Week in Review: Four Reasons to Tweet

July 13, 2012

You can get the big science headlines from just about major media outlet. Okay, maybe not Fox, but NPR or NY Times would certainly suffice. Enter the Twitterverse, though, and you could find a whole new set of stories to entertain your brain. Here are a few items that caught my eye and sparked conversations this week.

Swimming With the Trash: A Marine Drone Seeks to Scoop up Plastic

Those zany French designers are at it again. Last week, I wrote about SeaOrbiter, a revolutionary(?) new research vessel designed by French architect Jacques Rougerie. This week, it's a drone intended to scoop up plastic debris. Think Roomba, the ocean version. Nancy Gohring (@uwnancy), a science writer at University of Washington, brought the story to my attention with this important question:

"hmmm, what do the scientists out there think of this drone designed to scoop up ocean trash?"

Although not technically a scientist, I responded with my own skepticism - Just how would it distinguish plastic from other items? How would it travel through the ocean without scooping up all the plankton in its path? How many of these things would be needed to even make a dent in the problem?
But that's just my knee-jerk reaction. I'll echo Nancy's call to scientists for some reasoned critique of the idea.

Ocean Acidification vs. The Kardashians, Part Deux: The Gulf Is Even Wider


Thanks go to Deep Sea News blogger and marine biologist Miriam Goldstein (@MiriamGoldste) for pointing out this doozy. A few quick stats really put

"Recently, an analysis by Media Matters bemoaned the fact that print and broadcast media devoted approximately 40 times as much news coverage to the Kardashians as to ocean acidification
. This was despite, and perhaps because of, the latter’s established importance—and, one is left to infer, the former’s non-importance (taking a leap of faith here that you’re on the same page as us on this one)."

The folks at Upwell went one step further and looked at online mentions:

"Between January 1 and July 9, the Kardashians received 9.6 million total mentions. In contrast, ocean acidification received 70,333 total mentions. That’s 136 times more mentions for Kim and her sisters than a declining pH. (Imagine that!)"

Imagine that, indeed!

The joy of T-Rex: Scientists show how dinosaurs had sex (tricky, when you weigh 30 tons and one crucial part is 12 ft long)

When Hannah Waters (@hannahjwaters) tweeted

"OMG: Scientific illustrations of dinosaur sex http://t.co/Qs9fqQGn cc @laelaps"

I couldn't resist. After reading the Daily Mail article, I couldn't help but wonder if there is any real scientific reason to contemplate (and illustrate) the particulars dinosaur sex, or if it's just one of those things paleobiologists chuckle over in the pub. So I asked. And (@laelaps) responded:

"This is why I hate articles like the one at @MailOnline. Trivializes research that's actually pretty cool!"


"To reconstruct dino positions, have to think about soft tissues, skeletal stresses, &c. It's not just paleo porn"

So now we know. And if you want to know more, you can always check out Brian’s series (yes, series) on dino sex.
Finally, lest you think everything on Twitter is offbeat and obscure:
Carl Zimmer (@carlzimmer) announced this morning that he’ll be on NPR’s Science Friday (@scifri) this afternoon talking about the arsenic life controversy. For background reading, check out Carl’s uber-review of the original paper (the blog post that broke the arsenic life counter-story) and his recent post on what new research means for the theory.

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