What we're talking about Anti-Vaxx Loses Its Edge Thursday, March 5, 2015

Anti-Vaxx Loses Its Edge

I’ve written previously about Mayim Bialik, an actress previously on the TV show “Blossom” and currently on the “The Big Bang Theory.” She has a PhD in neuroscience and is a brand ambassador for Texas Instruments. Sounds great, right? She’s also gone on the record stating that her family is “a non-vaccinating” one, and has promoted…

Sometimes, in order to understand advocates of pseudoscience, such as antivaccinationists, it’s a useful exercise to look at their most extreme elements. Admittedly, in focusing on such loons, one does take the risk of generalizing the nuts to everyone a bit much, but on the other hand I’ve often found that the extremists are basically…

Note added 2/10/2015: I’ve posted a followup in response to the skeptics who defend Bill Maher. A couple of weeks ago, I noted the return of the antivaccine wingnut side of Bill Maher, after a (relative) absence of several years, dating back, most likely, to the thorough spanking he endured for spouting off his antivaccine…

It's getting harder and harder to hate vaccines in America. The trend will only continue as diseases like measles re-emerge because of parents' paranoia. Much of the anti-vaccine sentiment of the last twenty years resulted directly from scientific fraud—and most anti-vaccine propaganda employs scientific terminology to sound credible. But more people are waking up to the fact that vaccines simply do not cause autism or other mental 'disorders,' and public figures are shifting their stance accordingly. Some Republicans are embracing the right to deny vaccines to a child based solely on parental sovereignty. Celebrity Bill Maher says he is really only against the flu vaccine despite arguing for the basic infallibility of an 'all-natural' lifestyle. Recently, actress Mayim Bialik said on facebook "i am not anti-vaccine. my children are vaccinated" despite her reputation for anti-vaccine views. Watch as public opinion takes note: anti-vaxxers make indefensible decisions based on implausible explanations, endangering their children and other community members in the process.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

We had a blizzard this week. It’s bitterly cold right now. I was trying hard to think of good reasons to have left the Pacific Northwest, and this is about the only thing I came up with: Devil’s Club.

  New research from the University of Lincoln, UK suggests that cats may prefer to find food using their eyes as opposed to their nose. The preference for vision vs. smell was tested in 6 cats placed in a maze that required cats to make decisions about which way to go based on either images or smells.…

Now you can learn everything you need to know about octopus sex. It’s a bit tangly: But just in case you got lost in all the tentacles, here’s a diagram to help you out. By the way, in case you’ve ever wondered where an octopus keeps its nads, they’re maybe not where you expected. There…

Physical Science

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.” -Boris Pasternak When it comes to theoretical physics, you might realize the entire point is to set up a framework to predict what phenomena are going to occur in the Universe. So if you rewind the clock back to very early times, set up the…

“Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.” -St. Augustine When you look up at the sky, all the twinkling lights — the stars — appear to be fixed. But littered…

A few years back, I became aware of Mike Brotherton’s Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, and said “somebody should do this for quantum physics.” At the time, I wasn’t in a position to do that, but in the interim, the APS Outreach program launched the Public Outreach and Informing the Public Grant program, providing smallish grants…

Environment

…says carbonbrief. In turn, I think that’s based on IPCC PRESS RELEASE / 27 February 2015 / IPCC takes decisions on future work. The very second bullet point of that is: Request the Secretariat and Technical Support Units to command a respectful workplace, emphasizing policies and practices that promote diversity, fairness, collaboration and inclusiveness. Mmmm……

Raúl Grijalva Investigates Raúl Grijalva is the US representative from Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, a Democrat, and a supporter of environmental initiatives. As the ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, he recently sent letters to seven universities requesting documents related to the background of climate change research, as a response to recent revelations in…

ZOMG: I can’t see anything ever beating that. Source: Indy.

Humanities

Stanford medical student Nathan Lo reportedly caused a stir at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) last week when he presented a new finding: After analyzing surveys completed by 800,000 people in 22 sub-Saharan African countries, Lo and his colleagues found “no evidence to suggest that PEPFAR funding of abstinence and faithfulness programs results in reduced high-risk sexual behavior.”

