Gough, A. Halperin, K. L. Hofmeister, L. E. Nave, G. Bohrer, and P. S. Curtis. 2013. Maintaining high rates of carbon storage in old forests: A mechanism linking canopy structure to forest function. Forest Ecology and Management 298:111-119.  pdf in EJC
Hofhuis, H., M. Laskowski, Y. Du, K. Prasad, S. Grigg, V. Pinon, and B. Scheres. 2013. Phyllotaxis and Rhizotaxis in Arabidopsis Are Modified by Three PLETHORA Transcription Factors. Current Biology 23:956-962.  pdf in EJC
Ijiri, Y., C. Poudel, P. S. Williams, L. R. Moore, T. Orita, and M. Zborowski. 2013. Inverted Linear Halbach Array for Separation of Magnetic Nanoparticles. IEEE Transactions on Magnetics 49:3449-3452.  no online access for Oberlin users
Laskowski, M. 2013. Lateral root initiation is a probabilistic event whose frequency is set by fluctuating levels of auxin response. Journal of experimental botany 64:2609-2617.
Ye S., M. Xu, S. FitzGerald, K. Tchernyshyov, and Z. Bacic. 2013. H-2 in solid C-60: Coupled translation-rotation eigenstates in the octahedral interstitial site from quantum five-dimensional calculations. Journal of Chemical Physics 138:244707.  pdf in AIP

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Just Say NO to Disposable Plastic

Recently sent from the Sea Turtles Restoration project:

"Reduce your disposable plastic use. Use canvas shopping bags and reusable water bottles instead of plastic whenever you can. Just say no to straws and coffee stir sticks. Plastic accounts for 90% of all ocean debris. Unlike other types of trash, plastic is not biodegradable. Plastic is forever. Plastic waste is believed to cause the deaths of 100,000 marine animals each year."

I am so surprised to see recyclable plastic items in trash containers here - on Oberlin's campus! - where we presumably have a very high percentage of people educated about the need to recycle and dangers of plastic pollution.  The "trash vortex" of the North Pacific Ocean is the same area as the size of Texas, for crying out loud.  Reducing your use of plastic is SO easy, and tossing recyclable plastic into a recycling container could not be any easier on this campus.  It is such a small effort on your part, and it truly makes a difference.  Learn more about recycling at Oberlin.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Sardines, not Salmon; Oysters and Mussels, but never Shrimp

The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail by W. Jeffrey Bolster captured my attention this morning.  "Blending marine biology, ecological insight, and a remarkable cast of characters, from notable explorers to scientists to an army of unknown fishermen, Bolster tells a story that is both ecological and human: the prelude to an environmental disaster.

"Bolster writes in the hope that the intimate relationship humans have long had with the ocean [fishermen have exploited Atlantic for some 500 years], and the species that live within it, can be restored for future generations."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) produces FishWatch, which confirms the rapid decline of fish populations in the Atlantic.

I'm looking forward to receiving a related book, still on order: The Perfect Protein: the Fish Lover's Guide to Saving the Oceans and Feeding the World. Author Andy Sharpless explains how in an interview with Steve Curwood of Living on Earth.  Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, maintains that the oceans can recover if we stop over-fishing and better manage fishing fleets worldwide.  Fish populations need time to rebound.  Meanwhile, Sharpless encourages seafood consumption based on five simple rules: "Eat wild; eat smaller species; eat local or domestic; eat all the farmed shellfish - oyster, clams, mussels - that you can; and I’m sorry to say, you’ve got to swear off shrimp."  Why?  "There’s no way to get a shrimp and feel good about what you’re doing for the future. Wild shrimp are caught in a process that produces very high levels of what’s called bycatch. And farmed shrimp are farmed in shallow pens typically in tropical countries that are often managed in a very short-sighted way and end up wrecking and contaminating coastal zones."  Read the transcript at

Friday, July 26, 2013

Trash animals, a birding Scot, and Hooker's lily.

There are many intriguing books on the new book shelf and it is a perfect day to check one out and head outdoors for a fair-weather read.

Trash animals: how we live with nature's filthy, feral, invasive, and unwanted species will get you thinking about the bias we humans have toward certain non-human animals.  Why should the pigeon be so denigrated while we admire the flight and cunning of the eagle?  Why is the panda valued more highly than prairie dogs?  Are we threatened by our lack of power to control the unwanted?  The essayists challenge us to "reimagine our ethics of engagement" with the maligned creatures considered in each chapter.

