The Chemistry of Color in Birds

Another nice video by the American Chemical Society focuses on what’s behind the diversity of colors in birds. It illustrates how to make an eye-catching video that gives the viewer something beautiful to look at while explaining the science behind the dramatic images:

Women in Chemistry and the Periodic Table

The American Chemical Society has produced a video celebrating Women’s History Month and the International Year of the Periodic Table. The video, which is part of their series called Reactions, features two pioneering women in chemistry: Marie Curie (of course) and Ida Noddack.

See how they contributed to the periodic table:

Predatory Science Journals Adopt a New Tactic: Video

I suppose it was just a matter of time before predatory science publishers latched onto the idea that adding video to their offerings would bring in more money.

Predatory journals, in case you are unfamiliar with the term, are journals, typically lacking in legitimate editorial services or rigorous standards, that will publish your paper—for a fee. If you are a scientist who has published in reputable journals, you’ve likely received one or more invitations from a predatory journal. Some researchers have responded by conducting sting operations—submitting papers containing scientific gobbledygook and fictitious authors—to expose their shady practices.

Now, predatory publishers are offering to post a video for fees ranging from $1,500 to $4,200, according to reporter Tom Spears of the Ottawa Citizen. Spears, known for his hilarious spoofs of predatory publishing, has now produced a video featuring “Dr. Yosemite Sam” that has been submitted to several journals. Despite its suspicious title (Re-Examining the Genetic Bottleneck: Atavistic Regression in Acquired Traits Affects the Outcome for Many Subspecies at the Allelic Level) and cartoon-character author, several journals are apparently considering it for publication or have already posted it. Two have accepted Dr. Yosemite Sam as an editor.

You can read Spear’s article in the Ottawa Citizen here and watch his video below.

Predatory journals turn to video–like this one–for bigger profits

Fishing by Wolves

A group of scientists just published a paper in the journal Mammalian Biology that describes wolves catching and eating freshwater fish. The researchers had put tracking collars on wolves, which showed that one group of wolves was spending an unusual amount of time in one spot. They set up cameras to see why the wolves were staying in one location and not moving as much as other groups. The cameras showed that the wolves were catching fish in a particular spot along a stream. That video was included in the online article. You can see it here.

I’ve talked before about using video to document wildlife, which could be used to augment a journal article. In this case, the video showed the reader exactly how the wolves were catching fish and supported the authors’ verbal description of this behavior.

Use Video to Debunk Bad Science

You’ve probably seen viral videos claiming some medical breakthrough and cleverly titled “Use this weird trick to cure [insert ailment]”. People seem to find this teaser title irresistible. Jonathan Jarry and colleagues at McGill University’s Office for Science and Society use a similar title for a video that has a surprising twist in store for gullible viewers: “This natural trick can cure your cancer”.

The video initially claims to present a cure for cancer based on a species of moss (Funariidae karkinolytae), that has been known since the 1800s. The reason you’ve not heard about it, the video claims, is because the knowledge has been suppressed by pharmaceutical companies. The video then shows an old, black and white photograph of a Dr. Johan R. Tarjany, who looks very professorial in his three-piece suit and bow tie, and describes him as the discoverer of the moss’s cancer-killing trait. The video then goes on to tell the story of the moss and how it kills cancer cells by altering their DNA. And, of course, Dr. Tarjany added the moss to his diet and guess what? He never developed cancer.

At this point, the viewer is probably impressed with Dr. Tarjany and his discovery. Except there is no Dr. Tarjany and everything so far presented is untrue. In the remaining minute, the video deconstructs the claims it made earlier about Dr. Tarjany and the cancer-killing moss. In the process, the video’s creators provide a blueprint for viewers to follow when confronted by such a claim–how to evaluate the “evidence” and look for inconsistencies in the “facts” presented.

In just a couple of minutes, this video shows how viewers can be fooled into believing a pseudoscientific idea and how to avoid it–and did it in a way that was entertaining. Using the pseudoscience playbook to make the video was particularly clever and effective. Check it out below (the comments are also interesting–see the link to YouTube):