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Monthly Archives: February 2014

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Every year, about seven Americans come down with plague. Yes, that plague, the one known as Black Death and which wiped out about one-third of Europe’s population in the mid-1300s. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

A lot of ink has been spilled over who is responsible for the pervasive anti-scientific and technophobic attitudes held by the public. Conservatives blame liberals, liberals blame conservatives, and atheists blame anybody who believes in God. But a new review by Australian researchers Craig Cormick and Lygia Romanach in Trends in Biotechnology suggests the possibility of a completely different, and even counterintuitive, answer: The scientifically disinterested. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

All too many people behave as if they are experts in everything. The internet is partially to blame. The widespread availability of information is both a blessing and a curse. Indeed, the adage “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” has never been more true, especially as it has become painfully obvious that some people believe that reading the first paragraph in a Wikipedia entry will quickly bring them up to speed on complex topics. Really, who needs a PhD when you have five minutes to kill and access to Google?

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This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Thus far, the biggest event of the year for the scientific community was the “Creation Debate” between Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) and Ken Ham, a Young-Earth Creationist and founder of the Creation Museum. Other than this 3-minute clip which summarized the essence of the debate, I didn’t bother watching.

Why? For three reasons. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

After winning a Nobel Prize in chemistry — and yet another Nobel Prize for peace — Linus Pauling’s distinguished career took a decidedly undistinguished turn. He began promoting the idea that large doses of vitamin C could greatly reduce colds, cure cancer and improve overall health. To this day, people all over the world start popping vitamin C tablets when they get the sniffles, sadly to no effect. (One study demonstrated, however, that a daily dose of vitamin C could reduce the frequency of colds, but not the duration or severity.)

Yet, despite the general lack of credible scientific evidence to support the idea that people should take daily vitamin supplements, an entire industry has blossomed promoting just that. Unfortunately, the industry is wholeheartedly embraced by practioners of alternative medicine, pseudoscientific quacks who have enormous influence over people’s health choices. It is for these reasons that the scientific and medical communities are generally skeptical of (if not outright hostile to) new claims about the benefits of vitamin C or other supplements.  Read More »

The apparent heroin overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who first used drugs decades ago, is a reminder of just how difficult it is to get a handle on drug abuse and the youth culture that enables it. One reason for the surge in heroin use over the past five years is a crackdown on the abuse of prescription opiate painkillers. Addicts might simply be substituting one drug for a related one. Read the rest at USA Today.

A DEAD zebra in the open savannah of Namibia’s Etosha National Park would be an off-putting encounter for most people. But for Holly Ganz of the University of California, Davis and an international team of researchers, the striped ungulate’s carcass reeked of opportunity. Read the rest at The Economist.

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Please, take a seat. We need to talk about norovirus. (If you have norovirus, you’ve probably already taken a seat… on the toilet.) Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

One of the big problems with psychology and psychiatry is that diagnosing patients relies heavily upon subjective, qualitative observations instead of more rigorous quantitative methods. In fact, publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (known as DSM-5 and colloquially referred to as the “Bible of psychiatry”) caused a major controversy precisely because its recommendations made no effort to incorporate biological evidence. A field that refuses to incorporate quantifiable markers of disease is going to have a difficult time gaining credibility. Read More »