Alexander Wilson: the Scot who founded American ornithology is both biography and ornithological treasure.  What fun reading!  On his travels to sell subscriptions for his treatise American Ornithology, Wilson casually dropped by the White House back door, asking to see President Jefferson.  He was granted admittance, and the two men spent hours together discussing birds and science.  The President bought a subscription and was instrumental in encouraging many others to support Wilson.  American Ornithology was the first major scientific work published in America.  The Wilson Bulletin takes its name from Alexander Wilson; official publication of the Wilson Ornithological Chapter of the Agassiz Association, it was edited and published for 32 years by Lynds Jones, professor of zoology at Oberlin College.

The Flower of Empire reads like a suspense novel, telling the story of the giant Amazonian water lily (Victoria regia) and the race to make it bloom for Queen Victoria.  Sir William Jackson Hooker is central to this story, as director of the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, and the cast of Dukes with botanic interests is remarkable.

There are plenty of other new books to capture your imagination.  Take a look!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

eLife and Naked Scientists... sounds interesting!

This is from -

eLife opens science to the public with new podcast series

CAMBRIDGE, UK | July 17, 2013

eLife, the new open-access journal for outstanding research in the life and biomedical sciences, has partnered with The Naked Scientists to produce a podcast that will bring scientific results published in the journal to a wider audience. 

As an open-access venture, eLife works to put key scientific findings in the hands of more and different audiences – and to make reports more inviting, engaging, and interactive. eLife extends that effort today through partnership with The Naked Scientists, an award-winning team of broadcasters whose aim is to promote science to the general public. 

And I say, "how could this fail?"  Check it out and be inspired, educated and enchanted by science.

ScienceDirect service interruption planned for Saturday evening

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 ScienceDirect and Scopus will be unavailable due to scheduled maintenance from Saturday, July 20 at 7:00 PM EDT (12:00 MIDNIGHT BST) until Saturday, July 20 at 7:30 PM EDT (12:30 AM BST). It is also possible that you may experience service disruptions such as slower response times and unexpected outages throughout the day.

Thank you for your patience as we strive to update our products. We invite you to follow us on Twitter (@sciencedirect; @scopus) or view our blog for regular communications around product changes and enhancements. Kind regards, The ScienceDirect and Scopus Teams.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Photojournalists Take on Fracking | OnEarth Magazine

Gail Henry provides an excellent overview of photojournalists' efforts to document the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. Images into Action | OnEarth Magazine   Their work goes beyond highly publicized photos of flammable tap water and exposes negative effects on landscapes, human communities, bodies of water and entire ecosystems, with long lasting repercussions for health and well-being.  More about MSDP | Marcellus Shale Documentary Project.

Concerned about fracking in Ohio?  Join the Don't Frack Ohio and People's Assembly, Monday July 29, in Warren, Ohio. Read more: The end of country / Seamus McGraw

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Eocypselus Rowei: Hummingbird Precursor Discovered

Eocypselus Rowei: Hummingbird Precursor Discovered

It is this type of discovery that makes me appreciate anew the marvels of evolution!  Find a couple of dozen books on the evolution of birds with this simple subject search in OBIS: birds evolution.  One of the most recent is accessible electronically, at either the OhioLINK Electronic Book Center or Springer books online.  Connect through OBIS: Avian Ancestors.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Match a Quote to a New Book Now on Display

Here's a bit of a summer challenge:  match each quote to one of the books now on display in the new book area.  Then come on in and find something enlightening to read this summer!

  1. Using cognitively sophisticated monkeys and apes as organ donors has become taboo, so researchers are now focusing on pigs...
  2. The cosmic microwave background has proven to be an extraordinarily useful tool for understanding structure in space.
  3. Without proper anesthetic... the bear is tied down by ropes, and a metal catheter, which eventually rusts, is permanently stuck through his abdomen into his gall bladder... the relief of death comes far too slowly.
  4. revealing the fine texture and granularity of the world the microscope seemed to offer the hope that what was once occult would become manifest.
  5. I was surprised to learn that dogs lose interest when meat decays past a certain point.  It is a myth that dogs will eat anything.

The above quotes came from (this is where the guessing starts):
Edge of the Universe
Frankenstein's Cat
Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
How Animals Grieve
There are many other interesting new books on display - the shelves are practically overflowing!  Something for everyone.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Conservationist Volunteer Murdered in Costa Rica

Among the headlines of the current issue of EcoAméricas is the tragic news that "Costa Rican police have yet to make an arrest in the case of Jairo Mora, a 26-year-old turtle conservationist murdered on May 31 while patrolling a Caribbean beach to protect nesting sea turtles."

