What we're talking about Saturday, February 25, 2017

Pro-Science Gets Organized

Inevitably, with the announcement of The March for Science on Earth Day, April 22nd of this year, come the inevitable naysayers decrying the politicization of science. Astroturf groups such as ACSH (diversity excludes white dudes and scientists from industry!), have of course decried the effort as a liberal conspiracy, but I was sad to see…

I’ve been thinking a lot about this the last week or so, with media appearances already out there and more to come. The list of links I’ve amassed is quite impressive, a significant number to add to the post highlighting Sarah Boon’s advice. But that was a week or so ago, which seems like an…

Rosa Parks wasn’t just some kid who decided to defy white authority and relinquish her seat on the bus. For one thing, she was a bit older than a kid. For another, she carried out this defiant act as part of a larger strategy to cause necessary and urgent change in the rules of society.…

The March for Science is scheduled to take place April 22, 2017 in DC . Hashtag #ScienceMarch Twitter account here. Web site here, though not much there yet, this was JUST announced seconds ago. Please note that they are accepting donations. Click through to the donations page to give a donation! Alternate logo here: To…

Outrage at Donald Trump has coalesced around several political loci, including women's rights, immigration, environmentalism, and scientific endeavor at large. As Trump threatens to roll back regulations and de-fund universities, Mark Hoofnagle points out that science has always been political, increasingly so in an age when politicians control huge sums of money devoted to basic research. Despite major discoveries funded by taxpayer dollars, Mark says scientists have failed "to explain the benefits of basic science to the public and to our representatives in government, and failed to defend our colleagues from misrepresentation of their work for cheap political gain."

Meanwhile, as a veteran of the Canadian "war on science," John Dupuis suggests how pro-science Americans can join the fray: "Don’t bring a test tube to a Bunsen burner fight. Mobilize, protest, form partnerships, wrote op-eds and blog posts and books and articles, speak about science at every public event you get a chance, run for office." Greg Laden demands that we do our homework, writing "organized activism produces results, having a plan matters." One plan worth making is to join the March for Science on April 22nd in Washington D.C.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

Apparently, flamboyant cuttlefish are born looking snazzy.

Biologist and author Bill Schutt has a new book out: Cannibalism: A perfectly natural history. He and I talked about cannibalism on Ikonokast: Click here to check it out! It is was a fun interview, and Bill’s book is excellent. See also: You Come From Cannibals Among Cannibals Cannibal, Native, Indigenous On Cannibalism and Jameson…

Fin whales have big mouths, really big mouths. When your meals consist of tiny krill, it is understandable why you would evolve the ability to stretch your mouth super-wide. With each meal comes a lot of water, which expands a pouch in the bottom of their mouths. As the pouch expands, all of the tissues in the pouch expand…

Physical Science

Earlier this month, news broke of a study that found potentially health-harming chemicals in a variety of fast food packaging. Upon hearing such news, the natural inclination is to worry that you’re ingesting those chemicals along with your burger and fries. Study researcher Graham Peaslee says that’s certainly a risk. But perhaps the greater risk, he says, happens after that hamburger wrapper ends up in landfill and the chemicals seep into our environment and water.

“It’s the gravity that shapes the large scale structure of the universe, even though it is the weakest of four categories of forces.” -Stephen Hawking Galaxies don’t just exist in isolation in our Universe, but are often found bound together as a part of even grander structures. Our own Milky Way is bound in a…

“When Benjamin Franklin inveted the lightning rod, the clergy, both in England and America, with enthusiastic support of George III, condemned it as an impious attempt to defeat the will of God.” -Bertrand Russell You’ll often hear charges that science has become too politicized, but it’s the other way around. Science is our best way…

Environment

Earlier this month, news broke of a study that found potentially health-harming chemicals in a variety of fast food packaging. Upon hearing such news, the natural inclination is to worry that you’re ingesting those chemicals along with your burger and fries. Study researcher Graham Peaslee says that’s certainly a risk. But perhaps the greater risk, he says, happens after that hamburger wrapper ends up in landfill and the chemicals seep into our environment and water.

Which one are you for? I’ll take either. At first I didn’t want Ellison to leave MN05, but if he does, and he should if he is DNC chair, we have some excellent replacements lined up, and since MN05 is the most left leaning congressional district in the country, we don’t have to worry about…

Via Media Matters of America. Very interesting segment. Santer talks about what is is like to be a rogue scientist in a Donald Trump administration. The words referred to here the twelve words, were part of the 1995 Second Assessment report of the IPCC. That report is regularly updated, and forms the scientific and policy…

Humanities

Navy shipbuilders get lucrative contracts despite worker safety violations; Baltimore airport executive cited in worker retaliation case; thousands of California workers have potentially harmful blood lead levels; and immigrant workers lose their jobs after joining national protests.

Fin whales have big mouths, really big mouths. When your meals consist of tiny krill, it is understandable why you would evolve the ability to stretch your mouth super-wide. With each meal comes a lot of water, which expands a pouch in the bottom of their mouths. As the pouch expands, all of the tissues in the pouch expand…

From gaps in airline safety and railcars filled with toxics, to the respiratory hazard of food flavorings and an asbestos disaster in Libby, Montana, Andrew Schneider made his mark on public health. The investigative journalist and two time Pulitzer Prize winner died on February 17 at age 74.

