Cool Links

With unpredictable annual rainfall and drought about once every five years, the potato is becoming a more important crop there.

Semagn-Asredie Kolech, a Cornell doctoral candidate, shuttles between Ethiopia and Ithaca to examine and research efficient agricultural practices. “The potato is a good strategy crop for global warming. It has a short growing season, it offers higher yields, it’s less susceptible to hail damage, and you can grow 40 tons per hectare. With wheat and corn, you don’t get more than 10 tons a hectare.” 
A Kansas farmer has sued Monsanto over genetically modified wheat in Oregon. The attorney who talked to the Associated Press from Dallas said lawsuits were the only way to police the agricultural system. Only a few hundred million dollars in penalties will protect us from food.

The lawsuit alleges that the unharvested crop drove down wheat futures prices and caused a backlash from some international markets.

The USDA has determined that the genetically modified wheat is safe but Monsanto does not sell it.  Since no contamination has occurred Monsanto is dismissing it as 'tractor-chasing lawyers'.
Nick Duffy is co-founder of the West Midlands Ghost Club (1989) and since then members of the club have been visiting the spookiest and scariest places around the region, using audio visual equipment, temperature recordings and trigger objects such as crucifixes and old coins to find proof of ghosts. The focus for them has always been objectivity and a calm and measured approach.

So people shouting at ghosts and shaky-cam running all over the place aren't doing anyone any favors, he notes. Hauntings, ghosts and spirits are now big business and TV shows such as Most Haunted and Ghost Hunters have made both viewers and show producers desperate to find the paranormal, says Duffy. And it demeans what he is trying to do.
In the 2004 documentary "Super Size Me", Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald's food for a month.  He felt terrible at the end of it, but it was for art. 

Fast food has a lot of calories, most people could subsist just fine for 30 days eating just one such meal a day - but even one McDonald's meal every single day in conjunction with two other meals can still lead to weight loss, says Don Thompson.

He lost 20 lbs. in the last year despite eating McDonald's food every day - it's part of his job because he is CEO of McDonald's. Speaking at the At the Sanford Bernstein analyst conference on Wednesday, he revealed that his weight loss was due to getting his "butt up" and "working out again", his McDonald's food didn't have to go.
During the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which is a couple hundred miles from where he and his family live, Paul Bluestein stayed in his home while thousands of others fled the Tokyo area and many foreigners left Japan for good.  Radiation was about to create a Godzilla and he always goes for Tokyo. If you believe fear and doubt promoted with junk science.

Not only did they not flee, they still buy as much of their fruits and vegetables as possible from Fukushima Prefecture.
Stephen Hawking recently declared that philosophy is "dead" - meaning metaphysics, the branch of philosophy that aspires to the most general understanding of space and time and other fundamental stuff of the world. Get rid of sophistry and defining into oblivion, learn some math and read some physics, he said. Pick any science and philosophers can drag it into the mud.

Philosophers disagree and say just the opposite - physics needs metaphysics more than ever. 
A new outbreak of a hepatitis A strain rarely seen in the Western Hemisphere is believed to be associated with frozen mixed berries purchased from Costco.

 At least 30 illnesses are involved, including sicknesses in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada and Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berries purchased from Costco appear to be the source of this outbreak.
Carmat in France is getting ready to test a complex artificial heart that combines biology with machinery. 

The race is on to build a better heart and provide a safe bridge for cases where organ transplant is not available. Carmat's version uses synthetic and biological materials as well as sensors and software that detect a patient’s level of exertion and adjust output accordingly. It will be tested in patients at four cardiac surgery centers in Europe and the Middle East. 

Around 5.7 million people in the U.S. have had heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Discovery in science means something different than discovery in common terms. Local people may have seen a snake for 500 years but if it turns out to be a new species, that is a discovery.

