What we're talking about One Big (Happy) Family Friday, September 4, 2015

One Big (Happy) Family

My children made me try a chocolate-covered gummy bear the other day. Now a chocolate gummy bear is not a local, sustainable or home-grown food, and frankly, I don’t like gummy bears (the only good use I ever had for them was in college, where nothing would keep posters on cinder-block walls without damaging the…

If you’ve thought about foster parenting at all, even for a couple of minutes, you probably grasp that someone has to do it. Because the truth is that kids whose parents can’t care for them has been a global problem for all of human history. It is a problem that could get better or worse…

Technically, the recession is over. So it may come as a surprise to learn that more U.S. children are living in poverty right now than during the Great Recession. To be more specific: About 1.7 million more children live in low-income working families than just a few years ago.

Raising ten children—some biological, others adopted or in foster care—is far from a burden for Sharon Astyk. On the contrary, she says it mandates an artfulness to living, allowing her and her husband to help create something new and greater from the sum of many parts. Sharon writes that the result is "more fascinating, more fun, more engaging [...] a job worth building a life around." While some parenting hurdles multiply with more kids, others stay the same—or even vanish. And beyond the concerns of day-to-day living, Sharon knows she is maintaining and building new family ties for foster siblings who could otherwise be scattered among different households. In an older post, Sharon describes 100 kinds of people who should consider fostering a child, arguing that a diversity of parents will benefit the diversity of children needing a safe home. Meanwhile, on The Pump Handle, Kim Krisberg writes that one metric associated with the need for foster care—childhood poverty—continues to flounder. According to a new report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, about 3 million more children in the U.S. now live in poverty than did in 2008.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences provides evidence that hummingbird tongues act like micropumps when drinking nectar. This finding is in contrast to the long-held belief that their tongues use capillary action to pull in fluids. A team of researchers from the University of Connecticut used high-speed film to…

I often get requests from students to answer questions about biology — typically, they’ve been told to write to a scientist and get a response, and somehow they’ve picked me. I try to answer them, but due to the number of requests, I usually only give brief answers. Here’s an example: Dear PZ Meyers, Yeah,…

Physical Science

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” –Joan of Arc In 2012, I had the honor and the privilege to learn about Mariam Sultana, the first woman…

“When you see how fragile and delicate life can be, all else fades into the background.” –Jenna Morasca The hot Big Bang — proposed seventy years ago — is a tremendous success story. Predicated on the assumption that the Universe was hotter, denser, more uniform and expanding faster in the past, it’s allowed us to…

Today, I officially stopped being department chair, and started my sabbatical leave. I also acquired a new toy: My old DSLR camera, a Canon Rebel XSi that I got mumble years ago, has been very good for over 20,000 pictures, but a few things about it were getting kind of flaky– it’s been bad at…

Environment

A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences provides evidence that hummingbird tongues act like micropumps when drinking nectar. This finding is in contrast to the long-held belief that their tongues use capillary action to pull in fluids. A team of researchers from the University of Connecticut used high-speed film to…

Heather Cooley, Kristina Donnelly, Peter Gleick Last week, the Pacific Institute published the first comprehensive analysis of the impacts of the drought on California crop revenue and agricultural employment through 2014. The study showed that during the recent drought California’s agriculture sector experienced record-high crop revenue and employment. Crop revenue peaked in 2013 at $33.8…

Marine biologists from the University of Queensland is looking at coral reefs in Hawaii and what they see is not good. They used high resolution images to track coral bleaching and death. Recently coral reefs in Hawaii suffered their first known mass bleaching event, caused by unusually warm waters associated with the now famous “Blob”…

Humanities

Last weekend, while the kids were at my parents’, Kate and I decided to go over to Williamstown and look at some art. We originally intended to go to the Clark Art Institute, but it was mobbed, so we drove on to MassMoCA instead. I told several different people about that, all of whom said…

A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences provides evidence that hummingbird tongues act like micropumps when drinking nectar. This finding is in contrast to the long-held belief that their tongues use capillary action to pull in fluids. A team of researchers from the University of Connecticut used high-speed film to…

It’s perhaps not surprising that single parents face a higher risk of living in poverty. However, a new study finds that such risk is much higher for single mothers than for single fathers, even when they both have similar jobs and education levels and work the same number of hours.

