This week’s staff picks

ASBMB Today Staff
By ASBMB Today Staff
January 18, 2020

At the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, we love to read as much as we love to write. We also love to talk about what we’re reading. Our office is always buzzing (either with not-so-hushed voices or the ping of email delivery notifications) as we share the inspiring, emotionally compelling, fascinating or simply funny articles, podcasts or videos we can’t put down or stop watching/listening to/scrolling through. So, we figured, why not keep the conversation going?

Here’s a compilation of what our staff has been reading this week. Enjoy, and feel free to tweet us (@ASBMB) your thoughts.

Indre Viskontas: What can neuroscience teach us about music? (TED Radio Hour transcript)

Concert Pitch (Sean Real, 99% Invisible)

These two podcast excerpts focus on science and music. In the first, Indre Viskontas talks about how studying neuroscience has made her a better singer. The moment that stays with me is where she talks about her changed approach to hitting those high notes; while she used to dread them and want to get there as soon as possible to get it over with, now she lingers on the way up the scale so that the audience will enjoy it more. It’s science! In the second, we learn how 440 Hz became the standard for the note ‘A’ (pro tip: check out the Treaty of Versailles!), and what it was like before there was a standard.

— Catherine Goodman, scientific editor, Journal of Biological Chemistry

Suggestions for creating a welcoming, positive environment (Loleen Berdahl, Thread reader)

“The first class is a great opportunity for faculty/instructors to set the tone for the rest of the semester. Here are some suggestions for creating a welcoming, positive environment.” So begins this Twitter thread–turned–blog post from political science professor @loleen_berdahl with tips for creating a safe and inclusive classroom from Day 1.

— Quira Zeidan, education and public outreach coordinator

Cabin fever; the beauty of Canada’s ice-fishing huts (REI staff, Uncommon Path)

Ice stupas of the Himalaya (Maya Kroth, Uncommon Path)

I’m excited to credit my roommates with my staff pick for this week! They’re into camping and outdoorsy things. And it’s with caution that I say, I have become that way too. Anyone who knew me as a kid will probably balk at that. I couldn’t ditch Girl Scouts fast enough and while I grew to love visiting my family in Costa Rica every summer, I was an extremely whiny, sunburnt nine-year-old the first time we went. Somewhere along the way, things shifted. I grew to love nature. The wildlife in Costa Rica is so incredible, it’s challenging not to be in awe of it. These days, it makes me happy to see camping gear around the house. It’s a good motivator for me, especially in winter. It reminds me to ditch Netflix for a bit and get outside. On Monday night, as I was borrowing the use of my roommates’ microwave, a magazine on the dining room table caught my eye. It was Uncommon Path, REI’s quarterly member magazine. I flipped through it and found a spread called “Cabin Fever.” It’s a photo-driven essay about ice-fishing huts in Canada. The pictures, by Richard Johnson, are lovely. It concludes with this sentence, “It seems climate change may do away with a big part of the ice-fishing tradition.” It’s frightening to read a sentence like that. In the onslaught of current events, I am feeling the weight of existential concerns. I find solace in nature and feel such sadness for what is happening. I appreciated stumbling across this magazine. Its very existence reminds me that there is an audience out there, people out there, who love the great outdoors too. That makes me hopeful in finding solutions to what we’re facing. “Ice stupas of the Himalaya” by Maya Kroth is a second story from Uncommon Path I would recommend. I hope this magazine can bring you a bit of comfort and hope too.

— Allison Frick, multimedia and social media content manager

Sleep study in Antarctica explores role of cultural differences (Alejandra Manjarrez, The Scientist)

At the moment it’s midsummer in Antarctica, and congratulations to anybody there who’s catching some rays. But here, where it’s bleak midwinter, I was very interested to read The Scientist’s coverage of an Antarctic sleep study that came out in July. Being exposed to strange light cycles is well known to disrupt people’s sleep schedules. A study of an Argentine research crew spending the winter near the South Pole found that culture plays an important role in how people respond to sleep disruption. Among this crew, for whom midday napping was socially acceptable, naps got a bit longer in the polar night, apparently to compensate for disrupted circadian rhythm.

— Laurel Oldach, science writer

Balance 101: how to use symmetry and asymmetry in design (Guest Blogger, 99designs)

This article goes into the use of symmetry and asymmetry in design, extremely important concepts that should be kept in mind when designing, well, just about anything. Read here about visual balance, symmetry and asymmetry, then dare to move into symmetrical balance, asymmetrical, round, mosaic, reflectional, translational. The idea is to stretch your understanding of how the principles of symmetry combined with shapes on the page or screen can lead to a more interesting and sophisticated designed piece. Dare to go there!

— Lisa Schnabel, senior designer

Can a vaccine save the world’s pigs from African swine fever? (Katarina Zimmer, The Scientist) 

African swine fever virus is essentially harmless to humans but often lethal to pigs. A particularly bad strain of the virus — named Georgia 2007 after its year and point of discovery — has directly killed hundreds of thousands of pigs and led to the culling of over 200 million more on its decade-plus burn through the Caucasus, Russia, China and most of southeast Asia. As biosecurity experts perform the slow work of shifting human habits on rural farms, research groups around the world feverishly mount efforts to develop vaccines for the hemorrhagic virus.

— John Arnst, science writer

Long Island divided (Ann Choi, Keith Herbert and Olivia Winslow, Newsday)

I was blown away by this three-year investigation by Newsday into how racist real estate agents steer white homebuyers away from diverse neighborhoods and steer homebuyers of color away from mostly white neighborhoods on Long Island. Newsday trained a bunch of people, who posed as prospective purchasers, got tons of video footage of real estate agents engaged in illegal practices, and had their results analyzed by external reviewers. It was an enormous undertaking, and, though I was not at all surprised by the findings, I appreciate the investment and commitment they made to the project.  Plus, I learned about paired testing, which I previously knew nothing about. Newsday says, “Regularly endorsed by federal and state courts, paired testing is recognized as the sole viable method for detecting violations of fair housing laws by agents.” Support local journalism!

— Angela Hopp, communications director and ASBMB Today executive editor

ASBMB Today Staff
ASBMB Today Staff

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