Back from vacations, I think I need to report a few random things before I get back into physics blogging. So I'll peruse the science20 article category aptly called "Random Thoughts" for this one occasion.
My summer vacations took place just after a week spent in Ecuador, where I gave 6 hours of lectures on LHC physics and statistics for data analysis to astrophysics PhD students. I did report about that and an eventful hike in the last post. Unfortunately, the first week of my alleged rest was mostly spent fixing a few documents that the European Commission expected to receive by August 31st. As a coordinator of a training network, I have indeed certain obligations that I cannot escape. 
The President has declared he is against the Estate tax, and he is not alone. For decades it has seemed punitive to levy a special tax on wealth people already paid taxes on just because the person who paid the taxes died. 

In North Dakota, President Trump said he would "protect small businesses and family farmers here in North Dakota and across the country by ending the death tax" and that would ease the "Tremendous burden for the family farmer, tremendous burden. We are not going to allow the death tax or the inheritance tax or the whatever-you-want-to-call-it to crush the American Dream.”

A recent analysis of published data on human exposure to bisphenol A (BPA

Even small tumors can be aggressive, according to a study in patients with early stage breast cancer presented at the ESMO 2017 Congress in Madrid.  They found that nearly one in four small tumors were aggressive and patients benefited from chemotherapy. Aggressive tumors could be identified by a 70-gene signature.

A while back I wrote my article "Can Giant Airships Slowly Accelerate to Orbit Over Several Days" . It lead to a lot of discussion and as usual whenever you discuss John Powell's ideas, there were physicists and aeroengineers saying it is impossible. So anyway as part of this I had an especially interesting online discussion over many days with James Fincannon on the Space Show blog and much of this article comes out of that discussion. Unlike many of those who get involved in these discussions on the topic, he actually did many detailed calculations and shared them on the blog.

The story that won't be told in the wake of Harvey's wrath is the incredible risk to the thousands upon thousands of items of physical evidence being stored in police departments and crime laboratories throughout Texas - especially in Houston.  Any damage to this evidence may derail the state's pursuit of justice. 

The IAU famously decided that Pluto is not a planet any more, calling it a "dwarf planet" instead, along with Ceres. However, their definition works as well as it does only because of a historical accident of our solar system and the bodies we have discovered in it so far. There are good reasons for thinking it has a "use before" date too, as we'll see. We don't know when that date is, but we will probably reach a point where we can't use it any more, at some point in the next two or three decades. The "use before "date may well be sooner than that. So why not change right away?

A pervasive myth in Australia is that hot weather is the greatest danger to our health. In reality, it’s more likely cold weather will kill you.

For all our concern about the dangers of heatwaves, simple analysis of mortality data suggests the cold months present a much greater health risk. Almost 7% of deaths in Australia from 1988 to 2009 were attributable to cold weather. Less than 1% of deaths were attributable to heat.

Should we ban cars because of their potential to crash? Or stop selling painkillers in case someone takes too many? If we take the logic the EU applies to regulating pesticides, then the answer should be a resounding “yes”. Thankfully, EU lawmakers have looked at the weight of evidence and concluded the risk of driving cars and taking painkillers is acceptable – no ban needed.

Pesticides get different treatment though.

Take the class of insecticides so much in the news, neonicotinoids, that some have blamed for problems with bee health. Didn’t the European Union ban them claiming they were posing unacceptable risks to bees? Isn’t that case closed?

This is an article by the space engineer and Mars colonization enthusiast Robert Zubrin, The Planetary Protection Racket claiming that we don’t need to protect Earth from Mars microbes or Mars from Earth microbes. This is not the first time he has said controversial things like this, and they are not taken seriously by the planetary protection experts. Let’s go back to summer 2000, when he put forward similarly forceful arguments in print that there is no need to protect Earth from Mars microbes

This is what he wrote back then: