More Darwinius masillae Buzz: Ida Goes Google Logo
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Talk about "going broad" with a science communication strategy: If an open access journal article, a front page NY Times article, Good Morning America, and a two-hour History Channel documentary weren't enough, the "missing link" known as Ida now appears as today's logo at Google's search engine.
In the academic and professional fields of science communication, the story of Ida will be analyzed and debated for some time. At one level, as I explained yesterday, the innovative strategy and resources spent on popularizing this finding to a broader audience is exactly the type of method needed to reach a mass public in an age of fragmented audiences. Indeed, it's likely that Ida has been a major conversation starter at water coolers across the world. And "talking science" is a good thing, sparking incidental attention and interest in science that for some portion of this temporary audience will lead to a longer term engagement with science through the media.
Yet at a second level, as I also discussed yesterday, when this strategy is applied to promote a single study rather than a body of research or wider subject such as environmental science, there is the incentive and tendency towards hype. Put at risk then, is public trust and the communication capital of scientists and journalists. On this angle, the New Scientist has a good round up.
New research links urban planning and political polarization.
- Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
- Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
- People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
It turns out the human scalp has an olfactory receptor that seems to play a crucial role in regulating hair follicle growth and death.
- Scientists treated scalp tissue with a chemical that mimics the odor of sandalwood.
- This chemical bound to an olfactory receptor in the scalp and stimulated hair growth.
- The treatment could soon be available to the public.
Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.
- Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
- What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
- Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
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