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What we're talking about Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Honoring Elizabeth Grossman

The Pump Handle mourns the death of Lizzie Grossman. She was a contributor to The Pump Handle for more than six years. Lizzie’s first dozen blog posts featured her reporting about the Deepwater Horizon clean-up.

That people who work nights have their sleep cycles thrown out of balance has serious consequences but urging a potentially habit-forming, psychoactive drug on an economically stressed, overworked workforce, would seem to be a symptom, at the minimum, of a pharmaceutical industry gone awry. Shouldn’t we instead be figuring out how to reduce the occupational health risks of work schedules?

As Americans prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday and the White House gets ready for President Obama to pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey in a Rose Garden ceremony on Wednesday November 27 that will “reflect upon the time-honored traditions of Thanksgiving,” let us take a moment to reflect upon the welfare of the men and women…

On October 17, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that it has classified air pollution as a human carcinogen. Although the composition of air pollution and exposure levels vary widely from place to place, IARC says its assessment is applicable worldwide and notes that exposures in rapidly industrializing countries…

We were very sad to learn that ScienceBlogs contributor Elizabeth Grossman died earlier this month from ovarian cancer. Elizabeth was dedicated to exposing dangers faced by workers and the general public, writing articles that confronted hazards often propagated by corporate interests. On The Pump Handle, Celeste Monforton explains that "Lizzie" Grossman specialized in environmental health topics, including more than a dozen posts resulting from her investigation into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Lizzie was also the author of multiple books. Here is a sampling of some of her other work: criticizing a "wakefulness" drug marketed to exhausted shift workers by Teva Pharmaceuticals, shining a light on poultry workers who "handle about 30 or more turkeys a minute during shifts that run eight to nine hours," and reporting on the World Health Organization's classification of air pollution as a human carcinogen. Lizzie, we thank you for your tireless championship of public health and hope that you rest in peace.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

I’ve mentioned at various times in the past The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance by Laurie Garrett. This is not a new book, but it is an excellent scholarly and accessible accounting of the situation with respect to emerging diseases at the time of its publication in 1995. One…

If you’ve ever wondered what squid ink is made of, here’s your answer: Generally, cephalopod ink includes melanin, enzymes related to melanin production, catecholamines, peptidoglycans, free amino acids and metals. But mostly melanin. And mucus.

Image of an obese cat by Jami430 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons   A new study conducted by the Banfield Pet Hospital (Vancouver, Washington) reports that as many as 1 in 3 dogs and cats living in the United States are overweight. The study was based on data collected by Banfield veterinary…

Physical Science

“A candidate is not going to suddenly change once they get into office. Just the opposite, in fact. Because the minute that individual takes that oath, they are under the hottest, harshest light there is. And there is no way to hide who they really are.” -Michelle Obama The most massive stars in the Universe…

“Maybe that is our mistake: maybe there are no particle positions and velocities, but only waves. It is just that we try to fit the waves to our preconceived ideas of positions and velocities. The resulting mismatch is the cause of the apparent unpredictability.” -Stephen Hawking So, you’ve got a black hole in the Universe,…

“We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.” -R. D. Laing This coming Monday, tens of millions of people will gather to watch the total solar eclipse that will go coast-to-coast across the continental United States. Total…

Environment

Over the years, the field guide and the coffee table book have merged, and we now have coffee table-ish books (but serious books) that include a species description of every critter in a certain clade. In the case of Horses of the World by Élise Rousseau (Author), Yann Le Bris (Illustrator), Teresa Lavender Fagan (Translator),…

Three lawsuits by different public health and environmental groups are challenging EPA’s new regulations on prioritizing and evaluating toxic chemicals. The regulations stem from amendments made by Congress last year to the 40 year old Toxic Substances Control Act. The groups argue that EPA is ignoring congressional intent.

General John F. Kelly is retired from the US Marine Corps, where he commanded the Southern Command. He replaced political operative Reince Priebus as President Trump’s Chief of Staff. The White House Chief of Staff is the highest ranking staff member in the White House, and was formalized as such in 1961. This is not…

Humanities

Minnesotans rarely miss an opportunity to link their fair state with a national or world event. Such as, “Minnesota mom among missing in South American air crash” and that sort of thing. Therefore, I found it interesting that Minnesotans have missed their intimate connection to events pertaining to monuments and their removal, in the broader…

Three lawsuits by different public health and environmental groups are challenging EPA’s new regulations on prioritizing and evaluating toxic chemicals. The regulations stem from amendments made by Congress last year to the 40 year old Toxic Substances Control Act. The groups argue that EPA is ignoring congressional intent.