The story continues: "Mora worked for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (Widecast), a U.S.-based scientific organization dedicated to sea-turtle protection. Widecast pulled out of the Moín Beach turtle patrol program after the attack, citing a lack of security. According to Didiher Chacón, the group’s country coordinator, Widecast volunteers had received threats from people he believes were either turtle poachers or drug traffickers operating in the area."

EcoAmericas is published monthly.  In addition to important regional news stories, it provides a guide to environmental agencies, country by country.  The June 2013 issue also includes the welcome news that Brazil is on track for cutting CO2 emissions.  

Read more about sea turtle conservation efforts:  Saving Sea Turtles by James R. Spotila and Sea Turtles of the Eastern Pacific edited by J.A. Seminoff, B.P. Wallace and P.C.H. Pritchard.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

End of Semester Brain Asymmetries

Illustration of a group of Flamingos; these birds turn their neck to the left or right when resting and the direction of this predicts their level of aggression.The tide of new books continues to roll in, just as students are less likely to want anything else to add to the mix of completing projects, studying for finals and returning library materials.  Nevertheless, there are many delightful books that offer a respite - just 15 minutes of reading a portion of Divided Brains (for example) could give you renewed enthusiasm for whatever lies ahead.  Development of lateralization in the brain is evidenced by a wide array of behavior and skills, from tail wagging in dogs (the tail swings farther to the one side or the other, depending on whether the dog is being approached by its owner or by a more dominant dog) to a larger than average posterior area of the right hippocampus in London taxi drivers (the size of the hippocampus relates directly to spatial ability).  Don't ask how we know - come take a quick look at the book and see what else is of interest on the new books shelf.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Mother : Caring for 7 Billion

There's no denying that population growth is a huge factor contributing to greater environmental and social issues. However, it is a concern that no government or society is willing to address due to political and cultural sensitivity. The film Mother: Caring for 7 Billion attempts to present a different plan for sustainable humanity as scientists and experts discuss overpopulation and the social complexities ingrained in history and surrounding the issue.

In celebration of Earth Day, and continuing throughout the month of May, this film can be streamed online for free at the following link. Alternatively, the DVD can be checked out directly from the Science Library.

If you have a continued interest in this important topic, consider checking out the following books that can be found in the science library:

Mother Earth and Uncle Sam: how pollution and hollow government hurt our kids -Rena I. Steinzor
calling attention to a problem harming our children and future generations - that is, pollution - that could be eliminated if government weren't underfunding projects, distorting science, or misusing cost-benefit analysis or regulatory authority

Why Have Children? : the ethical debate -Christine Overall
a presentation of the ethical reasons for and against having children, including discussions about reproductive freedom, obligations to procreate, and concerns about overpopulation and extinction

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Current Reading and "Grand Challenges in Science Education"

Have you checked out any journals in the science library, recently? Each of our journals is available for a one-day loan period. We place all of newly-received journals on a rack near the main entrance to the library before moving them to the shelving on the north side of the library. There are 9 new issues on our shelf as of yesterday afternoon, including Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), DNA and Cell Biology and American Scientist, among others!

The latest issue of Science contains a number of articles addressing the "Grand Challenges in Science Education". Articles aim to answer a range of questions, including how an optimal combination of physical and virtual labs can be used in the science classroom, why the goals of science education for non-scientists should be redefined, and how undergraduate teaching and institutional demands on professors should be rethought. If any of this sparks your attention, come in and check this issue out at the library.

You can also access each of these articles online, but why not come in grab a journal so you can take it outside for some sunshine 'n reading today? It's going to be 68°F and sunny on this beautiful Saturday afternoon!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Love a Tree on Arbor Day

Magnolias grace the south piazza, Oberlin College Science Center
Today is Arbor Day - thank a tree for the oxygen you breathe, the carbon it harbors, the shade it provides, the birds and squirrels it shelters, the enriched soil it stabilizes.  This is the perfect day to admire any one of hundreds on campus now bursting with extravagent blossoms, buds and new leaves.

Learn more about Arbor Day:

Planting nature : trees and the manipulation of environmental stewardship in America / Shaul E. Cohen.  Berkeley : University of California Press, c2004.

Get news about trees every week, from the American Forest Foundation.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hangout with National Geographic, Celebrate Earth Day all week

National Geographic is celebrating Earth Day 2013 with some remarkable photos, stories and information intended to inspire and perhaps galvanize us all into more environmentally friendly ways of being. Visit the site, learn more with a Google Hangout.

