A novel lawsuit involving climate change

The difficulty with the climate change problem is that it is a long-term one and thus policy makers, who tend to be older people, may not view it with the same sense of urgency since the most adverse consequences will occur after they are dead. It is young people who will pay the price for my generation’s inaction. Hence I was intrigued by this court ruling that I missed when it was handed down on November 10th of last year. It should have got much wider publicity than it did.
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Coincidences are so common

I have written before about how common coincidences are and just yesterday I had another example. I have been retired for over a year and I had not spoken with my university’s computer security person for at least a year before I retired but after I wrote my post on Congress’s move to allow ISPs to sell our data without permission and how VPNs might thwart that, I emailed him to ask what kind of security the university’s VPN system that I use provided. I then got an email back giving a time when he would call to discuss this and, as he said, ‘other matters’.
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March for Science on Saturday, April 22

The nationwide March for Science has been scheduled for Saturday, April 22, which is also the annual Earth Day. It is actually a global event with marches all over the world. Following the model of the March for Women on January 21, the main march in the US will be in Washington, DC with satellite marches in various locations across the country and the world for those who cannot make the trip to DC.
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Common health care myths and who believes them

I was interested in this article about the results of a survey on the prevalence of various health care myths in the general public. In addition to listing seven of the most common misconceptions, Larry Schwartz also summarized the findings on where people get their information and the likelihood of believing the misconceptions based on ethnicity, education, and profession.
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The menace of ‘predatory journals’ and the future of journals and peer-review

Traditional science journals get their money from ads and/or individual and library subscriptions. You cannot pay to have your paper published and thus this system avoids obvious conflicts of interest for authors and journals. The catch is that this prevents wider dissemination of the articles since the subscriptions are expensive. The costs have risen so dramatically that even libraries cannot afford to maintain the range of journals they once had. Why these costs have risen so much and the role of for-profit publishing houses in pushing up those costs is a hot topic but not the issue I want to discuss in this post. What this is about is how an effort to find a solution to the cost and low accessibility problems has had unintended consequences.
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Kurt Gödel and how the US could become a dictatorship

Kurt Gödel is widely recognized as being one of the premier mathematical logicians of all time whose incompleteness theorems revealed a stunning limitation on the limits of the axiomatic approach. “His findings put an end to logicist efforts such as those of Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead and demonstrated the severe limitations of David Hilbert’s formalist program for arithmetic.” He was also notoriously eccentric. After suffering from severe digestive disorders due to an ulcer, later in life he became convinced that he was being poisoned and his wife acted as his food taster. But his digestive problems and his refusal to eat led to him finally dying of starvation in 1978 at the age of 71.
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Replacing Mercator with the Gall-Peters projection of the Earth

That the Earth is a globe has been known for millennia. But how does one represent a sphere on a two-dimensional surface? For a long time the projection method called the Mercator system, created by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569, has been used so widely that it has seemed as if it were the only way. But it is not and there are many ways of doing so. The popularity of Mercator has a lot to do with the fact that, in addition to making the shapes of countries similar to what they look like on the globe (with the extent of distortions increasing as one approaches the poles), it gives Europe and North America a larger size and puts them at central positions on the map, thus endowing them with a prominence that they do not merit.
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How a car’s differential works

In the old days, cars could be called ‘one wheel drive’ vehicles since a car’s engine powered just one of its four wheels. The problem was that in such cars, if the powered wheel ended up in a place with low or no traction, say because of snow or ice or mud or dangling over a ditch, you were literally stuck. The development of two-wheel drive vehicles that sent power to the two rear wheels improved this situation since if one wheel lost traction, the other could pull you out of it. But this created a new problem in that when you turn a corner, the outer wheel on the axle has to rotate faster than the inner wheel since it traverses a circle of larger radius.
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Why losing a dog is so painful

Frank T. McAndrew wrote about why losing your dog can be so much more painful than losing a relative or a friend.

When people who have never had a dog see their dog-owning friends mourn the loss of a pet, they probably think it’s all a bit of an overreaction; after all, it’s “just a dog.”

However, those who have loved a dog know the truth: Your own pet is never “just a dog.”

Many times, I’ve had friends guiltily confide to me that they grieved more over the loss of a dog than over the loss of friends or relatives. Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a dog is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one. Unfortunately, there’s little in our cultural playbook – no grief rituals, no obituary in the local newspaper, no religious service – to help us get through the loss of a pet, which can make us feel more than a bit embarrassed to show too much public grief over our dead dogs.

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The search for dark matter continues

I wrote last month about recent reports on the failure of two major experiments named LUX and PandaX-II to directly detect dark matter and what that might mean for the prospects of alternate theories to explain anomalous gravitational effects. Of course, concluding that dark matter is non-existent is a tricky call since we don’t really know what it is made of and the negative results so far may well be due to the lack of sufficient sensitivity of the detectors or that dark matter is made of something quite different from what the detectors are designed to register.
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