Education

A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences provides evidence that hummingbird tongues act like micropumps when drinking nectar. This finding is in contrast to the long-held belief that their tongues use capillary action to pull in fluids. A team of researchers from the University of Connecticut used high-speed film to…

Classes started on Monday. I’m actually pretty happy about that. This summer was rather hectic and stressful in many ways. Also productive, but still. It was basically a good counterexample to the clueless types who insist that teachers only work nine months out of the year. For me, the summer tends to be harder work…

Slate’s been doing a series about college classes everyone should take, and one of the most heavily promoted of these has been a piece by Dan Check urging students to take something they’re terrible at. This is built around an amusing anecdote about an acting class he took back in the day, but as much…

Politics

Classes started on Monday. I’m actually pretty happy about that. This summer was rather hectic and stressful in many ways. Also productive, but still. It was basically a good counterexample to the clueless types who insist that teachers only work nine months out of the year. For me, the summer tends to be harder work…

It’s perhaps not surprising that single parents face a higher risk of living in poverty. However, a new study finds that such risk is much higher for single mothers than for single fathers, even when they both have similar jobs and education levels and work the same number of hours.

Two items of interest. 1) A new poll looks at conservative and liberal views of science. The findings are not especially unexpected, but the details are interesting. The image above is from this infographic, and the details are given here. Yes, the detail are quite interesting. 2) If you care, there is some information on…

Medicine

It’s not a secret to anyone who reads this blog that I have an incredibly low opinion of celebrity pediatricians who are, if not outright antivaccine, antivaccine-sympathetic or leaning antivaccine and use their authority as physicians to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about vaccines. Without a doubt, chief among these pediatricians in this country…

On a walk in Canada, I saw one way their government is trying to reduce death and disease caused by smoking tobacco.

You’d think that after all these years combatting quackery and blogging about science in medicine (and, unfortunately, pseudoscience in medicine) it would take a lot to shock me. You’d be right. On the other hand, Even now, 15 years after I discovered quackery in a big way on Usenet and ten years after the inception…

Brain & Behavior

A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences provides evidence that hummingbird tongues act like micropumps when drinking nectar. This finding is in contrast to the long-held belief that their tongues use capillary action to pull in fluids. A team of researchers from the University of Connecticut used high-speed film to…

On a walk in Canada, I saw one way their government is trying to reduce death and disease caused by smoking tobacco.

Answer: pregnancy. Unlike most animals, it is the male seahorses that give birth to live young. A new study conducted at the University of Sydney and published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, found that the male seahorses not only carry out the pregnancy, they also supply nutrients to the developing embryos, including fats and calcium. The researchers suspect…

Technology

The FS608R Digital Camera Binoculars FHD 1080P from Gear Best is a low-end binocular with a built in camera that takes up to 2592 x 1944 (defaults to 2,048 x 1,536, and can go lower) pixel photos or avi movies (no sound). Really good binoculars cost hundreds of dollars, but there is a range of…

    One day in the future, we may be treating our ailments with microbiotic combinations designed specifically to correct imbalances in our personal microbiomes. We’ll bring our prescriptions on rewritable paper and pay using shimmery optical chips embedded in our cell phone cases or maybe our jewelry. Or we’ll be waiting in our doctor’s…

August 13th was Earth Overshoot Day. The correct date, if calculated precisely, would come earlier and earlier each year, the current choice is just an approximation. This year, the year 2015, by sometime around August 13th, humanity had consumed as much of what we require from the lands and seas as our planet can sustainabley…

Information Science

Jonathan Marks’ new book is called “Tales of the Ex-Apes: How We Think about Human Evolution.” I’ve got to tell you that when I first saw the title of this book, the letters played in my head a bit. Tails of the Ex-Apes. That would be funny because apes don’t have tails. Or Tales of…

Katie Gibbs and Alana Westwood of Evidence for Democracy wrote a terrific piece in The Toronto Star a little while ago, We need a national debate on science: A question about science policy has never been asked at a federal leaders’ debate. Now more than ever that has to change. Given the clear importance of…

The academic world and its detractors are all a-tizzy about this recent news reported here: Springer, a major science and medical publisher, recently announced the retraction of 64 articles from 10 of its journals. The articles were retracted after editors found the authors had faked the peer-review process using phony e-mail addresses. The article goes…

Jobs

It’s perhaps not surprising that single parents face a higher risk of living in poverty. However, a new study finds that such risk is much higher for single mothers than for single fathers, even when they both have similar jobs and education levels and work the same number of hours.

The fatal work-related injuries that killed Norberto Romero could have been prevented had his employer followed worker safety regulations.

Sociologist Jennifer Laird was researching unemployment among Mexican immigrants when she came upon some interesting numbers on black workers in the public sector and employment effects of the Great Recession. It piqued her interest and so she decided to keep digging.