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Monthly Archives: November 2014

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Belief in vampires was a global phenomenon. Cultures all over the world once believed that certain humans wander the Earth after their death, engaging in acts of decidedly anti-social behavior. Though most sophisticated scholars know that wooden stakes and sunlight work best, each culture had invented various methods of dispatching those vampires permanently into the afterlife. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Recently, there has been much talk of various “epidemics” in America. The three most commonly mentioned are suicide, gun violence, and drug overdose. A close examination of the data, however, reveals two surprises: First, one of them is not actually an epidemic. Second, one of them is a much bigger epidemic than most people realize. (See chart.) Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Biologists have categorized life into three large domains: Bacteria, Archaea (weird, bacteria-like microbes), and Eukarya (unicellular and multicellular organisms such as fungi, plants, and animals that possess nucleated cells). Under this classification system, viruses are left out in the cold. They certainly are not “alive” in the classical sense because they are not capable of metabolizing or replicating on their own. But it does not feel quite right to classify them as “inanimate,” either, because they are built of biological molecules and contain genetic information. Thus, for the most part, viruses languish in the no man’s land between the living and the dead. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

One of the questions we are often asked at RealClearScience is, “What sort of position do you take on scientific issues?” That’s a not-so-subtle way of asking, “Is RealClearScience¬†conservative or liberal?” We are pleased to announce that we are neither. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Mind control — specifically, the ability to manipulate machines or the environment through the power of our thoughts — has long been the fascination of sci-fi enthusiasts. Now, a team of European researchers has made a giant leap toward turning this sci-fi fantasy into reality: They have demonstrated human mind control of gene expression in a mouse. And, they used some of the best tools of neuroscience, physics and synthetic biology to accomplish it. Read More »

This article was originally published on RealClearScience.

The Apocalypse is here.

Science writer Phil Plait’s worst nightmare came true. The Republicans won control of the U.S. Senate. What can we expect to happen? In Plait’s words, the Republicans will “put a cohort of science-deniers [sic] into positions of authority,” which “quite literally affects the future of humanity.” Why? Because, now, the United States will no longer be able to address climate change, “the single greatest threat we as a species face today.” Read More »

This article was originally published on RealClearScience.

Since May of this year, 440 Chinese people have been infected with a new strain of influenza subtype H7N9, and 122 of them have died. Though the case-fatality rate suggested by this data is greatly inflated by asymptomatic and mild (and hence, unreported) cases, a new analysis in Trends in Microbiology suggests that the virus has the potential to become the next influenza pandemic. Read More »