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Amber Kerr
Works at University of California, Berkeley
Attends University of California, Berkeley
Lives in Mountain View, California
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Amber Kerr

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Here's a gem for my #scienceisnotawesome collection. This thoughtful, well-researched, eloquent article was written by Will Wilson, who just happens to be my neighbor across the street. Many other scientists I know would agree with these critiques, whereas (as Will points out) the cultish phenomenon of "scientism" - i.e., a monomaniacally optimistic view of science - mostly ends up being championed by non-scientists.
The problem with ­science is that so much of it simply isn’t. Last summer, the Open Science . . . .
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John Corbett's profile photoAmber Kerr's profile photo
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Hmm. That's not how I read it at all, John. I suppose the fact that this article is published in a journal on "religion and public life" could lead one to presuppose that the article's goal is - subtly or otherwise - to undermine science in favor of religion. But I really do not think that is what the article says if you take it on its own merits. From my viewpoint as a scientist, Wilson's critiques are well-founded. At no point does he say that science should be rejected out of hand. His concluding recommendation is that science and scientists should be more self-critical, given the all-too-apparent flaws and biases in how science is actually practiced.

Vox recently published a similar (and even longer) article peppered with numerous quotes from practicing scientists. You might prefer that one: http://www.vox.com/2016/7/14/12016710/science-challeges-research-funding-peer-review-process
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Amber Kerr

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It's nearly 100 degrees F outside in Mountain View. Ugh! This would be awful even for September, let alone April. Although no particular weather event can be attributed with certainty to anthropogenic climate change, I was intrigued by a recent study that estimated about 75% of current heat waves worldwide would not have happened without human influence. In other words, yes, this is probably our fault. :-( http://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/5930/20150428/extremely-hot-days-why-one-study-saying-global-warming-blame.htm
Climate change is already causing heat waves and other extreme weather events around the world. Now, a new study has confirmed that these types of extreme events will only get worse and as much as 75 percent of the planet's "moderate daily hot extremes" can be tied to climate change.
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This is a little too close to the truth...
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I guess it's a little odd to post a link to an article I hate... but I'm doing it anyway. I wish Mark Bittman would stick to posting recipes instead of publishing ill-informed opinion pieces about food insecurity and economic development. Here he shares his amazing insight for how to end world hunger: "Eliminate poverty!" Oh gee, thanks Mark, no one's ever thought of that before.
The solution isn’t to produce more food, it’s to eliminate poverty.
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Here is the comment to this article that I posted on the NYT website:

I am disappointed with Bittman's oversimplifications and his apparent ignorance of the vast amount of scholarship on food insecurity.
 
First, Bittman presents "Let's end poverty in order to end hunger" as his own novel insight. He does not mention that this concept has been accepted in the development community for decades. (Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen published his famous book "Poverty and Famines" in 1981.)
 
Second, Bittman wrongly says "boosting yields does nothing" for the world's hungry. In developing countries, agriculture is the only viable industry in many rural areas, so increasing farm productivity is key to improving livelihoods. In addition, higher farm productivity can lead to lower and more stable food prices for urban dwellers.
 
Third, Bittman conflates very different issues in the developed vs. the developing world. In the developed world, the poor are mostly urban, and are generally mal- instead of undernourished; in the developing world, the poor are often rural dwellers with low farm productivity.
 
Finally, Bittman offers a glib solution: "The best method of farming for most people is probably traditional farming boosted by science." But there are thousands of different "traditional" production systems globally – some sustainable, some not. Also, this implies that "traditional farming" ignores science, when in fact, farmers often understand their own land better than anyone.
 
