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What we're talking about Anti-Vaxx Loses Its Edge Tuesday, March 31, 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 was very impressed by the graduate and undergraduate students who presented their research at the Scholander poster competition sponsored by the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society this afternoon. I am sure the winner of the competition will be very difficult to select. Some highlights included: Bridget Martinez, graduate student at the University of California…

A certain deep, primal part of my brain went “Squeeee!” at this video of a nautilus being fed by hand. I want one. I want a cephalopod to be my friend. But sorry, people, taking an exotic animal out of the ocean and confining it to an aquarium is not exactly the friendliest thing to…

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…

Physical Science

When you think about our world and our place in the Solar System, you very likely think about Earth, spinning on its axis, with the Moon orbiting around it, and with the entire Earth-Moon system orbiting the Sun. But did you know that all of it — the Earth spinning on its axis, the Moon revolving around…

“If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.” -Lee Trevino When it comes to lightning, you inevitably think of thunderstorms, rain, and the exchange of huge amounts of charge between the clouds above and the Earth.…

I hinted once or twice that I had news coming, and this is it: I’ve signed up to be a blog contributor at Forbes writing about, well, the sorts of things I usually write about. I’m pretty excited about the chance to connect with a new audience; the fact that they’re paying me doesn’t hurt,…

Environment

There is some interesting new research on the relationship between the Mountain Pine Beetle, major die-offs of forests in North America, and climate change. The Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) is a kind of “bark beetle” (they don’t bark, they live in bark) native to western North America. They inhabit a very wide range of…

I was very impressed by the graduate and undergraduate students who presented their research at the Scholander poster competition sponsored by the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society this afternoon. I am sure the winner of the competition will be very difficult to select. Some highlights included: Bridget Martinez, graduate student at the University of California…

To the British Museum, via the Vets Head, of which more anon. Pen on oil, various hands, circa 2014. Or, if you prefer a more stringent test of your cultural levels, try to identify the provenance of this: The main theme for today’s visit was Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art which was…

Humanities

The Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS leaves it up to lower courts to decide whether UPS discriminated against Peggy Young by not giving her light duty while she was pregnant. In the meantime, new guidance from researchers can help physicians advise pregnant patients whose jobs involve lifting.

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” -Oscar Wilde What do you like? No, I really mean it: don’t think about the things that you’re supposed to like, or the things you’ll admit to the world that you like, but really ask yourself the…

All the way back in 2001, I got started on the whole blog thing by beginning a book log. That’s long since fallen by the wayside, but every now and then, I do read stuff that I feel a need to write something about, and, hey, the tagline up at the top of the page…

Education

I was very impressed by the graduate and undergraduate students who presented their research at the Scholander poster competition sponsored by the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society this afternoon. I am sure the winner of the competition will be very difficult to select. Some highlights included: Bridget Martinez, graduate student at the University of California…

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” -Oscar Wilde What do you like? No, I really mean it: don’t think about the things that you’re supposed to like, or the things you’ll admit to the world that you like, but really ask yourself the…

Let me start off by saying something you may not know. The big corporations and the 1%ers you have learned to hate fund many of the projects you’ve learned to love. I have not checked lately, but Murdoch and FOX corporation for several years in a row funded at a 50% or 60% level virtually…

Politics

In this recent essay at The New York Times, philosopher Gary Gutting argues that the Catholic Church should reconsider its ban on gay sex and its opposition to gay marriage, for explicitly Catholic reasons. He is especially critical of “natural law” arguments against homosexuality. It’s mostly a sensible essay, I think, but it is not…

That’s the title of the talk I gave yesterday at Vanderbilt, and here are the slides: Talking Dogs and Galileian Blogs: Social Media for Communicating Science from Chad Orzel The central idea is the same as in past versions of the talk– stealing Robert Krulwich’s joke contrasting the publication styles of Newton and Galileo to…

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.

Medicine

As I write this, I’m kind of beat. The reason for this is simple. Traveling sucks the energy out of me, and I just got back from almost four days in Houston for the Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO) meeting. Yes, I was a mere dozen (at most) miles from that Heart of Darkness known…

I was very impressed by the graduate and undergraduate students who presented their research at the Scholander poster competition sponsored by the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society this afternoon. I am sure the winner of the competition will be very difficult to select. Some highlights included: Bridget Martinez, graduate student at the University of California…

In a somewhat frightening illustration of anti-vaccine trends, a new report estimates that among groups affected in the recent measles outbreak, the rates of measles-mumps-rubella immunization might have been as low as 50 percent.

Brain & Behavior

I was very impressed by the graduate and undergraduate students who presented their research at the Scholander poster competition sponsored by the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society this afternoon. I am sure the winner of the competition will be very difficult to select. Some highlights included: Bridget Martinez, graduate student at the University of California…

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…

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

In a somewhat frightening illustration of anti-vaccine trends, a new report estimates that among groups affected in the recent measles outbreak, the rates of measles-mumps-rubella immunization might have been as low as 50 percent.

Let me start off by saying something you may not know. The big corporations and the 1%ers you have learned to hate fund many of the projects you’ve learned to love. I have not checked lately, but Murdoch and FOX corporation for several years in a row funded at a 50% or 60% level virtually…

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…

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.