Recommendation to Limit Md. School Wi-Fi Based on ‘Junk Science’

The Children’s Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council (CEHPAC), an agency within Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, has recommended that schools reduce or eliminate students’ exposure to Wi-Fi because it believes wireless signals might cause cancer. This is pure, unadulterated junk science. Read the rest at Baltimore Sun.

Maths Study Shows Conspiracies ‘Prone to Unravelling’

It’s difficult to keep a conspiracy under wraps, scientists say, because sooner or later, one of the conspirators will blow its cover. A study has examined how long alleged conspiracies could “survive” before being revealed – deliberately or unwittingly – to the public at large. Read the rest at BBC News

The Oyster’s Gem: As the Pearl Turns

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

The first person who discovered pearls must have believed he stumbled across a bit of magic. Pull apart the valves of a living oyster, and a beautiful spherical gem of calcium carbonate may lay inside. Alas, it is not magic. A pearl forms in response to tissue damage, such as by the introduction of a foreign body, and the pearl is the oyster’s attempt to wall off the offending object. (A similar process occurs in the lungs of people with tuberculosis.) Today, humans take advantage of this quirk of oyster biology in order to culture pearls on our own terms. Continue reading

Solar Airplanes: A Flight of Fancy

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience. It was also co-authored with Tom Hartsfield, a Ph.D. candidate in physics at the University of Texas.

Solar Impulse 2, a solar powered airplane that has enough room for exactly one person (the pilot), has made international headlines as it makes its historic trek around the planet. Media outlets from BBC News to Live Science have described the flight as a “revolution.”

Quirky, it is; a revolution, it is not. Continue reading

Sci-Fi Now Reality: Mind Control of Gene Expression

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. Continue reading

First Observation of Death Valley’s Sliding Rocks

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? Continue reading

When a Dam Break Killed 2,209 Americans

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

One of America’s greatest tragedies is curiously absent from most U.S. history textbooks. On May 31, 1889, the South Fork Dam failed, and the ensuing flood killed 2,209 people living in and around Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Continue reading

European Journalists Choose Magic over Physics

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Many Americans think of Europe as something of a magical realm. The food is tastier, the people are sexier, and some parts of Poland don’t experience gravity. Wait, what?

European Journal, a fairly good television program produced by DW-TV, investigated what looks to be an “anti-gravity” spot in Poland. (See video beginning at the 21:00 mark.) On a road out in the Polish countryside, things appear to roll uphill, including bottles of water and even entire cars. What’s going on? The people of Europe demand an answer for this very strange physical phenomenon. Continue reading

Science Is Broken. Can Better Statistics Help?

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Science is going through a bit of a crisis. Thanks largely to the pioneering work of Dr. John Ioannidis, scientists — particularly biomedical researchers — are grappling with the reality that much of the scientific literature cannot be replicated and is simply incorrect. The reasons are manifold, among them the tendency of top-notch journals to publish “flashy” research, publication bias, flaws in peer review and the inadequacy of statistical tests. It is this latter problem that new research in PNAS hopes to address. Continue reading