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Monthly Archives: August 2014

SYNTHETIC biology—the technique of moving genes from creature to creature not one at a time, but by the handful—promises much but has yet to deliver. Someone who believes it can, though, is Christina Smolke of Stanford University. And, as she and her colleagues write in Nature Chemical Biology, they think they now know one way that it might. Read the rest at The Economist.

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

A dry lake in Death Valley, called Racetrack Playa, is home to the famous “sailing stones.” These large rocks, some of which weigh up to 700 pounds, leave behind long trails in the dirt, indicating that something — or someone — has been moving them. (See photo above.) But how? Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

One of the hazards of science journalism is the regularity with which we are called names, by both the Left and the Right. “Shills for Monsanto,” “lackeys for the pharmaceutical industry,” “enablers of the global warming hoax,” and (of course) “Nazis” are some of the nicer things that have been said. But just like an auto mechanic who spends his day with oily, greasy hands, we too don’t mind getting a little dirtied up for the sake of science. It’s all in a day’s work. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Fans of the 2001 movie Rat Race will remember that Rowan Atkinson’s character suffered from narcolepsy. Moments before claiming the $2-million cash prize, he fell asleep. In real life, not only do narcoleptics suffer from irresistible daytime sleepiness, but they also have trouble sleeping at nighttime and may physically collapse from sudden muscle weakness, a symptom known as cataplexy. But, what causes it? Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which continues to rage and has now claimed the lives of more than 1100 people, offers some big lessons for America. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Epigenetics is the next big field that the media, fearmongers, and political hacks will attempt to exploit. How do we know? Because there is a flurry of research in the field (which is not always a good sign), and journalists are already hacking away. You can find articles blaming epigenetics for obesity, cancer, personality, homosexuality, and (absurdly) how we vote. Read More »

This article was originally published on RealClearScience.

One of the problems with bomb detection is that bombs tend to explode. It would be advantageous for a bomb squad to be able to positively identify the contents of a purported bomb before attempting to dismantle it. Existing techniques, however, are inefficient or of limited utility. Read More »

This article was originally published on RealClearScience.

When I was a kid, I remember going to the allergist’s office and having him stick me in the back with several dozen tiny needles, each filled with a common allergen such as cat hair. After a few minutes, my back became itchy, and patterns of bright red bumps emerged like this, indicating an allergic reaction. My doctor, along with my parents, stood over my back, pointing at all the pretty colors. He informed us that I was mildly allergic to dogs and terribly allergic to cats, but not at all allergic to goats. (We ended up getting a dog, anyway, and I spent the next several years getting allergy shots, too.) Read More »

OVER the course of several thousand years, mankind slowly transformed the wild canine into man’s best friend. Wolves would linger near early human settlements, supplementing their diets with food scraps and other waste. Some of these beasts were less afraid of humans, and over generations, this intrepid subset of mongrels built a mutually beneficial relationship with humans. Read the rest at The Economist.

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Some things in life are so indisputably true that it is a surprise that anyone disagrees. The safety and efficacy of vaccines, the benefits of GMOs, and the inability of Nicolas Cage to convincingly perform a single role all would be at the top of Captain Obvious’s list. Now, the list has a new entry: Electronic cigarettes produce far more good than harm. Read More »