Cool Links

6,100 hundred people applied to become astronauts - with its rather fuzzy, non-specific meaning compared to when I was a kid - for the candidate class of 2013. 8 have been chosen.

"These new space explorers asked to join NASA because they know we’re doing big, bold things here -- developing missions to go farther into space than ever before," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. 
Since the dawn of time [citation needed], mathematicians have been fascinated with what prime numbers are, how many there are (see below), tests for primality, and crucially, finding a pattern in which numbers are prime and which aren’t. So far, the answer to that one has eluded us.

I don’t think it’s too much of an overstatement to say that prime numbers are the building blocks of numbers. They’re the atoms of maths. They are the beginning of all number theory...

Open Season: Prime Numbers (Part 1) By Katie Steckles
Commercial genetically modified crops are commonly optimized to be resistant to glyphosate, which most people know as Roundup. 

Glyphosate inhibits plant growth by blocking an enzyme known as EPSP synthase, which is involved in as much as 35% of a plant’s mass. The Monsanto GMO technique, for example, involved inserting genes derived from bacteria that infect plants into a crop’s genome to boost EPSP-synthase production.  They quite cleverly used nature to make crops pesticide-resistant, so farmers can wipe out weeds from the fields without damaging their crops, which means better yields, more food at cheaper prices and a lower environmental footprint, including global warming emissions.
During the days of rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, the military decided to try a science approach to working with the residents there.

Unfortunately, they picked an American anthropology field that is at war with itself over whether or not it wants to be scientific or advocacy-based. It was the wrong solution at the wrong time - as Israeli leaders have long told American presidents when being patronized, the Middle East is not the Middle West.
Battleships are so World War II. And while aircraft carriers have ruled since then, naval air power relying on them is primarily effective against targets that are decades behind. So while Raytheon is developing a missile killer to knock out China's DF-21D "carrier killer" cruise missile, DARPA is looking for ideas to replace aircraft carriers themselves, before they are obsolete.
In the ongoing culture war, where various groups jockey over studies to create some confirmation bias for their readers, some of the silliest claims have been that there may be brain differences between 'conservative' and 'liberal' people.

Never mind that this would have to mean Americans have evolved to be a separate species, engendering all kinds of supernatural epigenetic and logical backflips, the reason it casts doubt is that all those studies claiming to be science used fMRI and/or surveys of college students to bastardize biology. 
Alex Wild at Myrmecos has shared a picture from visiting scholar
We see it happen all of the time - a paper is produced saying something is either bad or is a Miracle Vegetable of The Week, it gets worldwide mainstream media attention, and then a bunch of other people jump on to do more studies. Then people jump in to do studies debunking them. Rinse, repeat

If you have witnessed the hysteria regarding BPA, for example, you have seen we are in the piling on stage, while white rice has overcome the 'it is not as healthy as brown rice' stage and is gaining ground in neutral science.
Heinz Endowments, a charitable arm of Heinz separate from its consumer foods business, has relieved Caren Glotfelty of managing its Environment Program, which is a significant part of the endowment's overall grants. Her last day will be Thursday.

In recent years, Heinz Endowments had given a great deal of its money to environmental groups opposed to natural gas extraction. Then more recently, it joined a consortium with major drilling companies like Shell and Chevron to create stricter energy industry standards, which annoyed environmental groups.

Federal Court of Canada has issued a default judgment against Doug Van Verdegem, and Bar V Farms Ltd. of Strathmore, Alberta, for patent infringement pertaining to the Roundup Ready gene in canola.

The court determined that Van Verdegem violated the terms and conditions of the contract he signed with Monsanto Canada by deliberately and knowingly planting, growing, harvesting and selling Roundup Ready canola without paying for the technology - an unfair competitive advantage.
Until last week, I worked at a food truck downtown. We sold grilled cheese and milkshakes. One of the unusual things about this particular food service job was that the owner used customer comments and pictures on social media—especially Twitter and Instagram—to monitor his workers. Grilled cheese: gamified.

And it was explicitly framed as a game for workers. Members of whichever 'crew' got the most positive feedback on social media each month would win a $25 iTunes gift card.

But compliments are hard to track online. Even if a customer thinks she is paying a compliment online, she might not be. Like if you enjoyed your sandwich enough to Instagram it, but the color of the grilled bread wasn't exactly right, we’d hear about it.

Verification Junkie is a growing directory of apps, tools, sites and strategies for verifying, fact checking and assessing the validity of social media and user generated content.

Says creator Josh Stearns:
In the upside-down is back-and-forth and cows-can-whinny department, we present the new head of the EPA saying that by taking over control of CO2 emissions and allowing unelected partisan officials to bypass Congress and directly implement the personal policies of the president, they can help the economy.

Honestly, as we approach 5 years into this presidency, do we really think anyone in the White House is helping the economy?  Good guy and all, funny, smart about most things, but bonkers when it comes to money. 
Over the last few years, you may have noticed more "no smoking" signs have cropped up on parks and beaches. They're part of a larger trend banning smoking at outside, public areas. In fact, smoking has been banned in 843 parks and more than 150 beaches in the last two decades.

In California, where a law was passed banning smoking in bars and restaurants without a vote, they are now trying to can smoking on outdoor patios of bars and restaurants. And in cars. And in private homes.

Public health officials have long argued the bans are meant to eliminate dangers from secondhand, or "sidestream smoke," reduce the environmental impact of cigarette butts and to keep young, impressionable children from picking up on bad habits. Makes sense, right?
80 percent of Americans don't trust big banks and almost two-thirds think that corporate corruption is widespread. 

This loss of trust is costly. Though it is said that market competition is an efficient substitute for trustworthiness and integrity, economists have claimed for years that it is expensive and wasteful to monitor and regulate a system when trust is lost. 
The American media loves hackers - well, sometimes. Julian Assange releasing dirt on the Bush administration - yayyyyyy - but then Edward Snowden releasing dirt on the Obama administration was a big no-no. The media were suddenly to the right of Richard Nixon when it came to national security when President Obama looked bad.
Are you a lemon cowboy?  

You might soon be. While savvy consumers are spending less on food with organic labels (though the market is growing, due to un-savvy  consumers) and no one believes in 'natural' claims any more, "authentic origins" is just vague and healthy-sounding enough to resonate in marketing campaigns. It will surely be the cliché of 2013 in food circles.

Wyoming-based Dust Cutter Beverage Co. sells all-natural, Western-style lemonades - I don't know what western style is and it doesn't matter because it has "authentic origins". The company's founder, Eric Green, saw his grandparents, who owned the Warm Springs Ranch in Jackson Hole, give lemonade-and-whiskey "Dust Cutters" to guests coming off the trails of the dude ranch.
We've talked about it a lot here: bugs are a great protein source, usually for someone else. Starbucks customers, for example, cheered when the company announced it was removing an artificial coloring in its Frappuccino - until they learned that the organic coloring alternative, long used throughout history, was ground up cochineal bugs.
This might come as a surprise, given everything Cracked has written about them, but they acknowledge that not every scientist is evil. Instead, they say, most are just lucky idiots. 

Imagine that you're a scientist, and you just thought of something really crazy, like an experiment that will only work if you irradiate half the planet. You obviously can't do that, or at least you can't get caught doing that. Your only option then is to look around to see if someone's already done the crazy part for you, to find some serendipitous accident of man or nature that left a perfectly designed experiment in its wake. Something like ...
As we have discussed here numerous times, 'organic' mostly means what you want it to mean. The list of synthetic ingredients that the organic lobby has gotten the FDA to add is truly dizzying, with exceptions as simple as 'there is no non-synthetic alternative'.