Displaying items by tag: Science

‘Bill Nye: Science Guy’: Fighting for the Right to Use Facts

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On Friday, June 9, the 2017 Human Rights Watch Film Festival begins at Lincoln Center and IFC Center, offering worthy documentaries about struggle and oppression. For example, Erik Ljung’s “The Blood Is at the Doorstep” concerns the fallout when a black man is killed by a Milwaukee policeman; Sophia and Georgia Scott’s “Lost in Lebanon” is about a country facing a million arriving refugees.

So why is David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg’s “Bill Nye: Science Guy” included? This portrait of Mr. Nye, the bow-tied 1990s TV educator, follows him as he honors his mentor Carl Sagan with the LightSailspacecraft project; relaxes with Neil deGrasse Tyson; witnesses evidence of global warming in Greenland; and inspires a convention of science teachers. Mostly we see Mr. Nye still educating, debating climate-change deniers and Ken Ham, whose Kentucky tourist attractions the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter pervert and debase evolutionary science. The truth? “Bill Nye: Science Guy” is about the right to appreciate empirical evidence and facts. (ff.hrw.org)

 

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10th Annual World Science Festival Kicks Off in NYC: Watch the Events Online

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This week, scientists, thinkers, artists and others will convene in New York City for the 10th annual World Science Festival, but even if you can't make it to the Big Apple, you can catch some of the action live online.

The festival, which kicked off yesterday (May 30), will run through June 4, and features more than 50 events in venues across the city. The weeklong celebration of science will engage participants with "revolutionary discoveries, the thinkers behind them, and their wide-ranging political and cultural implications," according to festival organizers. Topics of the panel discussions range from artificial intelligence (AI), to human regeneration, to the biggest questions in cosmology.

Several sessions — including "Computational Creativity: AI and the Art of Ingenuity" and "The Evolution of Evolution: Are We the Masters of Our Fate?" — will be webcast live, and you can watch them on Live Science. [Watch Live: World Science Festival 2017]

Times Square will also act as a hub for the festival's events this year, with a program of free activities called "Science in the Square" that will bring science topics to a broad general audience — one of the festival's main missions.

"When we started the World Science Festival a decade ago, we conceived it as a way of introducing the diverse worlds of science to a broad audience — to take science out of scholarly journals and into the cultural mainstream," Tracy Day, co-founder and CEO of the World Science Festival, said in a statement. "Now, more than ever, it is critical that the general public recognize how vital science is to our collective future."

One way the festival focuses on the future is by considering the past, such as with the multimedia presentation "Time, Creativity, and the Cosmos." The production follows the universe from the Big Bang to through the present, highlighting the human spirit of exploration as told by physicist and World Science Festival co-founder Brian Greene.

Women in science are also highlighted in the festival's program this year, including two main events to recognize the achievements of female scientists. The women-led discussion "Hidden Figures No More! Heroines of Space Science Past, Present, and Future" will feature scientists and astronauts who shattered the glass ceiling. Actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, of "The Big Bang Theory," will moderate a panel of accomplished women who will share their stories of pursuing careers in science.

And Bialik isn't the only Hollywood highlight: Actor and festival collaborator Alan Alda will have a conversation with actress Tina Fey about the science of communication. Bill Nye, of "Science Guy" fame, will also lead the festival favorite "Saturday Night Lights: Stargazing in Brooklyn Bridge Park."

Original article on Live Science.

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For seed beetles, the pain of sex

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PARIS—Evolution works in mysterious ways, especially when it comes to sex.
Behold the humble and homely seed beetle, an insect that has successfully spread to every continent on the planet except Antarctica.
The male of the species, it has long been known, boasts an imposing sexual organ resembling a medieval, spike-studded ball mounted on a metal shaft.

Ouch.
“The penis is covered in hundreds of sharp spines which pierce the female reproductive tract during mating,” explained Liam Dougherty, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Western Australia in Crawley, and lead author of a study that asks a deceptively simple question: How do females cope?
The answer based on a decade of laboratory experiments spanning 100 seed beetle generations reveals a remarkable story of adaptation, and an evolutionary tit-for-tat that Dougherty likens to a “sexual ‘arms race.’”
“When males evolved to increase male harm, the females also evolved to reduce that harm,” and in more ways than one, Dougherty told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
To begin with, the female tract grew thicker across generations, “making the spines less able to pierce the tissue,” he explained.
Immune response
Lady beetles confronted with ever more dangerous male gear also developed new immune responses, one giving them more protection against infection, and another allowing their damaged tissue to heal faster.
The findings, published on Wednesday in the British Royal Society journal Proceedings B, provide rare evidence of how “traumatic mating,” as it is sometimes called, can simultaneously drive adaptive mutations in both sexes.

But this fascinating evolutionary pas de deux still leaves begging a fundamental question: What is the raison d’etre of a male sex organ that reduces female life span and perhaps reproductive output?
What, in other words, would Darwin have to say?
Some biologists have suggested that the weaponized genitalia reduce the chances of females coupling with other males.
Pain sex
But female seed beetles do, in fact, mate with more than one partner.
More likely, according to Dougherty, is that spines on the male organ changed to increase the number of eggs fertilized compared to competitors.
In either case, “the female well-being is sacrificed at the expense of male fitness,” he added. “Traumatic mating has evolved because it increases male fertilization success.”
The scientists also speculated that deeper holes made by longer spines allow chemicals ejaculated by the male that influence female behavior, and make her more pliant, to more quickly find their way to the brain.
Seed beetles are not the only creatures prone to male-on-female pain sex.
The best known example is probably the bed bug. Its penis that looks like a hooked hypodermic needle pierces the females abdomen, injecting sperm directly into the body cavity.
Nor are females always on the receiving end. Several species of spider practice sexual cannibalism in which larger lady arachnids eat their mates but only after the deed is done.
Changes interdependent
For the seed beetle experiment, the insects were gathered from 13 locations around the world including Benin, Brazil, California, Nigeria, South India and Yemen. They were raised separately under identical laboratory conditions.
The scientists were thus able to show that changes across generations in each sex’s genitalia, which varied from population to population, were interdependent.
Many animal species display low levels of sexual conflict, but such behavior rarely leads to the full-on “arms race” escalation seen in seed beetles, Dougherty noted. —AFP

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