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Monthly Archives: October 2015

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Despite years of intense medical research, the cause of Alzheimer’s remains enigmatic. The ultimate molecular manifestation of the disease consists of the accumulation of a small toxic protein called amyloid beta that causes inflammation and destroys neurons. Why this occurs in some individuals but not others is unknown. Genetic, immunological, and environmental risk factors have been investigated, but no smoking gun has emerged. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

We have heard it many times. We in the mass media are ignorant and deceptive partisans, propagandists, and shills. The rest of us are just mindless puppets. The 24-hour news cycle is responsible for dividing America and dumbing down political discourse. In short, modern journalism is the worst thing to happen to the U.S. since Justin Bieber crossed the border. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Many bacteria are notoriously picky eaters. The microbe that causes leprosy, for instance, cannot be grown in a test tube. Instead, researchers must culture the microbe in armadillos or on the footpads of mice. Other bacteria without foot fetishes can still be difficult to culture, requiring a long and complex recipe of various nutrients, ions, and vitamins. As a result, it is simply impossible for microbiologists to grow some 99% of bacteria in the laboratory. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

A lot of Americans seem to be under the impression that there is something unique and (wonderfully) different about Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Yet, other than the fact that he identifies as a socialist — in a world where capitalism brought one billion people out of poverty in just the last 20 years — his other views, particularly on science, are predictable and banal. Time and again, he has planted his flag firmly in the camp of the anti-scientific left. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Arguably, it is more difficult to be a scientist today than ever before. Faculty positions are few and far between. A mere 20% of federal grant proposals are actually funded, and the biomedical professors lucky enough to score an R01, the granddaddy of NIH grants, are usually not awarded their first until the ripe old age of 42. In short, there are too many PhD’s and not enough jobs and money to support them. Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

The Shroud of Turin, the supposed burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, has remained an object of fascination for the Christian faithful and scientists alike. Those who would suggest a supernatural origin nearly 2,000 years ago must contend with radiocarbon evidence, which dates the shroud to approximately the 13th or 14th Centuries. Those who would suggest a medieval European origin must contend with a rather large controversy over the accuracy of the sample used for dating, as well as historical evidence to the contrary. Additionally, despite extensive analysis, nobody knows how the image of a buried man was created on the shroud. In Facebook terms, the shroud’s status remains “complicated.” Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Back in 2005, when I was a first-year microbiology graduate student, I enrolled in a course on bacterial physiology. One of our guest lecturers, Dr. Franklin Harold, was an esteemed researcher in bioenergetics, a field that examines how cells derive and utilize energy. One evening, outside of class, I happened upon Dr. Harold at a seminar, and I asked him a question: “What is your opinion on origin of life research?”

He responded, “It has been an abject failure.” Read More »

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Every person and organization needs a reality check. It is healthy and vital to seriously consider the opinions of those with whom we disagree. For individuals, this prevents arrogance and promotes humility; for organizations, it prevents corruption and groupthink and promotes transparency. Unsurprisingly, when a viable and intellectually robust “loyal opposition” is absent, bad things can happen. Read More »