Mixed messages can create hazy climate change understanding

Ice melt Northwestern Glacier Alaska
Northwestern Glacier. With few exceptions, glaciers around the world have retreated at unprecedented rates over the last century. Left: 1940 photo taken by unknown photographer Right: 2005 photo taken by Bruce F. Molnia. Courtesy of the Glacier Photograph Collection, National Snow and Ice Data Center/World Data Center for Glaciology.

If you gave a weather report on climate change, you would need to issue two forecasts. For climate scientists — at least 97 percent of them — it’s absolutely clear and bright: global climate change is happening and humans are the primary cause. For the general populace, it’s cloudy and unpredictable: while they believe the climate is changing, only half say it’s humans who are at fault, according to Eric Plutzer, professor of political science and academic director of the Survey Research Center, Penn State, and his colleagues.

The researchers report in the current issue of Science that the key to this discrepancy may lie in how climate science is being taught in schools. Science teachers are offering lessons in climate science, it seems, but their own values and knowledge may be causing a mixed message for students.

I caught up with Plutzer for a brief question and answer on this paper, which was published yesterday afternoon.

Keep reading for the Q&A.  Continue reading Mixed messages can create hazy climate change understanding

What happens when LIGO texts you to say it’s detected one of Einstein’s predicted gravitational waves

By Chad Hanna

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

The best thing about a day in my life on the lookout for gravitational waves is that I never know when it will begin.

Like many of my colleagues working for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the morning of Monday, September 14, 2015 caught me completely off-guard. For years, we’ve been joking that Advanced LIGO would be so sensitive we might just detect one the very first day it turns on. In retrospect, it’s remarkable how close to reality that joke turned out to be.

LIGO is listening for gravitational waves – one of the last unproven predictions of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. In his view of the universe, space and time are fluid things that depend on an observer’s frame of reference. For example, time passes just a (very) little bit more slowly for those who work on the ground floor of an office building as compared to their peers on the 101st floor. Why? They’re deeper in Earth’s gravitational pull.

Gravitational waves explained.

Continue reading What happens when LIGO texts you to say it’s detected one of Einstein’s predicted gravitational waves

Here’s what happens to your brain when you give up sugar for Lent

By Jordan Gaines Lewis

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on The Conversation on February 18, 2015.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I have a huge sweet tooth. I always have. My friend and fellow graduate student Andrew is equally afflicted, and living in Hershey, Pennsylvania – the “Chocolate Capital of the World” – doesn’t help either of us.

But Andrew is braver than I am. Last year, he gave up sweets for Lent. I can’t say that I’m following in his footsteps this year, but if you are abstaining from sweets for Lent this year, here’s what you can expect over the next 40 days.  Continue reading Here’s what happens to your brain when you give up sugar for Lent

Focus on research: Young voters embrace Sanders, but not democracy

By Christopher Beem

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

When it comes to democracy, the kids aren’t all right.

Research recently presented by Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk shows growing disillusionment with democracy – not just with politics or campaigns, but with democracy itself.

This growth is worldwide, but it is especially strong among young Americans. Fewer than 30 percent of Americans born since 1980 say that living in a democracy is essential. For those born since 1970, more than one in five describe our democratic system as “bad or very bad.” That’s almost twice the rate for people born between 1950 and 1970.  Continue reading Focus on research: Young voters embrace Sanders, but not democracy

Focus on research: Can I turn down a work assignment that goes against my morals?

By Denise Bortree

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared on Penn State News through a partnership between the Rock Ethics Institute and Penn State Today. You are invited to ask a question by filling out and submitting this form. An archive of the columns can be found on the Rock Ethics Institute website

Question: My boss asked me to create a marketing campaign for a new client, but the client’s environmental record is poor. Sustainability and protecting the environment is something that I am extremely passionate about. I’m worried that saying “no” to the assignment will upset my boss. Should I go against my morals and complete the assignment since it’s my job or should I stick with my instincts and say no?

The ethicist responds: The decision to turn down a work assignment can generate anxiety for an employee, especially for a young person or someone who is new to a company. On one hand, you may fear that refusing the assignment will limit your future promotions or other opportunities with the company. Your fears have some grounding. Bosses sometimes see this kind of decision as a lack of loyalty to the company or an unwillingness to be flexible to meet the needs of the company.  Continue reading Focus on research: Can I turn down a work assignment that goes against my morals?

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