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Reading List for Course on Science and Environmental Communication
This semester, students from a diversity of majors at American University are participating in an advanced seminar I am teaching on science and environmental communication. For the first part of the semester, we are covering core issues and themes. In the process, students will be blogging on related selected topics while finalizing their research paper topic.
In the second half of the semester, readings and blogging will focus on specific issues of interest to the students, as determined by a class survey. Topics may include climate and energy; industrial farming and the food system; biomedical and stem cell research; and women's health and reproductive rights.
Below I have included the assigned readings for the first half of the semester with links to the full text of each article if available. You can also follow links to assigned video presentations and audio casts. Blog posts from the class will be tagged and archived. See for example posts from last year's class as well as the reading list.
INTRODUCTION TO MAJOR THEMES AND ISSUES
Wynne, B. (2009). Interview: Rationality and Ritual. In Cayley, D. Ed, Ideas: On the Nature of Science. Frederickton, CA: Goose Lane. [Also listen to episode.]
Brossard, D., & Lewenstein, B. V. (2009). A Critical Appraisal of Models of Public Understanding of Science: Using Practice to Inform Theory. In L. Kahlor & P. Stout (Eds.), Communicating Science: New Agendas in Communication (pp. 11-39). New York: Routledge.
Hartings, MR and Fahy, D. (2011). Communicating Chemistry for Public Engagement. Nature Chemistry. Vol 3. September, pp 674-677. [PDF]
Kitcher, P. (2010). The Climate Change Debates. Science. 328. 4 June. 1230-1234.
Sarewitz, Daniel. 2009. The Rightful Place of Science. Issues in Science and Technology, Summer 2009: 89-94. [PDF].
Brumfiel, J. (2009). Supplanting the Old Media? Nature, 458, 274-277. [PDF]
Olson, R. (2011). Dude, Where’s My Climate Change Movement? Presentation to 50th Anniversary of the World Wildlife Fund. [Watch the Video].
SCIENCE AND A PLURALISTIC, PARTICIPATORY PUBLIC
National Science Foundation (2012). Public Attitudes Towards Science and Technology. Science and Engineering Indicators 2012. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation. [PDF]
Nisbet, M.C. (2011). Public Opinion and Political Participation. In D. Schlosberg, J. Dryzek, & R. Norgaard (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society. London, UK: Oxford University Press. [HTML].
Nisbet, M.C. & Kotcher, J. (2009). A Two Step Flow of Influence? Opinion-Leader Campaigns on Climate Change. Science Communication. [PDF]
Collins, M. & Pinch, T. (1998). The Golem at Large: What You Should Know About Technology. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 113-56.
SCIENTISTS, EXPERT INSTITUTIONS, AND THE PUBLIC
Besley J. & Nisbet, M.C. (2011). How Scientists View the Public, the Media, and the Political Process. Public Understanding of Science [HTML].
Osmond et al (2010). The Role of Interface Organizations in Science Communication and Understanding. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. [HTML]
Blackman, S. (2009). Promises, Promises. The Scientist. [HTML]
Fahy, D. (2011). Richard Dawkins: A Critical Case Study of the Celebrity Scientist. Working Paper. Washington, D.C.: American University.
Nisbet, M.C. (2010). Do Scientists Have a Special Responsibility to Engage in Advocacy? Interview with Michael Nelson. Age of Engagement blog, Big Think.com. [HTML].
THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT AND COMMUNICATION
Guber, D. & Bosso, C. (2009). Past the Tipping Point? Public Discourse and the Role of the Environmental Movement in a Post-Bush Era. In Environmental Policy: New Directions for the 21st Century, 7th ed., Norman Vig and Michael Kraft, eds. CQ Press, 2009: 51-74.
Schellenberger, M. & Nordhaus, T. (2004). The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World. The Breakthrough Institute. [PDF]
Dunlap, R. & McCright, A. (2011). Organized Climate Change Denial. In Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society, ed. David Schlosberg, John Dryzek, and Richard Norgaard. Cambridge: Oxford University Press. [HTML]
Crompton, T. (2008). Weathercocks and Signposts: The Environmental Movement at a Crossroads. UK World Wildlife Fund. [PDF]
Hart, P., & Nisbet, E. (2011). Boomerang Effects in Science Communication: How Motivated Reasoning and Identity Cues Amplify Opinion Polarization About Climate Mitigation Policies Communication Research. [HTML].
Nisbet, M.C. (2011). Designs to Win: Engineering Social Change. Chapter 3 in Climate Shift: Clear Vision for the Next Decade of Public Debate. Washington, DC: American University. [HTML]
THE NEWS MEDIA, SCIENCE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Fahy, J. & Nisbet, M.C. (2011). The Science Journalist Online: Shifting Roles and Emerging Practices. Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism. [HTML]
Revkin, A. (2011). Conveying the Climate Story. Presentation to the Google Science Communication Fellows Program. [Watch the Online Video]
Nisbet, M.C. (2011). Death of a Norm? Evaluating False Balance in Media Coverage. Chapter 3 in Climate Shift: Clear Vision for the Next Decade of Public Debate. Washington, DC: American University (HTML).
Feldman, L. et al. (2011). Climate on Cable: The Nature and Impact of Global Warming Coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. International Journal of Press/Politics. [HTML].
Scheufele, D.A & Nisbet, M.C. (in press). Online News and the Demise of Political Disagreement. Communication Yearbook. [HTML]
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.
Women today are founding more businesses than ever. In 2018, they made up 40% of new entrepreneurs, yet in that same year, they received just 2.2% of all venture capital investment. The playing field is off-balance. So what can women do?
In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.