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What we're talking about Tuesday, September 26, 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." Meanwhile, 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

  When blood sugar concentrations are elevated, humans run the risk of glucose binding to proteins in the blood and causing the irreversible formation of advanced glycation end products (AGE). Once formed, AGEs can bind to their receptor (RAGE) and stimulate inflammation and oxidative stress. This pathological signaling can be stopped by pieces of the…

Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus) are a fascinating example of divergent evolution. Over time, some of these freshwater river fish washed into caves where they continue to live. With perpetual darkness, these cavefish have lost their ability to see along with their skin pigmentation. Oxygen and food are also hard to come by in the caves.…

Wow. Every person on the planet saw one version or another of this “Octopolis” story and had to send it to me. It was the subject of a Friday Cephalopod a year ago, you know. Apparently, this is the second octopus city discovered, which is interesting — they’re exhibiting more complex social behaviors. However, I…

Physical Science

“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures.” -Gene Roddenberry The first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery are now behind us, and while I expected it to be darker and more of a continuous story than a series of self-contained…

“Day after day, day after day, We stuck, nor breath nor motion; As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean. Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.” -Samuel Taylor Coleridge Here on Earth, water can easily exist in all three phases…

I know you normally look forward to the weekend as a chance for our comments of the week, but I see that a great many of you have been commenting/posting and have been encountering problems. Specifically, the problem that the system appears to eat your comments. The time I would normally spend writing our Comments…

Environment

“I am the milkman of human kindness, I will leave an extra pint”. But not today; try Dover beach if you want me being nice. In this strange shadowy incestuous world of the blogosphere, it is hard sometimes to remember that there’s an outside world, and even otherwise well-informed and intelligent people find the banter…

It isn’t. Well, it is a little, but not totally. OK, it is, but actually, it is complicated. First, you are probably asking about the Atlantic hurricane season, not the global issue of hurricanes and typhoons and such. If you are asking world-wide, recent prior years were worse if counted by how many humans killed…

Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus) are a fascinating example of divergent evolution. Over time, some of these freshwater river fish washed into caves where they continue to live. With perpetual darkness, these cavefish have lost their ability to see along with their skin pigmentation. Oxygen and food are also hard to come by in the caves.…

Humanities

In yet another attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, much of the GOP justification boils down to one argument: that the ACA isn’t working. Never mind that we don’t really know what constitutes a “working” health care system for Republicans.

Senate Republicans are again trying to ram through an Affordable Care Act replacement that threatens the health and well-being of millions of Americans. It’s shameful. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at what people who actually work in health care are saying about the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill.

Earlier this week, members of the Senate Finance Committee announced an agreement to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The announcement had been anxiously awaited by families and advocates across the nation, as the program’s federal funding expires in about two weeks. The agreement is good news, but coverage for CHIP’s 8.9 million children isn’t safe just yet.

Education

  When blood sugar concentrations are elevated, humans run the risk of glucose binding to proteins in the blood and causing the irreversible formation of advanced glycation end products (AGE). Once formed, AGEs can bind to their receptor (RAGE) and stimulate inflammation and oxidative stress. This pathological signaling can be stopped by pieces of the…

Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus) are a fascinating example of divergent evolution. Over time, some of these freshwater river fish washed into caves where they continue to live. With perpetual darkness, these cavefish have lost their ability to see along with their skin pigmentation. Oxygen and food are also hard to come by in the caves.…

Through the course of evolution vertebrates have apparently lost their gene-encoded viral defense mechanisms. These ancient defenses allow plants and insects to silence the expression of certain genes by using what is known as RNA interference. This natural defense system can be manipulated to create genetically modified crops that resist certain infections. However, a new…

Politics

In yet another attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, much of the GOP justification boils down to one argument: that the ACA isn’t working. Never mind that we don’t really know what constitutes a “working” health care system for Republicans.

Senate Republicans could still pass this bill, and will keep trying until the clock runs out at midnight September 30th.

