Geologists talk about the difficulty of communicating science

Geologists share their struggle over communicating science from Julio Avila on Vimeo.

Carey Legett, known by his nickname Chip, is a geology graduate student, studying planetary surface compositions using methods such as near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy, but trying to communicate his work to the public is a challenge, he said.

“What we’re doing is so narrow and specific of a type of study and field that even other geologists aren’t familiar with this technique,” Chip said. “So the fact that, to someone that doesn’t have any science training at all that this is difficult to explain isn’t surprising.”

An explanation of his work can be understandable, as his work progresses, reading a graph depicting light wavelengths and color may raise eyebrows.

As for Professor Timothy Glotch, who proposed the project to NASA and receives funding from it said the challenge of communication may be with scientists themselves.

“I think the basic problem is that scientists spend too much time in their own heads,” Glotch said. “You don’t spend a lot of time about, ‘oh how do I tell somebody else about it?”

Glitch added that scientists use time to try to work on “problems that you want to fix.”

Scientists do get assistance on communicating their work to the public through the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

More to follow.

Data driven journalism helps understand war better

Data is typically used for statistics, finances, numerical trends and other news-worthy stories requiring numbers, but it can also be used to demonstrate information regarding war.

Currently, the most vulnerable Arab nation, Yemen, is under strife with clashes between the Yemeni government, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Houthi rebel group, security forces still loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and more recently, ISIS. Foreign help, such as Saudi Airstrikes against Houthi rebels and other forces, were brought about to help regain stability. The nation is down-trodden that the UN human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said the nation “is on the verge of total collapse.”

The New York Times published a data-story titled “Mapping Chaos in Yemen,” detailing where clashes occurred, which factions have control and where. For the most part, the only factions detailed are Al-Qaeda and the Houthis.

Dots on one map show where Saudi-led airstrikes have occurred. Shaded areas on the same map show Houthi territory and where they expanded after the strikes. What is not mentioned is if the strikes empowered the Houthis to expand or if what looks like an expansion is just them moving to different locations. It also mentioned how many people were killed or injured in certain places.

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Map from The New York Times

The second map shows the progress of Houthi movement from where they had the most influence at one point to today.

Map from The New York Times.
Map from The New York Times.

The last map shows where Al-Qaeda is operating, where the US and other nations led military action and where. Two things regarding this map: The first thing is that military is denoted in clusters of squares. The clusters vary in size, but there is no information as to why the sizes vary. My guess is the size differences show the scale-size of a strike. The other thing, which I would have done, is it doesn’t show a comparison of Houthi-controlled territory juxtaposed with that of Al-Qaeda’s. No map shows this side-by-side comparison, which is what I would have liked to see.

Map from The New York Times.
Map from The New York Times.

Overall, the story does satisfactorily tell the Yemeni situation using data and numbers.

All aboard the social media express

I have mainly used Facebook and YouTube, if you count that as social media, before the start of this semester. I was not much of a status-poster, page sharer or photo-uploader. I never used Twitter or Instagram until this semester. Now, I post more on Twitter than I do on Facebook and use Instagram more than I ever thought possible.

I do have a Twitter account, but before, I saw Twitter as a joke; a watered down Facebook for those who feel the need to post every little thing. I always said “you can’t spell Twitter without ‘twit.'” The same went for Instagram. I remember talking to someone and he called it the “Facebook for the illiterate.” I didn’t exactly think that, but I think I got what he was trying to say. Needless to say, I did open these accounts to see how I could benefit.

I can say expanding my social media horizons was beneficial. I was able to report on happenings and situations wherever I was.

My biggest on-spot reporting using social media had to be that one Friday morning when it was two degrees, real chilly and I had to get to 320. It was 7:00 a.m. and the train that I and Carlos Cadorniga were supposed to get on was unofficially cancelled. The whole Long Island Rail Road was in shambles that morning with a few broken rails and a disabled train.