I’ve headed my own research excavations since 1996. Now I’m preparing for four weeks of fieldwork during the upcoming season. I operate as an independent scholar in this context, and none of my excavations have been prompted by land development. Here’s what I need to get hold of before I can break the turf or…

As previously mentioned, SteelyKid has started to get into pop music. In addition to the songs in that post, she’s very fond of Katy Perry’s “Roar,” like every other pre-teen girl in the country, and also this Taylor Swift song: I’ve seen a bunch of people rave about this, but honestly, I found it pretty…

Education

Why can’t we inspire kids to become just as excited about science and engineering as most are about sports and entertainment celebrities? Get ready as MedImmune, the global biopharmaceutical leader which wowed audiences as a major sponsor of the Festival’s X-STEM Symposium last year, returns for Festival 2015 this spring to help answer this key…

As previously mentioned, SteelyKid has started to get into pop music. In addition to the songs in that post, she’s very fond of Katy Perry’s “Roar,” like every other pre-teen girl in the country, and also this Taylor Swift song: I’ve seen a bunch of people rave about this, but honestly, I found it pretty…

A few years back, I became aware of Mike Brotherton’s Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, and said “somebody should do this for quantum physics.” At the time, I wasn’t in a position to do that, but in the interim, the APS Outreach program launched the Public Outreach and Informing the Public Grant program, providing smallish grants…

Politics

Testifying before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, OIRA chief Howard Shelanski was criticized from both sides of the aisle for his office’s lack of transparency in handling reviews of agencies’ regulatory actions.

Raúl Grijalva Investigates Raúl Grijalva is the US representative from Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, a Democrat, and a supporter of environmental initiatives. As the ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, he recently sent letters to seven universities requesting documents related to the background of climate change research, as a response to recent revelations in…

The public health literature is pretty clear when it comes to income status and poverty and their profound effects on health, disability, disease and life expectancy. But what about income inequality? Does a rising gap in wealth and resource distribution affect people’s health too?

Medicine

I hadn’t planned on discussing the death of Jess Ainscough again, figuring two posts in a row were enough for now, barring new information. Besides, I was getting a little tired of the seemingly unending stream of her fans castigating me for being “insensitive” and saying it was “too soon” to discuss her death and…

The last couple of days have been unrelentingly serious and depressing, with posts on the (probably) preventable death of a young Australian woman named Jess Ainscough of a rare cancer because she made the mistake of choosing the quackery that is the Gerson protocol rather than conventional medicine. Unfortunately, the “natural health community” will almost…

It’s been a rather…interesting…weekend. Friday, I noted the death of Jess Ainscough, a.k.a. “The Wellness Warrior,” a young Australian woman who was unfortunate enough to develop epithelioid sarcoma, a rare cancer, at the age of 22. I’ve been blogging about her because after her doctors tried isolated limb perfusion with chemotherapy in an attempt to…

Brain & Behavior

Today’s guest blogger is Idan Frumin, a student in the group of Prof. Noam Sobel in the Neurobiology Department.  Their research on the transmission of odor compounds while shaking hands appears today in eLife. It all started one day after lunch, sometime back in 2011. We sat in the lab’s living room (Yeah, we have…

  New research from the University of Lincoln, UK suggests that cats may prefer to find food using their eyes as opposed to their nose. The preference for vision vs. smell was tested in 6 cats placed in a maze that required cats to make decisions about which way to go based on either images or smells.…

I really never thought of spiders as being “pretty” until I came across these two new species of peacock spiders discovered in southeast Queensland, Australia by Madeline Girard (graduate student from the University of California, Berkeley, who is specializing in peacock spiders). Peacock spiders are not only beautiful, they also engage in elaborate dances during…

Technology

Ubuntu Linux 15.04 will be released in April. There is not a lot new for the average desktop user in the new release, as far as I can tell. One good “change” is a feature called “locally integrated menus.” This is where the menus are, by default, where they are supposed to be, instead of,…

With a skull and Keats, there was little choice but to write about the new online items in rhyme. So with apologies to Shakespeare, Keats and the scientists, as well as the people at SpaceIL, here are today’s grab bag of poems. As usual, follow the links.       On a Lone Cranium Alas…

  Researchers in China have discovered that collagen isolated from the skin of tilapia effectively reduce wound healing time in mice. The usefulness of collagen, a major structural protein found in connective tussues, in wound healing has been known. Using fish proteins instead of typical mammalian sources reduces the risk for potential pathogens. Dr. Jiao…

Information Science

Finally, the Canadian government’s Tri-Agency funding councils (SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR) have released the consolidated final version of it’s open access policy. The draft version came out some time ago. The consultation process garnered quite a few responses, which the Tri-Agencies were kind enough to summarize for us. And finally it is here. I have to…

“Please Don’t Paint Our Planet Pink!: A Story for Children and their Adults” is a new children’s book by Gregg Kleiner about global warming. The idea is simple. Imagine if you could see CO2? In the book, it is imagined to be pink. The imagining takes the form of a quirky father, one imagines him…

MSHA continues to develop new ways for the public to access its enforcement data, while parts of OSHA’s website have been “temporarily unavailable” since early this year.

Jobs

The public health literature is pretty clear when it comes to income status and poverty and their profound effects on health, disability, disease and life expectancy. But what about income inequality? Does a rising gap in wealth and resource distribution affect people’s health too?

An historical collection of workplace safety posters from European agencies and advocates cover themes that are still relevant today.

This week’s snapshot of just one work-related fatality in the US. This one occurred on February 20, 2015 in Madison, WI.