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science and society

Voices: Humans at high temperatures

Reconsidering the economic implications of climate change

How much will it cost to implement plans to mitigate climate change? And if we don’t implement changes, what will the cost of climate change be?

31 Jan 2011

Voices: Does all scientific work deserve public attention?

Last September, I read a thoughtful post about science blogging and communication on The Guardian’s science blog by David Dobbs. Many scientists seem to think that their work is done once they’ve published a paper, Dobbs said. He argued that scientists have grown over-reliant on the scientific paper to get the word out about their findings and instead — or really, in addition — they need to communicate the importance of their work to an audience larger than the readership of peer-reviewed papers.

14 Jan 2011

The Changing Face of Sudan

To say that things are changing in Sudan would be an understatement. With a referendum on secession set for Jan. 9, and expected to pass, and many issues to be negotiated between now and July 9 when the country’s peace agreement ends, a lot will change over the coming months. And everything hinges on Sudan’s most valuable product: oil.

08 Jan 2011

Voices: Log off and get outside again

I began this column while meandering across the West just after Labor Day last year. We drove from Telluride, Colo., to Zion National Park in Utah, to Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border, and finally to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

06 Jan 2011

OPEC and Oil: The next 50 years

Last September, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) celebrated its 50th anniversary. Over the past five decades, OPEC has earned a reputation for being a powerful cartel that controls the world’s oil production and prices — but there are limits to OPEC’s influence and wealth. In fact, many OPEC countries face grave problems, which, to some extent, are the result of their oil-based economies.

03 Jan 2011

Highlights of 2010: Definitive statements: a new trend?

“This is the way it was.” Or: “This is what is happening.” Hmmm. Scientists don’t usually make such definitive statements, given that in science, there are almost always caveats. Yet in the last year, such statements have been issued by several large groups of scientists who have come together to support a certain point of view. Are scientists feeling the need to dig in their heels because of public pressures? Or are we actually reaching some consensus?

10 Dec 2010

Voices: Geologists on the wrong side of the law

We live in a litigious society. Engineering and environmental geologists are no strangers to the legal system. They frequently deal with issues relating to geologic hazards such as active faults and unstable ground, the release of contaminants into the environment and numerous other circumstances. But for the most part, geoscientists tend to avoid legal battles. Is that changing?

03 Dec 2010

A Dirty Secret - China's greatest import: Carbon emissions

The U.S. and much of the Western world have a dirty secret.

While we claim to be working diligently to decrease our emissions and switch to cleaner, non-fossil fuel energies, we are actually just exporting emissions to other countries, most notably China. We don’t talk about it. We get on our soapboxes at international meetings and claim to be making great progress to halt ever-increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. And we complain vociferously about developing countries — again, most notably China — not doing the same.

22 Nov 2010

Earth science rocks at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

A jazz-improvising robot; an Einstein impersonator; Van de Graaff generators that make your hair stand on end: These were just some of the attractions at the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival, which included an expo held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 23 and 24, 2010.This celebration of science, where NASA astronauts mingled with awestruck kids and families competed in robotic soccer tournaments, featured 1,500 hands-on activities and attracted 500,000 visitors.

09 Nov 2010

Impossible Odds, Irrepressible Hope: Pakistan's water woes and the science that can solve them

Most residents of developed countries don’t think about their water running out or worry about their water leading to the death of their children. In Pakistan, those are distinct possibilities.

05 Oct 2010

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