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Carlos and I tweeted, with the use of Instagram, about this only to let our amazing and wonderful professor, Mr. Carl Corry, know about our situation. When he and others told us to keep tweeting, we just went along with it. We didn’t even think it would be seen as entertainment or updated news like a breaking news story with details coming along, we just wanted to get to class. At least the class and others got a kick out of our suffering (maybe we should suffer more often?). But when we documented everything that happened, I actually felt like I was getting a real-life, instant experience: tweeting, interviewing, photo and picture taking and posting information on the fly. It reminded me of the whole concept of being quick, but accurate. Granted I could have done things better that day such as getting full names of people I interviewed.

I do retweet stories that are interesting and compelling for others to see. I am following 122 Twitter accounts, both people and groups and I have 43 followers. Some notable followers are, apparently, the co-founder of Activision, a comedian with more than 100,000 followers and some Saudi Arabian airline, by the looks of it. I’m skeptical about the Saudi Arabian airline page, but I’ll leave it for now. Not sure how any of these people found me.

I think I will keep using these social media tools for years to come. If anything new comes out then, I’ll give that an exploration.

Living in a nation reviled by another nation

Luigi Pesce Ibarra, a 24-year-old neuroscience graduate student at Stony Brook University, is from Venezuela, a nation ruled under socialism.

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The late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez (Picture obtained through Creative Commons).

He lived under the administrations of the late Hugo Chavez and the incumbent Nicolas Maduro. With lack of democracy, both presidents ruled with an iron fist and reviled nations such as the United States.

Currently, Venezuela is in economic turmoil where inflation is over 60 percent and basic necessities and food are hard to come by. Protests resulted because of this and protestors, as well as opposition leaders, are arrested and jailed.

Now that Ibarra lives in the United States, his life here has been a “180 degree turn” from what it was in Venezuela.

A variety of news and subjects on WNYC

I am familiar with WNYC on television since the television signal makes it out here. Ironically, I live on Long Island.

I never ventured to see what else WNYC had other than television and, yes I know, radio, which I knew of as well. Rarely have I gone onto the outlet’s website. I managed to find podcasts for different shows. Some podcasts were news and others were beats.

New Tech City

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This is one of those podcasts that were beats I mentioned. The show is hosted by Manoush Zomorodi, who has a history of reporting news related to technology, and is centric toward the subject of technology. I only listened to one podcast that was about young kids using technology.

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It was a sensitive topic, but I believe she pulled it off. I like how the story flowed and the focus was around a teacher who taught technology. Kids are hard to interview as they may give one word answers or aren’t concise, but Zomorodi managed to make these kids open up. What did surprise me was how the show operated like a real radio station show. Around the nine to 10 minute mark, there was an advertisement. I thought that since this was a recorded show for playback, there would be none of that. I’m guessing this is done because WNYC receives financial contributions from advertisers to sustain itself. Overall, the piece was a great one, informative, it held my attention because of how the story transitioned and I would listen to this show more often.

The Brian Lehrer Show

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I’m familiar with Brian Lehrer, but have not listened to much of his work. At first I thought he was related to Jim Lehrer because of the last name. I don’t think they are. This podcast was a news show. The episode I listened to was called “Realpolitik in the Middle East.”

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It operated like an actual radio news show. it contained audio clips of people related to the stories he covered and had invited guests speak. The invited speaker spoke for a few minutes on different occasions. It would have been better, I think, if Lehrer broke into certain points to ask follow-up questions. The tone of Lehrer sounded opinionated at times. There were other speakers invited to speak and a debate went going. Aside from it being a news show, it was more of a discussion show. All sides made their point in a coherent manner.

Journalism, far and beyond

When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a conductor on the Long Island Rail Road. When I was in middle school, I wanted to be a meteorologist. From then onward, that was my set plan. Back then, I would watch The Weather Channel for weather reports and shows. One show was “Storm Stories,” which featured personal stories from people who experienced violent weather first hand.