Education

Fin whales have big mouths, really big mouths. When your meals consist of tiny krill, it is understandable why you would evolve the ability to stretch your mouth super-wide. With each meal comes a lot of water, which expands a pouch in the bottom of their mouths. As the pouch expands, all of the tissues in the pouch expand…

Pitcher plants are a known enemy of insects, but perhaps beneficial for people suffering from celiac disease. Chemist Dr. David Schriemer at the University of Calgary was studying the pitcher plant Nepenthes x ventrata (shown above) in his search for an enzyme similar to pepsin for use in his experiments. Pitcher plants secrete digestive fluids with a pH similar…

As I was looking through the scientific literature the other day, I came across an article published in 1973, “The Evolutionary Advantages of Being Stupid.” With a title like that, how could I not read it? In this article Dr. Eugene D. Robin discussed how larger and more complex brains are associated with greater intelligence, which…

Politics

Last night, I went to an event, apparently organized by an indivisible group, in Plymouth Mass. Plymouth is in Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District, and is represented by Congressman Erik Paulsen. Paulsen took over, years ago, from a “reasonable Republican” that even Democrats in CD03 remember fondly. But Paulsen has quietly and without fanfare served as…

Navy shipbuilders get lucrative contracts despite worker safety violations; Baltimore airport executive cited in worker retaliation case; thousands of California workers have potentially harmful blood lead levels; and immigrant workers lose their jobs after joining national protests.

Going from Flynn to McMaster feels like going from Beetle Bailey to Jack Ryan. But I don’t know much about him. He is, importantly, full of degrees and the author of Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, based on his PhD thesis. How do…

Medicine

Earlier this month, news broke of a study that found potentially health-harming chemicals in a variety of fast food packaging. Upon hearing such news, the natural inclination is to worry that you’re ingesting those chemicals along with your burger and fries. Study researcher Graham Peaslee says that’s certainly a risk. But perhaps the greater risk, he says, happens after that hamburger wrapper ends up in landfill and the chemicals seep into our environment and water.

Case and Deaton’s analysis of increasing mortality rates among white middle-age Americans made a connection to economic phenomena, but their analysis didn’t discuss specific pathways that might lead from one to the other. A group of doctoral students at UMass Lowell’s Work Environment Program set out to explore those causal pathways.

Mike Adams the “Health Ranger” runs NaturalNews.com, arguably the wretchedest of wretched hives of scum and quackery on the web. Yesterday, Google delisted it. You’ll forgive me if I indulge in a bit of schadenfreude, given Adams’ long history of promoting quackery, gloating over the deaths of celebrities with cancer who used conventional treatment, and character assassination directed at science advocates, including yours truly.

Brain & Behavior

As I was looking through the scientific literature the other day, I came across an article published in 1973, “The Evolutionary Advantages of Being Stupid.” With a title like that, how could I not read it? In this article Dr. Eugene D. Robin discussed how larger and more complex brains are associated with greater intelligence, which…

Happy Valentine’s Day! Inotocin is the insect form of the so-called “love” hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, as you may know, is responsible for inducing labor in pregnant women. A recent study published in Scientific Reports describes the work of a team of researchers that created a synthetic version of inotocin which could bind to both oxytocin and vasopressin receptors in human tissues.…

The story begins in 1999 when Leonie, a zebra shark (aka a leopard shark in Australia), was captured from the wild. In 2006 she was transferred to Reef HQ Aquarium in Queensland, Australia where she met her mate. By 2008, she had started laying eggs and the pair had multiple litters of offspring through sexual reproduction. After her…

Technology

Drones are so early 20th century: That doesn’t actually look too hard to make. The only tricky part is how to attach it to the monkey.

Your objective is to learn Python programming. Everybody has to learn Python. You are looking for a book that will make that easier for you. One possibility, one that I’ll recommend for most people in this situation, is Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming. To cut to the chase, there are two…

Last October I reviewed Scratch Programming Playground, by Al Sweigart. You will recall that Scratch is a programming language that uses drag and drop elements to construct a program. Individual objecgts, including “sprites” that can move around on the screen, as well as static graphic elements, sounds, etc. get their own code, and this code…

Information Science

My library’s Hackfest was yesterday so I’m feeling kind of burnt out today. Today’s linked post cheers me immensely, in a side-eye, gallows humour kind of way. This recent Retraction Watch post is funny and you should read the whole thing: Got “significosis?” Here are the five diseases of academic publishing. Significosis Neophilia Theorrhea Arigorium…

US president Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13769, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, is a terrible idea for many different reasons and has been widely condemned. Banning people due to their refugee status, religion or national origin has no place in a civilized society. while it has been overturned in…

Why music ownership matters Forgetting What I’ve Heard: Why I Miss Buying Music Henry Rollins: Will I Be Able to Finish Listening to All My Records Before I Die? Beyond Jazz’s Boys Club The Forgotten Architects of Jazz — And the New York Women Bringing Them Back Beyond the boys club: Striving for diversity and…

Jobs

Case and Deaton’s analysis of increasing mortality rates among white middle-age Americans made a connection to economic phenomena, but their analysis didn’t discuss specific pathways that might lead from one to the other. A group of doctoral students at UMass Lowell’s Work Environment Program set out to explore those causal pathways.

Navy shipbuilders get lucrative contracts despite worker safety violations; Baltimore airport executive cited in worker retaliation case; thousands of California workers have potentially harmful blood lead levels; and immigrant workers lose their jobs after joining national protests.

Fewer economic opportunities may be exposing black and Hispanic workers to an increased risk of workplace injury, according to a new study.