Watching the guinea pig; Papua New Guinea

The Nautilus Mineral is leading the world in the quest to develop, seafloor mineral deposits. It is developing the world’s first seafloor mining in the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea (PNG). However, there are sensitive emerging issues that need attention before this major mining event could take its full course. The world is watching with curiosity as unfortunately, PNG is going to be the guinea pig.

The main hinted issue here is, “the interface between Seafloor Massive Sulfides (SMS) mining and environmental protection will be particularly challenging for developing countries such as PNG or Tonga and others in the Pacific, because of their limited capacities to undertake appropriate environmental laws to oversee seafloor mining activities effectively.”(Hoagland et al., 2010)

How much awareness on careful thoughts, considerations and communication had been delivered to the public? As far as environmental impacts and livelihood of the coastal PNG population is concerned this seabed mining project is going change everything.

We cannot see much under the sea, but there is sure living creatures whose peaceful habitat is likely to be disturbed by the slightest movement on the seafloor. How about this image?

How much do we know about the nature of this type of mining? Has the government of the day thought of its people and how this project is going to affect the daily lives of its people? Did the Nautilus company highlighted all the pros and cons of its operation? Has it done an honest plan for the next 20 years of its operation within the waters of PNG and in other parts of the Pacific? How much science (marine ecosystems disturbance) is there to be understood to appreciate or not appreciate this kind of development?

Here’s a video that should tell us how much has been said and understood as far as the development is concerned.


Although Nautilus promises to encourage skills and technology transfer in terms of the following;

• Clean mining, low disturbance

• Little disruption of land holders

• Increased safety (compared with onshore operations)

• Royalties and taxes.

Can we safely rely and trust it? How far down the line would we tolerate before our lives are transformed by its influence, whether for good or bad?


Video –


Hoagland, P., Beaulieu, S., Tivey, M. A., Eggert, R. G., German, C., Glowka, L., & Lin, J. (2010). Deep-sea mining of seafloor massive sulfides. Marine Policy, 34(3), 728-732. doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2009.12.001


Science TV News Exposure Predicts Science Beliefs

The media has played substantial part in exposing science to the world. The television shows, programs and movies had both been good and bad at widely disseminating science and also distorting the truth.

Science can be just plain facts as well as debunking. A communication research conducted by Hwang and Southwell (2009) on the Science TV exposure, revealed the

“evidence that stories from a well-funded TV science news project specifically intended to encourage people to view science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as a realm relevant to their everyday lives in fact positively predicts such beliefs, even after controlling for potential explanations for spuriousness.”


Since TV can be influential at this age too, there are two key questions, as science communicators needless to say, should always be cautious of while interacting, collaborating with people and collecting information.

  1. How do you know who to trust?
  2. What is your source?

Today, it takes only a few hours and and any debunking is always belated. Long gone the days when journalists had to take a phone, make appointments and interviews with his or her own eyes.This had changed to a click of the mouse and information is available. A journalist would spend most of his or her time on the internet.

Whilst on this sometimes the science is not well represented and reported accurately because of various reasons.

  1. The reporter collected wrong information
  2. The writer misinterpreted due to lack of science background knowledge.
  3. Due to vague assumptions.

So how can these be corrected? It goes back to answering the first two questions, as a communicator. Nonetheless, the information trail is like the ‘Chinese whisper’ that as the information is passed along the trail, it can get distorted, misunderstood or intentionally misrepresented. Sometimes just because everyone is saying something about an issue, it doesn’t mean it is always true.

This video further highlights how communication  is not represented well by a team. What challenges are there for a science communicator? Do you think we have a role to play?


Hwang, Y., & Southwell, B. G. (2009). Science TV news exposure predicts science beliefs. Communication Research, 36(5), 724-742.

Not only for fun

Can science and humour work together in a popular media?

Definitely yes.  You may be able to point out several TV programs, like The Big Bang Theory or Mythbusters.

How about science education and humour?

Again yes.  Several researchers have shown that implementation of humour works well.  “[These] benefits include creating a more supportive learning environment, retaining knowledge, creating a sense of community, and reducing stress.” (Hellman, S,V. 2006. P 1)

Well, then, how about scientific (academic) research and humor?

The answer is… Yes.

Too much thinking?

Thinking too much?

What do you think about these research titles?

  • “An analysis of the forces required to drag sheep over various surfaces” 2004, Physics award
  • “Pressures Produced When Penguins Poo—Calculations on Avian Defecation” 2005, Fluid dynamics award
  • “Discovering that symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller coaster ride” 2010, Medicine award.

These are research titles that were published in scholarly journals, and received the Ig Nobel prize award.

The Ig Noble prize is the award for researchers and inventors, who did remarkable and humorous research (whether they intended to be humorous or not).

Sounds like a bad joke?  Well, maybe yes, but the organizers of this prize are quite serious.  Quite a few acknowledged scholars support the organization. The ceremony is held in an auditorium at Harvard University and the prize is presented by a number of people including a few Nobel Prize winners.

The criteria for nomination is,  “First make people laugh, and then make them think.” (Improbable Research,2011)

So, what does this motto mean?

Let me explain.

In 2011, the annual theme of the Ig Nobel prize was chemistry, and the winners were Japanese researchers, who “[Determined] the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.”

Even though I am Japanese, and even though I love wasabi, I gratefully refuse to wake up to that intense smell.

But if I was visually and hearing impaired?  How could I know I’m in danger?

Some of the awards are chosen to raise awareness about something crucial but easily missed.

