Tortoises Hump & Fingers Freeze As Open Science Catches Fire – January’s Best at Neuron Culture

Galapagos making more Galapagos, by JupiterSSJ4

Open science stole the show in January, with evolution, frostbite, and PTSD hysteria following. I’m throwing in tortoise sex for feel-good factor.

Congress Considers Paywalling Science You Already Paid For

Should you be able to read research you’ve helped to fund? A few years ago, Congress decided this was a good idea, and approved an access policy that makes most taxpayer-funded research freely available online within 12 months of publication. This modest step toward open access — which, as I’vewritten before, is vital to healthy science and science policy — has proven a huge boon to researchers and also to those of us who write about science, while leaving most publisher profits quite healthy.

 Congress didn’t think so, though; at the behest of campaign contributors, they sought to kill this policy. It backfired.

Testify: The Open-Science Movement Catches Fire 

This took second spot even though it appeared at 6.49am on the last day of the month. People are pissed.

For years, the open science movement has sought to light a fire about the “closed” journal-publication system. In the last few weeks their efforts seemed to have ignited a broader flame, driven mainly, it seems, by the revelation that one of the most resented publishers, Elsevier, was backing the Research Works Act — some tomfoolery I noted in Congress Considers Paywalling Science You Already Paid For, on Jan 6. Now, 24 days later, scientists are pledging by the hundreds to not cooperate with Elsevier in any way … and the rebellion is repeatedly reaching the pages of the New York Times and Forbes.

In my feature I speculated whether librarians would eventually lead the charge. But Jason Hoyt, then of Mendeley and now of OpenRePub, seemed to have it closer: The revolution awaited only the researchers.

Do We Need New Traits to Live Within Limits? Revkin Asks. Lopez Responds, from 1986.

The book is stuffed with history; finely observed scenes and experiences; stories drawn from his own ventures, ventures related over campfires or meals in tents or on shipdecks; ventures read; and, in the first half, wonderful deep life-history studies of artic wildlife  — musk ox, narwhal, polar bear. (An Inuit man asked by Knud Rasmussen to define happiness: “To come across fresh bear tracks and be ahead of all the other sledges.”) The chapter on migration is one of the loveliest studies of animal life I’ve ever read. His description of snow geese, observed here at Tule Lake in California, where a quarter million gather during the fall migration:

When they are feeding in  the grain fields around Tule Lake, the geese come and go in flocks of five or ten thousand. Sometimes there are forty or fifty thousand in the air at once. They rise from the fields like smoke in great, swirling currents, rising higher and spreading wider in  the sky than one’s field of vision can encompass. One fluid, recurved sweep of ten thousand of them passes through the spaces within another, counterflying flock; while beyond them lattice after lattice passes, like sliding Japanese walls, until in the whole sky you lose you depth of field and feel as though you are looking up fro the floor of the ocean through shoals of fish.

They Froze for Science — and Got the Eggs 

Of the Worst Journey in the World:

Some nights it dipped below -70F. At night the men’s sweat and breath condensed and saturated the tent and turned their clothes and gear to stone. Each morning they had to pound one another’s clothes and sledge harnesses for as long as an hour to get the harnesses on so they could pull the sledge;  ”sometimes not even two men could bend the [harness] into the required shape.” Each evening it took 3 to 4 hours to make camp and dinner and get into their bags. Each morning it took 3 to 4 hours to start the stove, make and breakfast, get their icelike boots on, and break camp. Then into harness.

Frostbite was routine. The worst was the hands. Even within his thick fur mittens, Cherry-Garrard’s frostbitten fingers developed blisters running their length. The blisters filled with fluid, and the fluid froze.

‘To handle the cooking gear or the food bags was agony; to start the primus was worse; and when, one day, I was able to prick six or seven of the blisters after supper and let the liquid out, the relief was very great.”

Our Sickening Rush to See PTSD – and What It Costs Vets 

Our culture’s obsession with PTSD, our reflexive painting of all combat vets as probably ruined by combat, is based on error and misconceptions —  and cruelly unfair to the veterans we think we’re helping by viewing as sick. … With tens of thousands of soldiers returning to the US from Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans need to ask themselves why they so desperately want to see veterans as damaged goods. I think partly it’s out of a weird logic — and some guilt — that because war is hell (and make no mistake, it is), it must plaint within every soldier a devil. It does not.  The two great wonders of war are 1) it is unimaginably horrible and 2) most soldiers emerge from it not merely okay, but in the long run, better.

Tortoise Sex, Via the Eyes of Lucky Jack Aubrey 

‘Tyranny,’ said Jack, meaning to intervene: but either the last blows had subdued the smaller tortoise — a female — or she felt that she had shown all the reluctance that was called for; in any case she stopped. The male covered her, and maintaining himself precariously on her domed back with his ancient folded leathery legs he raised his face to the sun, stretched up his neck, opened his mouth wide and uttered the strangest dying cry.

‘Bless me, said Jack, ‘I had no notion…’

Image: Galapagos making more Galapagos, by JupiterSSJ4

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *