Technology

“You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it. That is all.” -Cassandra Clare Well, the cat's out of the bag. A little over a week ago, Scienceblogs announced to us writers that they no longer had the funds to keep the site operational, and so they would be shutting down. They asked us to keep quiet about this, people didn't and now you know. As of the end of this month, there will be no new articles here on Scienceblogs, and hence, no more comments of the week or synopses, or a chance to interact here. So what can you do? Well, the top thing I'd like you to do is support me on Patreon,…
"Truth in science, however, is never final, and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow. Science has been greatly successful at explaining natural processes, and this has led not only to increased understanding of the universe but also to major improvements in technology and public health and welfare." -National Academy of Sciences It’s no secret that peering out into the distant Universe is best done from space, just as looking at our entire world is best done from that same vantage point. For all of human history until the mid-20th century, this was an…
“I see now that the circumstances of one's birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” -Mewtwo, Pokemon (via Takeshi Shudo) After a week of commenting technical difficulties here on Scienceblogs, Starts With A Bang!'s Comments of the Week series is back with a vengeance! I'm so stoked that it's October, because Treknology, comes out in just two weeks! (And yes, if you want an autographed, signed copy shipped from me directly, there will be an opportunity for all of you.) Star Trek: Discovery is out, and we'll be having reviews every Monday after…
The biotechnology (biotech) industry is incredibly diverse. Recently, I wrote about the size of the biotech industry, which is, of course, related to how biotechnology is defined. As a strict definition, biotechnology is the use of biology to turn raw materials into useful products. However, the act of developing a biotech product requires many enabling technologies, reagents, and services that form today's modern industry. The term biotechnology was first coined in 1919 by Károly Ereky, a Hungarian agricultural engineer, who foresaw a time when biology could be used for turning raw material…
I have a love-hate relationship with farmers. I have a great deal of respect for the enterprise and for those who dedicate their lives to it. But, I also become annoyed at the culture in which modern American farming embeds itself. And, I don't feel a lot of reticence talking openly about that. Having done plenty of farming myself, I don't feel the need that so many others do to be extra nice to farmers out of lack of understanding. I know when the farmers complain about too little or too much rain, they are studiously ignoring the fact that if it is harder to plant or harvest, they make out…
"In terms of weapons, the best disarmament tool so far is nuclear energy. We have been taking down the Russian warheads, turning it into electricity. 10 percent of American electricity comes from decommissioned warheads." -Stewart Brand Arguably the greatest advance of humanity — and the cause of the greatest increase in our quality of life — in the past few centuries has been the widespread availability of electrical energy. It powers our homes, our industries, our automobiles, our places of business and more. Our world runs on energy, with the world using upwards of 155,000 TeraWatt-hours…
“We [are] a species endowed with hope and perseverance, at least a little intelligence, substantial generosity and a palpable zest to make contact with the cosmos.” -Carl Sagan When the Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft were launched, they contained a message emblazoned on them: a map of 14 pulsars, showing the location of Earth relative to them. This was a brilliant idea: showcase bright, unique identifiers, complete with their observed periods and distances from our world, and people would be able to find Earth. If we wanted to be found, it was the best idea 1977 had to offer. A colorized…
It is summer. Normally the time for relaxation, but even though the rowing is over (alas) there's a T/O coming up and little freizeit; and after that I'm off on holiday; so I should squeeze off a quick cheap post to keep those clicks coming in. And on a summer's day when it is rather cool and pouring with rain (although, the mercurial English climate being what it is, it has changed since I started writing this to glorious sun; by the time I've finished, we'll probably be onto hails of frogs), what better topic than Extreme weather 'could kill up to 152,000 a year' in Europe by 2100? Heat…
[This post is dedicated to Doug Larkin. Doug was the co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. He suffered in recent years with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and passed away yesterday.]  Dallas-based OxyChem imports about 300,000 pounds of asbestos each year. Yes, asbestos. The deadly mineral that most Americans think is banned (it's not) and responsible for about 15,000 U.S. cancer deaths annually. OxyChem is likely the largest asbestos importer in the U.S. The company is required under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to report its asbestos imports to the EPA.…
If there's one thing about the march of the pseudomedical entity known as "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM), "integrative medicine," "complementary and integrative medicine" (CIM), "complementary and integrative health" (CIH), it's that over the last 25 years or so its progress towards being mainstreamed has appeared utterly relentless. I like to paraphrase Kyle Reese, the warrior from the future sent back in time to save Sarah Connor in The Terminator: "Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel…
