Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas, global warming denier, and (attempted) NASA funding slasher, has been appointed to chair the Senate subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. In other words, he will be overseeing NASA. [more inside]
Neither Thucydides, Gibbon, von Ranke, nor Braudel ever cited a paper appearing in Geophysical Research Letters. They did not worry themselves about fluctuations in the Siberian High or the Southern Oscillation. The vast majority of more recent historians also remained untroubled by such concerns. However, in the past five years, a handful of highly distinguished historians have come out with new books that put climate at the center of historical explanation. What on Earth is going on? [more inside]
In its December 5, 1994 issue, Time Magazine picked 50 people who would be leaders in the future. They decided to revisit what happened to each person on the 20th anniversary of their predictions.
On Thursday, NASA released the names and designs of three vehicles that could replace the space shuttle as means of sending our astronauts into space. [more inside]
- Welfare economics: an introduction
- The perils of Potential Pareto
- Inequality, production, and technology
- Welfare theorems, distribution priority, and market clearing
- Normative is performative, not positive
The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States (PDF); prospectus (PDF); press coverage (YT) - "The signature effects of human-induced climate change—rising seas, increased damage from storm surge, more frequent bouts of extreme heat—all have specific, measurable impacts on our nation's current assets and ongoing economic activity. [The report] uses a standard risk-assessment approach to determine the range of potential consequences for each region of the U.S.—as well as for selected sectors of the economy—if we continue on our current path..." [more inside]
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution - "[Charles Percy Snow] was pleading for a more adequately educated ruling class so that the suffering of the poor might be ameliorated... Snow wanted to believe something like this: political decisions in the modern world often concern how to deploy science and technology, so people well-trained in science and technology will be better prepared to make those decisions. But that's a syllogism without a minor premise." (previously) [more inside]
Climatologist Michael E. Mann, known for introducing the famous "hockey stick" graph, has filed a defamation suit against the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. [more inside]
The Nazi Anatomists. "How the corpses of Hitler's victims are still haunting modern science—and American abortion politics."
The data analysis group that used Facebook and set top TV data to help Barack Obama win the latest election is taking its talents to the private sector. (SL NYTimes)
How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio actually makes a case against austerity and for redistribution, but also for money printing (and, arguably, for bailouts), while stressing the need to keep making productivity-improving public and private investments. However, it could be equally entitled: How The Industrial Age Political-Economy Doesn't Work Anymore, viz. Surviving Progress (2011)... [more inside]
Scientific American reports: "An isolated population of Arctic foxes that dines only on marine animals seems to be slowly succumbing to mercury poisoning." Though a definitive causal link is difficult to establish, an isolated population of arctic foxes on Russia's Mednyi Island is believed to be collapsing due to mercury contamination as a result of its seafood-heavy diet. Where does all that mercury in the environment come from anyway? Why, it's another biproduct of burning fossil fuels, of course, and predictably, rates of mercury pollution are only expected to increase. In some places in the US, even rainwater is showing high levels of contamination. [more inside]
seaQuest: what if we could learn to live on/underneath the oceans (or in orbit)? [previously(er)] [more inside]
Unha-3, Pyongyang's first successful orbital launch vehicle, dropped her first stage into the Yellow Sea after December 12's launch. Analysis of debris salvaged by the South Korean Navy suggests the scud-derived, crudely assembled rocket is actually an ICBM with enough range to theoretically reach the U.S. (should North Korea somehow manage to miniaturize their nuclear weapon technology and develop re-entry ability).
Global Trends 2030 Alternate Worlds is the latest quadrennial report from The US National Intelligence Council (NIC). (Report: PDF / Talking Points: PDF.) Similar to its predecessors, '2030' attempts to predict 'alternate visions of the future.' An official blog discusses their speculations. The Atlantic Council has published a "companion publication": "Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World." [more inside]
Revelations From Running For Congress Steve Packard writes a blog called "Depleted Cranium," which debunks bad science in the media. Last spring he decided to run for Congress on a "Science-based" platform. It was ultimately a heartbreaking experience for him and he had to quit, as he'd run out of money for food. He has a pretty great post up summing up his experiences now. And at this point probably wouldn't mind if you donated a couple of cans of beans.
