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Monthly Archives: September 2014

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Understanding trends in fertility is one of the most important tasks for demographers. Population growth, or the lack thereof, is linked to economic activity. For instance, as a general rule, wealthy countries have lower fertility rates than poor ones. That is why the “problem” of overpopulation is a self-correcting one; as the developing world becomes more advanced, we will expect its fertility rate to fall. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

“If science and medicine are so great, then why are so many people dying of cancer?” This question has been asked of me more than a few times. The answer is complex and multifaceted. Read More »

BROADLY speaking, East Asians and Westerners suffer the same types of food allergies in about the same proportions. But there is an exception. Westerners are roughly twice as likely as East Asians to be allergic to peanuts. This is a puzzle—as is the question of why anyone is allergic to peanuts in the first place. Read the rest at The Economist.

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

It is easy for journalists to succumb to the notion that we make very little difference in this world. According to Pew, only 28% of Americans believe journalists contribute “a lot” to society, while 27% believe journalists contribute “not very much” or “nothing at all.” And aGallup poll showed that only about 20% of Americans believe that reporters are honest and ethical. On the bright side, at least we beat out car salesmen (9%), Congressmen (8%), and lobbyists (6%). Huzzah! Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

“Defecation is a major activity of daily living.” Thus begins a new paper in the journal Scientific Reports, and truer words have rarely been written.

Most humans who are physically unable to drop a deuce, perhaps from cancer or an anatomical anomaly, must undergo a colostomy. In this medical procedure, the large intestine is diverted via a surgically created opening (called a stoma) to an external bag that collects feces, which must be emptied regularly. Many people who wear such devices suffer from psychological problems and a lower quality of life. An alternative — any alternative — is preferable. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

World events have made it quite clear to most Americans that we should develop more of our own energy sources. Reducing our reliance on foreign oil by exploiting the natural gas under our feet is not only smart foreign policy but also smart environmental policy: Natural gas burns cleaner than coal or oil, and it has already lowered our CO2 emissions. Natural gas is a win for America and the planet. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Today (Monday, Sept. 15) is the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Undoubtedly, one of the topics that will be discussed in the media over the next 30 days is healthcare in the Latino community. Last year, for instance, CNN ran an article that discussed how Hispanics were less likely to seek out treatment for mental health issues, possibly because of a stigma that exists in the community. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

There aren’t very many things that short and tall men have in common. Tall men make more money, have a greater choice in women, and are likelier to be elected president than their vertically challenged brethren. For all the talk of “white privilege,” maybe it is time for our culture to ponder the implications of “tall privilege.” That’s because, as a general rule, short guys have received the short end of the societal stick. (No pun intended.)

But, in at least one biological aspect, short and tall men share something in common: A less than ideal immune response. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Last week, I was at a coffee shop working when a lady approached me and invited me to attend a science discussion group. The topic was the “limits of science.” Intrigued, I put away my laptop and joined the group, which consisted mainly of elderly people who were thoughtful, well-spoken, and seemingly intelligent. I had no idea what to expect in terms of the tone of the conversation, so I listened eagerly as the discussion leader (who has a master’s degree in geology) started the meeting.

“Science is subjective, though we like to think of it as objective,” he began. “When I speak of ‘facts,’ I put them in quotation marks.” He elaborated that things we once thought to be true were later overturned by further study.

Right away, I knew I was going to be in for a ride. While the geologist didn’t clarify exactly what he meant, we can deduce one of two things: Either (1) he does not believe facts are real or (2) he believes facts are not accessible to scientific investigation. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Propane is the fossil fuel of red-blooded Americans. What poolside or tailgating experience would be complete without firing up the gas grill and torching some meat? (I know, I know… there are charcoal devotees out there.) Even metropolitan mass transit systems are getting in on the excitement. Fleets of buses that run on “LPG” (liquefied petroleum gas) are burning a mixture of propane and butane.

Currently, propane is extracted from natural gas or crude oil. But, in the long run, this is neither a sustainable nor an environmentally friendly practice. Burning propane extracted from the earth is also not carbon-neutral, though it is better than combusting oil or coal. Thus, researchers are looking for ways to produce renewable “fossil fuels” through the use of alternative technologies, such as synthetic biology. Last year, for instance, scientists engineered E. coli to churn out a biofuel that resembled gasoline. Read More »