With these oversights, Bittman’s column is more misleading than helpful.
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A fun article that my runner friends might like to read. I personally prefer 10Ks (5K's are a bit too intense for me), but it's hard to argue with the author's logic and humor!
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This article is NSFW, because it may make you splutter uncontrollably at your desk, as it did me! My favorite quote (and this pretty much sums up how I feel about startup culture): "But then, after those three years [at Yale, Harvard, and Princeton], I dropped out and crowdfunded a startup called SnitSnot.com, for people who want to send photos of the beer they’re drinking, along with their net worth, scrawled across the chest of a fashion model, to everyone within a five-block radius. I sold this app for $2.8 billion, and I used the money to buy a private island in the Pacific."
Credit Illustration by Zohar Lazar
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Amber Kerr

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I suppose the NYT published this piece for International Women's Day, the purpose of which is to recognize women's accomplishments and celebrate their potential. But it seems to me, as a female scientist, that this article does the opposite. It's written by Hope Jahrens, a biogeochemistry professor at the University of Hawaii, who was contacted for advice by one of her former grad students after the student received an unwanted love note from her male supervisor.

Prof. Jahrens bemoans the insidious prevalence of such male/female interactions in science - most of which are never aired, she says, but when they occasionally come to light, "A great chorus of formal condemnation shall be lifted up, and my male colleagues will sputter with gall, appalled by the actions of bad apples so rare they have been encountered by every single woman I know."

Not to put too fine a point on it, Professor Jahrens, but this is rubbish. I'm in a very similar field to your own (ecosystem ecology); I've been in academia for the better part of two decades; all four of my academic advisors (bachelor's, Master's, PhD, postdoc) have been male; and I have NEVER - I mean NEVER - felt even slightly threatened or taken advantage of due to my status as a woman. Not by my advisors, nor by any other teacher, classmate, or student. I've had wonderfully supportive colleagues, male and female.

And if a male colleague did send me a message of unreciprocated affection, I would simply reply no thank you, not cower in the shadows indefinitely while his actions continued (as Prof. Jahrens seems to imply is inevitable). As the commentor "Female Scientist" says on the NYT piece: "This is not sexual harassment. In fact, this piece is damaging because it dilutes the real sexual harassment cases."

Yes, there are still major gender problems in academic science. Yes, sexual harassment should be treated with the utmost seriousness. Yes, tricky issues can arise when a senior employee courts a junior one. But I am indignant that Prof. Jahrens is presuming to speak for all female scientists. She does not speak for me. 
For women in science, part of the job can mean dealing with unwanted sexual attention.
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Amber Kerr

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Public service announcement: When buying a gift for a two-year-old, please do not choose an outfit that has the care instructions of "HAND WASH ONLY. LAY FLAT TO DRY. WARM IRON." (If you know any parents of two-year-olds who have time to hand-wash and iron their kid's clothes, please send them my way - I could use their help with my laundry.)
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HAHAHA. I say wash it anyway -- she'll outgrow it by the time it falls apart from machine washing. And if it shrinks -- HMD for #2! =^)
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A nice antidote to all the hysteria about "OMG it takes a gallon of water to grow one almond."
A quarter-century ago, when I first started farming the fertile ground of western Fresno County, my crop was cotton.
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Amber Kerr's profile photoRex Kerr's profile photo
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Sometimes comments allow one more time to do background reading than does a live conversation!

But of course I agree that residential water should be more expensive.  The question is whether e.g. Oakland can have EBMUD buy water that would otherwise go to the San Joaquin valley for agriculture (buying it, perhaps, from alfalfa or cotton growers), and use that in place of making usage cuts.  As I understand it, LA actually did this kind of thing last year, but the article I read made it sound like extraordinary heroics, not business-as-usual.