When we are communicating with someone, humour is quite helpful for delivering messages.  “Funny” means something extraordinary.  A healthy sense of humor makes a topic stands out, and helps to develop a critical mind.  When considering framing theories, humour works quite well as a positive frame because it is comfortable to watch or listen too.

Also, humour is one alternative method that can be used to challenge authority.  Some research topics seem extraordinary, but we must remember that radicalists made a lot of scientific breakthroughs.

Now, after you reading this blog post, I hope you had a nice smile, and also you get convinced for the power of humour in science communication.  If not, I’m always happy to tell you more and more and more.


Hellman, Stuart V. (2006) Online Humor: Oxymoron or Strategic Teaching Tool.

Presented at the Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and

Community Education, University of Missouri-St. Louis,  available at:

The improbable research:

Highlighting the plight of marine animals to assist conservation

I have always loved the ocean and pretty much all marine life (bar a few creepy critters). Here in Australia the beach and ocean are very important for us culturally as well as economically. Unfortunately humans have been abusing and trying to ‘master’ the ocean for centuries. This results in a wide range of problems including pollution, loss of marine life and much more.

Luckily we have a secret weapon to use in our management and conservation efforts – marine animals! Marine animals attract significant attention in ocean conservation planning and therefore are often used politically to promote designation of marine protected areas (Hooker & Gerber 2004). Highlighting the effects our actions have on animals and their environments is a very effective way to raise money and awareness. Often the larger marine animals such as seals, sharks, whales, birds etc. are used to front campaigns, however a wide range of plants and animals benefit where protected marine areas are set up.

Case in point: Could you say no to protecting this little guys habitat?

Animals affecting by the Deep Horizon Oil Spill

Most of us would be familiar with BP’s recent oil spill or Deepwater Horizon spill, which devastated a range of marine life. This is just one example of how humans have damaged marine environments. If you recall the images from magazines and news stories, you would often see birds covered in the oil. Birds are particularly susceptible to oil spills as it prevents their feathers from insulating them and the often die of hypothermia. The media make a conscious decision to use these images of animals suffering at our hands as it makes a strong connection with the audience.

In the past there was a lack of knowledge surrounding the oceans and all their secrets, however now we know better. A major concern for our oceans at the moment is the effect that climate change will have on them. Issues include ocean acidification (see what our friends at Skeptical Science (SS) have to say), coral bleaching (SS), sea level rise (SS), changes to ocean circulation patterns (see my ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ post for an extreme case) and potentially many more!

The polar bear is a great example of animals being used to drive campaigns against environmental problems. There are countless images and documentaries that look at how global warming is threatening the existence of polar bears. The heating of our atmosphere due to human carbon dioxide emissions is resulting in the reduction of their Arctic Ice habitat, which has continually been a target for different media formats. David Attenborough’s ‘Climate Change‘ documentary is an example that states starving polar bears are the first victims of climate change.

The 'face' of climate change.

This video is a great example of how the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Coral Sea campaign was a raging success. They used imagery of beautiful corals and highlighted the decline of reef sharks in the area to gain public support and push the government to declare the area a marine protected zone (which means it is protected from destructive fishing and activities like mining exploration). Australian news picked up the campaign which featured on radio stations, in popular magazines and it made prime-time news around the country, as well as international news.

Please let me know if you think media harnessing this ‘guilt’ factor of animal plights is an effective way of getting results?


Hooker, SK and Gerber, LR 2004, ‘Marine Reserves as a Tool for Ecosystem-Based Management: The Potential Importance of Megafauna’, BioScience, vol. 54, no. 1, pp. 27 – 39. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.

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Social Media and 21st century Learner!

In my culture, we have a traditional proverb tells us that:

“One stick is easy to break, but sticks in a bundle are unbreakable”

I believe this is a perfect metaphor to the power of social media, particularly in the relation to the positive impacts of these tools in education and learning around the world.

The above proverb strongly presents the manner of collaborative learning and sharing. We can interpret the saying, as “None of us is as smart as all of us”. As the power of social network is more fully available today than in any other point in history, it is not surprising that we – the new generation adopt the use of digital media in developing learning styles that are heavily dependent on social media and the web. We can see that, our university and in particular the unit of Science and Media have embraced a variety of social media tools in their academic teaching, such as: podcast, digital movie, media release and blog.

Let’s look at this video about “A Vision for 21st Century Learning”

In the past few years, the boom of social media has grown from a phantom to an undeniable power of collaborative learning and sharing. During this time, new concepts like class blogs (e.g., WordPress) and micro-blogs (e.g., Facebook) together, help to achieve social learning. Plus, it is obvious that social network has become the central role in the daily life of our generation and so the next generation.

Let’s see how many of these social networks you can recognize!

It is undeniable that social media tools provide communication dynamics that offer new ways to create, interact, collaborate and learn new concepts. Therefore, schools and universities should consider implementing social media to improve efficiencies in the delivery of learning, as these new technologies might help to spark creativity, excitement, interaction, learning and sharing by students.

It’s not that I abandon traditional learning in favor of the new digital media, but it is about striking the right balance of both. When one learns basic manners, such as patience and self-discipline first, then the technology and social media can kick in to maximize its potential.

In my country, which is Vietnam, our teaching and learning techniques are different (or may I say behind) compared to Western societies. The main reason is because of passive learning (e.g., course lectures, papers, and the reading of a textbook) without interacting much with the digital media as well as the social media. For such thought, I have chosen this topic for the blog post.

So do you agree with me that educators should utilize social media in the right manner to deliver a more engaging style of learning that can accommodate digital learners?

Betty Bui Do

Reference: Wankel, C. (2011). Teaching Arts and Science with the New Social Media   Retrieved from