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What we're talking about Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Donald Trump: No Saving Grace?

The data gap problem

Class M September 15, 2017

“The monitoring of the atmosphere, of the surface of the Earth, of what’s going on in the ocean and under the ice — all of that is overwhelmingly funded by the federal government.” — Former Obama science adviser John Holdren The other day a friend of mine who works in Beijing as a foreign correspondent…

The last one of these was in mid-June, so we’re picking up all the summer stories of scientific mayhem in the Trump era. The last couple of months have seemed especially apocalyptic, with Nazis marching in the streets and nuclear war suddenly not so distant a possibility. But along with those macro-level issues, Trump and…

Apparently, Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions? was so popular that it gets a retread. Despite the original being published in 20133, we’re now being told that Researchers have for the first time tied a group of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil, and their products to specific increases…

Donald Trump's distaste for science comes as little surprise considering that even his political rhetoric swings back and forth between contradictory positions. Trump is a man who eschews solid ground, flitting instead like a very bald eagle from one opinion to the next. As federal dollars continue to be drained from scientific endeavors, he puts the future of our knowledge at risk. On Class M, James Hrynyshyn considers NASA's Earth-observation satellites (known as Grace) which are decaying in their orbits bit by bit and will soon burn up in the atmosphere. James writes that "replacements are getting ready, but they won’t be launched until sometime next year." This could create a data gap that amounts to a blind spot in our attempts to understand global warming.

Meanwhile, John Dupuis updates his index of Trump's war on science, writing "as exhausting as it seems—and this is part of the plan—amongst all of us opposed to Trump, we need to keep track of a wide range of issues." And on Stoat, William M. Connolley pushes back at the vilification of Big Oil, saying "customers emit CO2, not producers. Don’t blame the people that sold you a thing for your using it. Hopefully that’s bleedin’ obvious."

Channel Surfing

Life Science

The #3 post so far this year explored how zebra finches reward themselves for singing well: Dopamine is an important hormone released from neurons involved in reward pathways. Researchers at Cornell University wanted to know if dopamine signaling was involved in how birds learn songs. Their findings, recently published in Science, present evidence that neurons…

Here is the 4th most popular post so far this year: Picture of a komodo dragon by CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons Researchers studying komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) at George Mason University discovered 48 previously unknown peptides in their blood that might have antimicrobial properties. Their findings were published in the Journal of Proteome Research. For the largest…

In looking back over the history of the blog, I thought it would be fun to take another glimpse at the top 5 most popular posts in 2017 thus far… Image of lavender from GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=322384 While lavender aromatherapy has been documented to reduce stress in humans, little is known about its potential for…

Physical Science

“To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.” -Federico García Lorca In an episode filled with Vulcan mindmelds, Klingon treachery, a spectacular nebula, themes of racial purity, and PTSD, you’d think all the ingredients were there for a spectacular episode of Star Trek: Discovery. Instead,…

“You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it. That is all.” -Cassandra Clare Well, the cat’s out of the bag. A little over a week ago, Scienceblogs announced to us writers that they no longer had the funds to keep the site operational, and so they would be shutting down. They asked us to…

“Normal science, the activity in which most scientists inevitably spend almost all their time, is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like.” -Thomas S. Kuhn For all of human history, the biggest questions have fascinated us. Where did the Universe come from? How old is it? And what…

Environment

The #3 post so far this year explored how zebra finches reward themselves for singing well: Dopamine is an important hormone released from neurons involved in reward pathways. Researchers at Cornell University wanted to know if dopamine signaling was involved in how birds learn songs. Their findings, recently published in Science, present evidence that neurons…

News headlines about 9 million deaths in 2015 due to pollution were eye catching. The Lancet Commission’s Report on Pollution and Health goes much deeper than point estimates. The authors argue that governments, foundations, and medical societies pay too little attention to the local and global consequences of pollution.

Here is the 4th most popular post so far this year: Picture of a komodo dragon by CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons Researchers studying komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) at George Mason University discovered 48 previously unknown peptides in their blood that might have antimicrobial properties. Their findings were published in the Journal of Proteome Research. For the largest…

Humanities

In more encouraging public health news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that vaccination rates among kindergarteners have remained stable, with the median vaccine exemption rate at 2 percent. Some states even reported an increase in immunization rates.

Reporters investigate a court-ordered rehab center that funnels unpaid labor to a poultry processor; Ben & Jerry’s commits to improving conditions for workers on dairy farms; Massachusetts is one step closer to providing all public-sector workers with OSHA protections; and the Trump administration rolls back protections for transgender workers.

Guns are the third leading cause of injury-related death in the country. Every year, nearly 12,000 gun homicides happen in the U.S., and for every person killed, two more are injured. Whether Congress will do anything about this violence is a whole other (depressing) article. But there is evidence that change is possible.

