Tag Archives: psychology

Monarch butterflies, and weird failures of observation

Photos: Wildlife-Friendly Garden and signage, © S Heard CC BY 4.0.  Monarch caterpillars on milkweed (in Minnesota), Courtney Celley/USFWS, CC BY 2.0.

My university, like many, is concerned with appearing green, and among its projects is a series of small plantings that offer (mostly) native plants with educational signage.  I pass by one of these every day on my walk to work: the “Wildlife-Friendly Garden”.  It has Joe Pye weed, roses, goldenrod, and a few other things, and it has some signs introducing passers-by to its “frequent visitors”.

One of the “frequent visitors”, we’re told, is the monarch butterfly: it has a lovely and informative sign.  This seems unremarkable: everyone loves monarch butterflies, everyone knows they’re common visitors to late-summer flowers like goldenrod and Joe Pye, and everyone knows they’re a species at risk* worth cherishing.  So how could I possibly have a beef with this sign?  Continue reading

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Is there science in scientific writing?

Image credit: “Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Chan www.phdcomics.com

As scientists, we spend a remarkably large fraction of our time writing. An obvious question immediately arises: do we apply science to our scientific writing? That is, can we (and do we) apply our scientific ways of thinking to make our scientific writing better? The question, as I say, is obvious; but the answer is not.

There are actually three different things I might mean by “is there science in scientific writing”, corresponding to three different meanings of phrase “scientific writing”. Continue reading