Cool Links

Fake volcanoes, giant space mirrors, oceans of iron filings - one of these ideas might save our planet from the worst effects of global warming – or destroy it. Memphis Barker reports on the rise of geoengineering – and the rift it has opened in the scientific community.
Few people love evolutionary biology outreach as much as the University of Chicago's Professor Jerry Coyne. His book, "Why Evolution Is True", is one of three that gets a personal endorsement on my profile page and he posted a terrific article here, A Letter To Darwin - Here's What Has Happened In The Last 150 Years, for our 30 Days of Evolution Blogging event during the 150th anniversary of 'Origin of Species'. His Why Evolution Is True site has become a go-to venue for smart writing about science and society.
Do you rush to buy a particular brand of chicken because it is anti-biotic free? Are you more likely to buy beef that uses "ethical, sustainable" practices like no added steroids or hormones.

I don't blame you, that stuff sounds scary, I don't want antibiotics in my sandwich. There's just one problem: chicken has to be antibiotic-free by law. One brand is trying to look like they are somehow superior to another company even though the chicken is the same.

And 'added' hormones make someone less ethical? Well, that qualifier is necessary because, as you know, we have lots of natural hormones - so do cows and the plants they eat. 
Florida, second only to the entire country of Brazil in global orange juice production and which accounts for over 90 percent of orange juice consumed in the United States, has lost billions of dollars in revenues from a disease that is killing orange trees faster than they can be replaced.

Citrus greening has cost Florida's economy an estimated $4.5 billion in lost revenues since 2006, according to the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences. In an already terrible economy, having a state industry that employs 76,000 full- and part-time workers at further risk is a very bad thing.
UK environment secretary Owen Paterson believes that Golden Rice could prevent blindness and death among children in poor countries.

Anti-science progressives insist most science is dangerous and that biologists are just immoral tinkerers who don't think about safety. 
Pamela Ronald, researcher at the University of California, Davis (and blogger at Scientific American) has outlined why a paper she contributed to in Science was retracted.
TED Talks have always been a little light on the science and heavy on the cultural etherealism. That's cool, they are obviously successful and you can't charge anyone outside government-grant funded academics or corporate-funded scientists a lot of money to attend a conference on just science but people will pay a lot more if you also throw in speculation about the future, a human rights activist and a dobro player.

TEDx took that to a whole new level - these franchised events just grabbed whoever they could grab and it was open season for woo, pseudoscience and mysticism to be ensconced under a technology and science umbrella. 
There once was a time when biologists wished more people embraced biology - now they mat be wishing people loved their field a little less.

Almost every crackpot notion can be linked to a brain scan, or a survey of college students, or a general behavior linked to results from twins, and declared biology. And if biologists object, those psychologists, economists and sociologists will say it doesn't have to be a genetic link, it can be epigenetic. It's the go-to safety net for runaway speculation and end-oriented belief that seeks science legitimacy.

A neuroeconomist writing in the New York Times discusses an 'experiment', hooking a dog up to an "MRI stimulator" and the conclusion that followed:
It's popular to lament the politicization of important ideas like health care but it didn't start during the term of President Obama; let's keep in mind that war protests conveniently stopped after November of 2008, for no other reason than that the people behind the protests got their candidate elected - troops are still everywhere, the president launched two more military strikes against 'sovereign nations no threat to anyone outside their own borders' last week. And President Lyndon Johnson handily beat Senator Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election, thanks in part to producing a video showing a little girl being vaporized by a nuclear bomb. 
Paleontologists usually find fossils jumbled up, broken apart, crushed and spread out over a large area, not in one piece.

A whole 35-foot dinosaur may be slumbering inside the rock a construction worker hit while clearing a site in the town of Spirit River. He was making way for an oil pipeline - see, Big Energy is good for science in lots of ways!

"The last time I've seen something like that was in a museum. I've never found something like this before,"  said paleontologist Matthew Vavrek, who went out to inspect and wasn't expecting to see what he found on the side of a sandstone boulder...
1,000 years ago in North America, long before pilgrams set foot in Massachusetts, there was once a large civilization whose city center was ringed with enormous earthen pyramids, vast farmlands, and wealthy suburbs. For hundreds of years it remained the largest city in North America - but no one knows its name.
According to Dante, the Styx is not just a river but a vast, deathly swamp filling the entire fifth circle of hell.

It sounds a lot like Lake Natron in northern Tanzania, where temperatures can reach 60 °C and its alkalinity is between pH 9 and pH 10.5. When salt islands form in the lake, lesser flamingos take the opportunity to nest – but it is a risky business, as this calcified bird illustrates...
To translate one language into another, find the linear transformation that maps one to the other. Simple, if you are part of an elite team of Google engineers.

In the world of academia, the number of citations an article receives means money at grant review time, and that means career success.

However, with the emergence of new article metrics, researchers are increasingly looking to usage data (downloads and article views) and other article-level metrics, such as social media mentions, to understand a paper's impact. Last year, Elsevier ran a pilot for a new initiative designed to meet the demand for alternative metrics: the Article Usage Report. Based on the positive results of that pilot, the decision has been taken to offer it to all journals on ScienceDirect this autumn.

A magnitude-5.3 earthquake has hit the Japanese prefecture that is home to the nuclear power plant crippled in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake struck early Friday at a depth of about 13 miles under Fukushima Prefecture and about 110 miles northeast of Tokyo.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue an alert and the Japanese news agency Kyodo News reported that the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., observed no abnormality in radiation or equipment after the quake.

Magnitude-5.3 Earthquake Hits Japan's Fukushima By Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press
A California resident has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Chobani accusing it of negligence and breaching the implied warranty of merchantability for its yogurts following the recent mold outbreak. Chobani, which declined to comment on the legal action, first started fielding complaints about bloated and fizzy yogurt cups in late August, and issued a formal recall on selected products on September 5th after confirming they had been affected by a "common mold".

It’s not clear how many people ate the affected products, but the FDA told reporters on Monday it had received more than 220 reports from people complaining of cramps, nausea, headache and diarrhea after eating Chobani products - although it stressed this did not prove that the yogurts made them sick.

Rhett Allain, Associate Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, was fascinated by this bit in Nautilus...
If two statisticians were to lose each other in an infinite forest, the first thing they would do is get drunk. That way, they would walk more or less randomly, which would give them the best chance of finding each other he set out to clear that up and basically do what no statistician, mathematician or all of the brains at UPS have really been able to do; figure out whether a random walk is the best way to put together two lost objects.

Conclusion: Being drunk helps.
Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and lots of other technology entrepreneurs share one thing in common, despite their generational differences; they discovered that their college education wasn't needed.

After getting sympathetic members of Congress to declare a college education a 'right' in the early 1990s, and getting unlimited student loans to help, universities are in the pole position culturally. College-educated people make more money, they note, and you won't get a good job without one.

Of course, that just means that once everyone can get a college degree, it is just a simple barrier to entry. It doesn't improve anyone's chances of getting a job, it just weeds out people really unqualified. 
A 20 year effort to allow avocados from Hawaii has paid off - the USDA lifted a ban that's been in place since 1992, after fruit fly larvae was found in a Sharwil avocados packing house in Hawaii. Avocados have been grown in Hawaii since being introduced by Australia in the 1950s.

To prevent accidental introduction of oriental fruit flies to the U.S. after the larvae discovery, previous rules required fumigation and cold treatments that ruin the quality of the fruit.

But scientists have determined that the avocados are poor hosts for fruit flies, lawmakers wrote in their letter.