"Speaking for many scientists and engineers who have looked carefully and independently at the science of climate, we have a message to any candidate for public office: There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to "decarbonize" the world's economy. Even if one accepts the inflated climate forecasts of the IPCC, aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically." Link. [more inside]
Researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute say they've uncovered a pattern that triggers riots wherever it's found. What is that pattern? The price of food. When it rises to a certain level, social unrest & violence are soon to follow. According to their calculations the food price index is due to peak in August of 2013, assuming no corrective action is taken. The original paper is here.
Right Wing astroturfing A non-scientific analysis of the patterns in forum board discussions on a variety of topics. The gist: discussions of issues in which there's money at stake (like climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance) are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption by rightwing libertarians who are pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Discussions of issues in which there's little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions.
An opinion piece in Slate argues that the scientific agenda would benefit from increasing the paltry six percent of American scientists who identify as Republican. (This statistic previously on Metafilter.) Knight Science Journalism Tracker offers peer review of this point.
A handful of US scientists have made names for themselves by casting doubt on global warming research. In the past, the same people have also downplayed the dangers of passive smoking, acid rain and the ozone hole. In all cases, the tactics are the same: Spread doubt and claim it's too soon to take action.
Investigative reporting continues to attack the credibility of the IPCC reports on climate change, as well as vicious personal attacks. These stories gain wide coverage in the denialist echo chamber, yet several months down the track, after thorough independent investigation, they are found to be false. Weak retractions are published in newspapers, but the damage is done.
With the passing of Executive Order 13505, Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells, in 2009 President Obama expanded federal funding and rescinded George W. Bush's policies that eliminated most federal funding and restricted human embryonic stem cell research to the use of existing, contaminated cell lines. On Monday, federal judge Royce C. Lamberth blocked this new order after protestations from James L. Sherley, a former scientist with the Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, who operates the Ave Maria Biotechnology Company, which aims to do "pro-life" therapeutic research without the "taint of embryonic or electively aborted fetal materials". [more inside]
40 Things You Need to Know About the Next 40 Years For it's 40th anniversary issue, Smithsonian magazine asks experts in various fields for insights into our future and compiles a list of 40 predictions about the future of science, nature, the arts and technology. The feature essay is by President Obama, in which he explains why he's optimistic about America's future. (VIA) [more inside]
Merchants of Doubt is a new book that reports how a small group of scientists committed to an extreme free-market ideology have been employed by large corporations over several decades to cast doubt on such different environmental issues as the risks of tobacco smoke, the dangers of DDT, the effectiveness of the Strategic Defence Initiative, the regulation of CFCs, and the causes of global warming. A review in the Christian Science Monitor calls this "one of the most important books of the year. Exhaustively researched and documented..."
Dr Andrew Wakefield's 1998 Lancet study caused vaccination rates to plummet, resulting in a rise in measles - but the findings were later discredited. The General Medical Council ruled he had acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly" in doing his research.[more inside]
"Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes."
Revisionaries: How a group of Texas conservatives is rewriting your kids’ textbooks.
Smoke and Mirrors: The Subversion of the EPA. "This four-part series details how the Bush administration weakened the EPA. It installed a pliant agency chief, Stephen L. Johnson. Under him, the EPA created pro-industry regulations later thrown out by the courts. It promoted a flawed voluntary program to fight climate change. It bypassed air pollution recommendations from its own scientists to satisfy the White House." [Via Reality Base]
This isn't exactly the scarlet letter, but it might be a sign of something we've seen before (or maybe not, depending who you ask.) Still, you should probably get yourself one of these [see also] if you're planning to cry wolf! (You can also make your own.) [more inside]
Barack Obama has responded to the 14 questions posed by ScienceDebate2008 (discussed previously). The Martian Chronicles has outlined some key points of his response. John McCain has not responded to the questions, but has indicated that he will respond.
