Cool Links

Nine years ago today, the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet — a move that was resented because not only was it a tiny percentage of astronomers, actual planetary scientists were ignored, despite the fact that planetary scientists focus solely on planets, moons, and planetary systems while astronomers look at a large variety of celestial objects and cosmic phenomena.

"It's bulls---,"Alan Stern, the lead scientist behind NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto, told Tech Insider in July (and said we could quote him on that).
Vani Hari, "The Food Babe", has apparently made pretty good money selling pseudoscience to her audience. Obviously, almost anything she has said has been debunked by qualified doctors and scientists, but what was little realized is how much money she makes selling the ingredients she claims are dangerous.

No one's life is in peril, of course, because like her claims on microwaves and air travel, she is goofy, it just seems odd she only worries about a "2B carcinogen" (which applies to lots and lots of stuff,  the International Agency for Research on Cancer [IARC] has done 900 monographs on products and only found 1 that they didn't think is a carcinogen - that's why the UN shouldn't do science) when she isn't selling something that is a 2B carcinogen.
Want to learn Kantian morality? Please don't go to Wikipedia for philosophy - or anything else. Besides, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has been around longer. Now 20 years old, America's best resource for philosophy was, like Science 2.0, designed to be much more modest than it became.

It was designed by Edward Zalta, a senior research scholar at Stanford's Center for the Study of Language and Information and the executive editor of the site, to be something of a glossary. Now it has 1,478 entries, 2,000 contributors and about four million pageviews a month, according to the team.
Dr. Oz may have thought he won the culture war by making "Dr." really tiny in his logo and hiring an anti-science fact checker for his program, but serious doctors are not buying it.

In Reuters, a consortium worries about the 6,000,000 people per day being told that homeopathy, Miracle Herbs and whatever else will be popular among the anti-science crowd this week will be taken seriously. 
The U.K. government has lifted a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides that was put in place by the EU after some suspect studies said neonics caused harm to bees. In other parts of the world, like Australia and Canada, where neonics are heavily used, there was no decline in bee colonies even in 2006, like there was in one part of Europe that set off the environmental craze, but Europeans were swayed by a well-organized publicity campaign (and even a conspiracy, as I showed in When It Comes To Neonics, Activists Understand PR Better Than Chemical Companies Do) and banned them. 

The coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei, is a pesky beetle. It is thought to destroy $500M of coffee crop annually, affecting some 20M small farms worldwide. The borer spends most of its life cycle buried inside of the coffee berry, feeding on the sacred bean held within.

Artificial turf may be an abomination of sports but is it also dangerous for health in other ways? 
Environmentalism, once the domain of science-based progressives like Dr. Norm Borlaug, has been hijacked by...conservatives.

You read that right. Outside America, 'conservative' usually meant 'attached to the old way', rather than not wanting to hand money over to the government to redistribute for votes. To those classic conservatives, the past is supreme. Sports were better, society was better, it is basically cultural nostalgia and fear of the modern.

That kind of fear of the modern still exists but rather than being old rich white people on the right, it is old rich white people on the left, who pay a lot of political science majors to raise money at environmental groups so they can send us back to the 19th century.
A GMO wheat meant to reduce insecticide use rather than enable plants to survive heavy spraying that was being researched at public institution by government scientists rather than an evil biotech company is being celebrated by environmental groups...because it failed.

Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Working Group and others who routinely side against science were still suspicious because it used a pheromone to scare insects away - a trick borrowed from mint plants - and that is confusing to the lawyers and lobbyists they spend their hundreds of millions of dollars on each year.
Political conservatism is associated with greater attention regulation and task persistence versus liberalism - and that is due to  greater belief in free choice and individualism than liberals, finds a new paper in PNAS. 

This makes sense, it is also why conservatives give more to charity - a belief in big government means people will do something until they are forced to stop by legislative (or, in modern times, judicial) fiat. 
Want to distract from the issue of hate and racial crime in America? Get Al Sharpton talking about a Confederate flag.