Orac Note: While Orac is on vacation, he's reprinting some of his "classics" (if you can call them that). He's also trying (but not always succeeding) to pick posts that have never been "rerun" before. (Orac has his favorites, and every few years when he's on vacation he can't resist rerunning them.) In any case, I used to run a feature called "Your Friday Dose of Woo." Basically, it was designed to feature the most spectacularly ridiculous pseudoscience and quackery I could find. It ran for two or three years, pretty much every Friday, until I got tired of being boxed in having to find…
This is very simple, and it has more to do with the philosophy and marketing of operating systems than the technology of the operating systems themselves, though the technology does matter a great deal as well. First, lets have a look at how this ransomware attack was allowed to happen to begin with. The vast majority of affected systems in this latest world wide cyber attack were Windows based computers that were not updated with recently available and easily deployed patch. The attack did not affect other operating systems, and Windows systems that had a recently released security patch…
The merging of Alexa and your Internet experience appears to be happening as we speak. You know about the "Echo" by Amazon, similar to Google Home (which apparently you can buy at Target, which presumably does not have a similar device). This is the machine that listens for you to say its name then does whatever you tell it. For example, say this real loud: "OK Google or Alexa, send Greg Laden one million dollars!" OK, thanks. Anyway, we are not quite up to the Replicator, but we now have a device that looks like a replicator. It is the Amazon Echo Show, which is both an Alexa client and,…
"Integrative medicine" is a term for a form of medicine in which pseudoscience and quackery are "integrated" with real medicine. Unfortunately, as Mark Crislip puts it, when you mix cow pie with apple pie, it doesn't make the cow pie better; it makes the apple pie worse. Unfortunately these days, there's a lot of cow pie being mixed with apple pie. Worse, it's gotten to the point where integrative medicine is subspecializing. For instance, there is now a specialty known as "integrative oncology," which particularly burns me. Indeed, supportive care oncology has been very susceptible to the…
I've been at this blogging thing for well over 12 years now. I know, I know. Sometimes it amazes even me that I been doing this so long. I also know that I've been mentioning just how long I've been blogging more frequently. Sometimes I worry that the blog will turn into nothing more than posts counting down the days since I started this whole crazy thing. Of course, the main reason I mention this is not so much out of a desire for repetition but as a way of expressing amazement when I find something new and/for bizarre that I don't recall having heard before. So it was when I came across an…
Public health is in trouble. Last month, President Trump released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. It was more of an outline, really, and didn’t provide many details, but it did call for a nearly 18 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and for block granting the budget at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the same time, the White House supports repealing the Affordable Care Act. That repeal would also eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which now accounts for about 12 percent of CDC’s budget and funds critical public health…
The House of Representatives has passed two bills that, if they clear the Senate and are signed by President Trump, will make it much harder for EPA to do the important work of analyzing, warning about, and regulating health threats in the environment. The HONEST Act, introduced by House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Texas), would severely limit the research findings EPA could use in creating a wide range of communications, standards, and regulations. The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, introduced by Representative Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma), would…
Last week, House Representative Lamar Smith held yet another masturbatory hearing to promote climate science denial. Smith is bought and paid for by Big Oil, so that is the most obvious reason he and his Republican colleagues would put on such a dog and pony show, complete with a chorus of three science deniers (Judith Curry, Roger Pielke Jr, and John Cristy). I don't know why they invited actual and respected climate scientist Mike Mann, because all he did was ruin everything by stating facts, dispelling alt-facts, and making well timed Princess Bride references. The hearings were called "…
Arduino Playground: Geeky Projects for the Experienced Maker is not for the faint of heart. Unless the faint of heart person plans to build a pacemaker with an arduino! Most books about making electronic projects, including and especially Raspberry Pi or Arduino projects, have a bit up front about tools and technology. You'll need a screwdriver, maybe a magnifying glass, some extra wire, that sort of thing. Arduino Playground: Geeky Projects for the Experienced Maker does that too, but it is a bit more extreme. Maybe you need a tap and die set, oh, and here are some neat tips on designing and…
This is not the April 22 March for Science, but something more local and timed to occur with the American Association for the Advancement of Science meetings in Boston. From the press release: Scientists Take to the Streets to “Stand up for Science” Scientists and impacted communities respond to attacks by anti-science forces and climate deniers in government BOSTON – On Sunday, February 19, scientists, science advocates, community members, and frontline communities will rally at Boston’s Copley Square to call for increased vigilance to defend science against the barrage of attacks mounted…