That was the plan for college, I had my plans focused. Eventually, I found out all the math involved in high school. Not being a math person, I knew it would not be best for me. Still, I had an interest in it. At the same time, I started watching and reading news. Even before then, my family would watch the local and national Univision newshows in the evening. One of the anchors, Rafael Pineda, was the longest serving anchor- surpassing Chuck Scarborough- and the one I remember the most. It was upsetting when he retired back in December 2013.

My interest in journalism peaked at this point. I don’t know what it was, and I don’t know how to explain it either, but something just sparked. My interest in meteorology was plummeting and my interest in journalism rose. I still did have some interest in meteorology and thought that maybe I could do something with it, but now it was journalism that I wanted to study. I appreciated how I could learn basic knowledge of a range of topics such as politics, science, health, business and among other topics without needing to go to schools designated for these subjects.

I first attended Suffolk Community College and declared a communications/journalism major. I did not really do much journalism there and I did not until I arrived at my last year there. I took a few journalism reporting classes that year, one class that was considered an “internship class,” which was reporting on the happenings around the Ammerman Campus of the college. It saved me rom having to take JRN:288.

I planned to transfer to another school after graduating from Suffolk, but I did not know where. I was considering commuting to the city, but I was informed of Stony Brook University’s school of journalism, and was told how great its journalism program was by some of my professors. I looked into it and thought why not? It beat commuting to the city and paying an exorbitant amount of money on commuting to the city and was not far from my home either.

I got accepted into Stony Brook’s journalism program and was excited. I think I was more excited that I got accepted somewhere. It was going to be a challenge for me, coming from the community college environment, but through orientation, I felt at ease.

Through each semester since then and up to this point, there have been laudable moments and moments of stress. In the end, I found it all worth it. I have met new people from various places and background who have impacted me in positive ways. I feel like I would not have felt this camaraderie if I were in another school, such as the medical school, where the student body is immense. I hope to pursue a career in the broadcast journalism in the future. I also hope to stay in contact with those I have met during my time here so far.

The J-school is like my second home and family. We all go through joys and stresses together, but none of us are ever alone. I can only imagine what the upcoming semesters will provide me.

 

A picture is worth a thousand cravings

Thanks to Kryssy Massa’s and Nicole Falletta’s report on various eateries around town, from international tastes to domestic dishes, options of where to eat have expanded. They made a good point in their lede; “If you feel like you are getting sick of campus food, or the usual Panera Bread and McDonald’s,” I personally do get sick of the mundane food options around campus and those within walking distance. I am a man who likes to try new delicacies, but on a wallet-friendly budget.

 

Their photos captured the textures and physical appearances of the food, almost like what food corporations do. The only difference is, the food corporations don’t give you what is advertised in the picture. The places documented by Kryssy and Nicole, one can actually see what is served, details of the food and how it’s crafted: The glistening burger bun, the viscosity of the mango lassi and the condensation on the jar of one of the lattes. Each detail denotes each food’s properties. It is details like these that capture a food-goer’s attention and craving for food.

 

It was great seeing the many faces, either employees or patrons, as it captivated the enthusiasm these people had. It suggested the various ambiances are inviting and jubilant- unless they only smiled for the photos and actually hate their jobs and the restaurants, but I doubt the latter. Even better I thought was that they included websites to a few of the restaurants with access to a menu of items (now I can plan on a future breakfast or lunch at one of these places).

 

A few things I would have suggested: First, maybe a little history blurb of each place such as how the restaurants started and its experiences over time. Second, some kind of mention of how to reach these places via public transportation for the few whom, unfortunately, do not commute around the area by car (though I do now how to get to these places using Suffolk County Transit: S76 to Stony Brook Village and Port Jefferson via Route 25A. The downside is this bus can only be caught on the opposite side of the Stony Brook railroad station. S60 to Port Jefferson from the Union to The Curry Club).


Overall, it is a great piece. Now, time to plan that next meal.