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Thanksgiving Gratitude and #NoDAPL

Today is about American tradition, and feeling grateful for all that we have been given. The first Thanksgiving represented the gratitude of American settlers towards the indigenous peoples who originally inhabited this country. It is about the men and women who came to North America on the Mayflower giving back to the men and women…

The new film Arrival, based on a story by Ted Chiang, is unlike most any science fiction blockbuster at the box office these days. It’s a tense, thoughtful, somber meditation on the human condition and the nature of a higher reality. In many ways, it is a religious film that deals with eschatology (the end…

Understanding the History of HIV

On Aetiology, Tara C. Smith explores the story of Gaetan Dugas, a man who was long blamed for precipitating the AIDS epidemic in the United States. The vilification of Dugas had nothing to do with science; instead he was dubbed “patient zero” in a misinterpretation of his study moniker “patient O” (for Outside). Dugas’ portrayal…

Nobel Prize Notes

On Pharyngula, PZ Myers examines the work of Yoshinori Ohsumi, who was awarded the prize in Physiology for his studies of autophagy in yeast. Autophagy, or self-consumption, is a strategy used by all cells to recycle malfunctioning bits of themselves, or to survive during times of starvation. But autophagy is also involved in cancer metastasis…

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…