Category Archive: Science

Apr 15 2014

Oh goody! Another end of the world prediction

Many of us have heard of the ‘blue moon’. This is when a full moon appears twice in one calendar month. This is a perfectly predictable astronomical phenomenon that occurs once every two or three years, infrequent enough to serve as a metaphor for rarity, as in the phrase ‘once in a blue moon’.

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Apr 11 2014

How good are experts at discriminating?

Jonah Lehrer, the writer for the New Yorker who lost his job when it was discovered that he was recycling content and manufacturing quotes, had an interesting article before his disgrace where he discussed how hard it was for people, when subjected to double-blind tests, to discriminate between wines, not being able to tell the …

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Apr 09 2014

Too much emphasis on BMI and other norms

Frances Chan is a history major at Yale University who has been involved in a struggle with that university’s health services because they kept telling her that at 92 lbs, she was too thin and that her Body Mass Index was too low. Her height is 5’2″, which gives her a BMI score of 16.8 …

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Apr 08 2014

New methods for prostate cancer detection

Prostate cancer generally affects older men and since that group is a powerful and influential one, a lot of attention is paid to the diagnosis and treatment of that condition. Now there is a new study that provides promise of a better early detection system than the PSA blood test in which elevated levels leads …

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Apr 03 2014

How to find the black box

Now that the search is on for the missing plane in order to retrieve the black box and find out what happened, the focus has shifted to the difficulty of finding it in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.

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Apr 03 2014

Why do zebras have stripes?

The stripes on a zebra are quite striking and cry out for an explanation. The popular one is that it helps camouflage them against predators by mimicking long grass or trees. But a new study suggests that stripes came about because they help to repel flies. Yes, really.

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Apr 02 2014

Health benefits of a vegetarian diet questioned

Three years ago I wrote an apology for not being a vegetarian or a vegan. There are three reasons given for favoring such a diet. One is moral. To eat meat is to use another sentient being for one’s own ends and to be part of the cruel factory farming system that exists in the …

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Mar 31 2014

The true risks of autism versus the media coverage


You may recall Sam Wang, the Princeton neuroscientist whose statistical analyses I referred to frequently during the 2012 election. He now has an article in the New York Times where he analyzes the actual risks for causing autism versus the frequency of news coverage. As he says, “by far the largest risk is genetic. In …

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Mar 26 2014

The last polio victim in India

CNN ran the story of Rukhsar Khatoon, a four-year old girl who is the last recorded case of polio in India. She contracted the disease in 2011 when she was just 18 months old. She had not been vaccinated against the disease but this was not a case of anti-vaxxer parents. They had held off …

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Mar 24 2014

The problem with 12-step plans

Breaking free of addictions such as alcohol, drugs, and smoking is hard and very often people who seek to do so enroll in the many 12-step programs modeled on the one made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous. Some judges even use such programs as part of their sentencing requirements.

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