What we're talking about Anti-Vaxx Loses Its Edge Friday, March 27, 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 some parents' paranoia. Much of the anti-vaccine sentiment of the last twenty years resulted directly from scientific fraud—and most anti-vaccine propaganda likewise 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 altering their stances accordingly. Some Republicans are embracing the right to withhold vaccines from a child based solely on the principle of parental sovereignty. Meanwhile celebrity Bill Maher says he is really only against the flu vaccine despite arguing for the basic infallibility of an 'all-natural' lifestyle. Actress Mayim Bialik said on facebook "I am not anti-vaccine. my children are vaccinated" despite her reputation for anti-vaccine attitudes. Watch as public opinion continues to shift: anti-vaxxers make indefensible decisions based on implausible explanations, endangering their children and other community members in the process.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

I am so excited about the Experimental Biology conference this year in Boston, MA! I have packed my bags, prepared my posters and am on my way to the airport. As usual there will be several seminars and poster sessions about various comparative physiology topics sponsored by the American Physiological Society that look really exciting. Can’t wait! To…

Dan Graur has snarled at the authors of a paper defending ENCODE. How could I then resist? I read the offending paper, and I have to say something that will weaken my own reputation as a snarling attack dog myself: it does make a few good points. But it’s mostly using some valid criticisms to…

Over on Telliamed Revisited, Richard Lenski is talking about his favorite examples of evolution, and mentioned this figure from a paper on hybrid monkeyflowers. Cross-species breeding produces interesting results!

Physical Science

“On a cosmic scale, our life is insignificant, yet this brief period when we appear in the world is the time in which all meaningful questions arise.” -Paul Ricoeur What you see is what you get, except when it isn’t. We’re all familiar with Hubble’s law, or the notion that the Universe is expanding, and…

“But less intelligible still was the flood that was caused by forty days’ rain, and forty nights’. For here on the moors there were some years when it rained for two hundred days and two hundred nights, almost without fairing; but there was never any Flood.” -Halldór Laxness Once every 18 years, a French Abbey…

I mentioned last week that I’m giving a talk at Vanderbilt tomorrow, but as they went to the trouble of writing a press release, the least I can do is share it: It’s clear that this year’s Forman lecturer at Vanderbilt University, Chad Orzel, will talk about physics to almost anyone. After all, two of…

Environment

Antarctica is pretty much covered with glaciers. Glaciers are dynamic entities that, unless they are in full melt, tend to grow near their thickest parts (that’s why those are the thickest parts) and mush outwards towards the edges, where the liminal areas either melt (usually seasonally) in situ or drop off into the sea. Antarctic’s…

The trial of former coal company CEO Don Blankenship—the man largely responsible for the Upper Big Branch disaster—is scheduled to begin on April 20. I’m ready to let the Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. provide the best play-by-play.

There is a letter signed by top scientists demanding that science museums cut all their ties to Big Fossil, and where appropriate, kick the Koch Brothers off their boards. The letter says, in part, As members of the scientific community we devote our lives to understanding the world, and sharing this understanding with the public.…

Humanities

Dear Reader, it is with great pleasure that I announce the PDF publication of my fifth monograph,* In the Landscape and Between Worlds. The paper version will appear in April or May. Here’s the back-cover blurb. Bronze Age settlements and burials in the Swedish provinces around Lakes Mälaren and Hjälmaren yield few bronze objects and…

Reporters investigate the state of safety at oil refineries following the 2005 Texas City explosion; fast food workers file OSHA complaints; farm workers go on strike in Baja California; and San Francisco officials vote in support of fair working conditions for shuttle bus workers.

Ken & Robin have an interesting discussion in the most recent episode of their podcast, on childhood fears. Specifically, they talk about childhood responses to horror stories and movies. I was inspired to write about my own childhood horrors. Luckily there were no actual horrors in my childhood. Nobody around me was violent or insane…

Education

I mentioned last week that I’m giving a talk at Vanderbilt tomorrow, but as they went to the trouble of writing a press release, the least I can do is share it: It’s clear that this year’s Forman lecturer at Vanderbilt University, Chad Orzel, will talk about physics to almost anyone. After all, two of…

Yesterday’s post about VPython simulation of the famous bicycle wheel demo showed that you can get the precession and nutation from a simulation that only includes forces. But this is still kind of mysterious, from the standpoint of basic physics intuition. Specifically, it’s sort of hard to see how any of this produces a force…

The third of the great physics principles introduced in our introductory mechanics courses is the conservation of angular momentum, or the Angular Momentum Principle in the language of the Matter and Interactions curriculum we use. This tends to be one of the hardest topics to introduce, in no small part because it’s the last thing…

Politics

Reporters investigate the state of safety at oil refineries following the 2005 Texas City explosion; fast food workers file OSHA complaints; farm workers go on strike in Baja California; and San Francisco officials vote in support of fair working conditions for shuttle bus workers.

