Cool Links

The latest bee population numbers for 2015 came out last week and while they are a guesstimate,  they show a tiny (3%) decrease since their 20-year high from 2014.

No big deal to scientists, bee numbers fluctuate a lot from year-to-year and always have, and overwinter losses do not equal bees in decline, but activists are portraying it as an ecological catastrophe. 

Genetic Literacy Project has the latest on the Colony Collapse Disorder that never was and produced a handy infographic for the evidence-based world.

In a forthcoming American Minerologist paper, Hazen and Ausubel outlined a new mineral-classification system to help geologists better understand the designation of “rare.” They based their work on a similar system by the biologist Deborah Rabinowitz, who studied rare biological species.

According to Rabinovitz, a species can be considered rare if it meets at least one of three criteria: a small geographic range, highly specific habitat requirements, or a small population size.
Project7 makes sugar-free chewing gum flavors like "front porch lemonade"  and now they are adding something extra for gum aficionados - the ability to make combinations. A new package has  complementary flavors in each bag so you can chew them on their own or combined in things like "cookie dough ice cream" and "key lime pie".

"Build a Flavor" gum is being sold exclusively at Target.
The Supreme Court has blocked a key Obama administration environmental rule to limit carbon emissions from power plants.
Hampton Creek may have won the battle - to get around the 1938 Code of Federal Regulations, which govern ‘standards of identity’ and was created specifically to prevent companies from selling fake food using established names - but lost the war.

If they can sell mayonnaise outside the definition of mayonnaise, so can food giant Unilever. And that is just what is happening. "Just Mayo", meet the egg-free alternative to Hellmann's. 
Marge Bloom, who gave birth to American Council on Science and Health Director of Chemical Sciences (and Science 2.0 Featured Columnist) Dr. Josh Bloom - and has never lived that down - is celebrating her 89th birthday today.

Since it is winter time, I hope she is taking a day off from her usual gig escorting lost tourists around Central Park in the Manhattan borough of New York City.

Here she is with her favorite child:

The days when Whole Foods could rely on elite prestige - customer were buying self-identification with higher prices on food - are gone now that organic marketing has actually convinced customers that it's food is not just a process or an ethical way of life but, as economist Chuck Benbrook often tried to claim, actually more nutritious than regular food.

If the food itself is better just by paying for a sticker, then it becomes a price issue; and Whole Foods share prices continue to languish.

They may get worse. An analyst for the stock commissioned a survey and customers said they did not notice any price changes, even after Whole Foods lowered prices. 
US Right To Know, an anti-GMO front group funded by organic food corporations, has made no secret of its willingness to smear and bully and libel scientists and journalists and anyone else who stands up to their campaigns of fear and doubt about the competitors of their clients.

They are Deniers For Hire in the purest sense. A short while ago one of their advisors, Lisa Graves, who runs the political attack site SourceWatch, libeled me by calling me a "felon" but US Right To Know could just dismiss that as not being someone directly working for them. Now they have gone over the top under their own banner.
On Science 2.0, we've long been critical of claims about "brain training" games, Baby Einstein videos, and the whole lot of quick fixes. In brain training games, they only teach you to get better at playing their games.
Four new elements that have been added to the periodic table, completing its seventh row, according to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

Now comes the fun part - picking names for them. Hopefully, they will look beyond naming them after Johnny Depp or a Keith Richards. In the meantime, they are being called ununtrium, (Uut or element 113), ununpentium (Uup, element 115), ununseptium (Uus, element 117), and ununoctium (Uuo, element 118).

It's not even trivial to identify them as elements. 
Antibiotic resistance is a concern worldwide - scientists and public health officials are finally beginning to agree about the use of low dose antibiotics as growth promoters in livestock feed: It needs to stop immediately. 

No more evidence is needed than recent, troubling reports about the appearance of a new gene in both pigs and humans in China.
E-cigarettes, increasingly popular nicotine delivery systems, have been touted as a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes and a smoking cessation tool, but now that they have become popular (more teens are using them than cigarettes, writes the American Council on Science and Health), they have become a polarizing subject, with studies in favor of — or against — the products.
Chipotle, which has promised to remove GMOs (from soybean oil anyway - the meat, cheese and soda remained evidence-based) and claimed it was going to be more ethical than anyone else by only sourcing local ingredients and produce now has a much bigger problem on its hands - its stores are a ghost town because they have caused not different types of foodborne illnesses in different parts of the country.
There once was a time when the use of thin models was deemed as promoting an unrealistic body image for women - odd at a time when obesity was rising and there were fewer and fewer thin women to blame.

Now "plus-size" models are taking some heat for promoting poor health choices and obesity. A paper in the Journal of Public Policy&Marketing says advertising campaigns that lean towards using ‘plus-size’ models are having a “detrimental” effect on the public’s lifestyle and eating behavior because they claim being fat is ‘real’ and ‘normal’ . 
The Obama administration really wanted the Environmental Protection Agency's legally suspect Waters of the United States rule (the fuzzy-wuzzy named Clean Water Rule) to get a groundswell of public approval - so they used government employees and taxpayer money to blitz social media endorsing it.

That's called lobbying, and it is illegal for the government to lobby for the rule it bypassed lawmakers to enact. Not only did they break the law, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found, they engaged in “covert propaganda” because they did not disclose that the messages they were promoting across social media were written and foisted off by the same group engaging in the unprecedented power grab over state and city government. 
The organic food process has been a miracle of clever marketing that will be taught in business schools for generations to come: They managed to convince the public to pay more for food using reasoning that mostly involved self-identification as being more ethical people and better parents if they did so.

Nothing special about that, except this is food; an organic tomato is no different than any other tomato. Both are grown using pesticides and fertilizers, both have been genetically modified for thousands of years.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's $300 million Akatsuki ("Dawn") probe fired its small attitude-control thrusters for 20 minutes Sunday evening at 6:51 p.m. EST in a second (and final) attempt to enter Venus orbit. 

The first attempt was exactly five years ago, on Dec. 6, 2010, but it failed when the probe's main engine conked out during the orbit-insertion burn, sending the spacecraft sailing off into deep space.

However, this time they had a win. Let's do some science!

Image: Akihiro Ikeshita/JAXA
Sugar is sugar, to scientists. But Big Sugar, which promoted the notion that its bleached white product was somehow superior to corn syrup, suddenly found itself fighting a second front, against nutritionists, food bloggers and outright crackpots like Joe Mercola and the lunatic that runs that Natural News site.
Want to be made to feel like you are a bad mother? Defend ordinary food among a crowd of people who buy organic. They self-identify as not only being more educated than ordinary shoppers, but more ethical people as well. Especially if it is for the children.

Why don't men get the same social and gender pressure as women? Men may be less easy to manipulate with the 'you are a bad parent' marketing techniques used by organic marketing groups and the pressure groups like SourceWatch and U.S. Right To Know that they fund.
In 1959, the public were told not to eat cranberries because they might contain a cancer-causing carcinogen.

Ha ha.

Today, we know everything is a cancer-causing carcinogen. Your 100 percent organic Thanksgiving dinner is stuffed full of carcinogens that cause cancer in rats, yet people will eat it anyway.