On science blogs this week: Aftershock

Catastrophe in Haiti and the Devil is in the details. Plus health careless again, essay writing for scientists, searching for PubMed, and ScienceOnline2010


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IN HAITI, THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS. Hard to give brain room this week to anything other than the calamitous earthquake in Haiti. Greg Laden's blog is one of many that lists aid agencies to receive your donations. A few news and science links there too.

You will of course have heard that televangelist Pat Robertson contends Haiti's catastrophic condition is traceable to 18th century Haitians who, he avers, traded their souls to Satan in exchange for deliverance from French rule. See Greg Laden's blog here, too, for video (and a screed.) Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boing-Boing delves into Haiti's history to explain that, yes, Haitians did make a deal with the devil--and the devil is the rest of us. Many comments.

Betsy Mason at Wired Science provides before-and-after satellite photos. Early on, Dot Earth's Andrew Revkin <a href="http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/haitis-agony/>described "Haiti's Agony." Nature's The Great Beyond supplied an early introductory post too, linking to its collection of news about the earthquake.

Jacob Goldstein at the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog points out that, bad as the immediate grave medical emergencies are, in a few days things are likely to be even worse. The health consequences of hundreds of thousands of people without clean water, food, electricity, and toilets are entirely predictable. Says Warren Johnson of Weill-Cornell medical school in New York, "A week from now, you're going to have diarrhea and respiratory infections." Those maladies may be the least of it.

Geologist Chris Rowan provides details on the tectonics of Haiti's biggest earthquake in 200 years at Highly Allochthonous. Useful graphics too. Rowan explains the blog name here. I knew you'd ask. At 80Beats, Andrew Moseman has collected expert analysis of seismic events leading to the earthquake.

Finally, Tobin Harshaw, at the New York Times's Opinionator, rounds up a selection of commentary from the blogosphere.

HEALTH CARELESS (Cont'd). Haiti is a useful reminder of what a real health care mess can look like. Which is nothing like the jockeying over health care legislation currently riding high in Washington, even though that spectacle has often been called a health care mess. But it's really just politics more or less as usual--although heaven knows it's messy, and the stakes are much higher this time.

With time out for attention to rescue efforts in Haiti, President Obama and myriad White House staffers locked themselves up with Congressional Democrats Wednesday for what journalists consistently described as a "marathon" session, which was aimed at forging the differing bills emanating from House and Senate into one glorious piece of landmark legislation that a lot of people hope will extend health insurance to millions more Americans and also begin to fix other messes in the way health care gets delivered to the citizenry, to say nothing of paid for. [inhale] Gossip is that they actually agreed on some things. Follow the action, or at least the gossip, with Kate Steadman at Kaiser Health News's Blog Watch.

ITEMS OF PROFESSIONAL INTEREST I. Jim Austin, who edits Science Career Magazine for Science's web site, is looking for you. At least he is looking for you if you're a scientist who would like to share your experiences with others of your ilk by writing a personal account for the In Person series of essays that appear on the site.

ITEMS OF PROFESSIONAL INTEREST II. No institution has been more important to my science-writing life, and maybe to yours, than the National Library of Medicine. In my case it began an alarming number of years ago at the New York Academy of Medicine Library. There I often consulted the Index Medicus, the fat many-volumed bibliography of the entire medical literature that--so it seemed at the time--was printed entirely on tissue paper in 1 point type.

When I moved to Washington I used the actual NLM library and its computers. Later I graduated to accessing Medline from my home office via the software with the outlandish name GratefulMed. Whose bright idea was it to provide access to life-giving information by alluding to a band named Dead? But GratefulMed improved my life's logistics, so I was indeed grateful.

And now there is PubMed, the best bargain we taxpayers have ever purchased. My virtual visits are frequent, and I am always discovering new treasures. (You're on your own for those discoveries. NLM is shy and loves to hide its many lights under bushels.) A few years ago I stumbled onto NLM's increasingly large cache of medical textbooks available online (for free, like everything else there.) They became essential to a book I was writing because they led me by the hand, explaining to me what I was writing about so I could write about it.

It is also more and more possible to access full-text journal articles through PubMed. Yes, for free, and I thought I'd never live to see the day. In fact, the library's director once told me I'd never live to see the day. Fortunately, he was mistaken. He must not have known that information wants to be free.

Now I will probably find many more treasures, because now I have found a kind of GPS for PubMed. It's "Third-party PubMed video tutorials in plain English", by Andrew Van Dam, on the very valuable Covering Health blog of the Association of Health Care Journalists. The video series is a nine-parter put together by a medical librarian, and if I ever finish this rambling memoir of a post, I can get right to it.

ITEMS OF PROFESSIONAL INTEREST III, SCIENCEONLINE2010 DIVISION. But first a post about a 3-day talkfest just getting started in North Carolina. ScienceOnline2010 is the fourth in a series that calls itself an annual science communication conference. That's an understatement.

The organizing principle is....well, parse it yourself: "Our goal is to bring together scientists, physicians, patients, educators, students, publishers, editors, bloggers, journalists, writers, web developers, programmers and others to discuss, demonstrate and debate online strategies and tools for doing science, publishing science, teaching science, and promoting the public understanding of science." To prove it, here's the list of sessions.


Carl Zimmer, who's speaking tomorrow at a session optimistically called "Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web" simplifies a bit: "a confab about all things scientific on the Tubes." Here's the meeting blog.

We are all accustomed by now to video- and teleconferencing and webcasts that give us fairly organized remote access to science meetings. Despite its name, ScienceOnline2010 isn't one of them. But Coturnix at A Blog Around the Clock provides advice about how to check what's going on when. (Appropriate synchronicity; he's a chronobiologist.) There will be tweets, naturally (#scio10), how could it be otherwise? And some live streaming on Second Life. And eventual videos on YouTube. And other stuff too numerous to mention. Knock yourself out.

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