29 January 2011

Kaboom! An undersea volcano blows its top…

This spectacular video of an erupting undersea volcano recently came through the geoscience grapevine, and thought I would share it here.  Enjoy!

According to the anonymous voice accompanying the video, the volcano is Kavachi (9.02° S 157.95° E), near the Solomon Islands.  The eruptive history of Kavachi has been recorded since 1939 and numerous periods of volcanism have been documented in that time.  Although the date of this video is uncertain, the most recent known eruption occurred in early April 2007 following a magnitude 8.1 earthquake.  Kavachi has emerged above the ocean surface to form an island on nine occasions, only to subside again due to erosion.

26 January 2011

A plea for more science coverage in local and community papers

Last week’s Isthmus (January 21, 2011) cover story, which ran under the provocative headline, “The Truth about Adult Stem Cells,” set my mind racing for the better part of an hour as I considered various arguments that swirl around the stem cell debate.  (For those that aren’t familiar with it, Isthmus is a weekly local paper in Madison, WI.)  I, like a lot of people it seems, have an opinion, albeit a murky one, on the subject. Although I have no intention of sharing it here.  I know better than to wade too quickly into a sure quagmire.  Plus, that’s not what this post is about.

After that initial hour or so the other day, my mind settled back down and I was able focus on other concerns.  But the article stuck with me.  I came back to it today, reread it, read the ensuing online commentary, and began the debate all over again in my head.

At some point, it dawned on me how effective the story had been—whether through solid writing, or because of the subject matter, or both—at holding my attention and causing me to weigh the issue.  It also got me thinking about how rare it is to find coverage of important scientific issues in local and community newspapers (i.e., circulation under about 50,000).

19 January 2011

Allow myself to introduce...myself

Hello dear reader,

Thank you for stopping by to check out my new blog, ‘+/- Science.’  It is intended as a general interest science writing blog, although the content will no doubt be colored by my own scientific interests—geoscience, chemistry, biochemistry and the like—and it may occasionally include posts that do not have an obvious connection to science.  (Although, in my opinion, connections to science, or at least the scientific method, can be found almost everywhere.)

A brief introduction…

My name is Tim Oleson.  Nice to meet you. [imaginary handshakes]

After spending a decade or so in science as a student and researcher, I’m transitioning to science writing.  Currently pursuing a Master’s degree in journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Go Bucky!), I was formerly a grad student in the Department of Geoscience, also at UW, where I completed an MS in 2005 and a PhD in 2009 while conducting research in the field of biogeochemistry (yes, that’s an actual field).  I never imagined myself as a career student, but that’s clearly how it turned out.  Please check out the About the Author page, if you’re interested in learning a little bit more about me.

Purpose of the blog…

I recently overheard an undergraduate say, while speaking to a classmate, that he tries to avoid real science as much as possible.  The two were discussing classes they had taken, or had considered taking, to fulfill university science requirements as painlessly as possible.