Andy Grove on Our Electric Future - "Energy independence [viz.] is the wrong goal. Here is a plan Americans can stick to." Perhaps some infrastructure spending1,2 is in order? [etc., &c., cf.] [more inside]
Rehabilitating Carson: "Why do some people continue to hold Rachel Carson responsible for millions of malaria deaths?" [more inside]
The Stupidity of Dignity: Conservative bioethics' latest, most dangerous ploy. Steven Pinker reviews Human Dignity and Bioethics, the latest report from the President's Council on Bioethics. [more inside]
An unprecedented five consecutive years of stagnant funding for the National Institutes of Health is putting America at risk - a few prominent research institutions get together to voice their concern over flat funding of the National Institutes of Health over the past 5 years, in their report The Broken Pipeline (pdf). Bloggers comment [1, 2, 3].
'Race' graphically illustrated - "most Europeans" vs. Ashkenazim (previously; see also IQ & Gladwell, viz. ;) [more inside]
In 1798, English economist Thomas Malthus promised "Famine ... the last, the most dreadful resource of nature." It took another 125 years for world population to double, but only 50 more for it to redouble. By the 1940s, Mexico, China, India, Russia, and Europe were hungry.
Dr. President: "The next president of the United States of America will control a $150 billion annual research budget, 200,000 scientists, and 38 major research institutions and all their related labs. This president will shape human endeavors in space, bioethics debates, and the energy landscape of the 21st century." With the coming election, the AAAS has created a new website and devoted a section of their journal Science to the Democratic and Republican candidates' positions on science and technology issues. But to help further clarify their positions, some people are calling for the candidates to have a presidential debate on science and technology. [Via The Intersection and Wired Science.]
The dangers of living in a zero-sum world economy - naked capitalism reprints (with added commentary) an FT article by Martin Wolf on why it's vital for (civilised) society to sustain a 'positive-sum' world, otherwise: "A zero-sum economy leads, inevitably, to repression at home and plunder abroad." Wolf's solution? "The condition for success is successful investment in human ingenuity." Of course! Some are calling for more socialism, while others would press on to build more megaprojects. For me, at least part of the solution lies in environmental accounting and natural capitalism :P
"If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug."
Marijuana, the wonder drug. A new study in the journal Neurology is being hailed as unassailable proof that marijuana is a valuable medicine. It is a sad commentary on the state of modern medicine that we still need "proof" of something that medicine has known for 5,000 years.
How Congress can safeguard science from distortion, something of which both parties are historically guilty. An op-ed on politics and science by author Chris Mooney and physics professor Alan Sokal, the man behind the infamous Sokal Hoax.
“Allowing parents to select their children’s sexual orientation would further a parent’s freedom to raise the sort of children they want to raise.”
Cure for teh gay? I was relaxing in front of X-Men 3 when a friend mentioned that the United States "gay sheep" experiments were wrapping up (though not uneventfully), with considerable successes. Lesbian tennis champ Martina Navaratilova has been fighting to end the tests for some time, but it appears a "gay vaccine" for pregnant mothers may be inevitable. Meanwhile, the GOP's only gay congressman retires.
Death by firing squad is imminent (timeline) for a Palestinian doctor and five Bulgarian nurses accused of infecting 426 girls and boys at the al-Fatah Hospital in Benghazi with HIV, after having the sentence lifted a year ago and sent to retrial. Libya stands accused of using the children as diplomatic pawns and torturing confessions out of the health workers. Nature has published a series of articles refuting the dubious evidence provided by Libyan researchers, which many think was concocted to cover up the poor hospital hygiene that likely caused the infections in the first place. [previously]
"In 2006, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) distributed a 38-question survey to 5,918 FDA scientists to examine the state of science at the FDA. The results paint a picture of a troubled agency: hundreds of scientists reported significant interference with the FDA’s scientific work, compromising the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission of protecting public health and safety."
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