Useful Science

My boss introduced me to a new website that I find utterly fascinating. Useful Science is a nonprofit website that is run by a group of graduate and undergraduate science students (mostly, a quick perusal of the contributors page revealed at least one journalism major). Their pitch is that they will tell you useful scientific findings in under 5 seconds. The studies are listed under broad headings such as happiness, nutrition and creativity, and each sentence-long, abstract summary links to the original article. The website itself is intuitively designed, which makes me want to stick around and explore.

What I like about this site is its accessibility. I am interested in science, but I have never had any desire to be a scientist. I like reading and hearing about what is being done in labs without ever having to pipette anything. Basically, I am grateful that other people do it, and I want to know what they find. The snippets on Useful Science provide easy entry into a world that I do not really inhabit. As an added bonus, many of the findings are directly applicable to daily activities. For example, “The mere presence of a cell phone, even if not in use, decreased people’s performance on tasks that involved attention and cognitive processing.” So make a mental note to keep your cell phone away from you if you are doing something that requires your undivided attention. Surprising? Not really, but a good reminder nonetheless.

Another science oriented website that I learned about recently, this time from NPR, is Penguin Watch. Penguin Watch is a research project that is enlisting the internet to help monitor penguin colonies around the Southern Hemisphere. Researchers at Oxford have installed camera traps, which take photographs whenever they are triggered, in remote areas in an attempt to study penguin’s winter behaviors. You are given a photograph that you classify, which creates data for the researchers to analyze. The website is easily navigated and beautifully designed in addition to being an example of crowd sourcing at its best.

If you like science, penguins or finding new places on the web, check these sites out!

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