Misc

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Category archives for Misc

Planets, Planets Everywhere

The European Southern Observatory made major headlines with their discovery of an Earth-like exoplanet orbiting our nearest neighboring star. On Dynamics of Cats, Steinn Sigurðsson writes: “ESO researchers, using the radial velocity variability technique, have detected a quite robust signature of a planet with a mass of 1.3 Earth masses, or more, in a 11…

Spoiler Alert: Star Trek: Beyond

The centerpiece of the latest Star Trek film is a bright celestial bauble, a tremendous re-imagining of a Federation starbase, named Yorktown. Yorktown is on the scale of a Death Star, but instead of incinerating worlds it is presumably dedicated to a lot of peace-mongering bureaucracy and some very nice apartment buildings. To quote Memory…

Cupping Just Sucks

Even as Michael Phelps piled a 23rd gold medal onto his stack, he also drew attention at the Rio Olympics for circular bruises on his shoulder resulting from a pseudoscientific medical treatment called cupping. Several ancient cultures practiced variants of cupping in order to reduce pain or heal injury. On Respectful Insolence, Orac writes “even…

On Respectful Insolence, Orac examines the dangers posed by experimental stem cell treatments, which are often offered outside the United States in order to avoid regulatory oversight. Orac writes that stem cell therapy is “moving from cutting edge science to applied science” but treatments are not yet refined to the point of being safe and…

The decision by PG&E to mothball the last operating nuclear reactors in California has some people cheering—and other pounding their fists. On Significant Figures, Peter Gleick writes that the closure of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant “rankles those who see all non-carbon energy sources as critical in the fight against the real threat of climate change.”…

Arctic sea ice appears likely to reach a record minimum extent this year; as Greg Laden says, “It is almost like the Earth is warming up or something.” The lowest extent of Arctic sea ice on record (since observations began in 1979) occurred in 2012, the second-lowest in 2007, and the third-lowest in 2015. On…

The first observation of a bacterial gene called MCR-1 in the United States has scientists worried, if not surprised. The gene provides resistance to colistin, an antibiotic with nasty side effects used to combat multidrug-resistant bacteria. On Aetiology, Tara C. Smith writes “colistin has seen a new life in the last decade or so as…

“And yet many people today believe that weather modification is a hoax: the early overselling of rainmaking somehow caused it, down the line, to be grouped in the public mind with conspiracy theories about mind-altering ‘chemtrails,’ shock-jock speculation that the government manufactures tornadoes, and paranoid fantasies about the ‘weather wars’ involving earthquakes broadcast via the…

Open Access for the Future

The European Union has announced that all scientific papers published there and based on publicly funded research will be freely available beginning in 2020. On Stoat, William M. Connolley compares the new rules with the copyright system utilized in the United States, writing “the mystery is why the UK, France, Germany, and hence the rest…

Four weeks after a wildfire began in the Canadian province of Alberta, thousands of structures in Fort McMurray have been destroyed, over 100,000 people have been evacuated, and 2200 square miles have gone up in smoke. The fire has also shut down commercial extraction of tar sands, a source of fossil fuel and the reason…