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Why Is Science Suffering in the Modern Age?

A recent survey from the Pew Research Institute revealed troubling trends in how science is doing, and showed that the public and scientists are far apart on many basic questions, from whether humans have evolved over time (only 65% of the public agrees, compared to 98% of scientists), to whether it’s safe to eat genetically modified foods (88% of scientists think so, but only 37% of the public agrees). There…

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New Zealand building public engagement in science

Science and the knowledge and innovation that flow from scientific progress have a critical role in creating and defining our future Many of today’s most complex decisions (e.g. on public health, natural resources stewardship and communications technology) require us all to weigh scientific evidence and our values. This will be even more so in future years as the world becomes increasingly connected and technology and knowledge advance. As New Zealanders…

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Public engagement with science, Victorian style

Michael Faraday’s 1856 Christmas Lecture at the Royal Institution. Photograph: Wikimedia Commons Most people are familiar with some Victorian attempts to popularise science. Perhaps best known are the Royal Institution’s Christmas Lectures, begun by Michael Faraday and continued by successors including John Tyndall. They helped make science fashionable and the lecturers famous, also instilling a particular view of science, its authority and its relationship to the public. The 19th century…

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Asteroid hunter data challenge launches today

In this challenge, we are tasking competitors with developing a significantly improved algorithm to identify asteroids in images from ground-based telescopes. The winning solution will increase the detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and run effectively on all computers Asteroids pose both a possible threat and an opportunity for Earth: they could impact us, causing damage, OR possibly be mined for resources that…

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Why Carl Sagan is Truly Irreplaceable

Illustration by Jody Hewgill We live in Carl Sagan’s universe–awesomely vast, deeply humbling. It’s a universe that, as Sagan reminded us again and again, isn’t about us. We’re a granular element. Our presence may even be ephemeral—a flash of luminescence in a great dark ocean. Or perhaps we are here to stay, somehow finding a way to transcend our worst instincts and ancient hatreds, and eventually become a galactic species.…

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Sun goes around the earth? Not since 1542

The headlines are depressing. A 2012 National Science Foundation survey (released on Feb. 14th at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) has revealed that 26 percent of US adults think the sun revolves around the earth. But is this really news? Once the shock wears off, it’s helpful to note that: General science knowledge hasn’t been declining markedly. For instance, a 1999 Gallup poll…

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Merriam-Webster’s 2013 word of the year is … science!

Sorry, folks. Merriam-Webster’s word of the year is not “selfie.” And twerk is nowhere on the list, either. Unlike the lads and ladies over at Oxford, Merriam-Webster has declared “science” its 2013 word of the year. Its number 2 word is cognitive. Oxford’s buzzworthy choice of “selfie” last month was a result of the word’s growing usage and digital fame. But its U.S. counterpart picked “science” primarily based on numbers…

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Alan Alda isn’t interested in your scientific mumbo jumbo

STONY BROOK, N.Y. (AP) — Among the procedures Army surgeon Hawkeye Pierce performed on “M.A.S.H.” was an end-to-end anastomosis. Most of the viewers, actor Alan Alda concedes, had no idea he was talking about removing a damaged piece of intestine and reconnecting the healthy pieces. Today, the award-winning film and television star is on a mission to teach physicians, physicists and scientists of all types to ditch the jargon and…

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