Find current coverage of other Earth Day 2013 activities with a search in Summon. For a historical perspective, check out this book:
Before Earth Day: the origins of American Environment Law 1945-1970.

This is a good week for re-reading Rachel Carson's Silent SpringThis edition features an introduction by Al Gore.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Window Seats Beckon on a Drizzly, Windy Friday

Photograph showing window seats along the curved north interior wall of the Science Library.  Each window seat is occupied by a student; reading, using a laptop or looking out the window.
Spring in northeast Ohio.  

Yesterday's brilliant sun is now veiled in rain clouds, while the temperature plummets 30 degrees.  Typical?  You bet.  The Weather Almanac reports these numbers for April in Cleveland, Ohio (all in degrees Fahrenheit): 
57 normal daily high
38 normal daily low
88 record high (in 1986)
10 record low (1964).

At least it isn't snowing.  That might come tomorrow.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Break Hours (all 37 of them)

We are counting the hours until Spring Break - and wishing you all a blissfully restive (maybe a tad festive) and restorative week!  If you are on campus and would like a VERY quiet place to study, read, reflect on the gray skies and bare trees and long for warmer days, we'll be here!

  • Monday - Friday  9-noon and 1-4:30pm 
  •  Note - the library will be closed 3:30-4pm on Wednesday afternoon.  
  • Open for semester hours again:  Sunday evening, March 31:  7pm-12midnight.
If you manage to get somewhere with balmy weather and sunshine, bottle some for us.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What is a scientist to do?

Sandra Steingraber's powerful essay in the current issue of Orion Magazine questions the "Silence of Science" while remarking on the "eloquent activism of people of faith."  If you, as a scientist, understand the risks and potential hazards of, say, removing brine water from deep underground chambers in order to store highly toxic and flammable waste materials from hydraulic fracturing, are you obliged to make those risks known to the general public and policy makers?  Steingraber expresses her frustration:
"Even the scientists whose own research shows harm from drilling and fracking operations are hesitant to speak out. Some fear loss of grant money. Some believe their objectivity will be questioned—as though objectivity and neutrality were the same thing. Some are just so, so busy. And some believe fracking is inevitable. The result is political silence, a stunning position for physicians under oath and other medical professionals studying such things as cancer-causing chemicals." 
She makes a strong case for the importance of educating others with well-researched data and supporting activists who need unbiased information.

The  Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Orion Magazine feature story by Paul Kingsnorth makes the provocative statement "Technology isn't going to save us, but neither is environmentalism."  Entitled Dark Ecology, his essay also comes to the point of individual responsibility:
"What does the near future look like? I’d put my bets on a strange and unworldly combination of ongoing collapse, which will continue to fragment both nature and culture, and a new wave of techno-green “solutions” being unveiled in a doomed attempt to prevent it... If you don’t like any of this, but you know you can’t stop it, where does it leave you? The answer is that it leaves you with an obligation to be honest about where you are in history’s great cycle, and what you have the power to do and what you don’t."
The entire issue is well-worth the reader's time and thoughtful consideration.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Congratulations, Holden Lai and Molly MacInnes
The science library has learned that Holden Lai and Molly MacInnes earned speaking awards at the Cleveland ACS Meeting-in-Miniature held Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Holden's research with Associate Professor of Chemistry Michael Nee on barrel-shaped cage molecules was described in his presentation, entitled "Towards the Synthesis of Water-Soluble Functionalized Cucurbit[8]uril." Molly's seminar, "New Organosulfonate Complexes from Commodity Chemicals for the Assembly of Microporous Frameworks," gave highlights from her honors project mentored by Jesse Rowsell, Assistant Professor of Chemistry. Prof. Rowsell reports that "these were just two of many excellent talks presented at John Carroll University by graduate and undergraduate students attending institutions in the Cleveland area."  Thanks for sending us this information!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Use OhioLINK to Find Call Numbers for OC Library Items

OBIS, our online catalog, needs a bit of new hardware and is not available today.  We miss OBIS, but you can find information about our library's holdings in the OhioLINK library catalog - along with the holdings of more than 90 other libraries in the state.  Don't hesitate to ask us for help!

Friday, March 08, 2013

International Women's Day

Not only is this Women's History Month (have you seen the wonderful display we have up, on your way into the library?), but today is International Women's Day! The current issue of Nature has taken this opportunity to address the institutionalized sexism that exists in the natural sciences and to examine what can be done to close the gender gap. In light of recent events on the Oberlin campus, this is another arena in which we find social inequity, and it should be--and has been, this week--opened up for discussion.

