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Tackling global issues through independent research, open dialogue, and actionable ideas.
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Signs we need to improve the amount (and quality) of science coverage in media:
In a March 2011 survey, two-thirds of Americans couldn’t name a single living scientist 
From 2007-2010, science/technology/environmental topics accounted for only 3% of all news stories (and only 2% in 2011).
Though 87% of scientists support the idea, only 32% of the U.S. public believes in natural selection playing a role in evolution
While 97% of scientists agree, only 41% of the U.S. public believes that climate change is caused by human activities.
Louise Lief, on why this matters:

If people do not know scientists or understand how they work, it follows that they are unlikely to make informed choices on public policy issues or support basic scientific research to address vital issues like climate change and conservation.

More about Louise’s project to improve science in journalism here.

Signs we need to improve the amount (and quality) of science coverage in media:

  • In a March 2011 survey, two-thirds of Americans couldn’t name a single living scientist 
  • From 2007-2010, science/technology/environmental topics accounted for only 3% of all news stories (and only 2% in 2011).
  • Though 87% of scientists support the idea, only 32% of the U.S. public believes in natural selection playing a role in evolution
  • While 97% of scientists agree, only 41% of the U.S. public believes that climate change is caused by human activities.

Louise Lief, on why this matters:

If people do not know scientists or understand how they work, it follows that they are unlikely to make informed choices on public policy issues or support basic scientific research to address vital issues like climate change and conservation.

More about Louise’s project to improve science in journalism here.

mapsbynik:

Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census Blocks with zero population

A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.

Green shading indicates unoccupied Census Blocks. A single inhabitant is enough to omit a block from shading

Quick update: If you’re the kind of map lover who cares about cartographic accuracy, check out the new version which fixes the Gulf of California. If you save this map for your own projects, please use this one instead.

Map observations

The map tends to highlight two types of areas:

  • places where human habitation is physically restrictive or impossible, and
  • places where human habitation is prohibited by social or legal convention.

Water features such lakes, rivers, swamps and floodplains are revealed as places where it is hard for people to live. In addition, the mountains and deserts of the West, with their hostility to human survival, remain largely void of permanent population.

Of the places where settlement is prohibited, the most apparent are wilderness protection and recreational areas (such as national and state parks) and military bases. At the national and regional scales, these places appear as large green tracts surrounded by otherwise populated countryside.

At the local level, city and county parks emerge in contrast to their developed urban and suburban surroundings. At this scale, even major roads such as highways and interstates stretch like ribbons across the landscape.

Commercial and industrial areas are also likely to be green on this map. The local shopping mall, an office park, a warehouse district or a factory may have their own Census Blocks. But if people don’t live there, they will be considered “uninhabited”. So it should be noted that just because a block is unoccupied, that does not mean it is undeveloped.

Perhaps the two most notable anomalies on the map occur in Maine and the Dakotas. Northern Maine is conspicuously uninhabited. Despite being one of the earliest regions in North America to be settled by Europeans, the population there remains so low that large portions of the state’s interior have yet to be politically organized.

In the Dakotas, the border between North and South appears to be unexpectedly stark. Geographic phenomena typically do not respect artificial human boundaries. Throughout the rest of the map, state lines are often difficult to distinguish. But in the Dakotas, northern South Dakota is quite distinct from southern North Dakota. This is especially surprising considering that the county-level population density on both sides of the border is about the same at less than 10 people per square mile.

Finally, the differences between the eastern and western halves of the contiguous 48 states are particularly stark to me. In the east, with its larger population, unpopulated places are more likely to stand out on the map. In the west, the opposite is true. There, population centers stand out against the wilderness.

::

Ultimately, I made this map to show a different side of the United States. Human geographers spend so much time thinking about where people are. I thought I might bring some new insight by showing where they are not, adding contrast and context to the typical displays of the country’s population geography.