If yes (and farmers can buy water allocated for EBMUD residential use if they bid high enough!), then the economics should work out as well as economics normally do (i.e. good at balancing resource allocation in the short term, not so great accomplishing long-term goals in most cases).  If no, because we don't think that economics generates the wise result in this case, we also should ask if economics is generating the wise result in sub-cases of agricultural water use and residential water use.
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Another example of just how lousy United's customer service is - they even manage to infuriate monks!
The Haggler intercedes for a monastery in New Mexico over a ticketing dispute with United Airlines.
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Long but fascinating story!
A handful of girls seem to defy one of the biggest certainties in life: ageing. Virginia Hughes reports on the families wrestling with a condition they can’t explain, and the scientist who believes that these children could hold the key to immortality.
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I'm glad to see the NYT finally publishing a hard-hitting, well-written piece that is critical of Israel's occupation of Gaza. This op-ed happens to be written by a Palestinian professor, but you don't need to be Palestinian to agree that occupations tend to become increasingly brutal - on both sides - the longer they endure. Professor Jarbawi gives worrying examples of increasing racism and extremism in this conflict, and he concludes that international pressure will be key in reaching a sustainable peace. I hope his concluding message is heeded: what is happening in Gaza now "should be a clarion call for the entire world to end the bloodshed."
Israel needs to clearly state what it intends to do after 47 years of occupation.
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Brian, I agree that the situations in Syria and Iraq are tragic and haven't received nearly enough international attention. As far as I'm aware, they fall into the category of civil war / internal conflict, for which the path to a peaceful resolution is sadly unclear. It's also not entirely clear to me what role the US could or should play to stop the current violence in Syria and Iraq. By contrast, in Israel/Palestine, the US does hold significant influence, and there are clearly delineated paths toward peace. I certainly hope that the latest horrific conflict will push Israel and Palestine in that direction... but it might also have the opposite effect. Ah, why don't we talk about something more cheerful, like climate change?
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Work
Occupation
Ph.D. student in Energy and Resources
Employment
  • University of California, Berkeley
    Ph.D. student in Energy and Resources, present
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • US Department of Agriculture
  • Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory
  • Rocky Mountain Institute
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Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Mountain View, California
Previously
Mackay, Queensland, Australia - Berkeley, CA - Mackay, Queensland, Australia - Cairns, Queensland, Australia - Albany, Western Australia - Brisbane, Queensland, Australia - Stanford, CA - Zomba, Malawi - Kisumu, Kenya - Washington, DC - Aspen, CO
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Introduction
I was born in Australia to American parents, and spent my childhood in Western Australia and Queensland.  I came to California to attend Stanford University, where I received my BS and MS degrees in Earth Systems (Biosphere track) at Stanford University.  I am currently a Ph.D. student in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley.  For my dissertation research, I am conducting a climate manipulation experiment on a Gliricidia-maize agroforestry system in southern Malawi.
Bragging rights
Winner of Billy Baxter's Cafe Pancake Eating Contest (I have the certificate to prove it)
Education
  • University of California, Berkeley
    present
  • Central Queensland University, Mackay
  • University of Queensland
  • Stanford University
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Female
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Catherine
This was the only Davis bike store I could find that was open before 10 AM, and I needed to repair a flat rear tire in a hurry (I'd just come up from the Bay Area on the train for a meeting at UC Davis). Dave and Aidan helped me right away, changed my tire quickly, gave me advice about rear taillights in the meantime, and charged a very reasonable price for the service. And - as an extra bonus - I got to play with their very friendly, fluffy resident cat Milo. All in all a great experience. I was really grateful for their speedy help and friendly professionalism.
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Public - 7 months ago
reviewed 7 months ago
This is my local hardware store - I live a few blocks away and I go here all the time. I have always had a good experience and have left with a smile on my face. The staff are really friendly (especially Michelle) and will go out of your way to help you. Not only will they help you find exactly what you need, they will also give you pro bono advice to help you solve your home or garden problem. For example, when I asked an employee for plastic netting to keep squirrels out of a garden bed, he pointed out that squirrels would chew right through it and recommended chicken wire instead (which worked perfectly). They are also lenient with returns for any reason. And, although this store is on the smaller side, they are surprisingly well stocked considering their size. They tend to know exactly what they have in stock, and if they don't have it, they can tell you where to get it. Two thumbs up for this neighborhood treasure!
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Public - 2 years ago
reviewed 2 years ago
2 reviews
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