I mentioned last week that I’m giving a talk at Vanderbilt tomorrow, but as they went to the trouble of writing a press release, the least I can do is share it: It’s clear that this year’s Forman lecturer at Vanderbilt University, Chad Orzel, will talk about physics to almost anyone. After all, two of…

There is a letter signed by top scientists demanding that science museums cut all their ties to Big Fossil, and where appropriate, kick the Koch Brothers off their boards. The letter says, in part, As members of the scientific community we devote our lives to understanding the world, and sharing this understanding with the public.…

Medicine

I happen to be in Houston right now attending the Society of Surgical Oncology annual meeting. Sadly, I’m only about 12 miles away from the lair of everybody’s favorite faux clinical researcher and purveyor of a cancer cure that isn’t, Stanislaw Burzynski. Such is life. In any case, this conference is all about cancer and…

It’s been a while since I discussed medical marijuana, even though it’s a topic I’ve been meaning to come back to since I first dubbed medical marijuana to be the equivalent of herbalism and discussed how the potential of cannabinoids to treat cancer has been, thus far, unimpressive, with relatively modest antitumor effects. The reason…

Two things have reminded me that it’s been a while since I’ve written about Stanislaw Burzynski, nearly five months, to be precise. First, on Wednesday evening I’ll be heading to the city where Burzynski preys on unsuspecting cancer patients, Houston, TX, to attend this year’s Society of Surgical Oncology meeting to imbibe the latest research…

Brain & Behavior

Workplace suicides took a sharp upward turn in 2008, with workers in the protective services, such as police officers and firefighters, at greatest risk, a new study finds. Researchers say the findings point to the workplace as a prime location for reaching those at risk with potentially life-saving information and help.

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.…

Technology

I mentioned last week that I’m giving a talk at Vanderbilt tomorrow, but as they went to the trouble of writing a press release, the least I can do is share it: It’s clear that this year’s Forman lecturer at Vanderbilt University, Chad Orzel, will talk about physics to almost anyone. After all, two of…

While I was reading Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age, I was reminded of a quote of his that I blogged about a few years ago: The people in Makers experience a world in which technology giveth and taketh away. They live through the fallacy of the record…

A new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface from a team of researchers (University of the Sunshine Coast, James Cook University, University of Queensland, Australia, and the University of Oxford) described how geckos living in humid areas manage to stay dry. The researchers used a scanning electron microscope to take a…

Information Science

Here’s a bunch of graphic novels I’ve read in the last while that are well worth your time reading and acquiring for your library! Abadzis, Nick. Laika. New York: First Second, 2007. 208pp. ISBN-13: 978-1596431010 Laika by Nick Abadzis in a fantastic graphic novel recounting the life of the first dog in space, the Russian…

While I was reading Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age, I was reminded of a quote of his that I blogged about a few years ago: The people in Makers experience a world in which technology giveth and taketh away. They live through the fallacy of the record…

Love in in the time of austerity: Library advocacy in tough times Never trust a corporation to do a library’s job Google’s slow fade with librarians The Library is Not for Studying Libraries don’t need more advocacy, they need better advocacy Check this out: Halifax councillor proposes finding a new name for libraries MLS Required…

Jobs

Reporters investigate the state of safety at oil refineries following the 2005 Texas City explosion; fast food workers file OSHA complaints; farm workers go on strike in Baja California; and San Francisco officials vote in support of fair working conditions for shuttle bus workers.

This week’s snapshot of just one work-related fatality in the US. This one occurred on March 11, 2015 in Jal, NM

The fatal work-related injuries that killed Jose Alfredo Isagirrez-Mejia could have been prevented had his employer followed worker safety regulations.