Monday, June 27, 2011

A Geek Roundup: The Best Science Posts From My Internship

I know I haven't been posting on here as often as I used to, but that doesn't mean that I've been slacking. My summer internship is working as a blogger for Geekosystem, one of the Abrams Media Network websites. I've been writing posts about a lot of interesting science over at Geekosystem, and I wanted to highlight some of my favorites from the past month.

Exposure to puppy pictures are just one perk of being a Geekosystem Intern
Mind Control Hat Uses Light To Guide Mouse Behavior: This post is about research out of MIT that developed a wireless control mechanism for optogenetics applications. The researchers used optogenetics (the use of light to stimulate neurons to fire at specific times) to control the motions and behavior of the mice.

Hand Hacking Device May Give Users Musical Ability: I have no musical ability to speak of, and though I do own a guitar that collects more dust than it makes music. Perhaps if I had a PossessedHand device I would get more use out of my guitar. This is a device that sends electrical impulses to your muscles instructing them to move your fingers in a specific pattern, like plucking guitar strings. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks The Onion Deserves A Pulitzer: A video post that pretty much speaks for itself, I love how fun and clever Tyson (who is a famous astrophysicist, in case you aren't familiar) is in this video. 

The Secret To Youth, In Yeast At Least: This post is about the discovery of a gene in yeast that is responsible for taking old cells and keeping them young. This gene can be turned on or off to control the aging process. 

Japanese Researchers Create Swimming Endoscope: File this one under things that make me shudder. Called the "Mermaid" researchers in Japan have developed a remotely controlled endoscope that swims through the digestive system relaying images of the various structures. 

Flies Sense Magnetic Fields Using Human Protein: We know that birds and other animals have the ability to sense the Earth's magnetic fields which enables them to visually guide their movements. New research shows that humans have the protein responsible for this ability, but not the actual power. But in flies, the protein works its magic. 

New Virotherapy Cures Prostate Cancer In Mice: Writing this post took a lot of science writing skillz, if I do say so myself. I saw many overblown headlines about a "vaccine for cancer" that were just totally inaccurate for what this story really is. This is a technique that uses viruses as a means of introducing a treatment for cancer into the body. While successful in mice, it hasn't been tried in humans, and certainly has nothing to do with vaccines. 

Eavesdropping Rodents Listen To Each Other: New research shows that chipmunks and woodchucks will heed the alarm calls of the other species, even though they do not communicate directly with each other. 

Neural Prosthesis Restores Long Term Memory: This was a very cool post (if I say so myself) about the development of a device that can manipulate the formation of memory by electrically controlling different areas of the brain. This could have important implications for memory-loss disorders. However, this too has only been proven in mice. 

Insect Makes World's Loudest Mating Call In A Surprising Way: Well, this one you'll just have to read to find out about. But let me put in the caveat that its not the most appropriate piece I've ever written.

Less Sunspot Activity Is Not A Climate Change Fix: Doing a bit of debunking and clarifying on this one, addressing some overblown claims about the effect that a reduction in sunspot activity on the sun would have on Earth. 

Russia To Build Floating Nuclear Power Plants: The title pretty much says it all. But, the main idea is that Russia intends to build nuclear power plants in the arctic to provide power for their oil exploration activities. The number of things that could go wrong which spring to mind is astounding. 

A Cool Brain Offers Relief To Insomniacs: This was a very cool study that showed that one of the most effective and easily applicable methods to treat insomnia, may be a cap that cools the brain. This could have a big impact on the way insomnia is treated, moving the industry away from sleeping pills which can be highly addictive. 

Disappointment At Tevatron: No New Particle: When particle physics becomes a let down. 

Aquatic Spider Uses Web As A Gill To Breathe Underwater: Things that completely creep me out while still being very cool. This spider uses its web as an air sack that it breathes out of while it is underwater to keep it from having to come up to the surface (and thus exposing itself) more than it really has to.

Just a small sampling of the very cool science that has been going on in the last month. There are so many interesting things that I've gotten to cover for Geekosystem (though I tend to pitch all science stories and must settle on about half, they still let me cover a lot of great stuff). I've been learning a lot about how to tell if something you see on the internet is legitimate, what sources to go to for post ideas, and how to write for a varied audience that doesn't always know they're going to be interested in a science topic.

One thing I've been struggling with while writing for Geekosystem are the comments I get on my posts. Some of them are nice and either point out a typo or minor error or just provide an opinion about the post, but the majority I either don't understand what the criticism is or I'm being accused of making mistakes that I don't think I have. I'm being encouraged to interact more with people in the comments, but I'm not sure how to handle it really. Although knowing the internet, I know that comments could be much much worse, and are for many people. I just need to get a thicker skin I suppose.

I'll try to do more roundups of the science posts I write for Geekosystem, but never fear I have no plans to abandon my own little corner of the internet here, where I can say what I want and the commenters are people I know!

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