Andrew Robinson reviews five of the week’s best science picks.
Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond, Ashley Jean Yeager MIT Press (2021)
‘More matter than meets the eye’ is a chapter title of this insightful biography of the pioneering astronomer Vera Rubin by science journalist Ashley Yeager, who interviewed her in later life. Best known for her observations of galactic rotation rates, which provided evidence for the existence of dark matter, Rubin also campaigned for equality in science. Her many honours did not include a Nobel prize, but a new observatory in Chile bears her name and this is the second biography of her in a year (see A. Abbott Nature591, 523–524; 2021).
Fears of backfire effects are overblown, and advice to listen and interact still stands.
By Lee McIntyre, 5 August 2021
I was at the March for Science in Boston, Massachusetts, on 22 April 2017, as were many scientists.
About 70,000 of us descended on the Boston Common, a famous park in the city. We were there to stand up for facts and truth. Where are the crowds of scientists now?
Since then, harms from science denial have only increased: global suffering has grown owing to inaction on climate change, and COVID-19 infections have risen along with the scourge of vaccine scepticism.
I’ve been out there — I talked to flat-earthers at a convention in Denver, Colorado, and went to rural Pennsylvania to talk to coal miners about climate change — and I’ve asked my scientist friends to come with me.
No dice. “Those people just aren’t worth talking to,” they’ll say. “I wouldn’t make a difference anyway.”
That’s wrong, both factually and morally. Those people can and do change their minds, although it requires someone to put in the time to overcome distrust.
When Laura Fisher noticed striking similarities between research papers submitted to RSC Advances, she grew suspicious.
None of the papers had authors or institutions in common, but their charts and titles looked alarmingly similar, says Fisher, the executive editor at the journal. “I was determined to try to get to the bottom of what was going on.”
A year later, in January 2021, Fisher retracted 68 papers from the journal, and editors at two other Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) titles retracted one each over similar suspicions; 15 are still under investigation.
Fisher had found what seemed to be the products of paper mills: companies that churn out fake scientific manuscripts to order. All the papers came from authors at Chinese hospitals. The journals’ publisher, the RSC in London, announced in a statement that it had been the victim of what it believed to be “the systemic production of falsified research”.
It’s the nature of the wolf to travel. By age two, wolves of both sexes usually leave their birth packs and strike out on their own, sometimes covering hundreds of miles as they search for mates and new territory. Whatever the reason, when wolves move, they do it with intent—and quickly. Humans don’t know how they decide which way to go, but the choice is as important as any they’ll ever make.
Bringing back “moss,” “blackberry,” and “bluebell” instead of “blog,” “chatroom,” and “database.”
“What’s to become of kids these days, with their damn pocket computers and inability to differentiate between bird species?”
“The Lost Words is a new book for people worried the next generation will lose touch with nature. Written by Robert Macfarlane with illustrations by Jackie Morris, it’s a catalogue and spelling book for kids, where the lost words in question comprise vocabulary about flora and fauna.”