Virtually Speaking Science: Megalodons, Mermaids, & More with David Shiffman

Image Credit: APL/DCL

Image Credit: APL/DCL

Tonight on Virtually Speaking Science, I have a treat for biology and science fiction lovers: David Shiffman, a PhD student in shark biology and conservation at the University of Miami, known to many by his Twitter name WhySharksMatter, will be joining me to talk about his research and social media outreach efforts, including shark week and Sharknado II. (And yes, megalodons, mermaids, Discovery Channel, and all that jazz.)

We’ll start at 5pm PT/8pm ET over at BlogTalk Radio, or you can join us in Second Life! If you’d like to ask David a question, feel free to tweet me the question ahead of time, and use the hashtag #VSpeak or #AskVS. During the show, definitely use the hashtags and either tweet me or my producer, Sherry. Talk to you tonight!

VSS Post-Show: Emily Willingham, PhD

This week on Virtually Speaking Science, my guest was Dr. Emily Willingham. Emily received both her BA and PhD at the University of Texas, Austin; the former was in English and the latter in Biological Sciences.You might be seeing a pattern with my guests. Her dissertation was on the effects of atrazine and temperature on the sex development of red slider turtles; she went on to do a fellowship in pediatric urology at University of California, San Francisco.

On academic achievement alone, Emily is impressive, but she didn’t forget her English background when she wandered into science. Instead, she has written for Scientific American, The Scientist, The New York Times, Slate, and Discover; has a regular column at Forbes called The Science Consumer; and is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of DoubleX Science. firefly_shiny_nathan_fillion_t_shirtShe was a Shorty Award finalist in 2013, as well as being selected for the Open Lab 2013 best in science writing online anthology. She has been blurbed by Steve Silberman and Ed Yong, and even has her own Wikipedia page.

Basically, she is shiny.

Emily sat down to talk with me about her multidisciplinary background, writing books at a precociously young age, and the Women in Science Writing Solutions Summit that was held at MIT last weekend. As you can imagine, we managed to fit a lot into the hour, and it was a fun show. Give it a listen! Below, you’ll find links to the papers, panels, and people we discussed.With thanks to my husband Nicholas, who has not only been live-tweeting my VSS shows, but has been acting as live scribe, gathering links and information real-time.

Something I learned about when researching Emily in preparation for the interview was that, long before Ed Yong was talking about zombie parasites, Emily had written about zombie grasshoppers. Or, as I prefer to think of them, creepy worm terrorist zombie hijackers.

One of the main inspirations for the recent summit was a session at NASW 2013 titled The XX Question. You can see the video of this powerful plenary session here.

In December, Maryn McKenna and Janet Stemwedel joined Tom Levenson on Virtually Speaking Science to talk about sexual harassment, gender discrimination and science writing.

We spent a good amount of time discussing the results of a survey distributed across several professional writing communities. You can download and review the slides and data at this link.

Towards the end of the show, Emily and I started to talk about the stresses of being a feminist online, and, in particular, how it’s really necessary to know how to take care of yourself. We both referenced spoon theory (saying make sure you have your spoons); if you’re not familiar with that concept, here’s the essay that started it all.

For more information on the summit, you can head to the website, read the Storifies Maryn McKenna pulled together, and check out recaps and coverage page.

Virtually Speaking Science: Pre-show Storifies & Reading

VSSThis past weekend was the Women in Science Writing Solutions Summit 2014, an event that I had the privilege of participating in not only as an attendee, but Sunday morning break-out sessions organizer/moderator.Along with the ever-fantastic Raychelle Burks and new-to-me, but no less fantastic, Siri Carpenter. I am pleased that this evening on Virtually Speaking Science,Yes, normally I’m on-air the fourth Wednesday of the month, but this month, Tom Levenson and his guest Naomi Oreskes needed the fourth. It worked out well for everyone! one of the summit coordinators, Dr. Emily Willingham, will be joining us to to talk about the incentive for the summit, what happened over the weekend, and how the organizers intend to move forward now.

For those of you who missed the summit, there was a hashtag for Twitter, #SciWriSum14, and the fantastic Maryn McKenna not only live-tweeted during the open social media sessions, but also collected all of the relevant tweets into Storifies. I’m including them, below, as a pre-interview resource for anyone who’d like background information.

Caryl Rivers Explains the New Soft War on Women (#SciWriSum14)

Gender Imbalance in Science Writing: Data from #SciWriSum14

The Challenge and Importance of Being a Mentor… or Mentee (#SciWriSum14)

Moving Forward: Solutions and Next Steps for Science Writing (#SciWriSum14)

“Just What I Needed”: Reactions to #SciWriSum14

I’m looking forward to going over this material in more detail with Emily this evening; talk to you tonight, 5pm Pacific, 8pm Eastern!

Pre-Postshow, A Quick Explanation of Induction and Black Swans

A black swan from Vacha reservoir, Bulgaria. By Kiril Krastev.

A black swan from Vacha reservoir, Bulgaria. By Kiril Krastev.

Thanks so much to my guest, Dr. Janet Stemwedel, for chatting over a much-too-short hour about philosophy of science, science, knowledge generation, Commander Data and more. I’m having audio issues tonight with playback, so I’ll get a post-show recap with links up Thursday morning. Until then, here’s a link to Janet’s website, and a link to the recording of the show.

…so why is there a picture of a black swan illustrating this? It’s a phrase I used when Janet and I were talking about Karl Popper, deduction, and induction. I hand-waved at the black swan philosophical problem, which is a problem of induction that illustrates the role both our ignorance about what we don’t know and our own biases play in shaping the questions that we ask and the answers we assume are right. The concept of a black swan is old (Juvenal references one), but until 1697, European countries used the metaphor of a black swan to indicate something that did not exist (‘all swans are white’ being a “well-known truth”).

Why until 1697?

Because in 1697, Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh discovered black swans, in Australia.

Virtually Speaking Science: Science, Philosophy and STEM

VSSTonight on Virtually Speaking Science, I’ll be talking to Dr. Janet Stemwedel about the role of philosophy in science, philosophy of science, STEM, and knowing us, probably ethics and values and so forth.

The conversation topic was sparked by the recent Neil deGrasse Tyson comments on philosophy and science; my response to that can be seen here.

Tweet questions ahead of time to me or my producer, Sherry Reson, or ask during the show with the hashtag #AskVS. Join us! 5pm PT/8pm ET.