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Zeroing in on Zika and Microcephaly

On The Pump Handle, Liz Borkowski reports on a “public health nightmare” in Brazil that threatens to become more common around the world. The culprit is a virus called Zika, known to cause mild infections since 1947 but now “linked to nearly 4,000 cases of microcephaly – infants born with abnormally small brains and heads.”…

Bidding Antibiotics Adieu

On The Pump Handle, Liz Borkowski reports another crack in one of the pillars of modern life—antibiotics. New research in China shows that a family of bacteria called Enterobacteriaceae (which includes E. coli and Salmonella) have acquired a gene that provides resistance to a last-resort antibiotic known as Colistin. These species of bacteria do not…

I won’t argue with anyone who liked the new Star Wars movie; I liked it too. But it also infuriated me in a way that no film has since J.J. Abrams took over the direction of another beloved SF franchise—Star Trek. The Force Awakens turns out to be a movie with no soul and little intelligence that fails to…

Healthcare Habits Die Hard

As the U.S. seeks to drive down medical spending, one goal is to eliminate tests and treatments that are ineffective while encouraging price competition among things that work. Passing the buck on to the consumer isn’t enough; on The Pump Handle, Liz Borkowski reports that giving patients an incentive to save money on health care…

Et tu, Exxon?

New reporting by Inside Climate News shows that petroleum giant Exxon knew, more than thirty years ago, that burning too much fossil fuel would cause catastrophic climate change. Comparing Exxon’s subsequent emphasis on profits over planetary health to the efforts of Big Tobacco hiding the dangers of cigarettes, PZ Myers writes “the future is going…

…And the Eagle Flies with the Dove

You can almost hear the sound of PZ Myers’ palm hitting his face as “a couple of vegetarian philosophers with no knowledge of biology” urge humanity to end predation worldwide—so that no more zebras have to suffer at the fangs of a lion, and no more mice at the talons of an owl. Their plea…

One Big (Happy) Family

Raising ten children—some biological, others adopted or in foster care—is far from a burden for Sharon Astyk. On the contrary, she says it mandates an artfulness to living, allowing her and her husband to help create something new and greater from the sum of many parts. Sharon writes that the result is “more fascinating, more…

Pluto, King of the Underworlds

New measurements from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft revealed that Pluto, named for the Greco-Roman god once called Hades, is a little more swollen with ice than previously thought, making it the biggest trans-Neptunian object—more voluminous than rival dwarf planet Eris, which is nevertheless more massive. Greg Laden explains why these orbs are not considered full-fledged…

As researchers continue to document the intelligence and emotional acuity of animals, beasts begin to look more like brethren, and food more like friend. On Pharyngula, PZ Myers shares a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that gives chimpanzees used in research the same endangered status as their wild cousins. According to Science, “organizations…

No Rest for the Warming

Climate change denialists are apt to grasp at straws, which may explain their heralding of a global warming “hiatus” or “pause” that since 1998 has supposedly invalidated scientific consensus and its models of climate change. Clearer and more clever heads have renamed the hiatus a “faux pause,” playing off the French faux pas which means…