I’m sure I’ve all but scratched the surface of insight available from examining this map. There’s a lot of data here. What trends and patterns do you see?

Errata

  • The Gulf of California is missing from this version. I guess it got filled in while doing touch ups. Oops. There’s a link to a corrected map at the top of the post.
  • Some islands may be missing if they were not a part of the waterbody data sets I used.

::

©mapsbynik 2014
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Block geography and population data from U.S. Census Bureau
Water body geography from National Hydrology Dataset and Natural Earth
Made with Tilemill
USGS National Atlas Equal Area Projection

sci-universe:

53 years ago today (April 12), Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut, became the first human to travel into space and change history, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth.

So on April 12, Gagarin, who turned into an international celebrity and hero, is being commemorated for paving the way for future space exploration by the International Day of Human Space Flight (Cosmonautics Day).

I really recommend looking him up. There’s so much to know about him and the history-making flight.

My favourite thing is probably the landing to an unplanned site: A farmer and her daughter observed the strange scene of a figure in a bright orange suit with a large white helmet landing near them by parachute. Gagarin later recalled, “When they saw me in my space suit and the parachute dragging alongside as I walked, they started to back away in fear. I told them, don’t be afraid, I am a Soviet citizen like you, who has descended from space and I must find a telephone to call Moscow!”

Happy International Day of Human Space Flight!

(via howstuffworks)

20 years after Rwanda’s genocide, a line worth repeating from Roméo Dallaire. 

Full video from his 2004 interview at the Wilson Center is here

This is what democracy looks like.

The incredibly inspiring sights of Election Day in Afghanistan on Storify

A mother shouldn’t go bankrupt because her child needs surgery but 100 million households – families – go bankrupt a year because of health expenses.
There is no silver bullet for resolving [climate change]. A better approach might be silver buckshot: a lot of initiatives with the idea that some will make progress and others won’t.
Nations often enter watershed eras without fanfare, the segue unnoticed until years later. Saudi Arabia has already entered such an era…

Just how big is China? 

In this super-cool-nerdy interactive from The Economist, China’s provinces are matched with the countries closest in population size (and a host of other measures, too).

Every society needs the full participation of each and every citizen, men and women equally. No society, without exception, has advanced while its women are abused or marginalized. The status of women has become the indicator of the level of development and welfare of any society… women’s empowerment has become a necessity and not a luxury.
Moushira Kattab, speaking about fostering the next generation of female leaders in the Middle East
Adolescent pregnancies should not be seen only as a result of recklessness or a deliberate choice, but rather that of the absence of choices and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control.

Mind-blowing: the average American household spends more on its household pets than the poverty line for humans in the developing world. [Source]

"Nothing is more annoying than the image much of the world has of American presidents: a heroic action figure, a kind of cross between Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis, with limitless power"

- Aaron David Miller, on the misconception about the US & the world that drives him crazy

25 years later, what has been the last impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill?

Have a few minutes? Watch this great short documentary from the NYT’s Retro Report project.

25 years ago today: the Exxon Valdez oil spill

todaysdocument:

"Dear Sir,

I am very sorry but I am very mad about the oil spill. It is killing nature. And it is killing the sea otters. It makes me very sad because my class is doing a report on sea otters. And sea otters are cute. Sea otters are an endangered species. Please clean up the oil spill.

Sincerely,

Kelli Middlestead.
Mrs. Ashley - 2nd grade
Franklin School”

Letter from Kelli Middlestead from the Franklin School, Burlingame, California to Walter Stieglitz the Regional Director of the Alaska Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 04/13/1989

From the series: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Correspondence, 1989 - 1991. Records of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Twenty-five years ago today the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling over 250,000 barrels of crude oil and causing one of the worst oil spills and natural disasters in U.S. history.

This 2nd grade student’s letter to usfws is possibly our favorite record ever, but it’s especially bittersweet considering the magnitude of the disaster.

What are your memories of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill?