Talking about science

Talking about science

Researchers sometimes wonder if they should, or even could, start broadcasting or writing about science. Is it possible to take leave of the lab and become a science communicator?

This was the question uppermost in the minds of science postdocs at Queen’s this month when they gathered to hear what a panel of experienced science journalists had to say about what they do and how they had first entered the field.

The workshop, organised jointly by the Irish Science and Technology Journalists’ Association (ISTJA) and the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) and hosted by the Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s, had an impressive line up of writers and broadcasters, all ready to share their knowledge and give the postdocs tips on how to carve out a niche in the highly competitive world of communications.

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What determines gender balance?

What determines gender balance?

Looking at our human population we know that about half of us are female and half of us are male. The way this 1:1 sex ratio is determined is by genetic means, you get an X from your mum and either an X or Y from your dad; meaning there is an equal chance to be a female (XX) or male (XY). This seems to be a good way to achieve an even sex ratio. However quite a few animals go about a far more daring way to determine the sex of their offspring. They let the environment do it — in particular by using the temperature.

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The nosiest of moles

The nosiest of moles

The star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) is a champion feeler. Native to eastern North America, these hamster-sized creatures do have eyes but they are much reduced so they are effectively blind. Instead, the moles rely on their uniquely weird star noses to find their way around.

Star-nosed moles live in underground (sometimes underwater) tunnels in wetland areas. They eat small invertebrates, aquatic insects and even small amphibians and fish. Their noses are key tools for finding their dinners.

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Deciphering the Universe with Rosetta

Edward Bach was involved in a key part of the mission.

Seven years after I first interviewed Edward on the work he was doing in Dublin at the time with his company ‘Captec’– what he referred to as the ‘Rosetta mission (whose name came from the Rosetta stone, which helped deciphering the hieroglyphs) (see Science Spin 21 and read our pre launch feature on the rosetta here: http://sciencespin.com/deciphering-the-universe-with-rosetta/ ). Nobody really heard or cared at the time about the Rosetta spacecraft and its lander, Philae, which were supposed to carry out a long journey into space towards an unlikely rendezvous with a mysterious comet so many years ahead.

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