Cool Links



I was not on the Nate Silver fan train the way many people are, I thought it was wishy-washy to predict a presidential race with 68 percent confidence in October of 2012 when I called it 100 percent in July. His stats averaging led him to be no more accurate than a European betting service using nothing but money and every other statistical modeler was correct also, so technically he was nothing special. In this segment, he was latched onto by people who were just looking for new ways to affirm their political bias, a common plight among science media.


While the University of Texas at Austin spends a lot of money in court defending racism in its college admissions policies, Big Data may help solve the real problem in colleges: not who they exclude in their secret admissions sauce but the two-thirds of freshmen students that will not graduate because admission department methods are trapped in the past.


Impact factor, the relative authority of a journal based on article quality, is maligned by people who can't get into top-tier publications but though it was originally created to help libraries know which journals are worth paying for, articles in high impact factor journals are now considered a barometer of quality for government funding agencies, who can't be tasked with analyzing the merits and editorial policies of 25,000 different publications.


Yelp, a local business review site, has released an updated API which increases the number of data calls to 25,000 per day, a big switch from an earlier 100 cap. 

And it's free. Why the change of heart? They have been burned in the past, notably by Google, which used Yelp review content without attributing it. but they seem to no longer be afraid a competitor will scrape its data and grow larger. 
New York environmental activists, including those employed by the state of New York, said Indian Point nuclear power plant should close for 42 days this summer to protect fish.

Since New York is already concerned about brownouts and blackouts, closing a reliable source of clean energy is one of the stranger environmental plans this year. 

Nuclear plants recycle water, of course, and environmentalists are worried fish will die in warm water. Engineers proposed putting up screens to keep fish away but that made too much sense for the Department of Environmental Conservation, which thinks overpaying for fracking-derived energy from neighboring Pennsylvania at high spot market prices is better for its citizens when they run out of electricity.
Germany has said it will double power output from renewable electricity by 2035. It's a noble goal but for industry it has been a bit of a headache.

Because solar and wind are sporadic, there are a lot of drops and surges in electricity and to moderate that the German government has to pay power companies to add or cut electricity within seconds to keep the power system stable. Businesses do not want their computers all shutting off while people are working.


55 million years ago when the Earth was in a near-runaway climate state, dangerously overheated by greenhouse gases, the Arctic Ocean was a large lake connected to the greater oceans by the Turgay Sea.

Then 50 million years ago, the channel was blocked and that body of water suffered from a lack of exchange with outside waters and became a hot lake. But its waters were also then loaded with excess nutrients and that became the perfect habitat for a small-leaved fern called Azolla

Vani Hari. The Food Babe hates science 
so you don't have to. Credit: Food Babe LLC


Vani Hari, the self-styled Food Babe and chief science expert at Food Babe LLC, has become a celebrity with mainstream media TV because she is thin and pretty and says things with a lot of earnest belief. Sometimes she is more kooky than others, like when she insisted she never uses a microwave oven because no one ever thought to test them and they 'create severe health issues'.


Millions of years ago, the rivers flowing westward across northern Brazil reversed course and began to flow toward the Atlantic. Thus the mighty Amazon was born.

Some have suggested that the about-face was triggered by gradual changes in the flow of hot, viscous rock deep beneath the South American continent. But new computer models hint that the U-turn resulted from more familiar geological processes taking place at Earth’s surface—in particular, the persistent erosion, movement, and deposition of sediment wearing away from the growing Andes.
AstraZeneca has probably the best antibiotic pipeline in the industry.  It's also a business they no longer want to be in.

Their departure would follow on the heels of Pfizer exiting that segment, leaving GlaxoSmithKline and Merck. 

Why? Well, pharmaceuticals in general in crisis. I have likened it to the US steel industry in the 1970s. Critics think if they are still making money, it must be okay and they can hammer on them indefinitely. But that isn't how business works. If government-controlled academia has to take over pharmaceutical development, we are doomed. 

Dr. Bruce Ames, one of the early heroes of the environmental movement and creator of the Ames Test, which showed how to use in vitro testing to determine if chemicals could cause DNA damage and thus cancer (sparing a lot of animals), went on to rank all kinds of chemicals in order of risk.

Thus, he was an early voice of sanity in the post-DDT world, where activists tried to convince people there is such a thing as chemical-free. His testing led to evidence-based decision-making about risks and the environment and The Scientist did a recent article on him. 
Nothing is stranger than watching environmental journalists rationalize why they are flying off to yet another conference on climate change. They have to weigh it carefully, they say, and agonize over it, but eventually they determine the 'relationships' are worth the emissions damage they cause.

Then they will munch on catered food and write articles insisting business people should not fly so much. It's 'Why it's right for Sting's wife Trudie Styler to take helicopters 80 miles to visit organic farms' rationalization that Big Green tends to do when it suits them. 
Being a gigantic political donor to Democrats can only take you so far when it comes to the FDA, even if Democrats control it at the moment. And being a darling of science media and having a Silicon Valley pedigree has its limits as well.

An FDA director recently hammered $100-million-in-venture-capital home DNA company 23andMe just a few weeks after co-founder Anne Wojcicki and "other billionaire Silicon Valley wives" - that is the verbage of Ariana Eunjung Cha at the Washington Post, not me - went on a charm offensive in Washington, D.C.
The government set out to fix health care a few years ago - and what everyone feared about government making things worse has come to pass. They made it impossible for anyone except the government and entrenched businesses to exist.

That means some of the brightest minds in the world won't bother to try and help.

At his yearly CEO summit, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla spoke with Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and touched on what Google might do in health care, since that is a hot topic.
How important is journalistic balance in 2014? The days when people believed journalism is impartial are long gone.

But some issues are rather settled and BBC journalists are being sent on courses to train them to stop inviting so many cranks onto to air ‘marginal views’ as balance. The BBC Trust was criticized in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues in science, and this was due to an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed.
Viruses, pesticides, beekeeping practices, pollination service and varroa mites all contribute to managed commercial honeybee colony health. 
Gilles-Eric Séralini, famous anti-science zealot, managed to pay a billion-dollar corporation to publish his previously retracted paper showing bloated rats with giant tumors supposedly caused by GMOs or Roundup or whatever anti-science hippies are demonizing this week (answer - neonics, supposedly killing bees, and everything else, which supposedly causes autism).
Numerous times in the last few years, scientists have concluded that the Keystone XL project was not creating environment harm, despite the claims of environmentalists.  In the affected area, there are already 20,000 miles of pipeline so adding a few hundred more is not putting the ecology in peril.

Yet the president has consistently blocked approval, choosing environmentalists over union members. Why, since both vote Democrat? The president has long been convinced that if he can penalize existing companies, and subsidize the kind he prefers, the new ones will win. Blocking Keystone XL and demanding new regulations from the EPA has been part of that effort.
Gilles-Eric Séralini, who had already been known as an anti-GMO/anti-pesticide zealot (GMOs Are A Pesticide Sponge And Other Weird Tales Of Gilles-Eric Seralini), shot to worldwide fame among the anti-science crowd when he published a paper showing bloated rats with giant tumors

All due to GMOs, he said.
When someone has a religious belief that want taught that is in defiance of science, they often say they do not want to replace science with their religion, they want to 'teach the controversy' about what science does not know and how belief can fill the gaps.

I am talking about food worship, of course, and the naturalistic fallacy that insists food was superior 20 years ago, or 40 years ago. Basically, whatever age someone is in order to be sentimental about what they ate. 

One of those people must have taken over the reins at Costco, because an article issues forth with:
For decades, farmers have tinkered with plant biology in a quest for better crops. At first, they bred plants together to enhance some traits...