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Category Archive: Science

Mar 31 2014

The true risks of autism versus the media coverage

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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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Mar 24 2014

Can you spot the liar?

If you follow this link it will take you to ten short videos that were created as part of a study to see to what extent people give off cues as to whether they are lying or not. Each person was told to either tell the truth or lie in response of a question.

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Mar 21 2014

Update on our smelling prowess

Some time ago, I wrote about a study that said that we humans could smell 390 different smells. This seemed big enough to me but as commenter ChasCPeterson pointed out, this was not the full story because that number referred to the distinct number of olfactory sensors we have that can identify specific molecules but …

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Mar 19 2014

Homing pythons

Ed Yong has a fascinating story about six Burmese pythons who were captured in the Florida Everglades (where they have become a voracious invasive species killing off the native wildlife), implanted with radio-transmitters to track their movements, and then let loose at various locations that were 21 to 36 kilometers away from their point of …

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Mar 18 2014

The complex life of Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno was a 16th century philosopher, theologian, and monk who was an early supporter of Copernicus’s heliocentric model of the universe. He was also burned at the stake by the Catholic church in 1600 at the age of 42 after being found guilty of heresy by the Roman Inquisition. That combination of circumstances has …

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Mar 17 2014

Detection of early inflation

A team of scientists has announced that they have detected direct evidence for one of the key elements of the inflationary model of the universe, that there was a rapid rate of expansion soon after ‘the beginning’, i.e., at times shortly after t=0. They did this by using a radiotelescope located at the South Pole …

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Mar 17 2014

A mystery solved?

It happens to me quite often. When I encounter people, especially in a location other than where I usually meet them, I often do not recognize them and cannot place them or recall their names. The problem is that those people seem to recognize me at once and smile and wave and even come up …

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Mar 16 2014

The danger posed by anti-vaxxers

There has been a disturbing rise in the number of people who refuse to give their children the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine because of the bogus fears, stoked by some celebrities, that the vaccines can cause autism. Those claims, revealed to be not only without any basis but based on initial fraudulent studies that …

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