Our lives are a blip in the space time continuum. As a result, it can seem that the Earth is relatively static, with many of the large scale dynamic changes that shape our sphere largely unnoticeable to us occurring on geological time-scales. One such change is the movement of landmasses on earth, better known as plate tectonics.
Earth’s landmasses are not static but in constant flux. The Earth’s lithosphere (formed by the crust and the upper part of the mantle) is broken up into a number of tectonic plates that move relative to each other at varying speeds, “gliding” over a viscous asthenosphere. There is still ongoing debate about what force or forces causes this movement, but whatever the forces are they can also cause the plates to rupture, forming rifts, and potential leading to the development of new plate boundaries. When this happens landmasses break-up and new continents forms; this is currently happening in the East African Rift in southwestern Kenya.
View of East African Rift in Kenya from space (Photo credit: Google Earth. Data SIO, NOAA, US Navy, NGA, GEBCO).
At the 2014 ScienceOnlineTogether conference, I will be moderating a session focusing on how to use social media as a scientific research tool (2:30 P.M. on Friday, February 28th in room 3). The hashtag is #ScioResearch , so be sure to follow along, and I’ll make a Storify afterwards. This post is primarily intended to be a source of background information for participants in my session, though feel free to read, share and ask questions in the comments if you are not planning on participating in my session.
ScienceOnline community members understand the value of social media for collaborating with colleagues and communicating science to the public, but few think of the incredible resource that these tools are for scientific research. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world are constantly sharing their experiences and opinions in a format that is public, archived, searchable, and accessible, giving researchers access to this enormous dataset without the expense or logisitical difficulties involved in organizing a large-scale survey or series of focus groups. To use a technical term, for many types of scientific research, social media and “big data” is what is called “a freakin’ gold mine.”
Below are a few examples of how social media can be used for scientific research.