To understand the Trump-Russia scandal, I believe it is necessary to step way back and take the very long view. I’m not talking about going back to early 2016, or even the year before. Much farther. I’m not going to make a claim in this post as to what happened and who did what. Rather,…

Medicine

Last week, UC-Irvine announced a $200 million gift from Susan and Henry Samueli to create a new integrative medicine center. Since then, UC-Irvine has tried to scrub any evidence of homeopathy use on its website. It didn’t work. Unfortunately, thanks to the Samuelis, homeopathy and other pseudoscience are deeply embedded in UC-Irvine, which has become the new epitome of quackademic medicine.

  When blood sugar concentrations are elevated, humans run the risk of glucose binding to proteins in the blood and causing the irreversible formation of advanced glycation end products (AGE). Once formed, AGEs can bind to their receptor (RAGE) and stimulate inflammation and oxidative stress. This pathological signaling can be stopped by pieces of the…

In yet another attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, much of the GOP justification boils down to one argument: that the ACA isn’t working. Never mind that we don’t really know what constitutes a “working” health care system for Republicans.

Brain & Behavior

This is not my favorite book, because I think the subtitle should be “No, it doesn’t Steve” … but How the Mind Works is not without merit, and Steve Pinker is a great writer. Anyway, I thought you’s like to know that it is now available on Kindle for two bucks.

This is such a beautiful award-winning image of the complex vascular networks in a pigeon. The image was captured using  CT scan technology and a novel contrasting agent called BriteVu that allows visualization of even tiny capillaries. This image was captured by Scott Echols who is a member of the Grey Parrot Anatomy Project, whose…

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

Technology

Telling people that they are doing statistics wrong is a cottage industry that I usually want nothing to do with, for various reasons including the fact that the naysayers are often blindly repeating stuff they heard but do not understand. But, Alex Reinhart, in Statistics Done Wrong: The Woefully Complete Guide, does not do that,…

It has been a long time since I’ve written any machine or assembler code, and it is a rare day that I hand construct a logic circuit using transistors. But it is comforting to know that these skills and the knowledge associated with them still reside in some form or another in the world of…

Tenergy is a company that you know well even if you don’t know them. They make a lot of the replacement batteries for everything, external power supplies, other electronic items. But recently they’ve added a few items to their line of products that reach out in an entirely different direction. Tenergy Odev Tomo 2-in-1 Transformable…

Information Science

Bill Nye’s Everything All at Once: How to unleash your inner nerd, tap into radical curiosity, and solve any problem on Kindle is available for 2.99. Everyone has an inner nerd just waiting to be awakened by the right passion. In Everything All at Once, Bill Nye will help you find yours. With his call…

Some potentially interesting science related books cheap now in Kindle format: The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig We know it simply as “the pill,” yet its genesis was anything but simple. Jonathan Eig’s masterful narrative revolves around four principal characters: the fiery feminist Margaret…

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…

Jobs

Public interest continues to grow for accurate information on the working conditions faced by the 450 million workers in global supply chains. The last quarter’s reports, through September 2017, include information on workplace health and safety, discrimination and sexual harassment of women workers, and corporate non-compliance with even basic labor laws in the electronics, apparel, and food industries.

The Trump administration’s deregulatory zeal has infiltrated the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Trump’s appointee is insisting that a safety examination performed while miners are working is as protective as one performed before miners begin their work.

In the last two years, the California Legislature has provided the Department of Industrial Relations with significantly increased financial resources to enhance the effectiveness of Cal/OSHA and better protect the 19 million workers in the state. DIR has failed to take full advantage of these resources to strengthen Cal/OSHA while at the same time it has provided refunds to employers who have paid the fees that generate these unused resources. The net effect is a Cal/OSHA that is weaker and less effective than it could be if all available resources were put to work. The people who pay the cost of these resources “left on the table” are the workers of California and their families and communities.