The 75th World Science Fiction Convention took place in Helsinki and seems to have had the second-highest attendance ever: more than 7000 people in the Messukeskus convention centre, 2000 of whom had (like myself) never attended a WorldCon before. There were 250 programme items only on the Friday between 10 am and 10 pm, so there is…

Education

A simple web search says biotech is really big. One estimate indicates that the industry will have $400 billion in sales in 2017 with growth to over $775 billion by 2024 [1]. Another report suggests there are over 77,000 employers [2]. That’s big, but is it real, and what you can do with this information?…

Another month, another collection of blog posts for Forbes: — The Physics Of Century-Old Mirror Selfies: Back in the early 1900’s there was a brief vogue for trick pictures showing the same person from five different angles; this post explains how to do that with mirrors. — Why Research By Undergraduates Is Important For Science…

Wow. This is a very interesting bit of history on how the CIA tried to use cats as spies. But as any cat owner knows, cats do not always do what you want them to do when you want them to do it. Source: YouTube

Politics

Three lawsuits by different public health and environmental groups are challenging EPA’s new regulations on prioritizing and evaluating toxic chemicals. The regulations stem from amendments made by Congress last year to the 40 year old Toxic Substances Control Act. The groups argue that EPA is ignoring congressional intent.

It wasn’t much of a corner, he was already pretty much there, but yesterday, Donald J. Trump, pretender to the Presidency of the United States, threw in his lot with the “good people” of the fascist, white-supremacist, KKK-loving movement. There is a lot of commentary out there about this. None of it surprises me, I…

Not the same. Muslims must take the blame for all things done by anyone linked to an extreme Islamic group or ideology. Christians have nothing to do with anything, they were just standing there minding their own beeswax. The video below was fixed by Media Matters for America thusly: In a notably hypocritical segment on…

Medicine

By definition, alternative medicine has not been shown to be effective or has been shown to be ineffective. Thus, alternative medicine is ineffective against cancer and can best be represented as either no treatment at all or potentially harmful treatment. It is thus not surprising that cancer patients who choose alternative medicine have a higher risk of dying from their cancer. A new study confirms this conclusion yet again.

I’ve mentioned at various times in the past The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance by Laurie Garrett. This is not a new book, but it is an excellent scholarly and accessible accounting of the situation with respect to emerging diseases at the time of its publication in 1995. One…

California’s new law that eliminates personal belief exemptions has been a success, increasing vaccine uptake after just one year. That isn’t to say that there aren’t problems. One potential problem is the increasing number of medical exemptions, likely fueled by doctors willing to write letters of support for them based on reasons that are not science-based.

Brain & Behavior

Wow. This is a very interesting bit of history on how the CIA tried to use cats as spies. But as any cat owner knows, cats do not always do what you want them to do when you want them to do it. Source: YouTube

Public trust in science is a fickle creature. Surveys show a clear majority of Americans believe science has positively impacted society, and they’re more likely to trust scientists on issues like climate change and vaccines. On the other hand, surveys also find that factors like politics, religion, age and race can greatly impact the degree of that trust. It presents a delicate challenge for agencies that depend on trust in science to do their jobs.

I came across this amazing video on YouTube showing a species of octopus found in Northern Australia that is adapted to walk on land:

Technology

Almost every resource on the Internet on building your own computer is oriented towards building a gaming computer. The second most common discussion is how to build a “budget PC.” When I sought out the latest information on building a computer a few weeks ago, I did not like either of these two options. A…

Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii), aka “slime eels”, are primitive fish that occupy burrows on the ocean floor. Like earthworms, they have 5 hearts. They have no true eyes, no jaws, nor do they have a stomach. They locate their meals through great senses of smell and touch. In addition to small invertebrates, they are known…

I did some research on mice, and I thought I’d pass it on. First, though, let me suggest that you get some of this stuff. Use it to paint a symbol on each of your wireless mice that matches a symbol on each of your mice dongles. It will help keep you sane. You’ll still…

Information Science

After a bit of an unexpected summer hiatus, I’m back to regular blogging, at least as regular as it’s been the last year or two. Of course, I’m a committed Game of Thrones fan. I read the first book in paperback soon after it was reprinted, some twenty years ago. And I’ve also been a…

At the moment, all these are anywhere from free to two bucks. The Darwin books are always cheap, the others are probably temporarily cheap. If you’ve not read The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, you should. It is always avaialable for next to nothing on the kindle, currently this version is 99 cents. Concerning his autobiography–written…

I’m avoiding books that are recent so you can get a deal on price, and to bring books from the past that you didn’t read but should have back into focus. Each of these, I’ve either read (most of them) or have a recommendation from top notch sources. You should be able to finish then…

Jobs

A simple web search says biotech is really big. One estimate indicates that the industry will have $400 billion in sales in 2017 with growth to over $775 billion by 2024 [1]. Another report suggests there are over 77,000 employers [2]. That’s big, but is it real, and what you can do with this information?…

Age bias a challenge to prove in the workplace; coal miner deaths up over last year; workers protest after the death of a California farmworker; and the United Auto Workers looks forward after union defeat at Nissan plant in Mississippi.

The feds grant billions in contracts to shipbuilders with serious worker safety lapses; Texas lawmakers want to undo an Austin initiative that protects construction workers; Chevron agrees to highest fine in Cal/OSHA history after refinery fire; and Democrats hope to ban a dangerous pesticide after EPA fails to act.