Education

The #3 post so far this year explored how zebra finches reward themselves for singing well: Dopamine is an important hormone released from neurons involved in reward pathways. Researchers at Cornell University wanted to know if dopamine signaling was involved in how birds learn songs. Their findings, recently published in Science, present evidence that neurons…

Here is the 4th most popular post so far this year: Picture of a komodo dragon by CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons Researchers studying komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) at George Mason University discovered 48 previously unknown peptides in their blood that might have antimicrobial properties. Their findings were published in the Journal of Proteome Research. For the largest…

In looking back over the history of the blog, I thought it would be fun to take another glimpse at the top 5 most popular posts in 2017 thus far… Image of lavender from GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=322384 While lavender aromatherapy has been documented to reduce stress in humans, little is known about its potential for…

Politics

Well, scienceblogs is shutting down at the end of the month. I don’t want all the old posts and comments to disappear, so I’m going to move them all to deltoidblog.blogspot.com.

In more encouraging public health news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that vaccination rates among kindergarteners have remained stable, with the median vaccine exemption rate at 2 percent. Some states even reported an increase in immunization rates.

“Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.” -Augustine of Hippo Science isn’t the easiest endeavor you can undertake. Sure, the rewards are tremendous: you can wind up understanding any phenomenon in the Universe as well (or better) than any human has ever understood…

Medicine

The migration of Respectful Insolence to a new host and domain continues apace. Here’s the latest news on when you can expect RI to be up and running again.

News headlines about 9 million deaths in 2015 due to pollution were eye catching. The Lancet Commission’s Report on Pollution and Health goes much deeper than point estimates. The authors argue that governments, foundations, and medical societies pay too little attention to the local and global consequences of pollution.

Here is the 4th most popular post so far this year: Picture of a komodo dragon by CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons Researchers studying komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) at George Mason University discovered 48 previously unknown peptides in their blood that might have antimicrobial properties. Their findings were published in the Journal of Proteome Research. For the largest…

Brain & Behavior

The #3 post so far this year explored how zebra finches reward themselves for singing well: Dopamine is an important hormone released from neurons involved in reward pathways. Researchers at Cornell University wanted to know if dopamine signaling was involved in how birds learn songs. Their findings, recently published in Science, present evidence that neurons…

In looking back over the history of the blog, I thought it would be fun to take another glimpse at the top 5 most popular posts in 2017 thus far… Image of lavender from GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=322384 While lavender aromatherapy has been documented to reduce stress in humans, little is known about its potential for…

A new study conducted by Drs. Sara Letzner and Onur Gunturkun (Ruhr-Universitat at Bochum) as well as Dr. Christian Beste (Technische Univeritat at Dresden) shows that pigeons are better than humans when it comes to multitasking. Their findings were published in Current Biology. The findings from the study show that the mammalian cerebral cortex, with all…

Technology

As several others have already noted, after almost 12 years, Scienceblogs is shutting down at month’s end. Though I’ve done most of my writing elsewhere over the last few years, I’d certainly like to keep the archives of this blog up somewhere, and maintain it as a place to post random musings that don’t fit…

@synbiobeta concluded it’s #sbbsf17 annual meeting on synthetic biology Oct 5, 2017. The progress companies are making in harnessing biology as a platform for manufacturing and problem solving is world changing. What is Synthetic Biology? Synthetic biology is a term that is used to describe the convergence of biotechnology and engineering. The dramatic cost decreases…

In every area of life, but especially in the overlapping realms of technology, science, and health, misunderstanding how things work can be widespread, and that misunderstanding can lead to problems. In the area of voting, the main problem seems to be the expenditure of great amounts of outrage and concern over things that are not…

Information Science

This post is now located in the Upside Down World, WHICH IS HERE.

In Tooth and Claw, Season 2 Episode 2 of Doctor Who 2.0, we see the formation of The Torchwood Institute and the banishing of The Doctor (and Rose) from the United Kingdom. Fat lot that does. Anyway, we also see Queen Victoria make mention of the multiple attempts at her assassination. I suppose it is…

Deja vu all over again. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. Canadian science under the Harper government from 2006 to 2015 was a horrific era of cuts and closures and muzzling and a whole lot of other attack on science. One of the most egregious was the threat to…

Jobs

As several others have already noted, after almost 12 years, Scienceblogs is shutting down at month’s end. Though I’ve done most of my writing elsewhere over the last few years, I’d certainly like to keep the archives of this blog up somewhere, and maintain it as a place to post random musings that don’t fit…

Appeals Court judges Merrick Garland and David Tatel probed and cajoled a courtroom filled with attorneys who were either challenging or defending OSHA’s 2016 silica standard. I share some of my favorite quotes from the September 26 proceeding.

The Supreme Court is not interested in hearing former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s claim that he didn’t get a fair trial.