Check out the featured articles in this special issue of Nature, come into the library to explore even more texts on women in science, and keep a dialogue of justice alive in the context of natural science, Oberlinians!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Another Triumph for the Great White!

It's the first day of March, and this month brings us great news from California: the Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is now officially protected under the California Endangered Species Act so that anyone who catches or otherwise harms these animals will be subject to prosecution under state law. It has been estimated that there are fewer than 350 great whites left in the west / northwest Pacific waters, and they are certainly in danger. Check out the California Department of Fish and Wildlife report for more information on this measure and to read up on white shark facts.

This is a critical time to address conservation issues in our oceans, and there's plenty more to learn about the risks that sharks are currently facing. Come into the science library to learn more by checking out one of the following titles:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What's New? Death, Neutrinos, Extinction and Mushrooms

A history of dependence upon
animals and they upon us.
What's on the new book shelf today?  Here's a sampling of keyword phrases from book titles just received (in addition to the keywords noted above):

Astronomical Sublime
Brain Architecture
Chemical Reactivity
Forgotten Grasslands
Mediterranean Diet
Spiny Lobsters
Sun's Heartbeat
Toxic World
Woody Vines
World's Climate

Intrigued?  We hope so.  Come see all of the books on the new book shelf.  You can even practice your Japanese while reading about the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Modernist Cuisine author exemplifies beauty and benefit of science

Nathan Myhrvold, physicist and author of Modernist Cuisine, the stunningly beautiful treatise on the science and art of cooking, entertained and educated a very large audience at the AAAS Annual Meeting this evening.  I am so sorry that I could not capture the excitement in the room or the gorgeous quality of his images from my position in the audience. AAAS has made available the video of his talk.

In addition, head to the science library and check out the 6-volume set!  We heard just a tiny fraction of the amazing facts that are jammed into the treatise (did you know an average cucumber contains more water than an 8oz glass of milk? Do you know why a rounded cut of beef brisket cooks more evenly than a block that is more square in shape?).  We also learned that the text in the multi-volume set, if pulled out word for word, character for character, in one linear string would reach to the moon and back.  Impressive as that is, Myhrvoid observed that the text of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books would reach to Jupiter.  Huh.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Online Only" people need libraries, too

The speakers at the session on science in social media (at AAAS Annual Meeting), have ended their presentations with sobering statistics on how many people who are 18-34 years old are "online-only." The great number of students in the science library notwithstanding, it is clear that the way we all find and use information has been transformed in the past 10 years. Science majors, develop your social media skills so you can bring your expanding science knowledge to others (advice from the speakers at the AAAS meeting). Print media like The Synapse and Headwaters have been such welcome additions to publications from campus groups. I hope they will get notice among the online-only folks, too.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Science, Knowledge and Wisdom

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., here is an extract from A testament of hope : the essential writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. / edited by James Melvin Washington, 1991.
“Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.”  --p. 493
Dr. King goes on to expound on the dangers of "softmindedness" - of reaching a conclusion before examining the facts, of pre-judging, which is the basis of prejudicial thinking.  "Race prejudice is based on groundless fears, suspicions, and misunderstandings," writes King, and he underscores this with an examination of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.  Hitler knew that softmindedness could lead his followers to "believe that heaven is hell--and hell, heaven... the bigger the lie, the more it will be believed."

May this public inauguration day of President Barack Obama herald strengthening of scientific understanding among the general population, reasoning based on facts within the Congress, and leaders who exhibit both "toughmindedness" and "tenderheartedness," in the words of M.L. King, Jr.

[Texts originally from The Strength to Love, sermons written by King in 1963].

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Strange Science - a fun way to begin winter term

Strange Science - "the rocky road to modern paleontology and biology" - was recently reviewed by The Scout Report.  Thanks to their reviewer for highlighting this fun and informative site.  Once you settle in for Winter Term, enjoy some time exploring the site's content.  Many neat old illustrations show how science advances in fits and false starts, and reinforces the importance of creative thinking, careful observation and repetitive experimentation for improving scientific understanding.

This is especially telling:  "Penned in the 7th or 8th century, Liber Monstrorum warned readers at the outset that most of the stories it relayed were probably lies. Yet in the midst of tall tales and fabrications, increased travel led to the discoveries of very real elephants, anteaters, ostriches and apes. Believing too little could be as bad as believing too much." So enlighten and enliven your mind with a bit of fiction that might just inspire serious fact-finding.