Education

Advice for New Faculty, 2016

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to speak on a panel about teaching during Union’s new-faculty orientation. We had one person from each of the academic divisions (arts and literature, social science, natural science, and engineering), and there was a ton of overlap in the things we said, but here’s a rough reconstruction…

Back to school special: I’d like to note that not every teacher who “moves to a school in the suburbs” does so for bad reasons. Some of them do so after being handed a $10,000 per annum pay cut and a contract with zero chance of a raise for the indefinite future or something else…

Until now I had assumed that a “peep” was that squishy sugar-covered marshmallow treat that we enjoyed as kids and a “yo-yo” was a toy on a string. As it turns out, peep and yo-yo are also term used to described types of diving patterns. A square dive is one in which there are no excursions to the surface, known…

The cost of male pheromones

A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University examined the costs of reproduction in roundworms, otherwise known as C. elegans. They discovered that male roundworms can send two kinds of pheromones that prime females for reproduction. One type of pheromone they studied sparks the onset of puberty in young female worms while the other prolongs fertility in aging females. …

I wish I knew how many times per week I get pitched opportunities to “interview” brave, unconventional, innovative “scientists” on my blog. Too many to count, most weeks. The pseudoscience PR whirlpool is vast and slippery. But there’s also the legitimate “Hey, somebody at my university just published this thing, maybe you want to talk…

Rodent birth control

News out of Flagstaff, Arizona reports that a biotechnology company in the area, SenesTech, has developed a birth control for rats that was recently cleared by the Environmental Protection Agency. The new drug comes in the form of a sweetened liquid bait that has been shown to reduce rodent populations by as much as 40%. It works in female rats by…

Tasmanian devils are rather large carnivorous marsupials. By large, I mean the world’s largest. In only 2 decades, the population of Tasmanian devils have declined by about 85%, landing these animals on the endangered species list. The cause: an infectious cancer called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). As the name implies, this cancer causes facial…

One of the real highlights for me every year is the late-summer announcement of the Lane Anderson Awards short list. Celebrating science books is a good thing. Celebrating Canadian writers is a good thing. Somehow in 2016, sunny ways and all, celebrating Canadian science writers seems like the best thing of all. Some info on…

Back to School!

Classes start on Monday. I knew that intellectually, of course, but I had it brought home to me a few days ago when I innocently drove onto the campus, only to find a traffic jam and crossing guards directing the cars. Students were moving into the dorms, you see. Higher education is beset with problems…

Jihad Engineers

A disproportionate percentage of Islamist radical actors, including suicide bombers, come from an engineering background. Why? Right wing and Islamist extremism seem to share this and other traits, while left wing extremism is more commonly associated with individuals from the humanities and social sciences. This is what we learn from “Engineers of Jihad: The Curious…