And he fell right into the trap, American progressives readily gobbled up the bait so they don't have to think about the real issue, they can do something. Prior to that we had Rachel Dolezal and another dizzying bit of logical head flipping. The same people who told us 'race was simply a social construct' said she could not identify as another race...because she is white.
African swine fever, a highly contagious ailment that requires slaughtering of infected animals, has 6,000 animals schedule to be destroyed in Poland - a potentially big problem for farmers and bacon lovers.

Science may be here to help - by using a gene from African warthogs, which are naturally resistant to African swine fever. By ‘flipping’ a gene in fertilized eggs from domestic pigs, the experimental animals will have a gene more like that of the wild pigs. Then the altered eggs are transferred back to the mother pig and are gestated and born normally.
In New York, an 18 month old baby died after an ear infection and now the parents have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of children.

The parents should be charged with something more serious because the death was entirely preventable; all it took was some medicine and not being an alternative medicine disciple.
Being a famous writer does not earn you a free pass from your kids when it comes to those teenage years.

Roger Zelazny, best known for his The Chronicles of Amber series, had three children but to them he was just dad. One of his sons, Trent, reflects on his departure from writing and his return to it, in no small part due to the support of his father, who didn't care about the quality of what his son wrote, just that he was doing it.
Are genetically modified foods necessary to feed the world's growing population and organic foods just too expensive and gimmicky? Or is it that 'fake foods' do nothing for health but are actually harmful?

Jayadev Calamur speaks to US-based experts Kavin Senapathy, a science writer, and Vani Hari, who fervently believes that organic is the way to go, so you can decide for yourself.

Link: Organic vs GM: finding the grain of truth
I have never smoked a cigarette so I got no dog in that fight, but I have long wondered - 'why not just ban the things?'

I get the whole libertarian aspect of it, people should be allowed to be as stupid as they want, and they are only hurting themselves, hype about second- and even third-hand smoke aside, but we are penalizing tobacco companies more and more each year and have created an entire industry funded by the tobacco industry and that industry exists to demonize tobacco. Now they have even extended their reach to smoking cessation products like e-cigarettes.
Most people don't realize it, but "GMO" is essentially a legal definition and only a vague scientific one. After all, what food has not been 'genetically modified' by now? When is the cut-off date that food remains "organic" and when it becomes icky science?

GMOs are in some instances banned in Europe, for example, but they did not want to put European farmers out of business in their zeal to penalize American companies, so they created a precise definition of GMO that excluded things made using mutagenesis, a less precise (and therefore more risky) form of genetic modification that preceded modern GMOs. So what have European companies gone back to in order to create new products? Mutagenesis.
Fast food often won't be great for you if you eat it too often but some options are okay. An article in Buzzfeed recently identified 26 things that were healthier than regular fare at just about every chain. 

Most are common sense and only one (trans fats) reads like the kind of thing Buzzfeed writers educated by Google searches would say.

• Low in calories: For lunch, that means about 500 calories or less.
• Protein, to help you build muscles: Each of these meals has at least 10 grams of protein (ideally more!).
Why does the moon look bigger when it’s near the horizon?

It's a mystery at least 3,000 years old. Physicists attributed it to refraction while the “angle-of-regard” hypothesis said it was due to the angle that our eyes (or head) make relative to the horizon. The more your eyes are angled upward, the thinking goes, the smaller something looks, due to the physiology of our visual system.

And then some psychologists today say it is a conflict between the conscious and subconscious mind, because, as Kepler said, “Perception does not belong to optics but to the study of the wonderful.”
In 2013, archaeologists working in Alsace, in eastern France discovered the tomb and skull of an aristocrat who died some 1,600 years ago. Her skull was heavily deformed, with the front flattened, and the rear rising into a cone shape.

An amateur digger might have been forgiven for thinking they had found one of the “Grey aliens” that UFO-spotters regularly claim to see. Instead, this was this was an example of “artificial cranial deformation,” or in layman’s terms, the practice of altering the head’s natural shape through force.