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7 smarter ways to talk about climate change

February 9, 2016

People are not very good at talking about climate change, not even climate activists — or so says Norwegian psychologist and economist Per Espen Stoknes. Understanding the science of climate change isn’t enough. We also need to understand the social science of how people react to certain messages. Stoknes’ book What We Think About (When We Try Not To Think About) Global Warming is a manual for telling better climate-change stories. With chapter titles like “Stand Up For Your Depressions!” and “Make It Simple To Choose Right,” it distills a great body of social science to a handful of accessible lessons. From why we’ve traditionally gotten stuck when we’ve tried to talk about the climate to what we should actually do about it, Stoknes provides clear examples with a healthy dose of psychotherapeutic understanding. Stoknes came by the Grist office to share some of what he’s learned. Here are our favorite takeaways: 1. Don’t use the word “denier” “I think the words ‘denial’ and ‘deniers’ are overused. The original psychological concept [of denial] goes back to Sigmund Freud and the discovery of the unconscious, starting with how the Viennese people were repressing their sexuality and coming [up] with diseases and symptoms due to that. Now it’s being used as a pejorative, a synonym of being ignorant, stupid, and immoral. Using it is counter-productive.” 2. Pick a good frame for the story — like human health “If we frame the climate as a health issue, we know that works because people care about their health. If you have climate here, and health back there, people don’t really notice it. If you shift that ground, then it’s more about health and not as much about the climate.” 3. Appeal to self-interest “There are billions and billions to be made in [the energy sector] inevitably over the coming two decades. America can lead that or can be dragged backwards into it. So what role does American business play in this transition? Like in the transition from horse carriages to cars: Do you want to produce horse carriages or be in the car business? When Google throws billions of dollars at Nest, it’s not because they want to be kind. You draw people into a commercial discussion and, again, climate is the background.” [Continued via name of source below] [MORE]

Chiral magnetic effect generates quantum current

February 9, 2016

Scientists at the U.S Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University have discovered a new way to generate very low-resistance electric current in a new class of materials. The discovery, which relies on the separation of right- and left-“handed” particles, points to a range of potential applications in energy, quantum computing, and medical imaging, and possibly even a new mechanism for inducing superconductivity—the ability of some materials to carry current with no energy loss. The material the scientists worked with, zirconium pentatelluride, has a surprising trait: When placed in parallel electric and magnetic fields, it responds with an imbalance in the number of right- and left-handed particles—a chiral imbalance. That imbalance pushes oppositely charged particles in opposite directions to create a powerful electric current. This “chiral magnetic effect” had long been predicted theoretically, but never observed definitively in a materials science laboratory at the time this work was done. In fact, when physicists in Brookhaven’s Condensed Matter Physics & Materials Science Department (CMP&MS) first measured the significant drop in electrical resistance, and the accompanying dramatic increase in conductivity, they were quite surprised. Continue reading the entire article by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

This Week in Science (Feb. 1 – 7)

February 7, 2016

This is a collection of the 10 best and most popular stories from science and technology over the past 7 days. Scroll down and click the individual images below to read the stories and follow the This Week in Science on Wakelet (here) to get these week... [MORE]

Asteroid mining could be space’s new frontier: the problem is doing it legally

February 6, 2016

Photo credit: EuroStyle Graphics/Alamy By Rob Davies When Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong hoisted the Stars and Stripes on the moon, the act was purely symbolic. Two years earlier, mindful of Cold War animosity, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST) had decreed that outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, “is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty”. In other words no country, not even the US, could own the moon or any other part of space, regardless of how many flags they erected there. Half a century on, though, the OST could prove the biggest obstacle to one of the most exciting new frontiers of space exploration: asteroid mining. The reason lawyers could soon be poring over that 48-year-old document is that space mining could become a reality within a couple of decades. In what is being seen as a major breakthrough for this embryonic technology, the government of Luxembourg has thrown its financial muscle behind plans to extract resources from asteroids, some of which are rich in platinum and other valuable metals. It plans to team up with private companies to help speed the progress of the industry and draw up a regulatory framework for it. One such firm, Deep Space Industries, wants to send small satellites, called Fireflies, into space from 2017 to prospect for minerals and ice. The satellites would hitch a ride on a rocket, and larger craft would then be used to harvest, transport and store raw materials. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

Create Your Own Language, for Credit

February 6, 2016

Photo credit: Ron Barrett By Ashley Winchester 1. What do you say to embarrass a polar bear? 2. How might an underwater society write? 3. Can a creature without teeth say “tooth”? 4. How many verbs for “to pray” does an angel need? These are some of the questions students have pondered in “Invented Languages” at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Tex., as they create languages of their own. The tongue spoken by the nomadic Dothraki warriors of HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” has entered the pop-culture lexicon, and so sparked new interest in constructed languages, or conlangs. “Thanks to the popularity of ‘G.O.T.,’ ‘Avatar,’ etc., more people the world over know what language creation is,” says David J. Peterson, the linguist behind spoken Dothraki and alien-speak on the Syfy network’s “Defiance.” At schools like S.F.A., Wellesley College in Massachusetts and Truman State in Missouri, students take apart the words, sounds, writing and patterns of such conlangs as Dothraki, Na’vi (“Avatar”), Elvish (“Lord of the Rings”) and Klingon (“Star Trek”) to get a sense of how languages evolve to meet the needs of their speakers. Coursework marries the principles of linguistics with the creativity of speculative fiction genres and pop culture. So how do you create a language? Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]
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