There also many Civil War-era battle and camp sites that local people know about but that archaeologists have not cataloged yet - they are not in history books and so the sites have not been officially analyzed. In Civil War CSI: Did Stonewall Jackson Die From Pneumonia? I posted a picture of a bullet I found wandering around one of those overgrown sites in South Carolina that haven't been analyzed yet:
Two separate carbon-dating tests have confirmed the oldest known complete Torah scroll, a sheepskin document dating from 1155-1225. It had been mistakenly cataloged a century ago as dating from the 17th century.

The find isn't the oldest Torah text in the world, Hebrew codexes known as the Leningrad and the Aleppo bibles, date hundreds of years earlier but this is the oldest Torah scroll of the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, according to Mauro Perani, a professor of Hebrew in the University of Bologna's cultural heritage department.
There were a whole bunch of protests against Monsanto last weekend - going after a company in name while really going after the science is smart politics, because it allows science media to rationalize that hard-core anti-science progressives are not anti-science at all, they just dislike corporations.

And Monsanto is not easy to like.  But politics, as with likability, is subjective.  And when politics and science mix - as they often do in the modern period where government wants to control basic research - things can get messy for political reporters who are used to equivalent sides that are engaged in spin.
The makers of the uChek app, which analyzes photos of urine samples to give users quick health information, recently got a letter from the FDA asking it to show it had approval from the FDA or document why it doesn't need it.

The FDA lets the entire NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) get $128 million per year without giggling but this iPhone app is apparently a concern. How would they feel jurisdiction over an iPhone? The chemical strips which determine the levels of elements in urine become, when used by uChek, part of an "automated strip reader" and therefore a medical testing system that requires its approval.  Even though the strips are meant to be read by eyes.
If you are tired of Democrats getting all of the media attention for spouting anti-science nonsense about food, energy and medicine, there is good news; someone on the right-wing can make weird anecdotal proclamations about health as well.

Talk show host Bill O'Reilly recently announced that giving up wheat made his cholesterol drop and "and I feel stronger, more manly."

Well, that's nice. When I was 19 years old I fasted for 4 days every two weeks, nothing but water. It also gave me a lot of energy. Despite the existence of 'hunger pangs' your stomach is a muscle that adapts rather quickly. After 24 hours without food you no longer get them, even though you are more 'hungry' than ever, and the energy increase is tremendous.
The family which originally sold the Dead Sea Scrolls to collectors and institutions about 70 years ago says they kept some fragments in a Swiss safe deposit box all these years - and those have been up for sale.  The manuscripts are the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible ever found and the oldest written evidence of the roots of Judaism and Christianity in the Holy Land.
Last weekend,  May 18th, 2013 an aurora appeared over Marquette, Michigan in the northern USA, after coronal mass ejections from the sun made contact with Earth’s magnetic fields, funneling energy and particles into near-Earth space.

The outer solar atmosphere, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields and where those fields are closed, often above sunspot groups, the confined solar atmosphere can suddenly and violently release bubbles of gas and magnetic fields. We call those coronal mass ejections and they erupt from the sun with billions of tons of solar material that can impact satellites. 
Lost in the media crush of celebrity worshipers extolling or criticizing actress Angelina Jolie for her op-ed on opting to have a double mastectomy was the science factoid that trumps everything else:

99% of women do not have the BRCA1 mutation. 

The BRCA1 mutation is a very bad thing, it represents a gigantic increase in the chances of getting breast or ovarian cancer.
If spending is the metric, Canadian research is in trouble.

Of course, if spending is the metric, American Democrats hate science a lot more than American Republicans do, but you'd have a hard time getting science media to acknowledge that. Still, spending is at least one metric.
Elements Make Headlines

If you ever enjoyed Tom Lehrer's take on the elements, or even if not, check out this way of using the names of the elements in a novel way:

http://news.knowledgedoor.s3.amazonaws.com/home_headlines.html
While the new DSM-5 has attracted plenty of criticism - and the National Institute of Mental Health has given up on it, saying "patients with mental disorders deserve better" - not everyone is critical.
Students of sociology professor Dr. Leszek Sibilski at University of Maryland made a video asking for action on climate change.  They regard climate change as a social problem - most in science would regard it as a physics one but certainly taking action is a political, and therefore social, issue.