Cool Links

Recently, President Obama made a clear endorsement of biotechnology.

That's good, right?

Maybe. He has also made clear endorsements of nuclear science and vaccines, yet his actions in five years have been anything but clear. His administration consistently opposes inconvenient science that disagrees with the beliefs of his base - and nothing offends a giant swath of Democrats like nuclear energy, GMOs and vaccines. 
Vani Hari, the Foodbabe, promises that if you follow her diet you will look pretty like she does - and to bolster her case she trots out the naturalistic fallacy and a healthy dose of chemical illiteracy, the most famous of which is 'if she can't pronounce it, you shouldn't eat it'.

As Josh Bloom has noted on Science 2.0, she is missing out on delicious chemical-laced treats like Tris-(9-octadecenoyl) trigyceryl mixed esters and  (2E)-3-phenylprop-2-enal. And no science at all would get done without 3,7-Dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dion. 
Airplane food tastes bad, right?

It depends. Before our somewhat dopey security efforts turned flying into a third-world experience, I have had some pretty good meals. 

But efforts to create gourmet meals fall pretty flat - and there is a science reason why.

The Fraunhofer Institute did a study on why delicious food on the ground tastes dull in the air. In a mock aircraft cabin, researchers tried out ingredients at both sea level and in a pressurized condition—and the differences in taste were startling.
Take a look at this 300 foot high wall in Bolivia, which has over 5,000 dinosaur footprints.

3 miles from downtown Sucre, Bolivia is Cal Orko, a limestone slab 0.9 miles long and over 328 feet high. On this steep 73 degree face can see tracks from 68 million years ago. 

Cal Orko has 462 distinct dinosaur tracks from at least 8 different species - 5,055 individual dinosaur footprints. So how do thousands of dinosaur footprints end up on a vertical rock face hundreds of feet high? 

Let's give it up for Livescience. Their article on an arousing Champagne ice cream, the brainchild of Welsh food inventor Charlie Harry Francis, is sold with a clever graphic. 

They didn't even have to create it.  Lick Me I'm Delicious, the name for this brainchild of Francis, did. It has 25 mg of Viagra.

Get it? Lick me? Viagra?

Maybe their photo will help.

Link: Pinterest
A litany on Science 2.0 is that when something comes up that might be about fish, call Neil Shubin - because he can make anything about fish.

That's because we can make almost anything about fish. He has told the story before, and recounts in his new television show, that students in an anatomy class he taught likely wanted a refund when he explained he was a fish biologist, until he showed them what we all had in common.

Tiktaalik roseae, a 375-million-year-old Devonian period specimen, is one of the great examples of multi-disciplinary science collaboration; biology predicted it, geology predicted how to find it and paleontology predicted where to look. Then they found it. 
Like with a perfectly safe genetically modified salmon, Keystone XL, Yucca Mountain and most other inconvenient science, if the government doesn't want to go on record overturning scientists, it just ignores them.

It's a safe move. Scientists rely on politicians for funding, so they are not going to become a voting bloc. Sometimes they aren't ignored, they are just never asked.
A non-peer reviewed claim published in something called the Central European Journal of Urology is all that's needed for American environmentalists to declare that cell phones are causing men to be unable to get it up.

What was the evidence? Surveys they matched to the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) and then answering questions about cell phone habits.

This goofiness is being perpetuated by Natural News, which is basically the Weekly World News of health coverage.  Look for them to claim pesticides are creating Bat Boys next:
In a modern government culture where Freedom of Information Act requests are ignored when they are made by political opposition, some political groups can't get 501C status if they are a different party than people at the IRS and the NSA is spying on everyone, it is no surprise sometimes favoritism also happens.
We all know how important article graphics are in science studies. Without the right graphics, no one is going to believe the results. 

And that goes for images of the authors also. Toward the goal of taking science back to its roots, PeerJ is now requiring selfies of scientists. They also intend to be able to datamine the results and determine which scientists get the most citations correlated to their selfies.

While most scientists look like this:

University of North Carolina has loose academic standards for athletes. Obviously lots of schools do that. But UNC takes it to a whole new level. 

Some of the classes never met and only required a paper. And even terrible papers earn an A.

This paper, uncovered by ESPN, was a paragraph long, chock full of spelling and grammatical errors and didn't say much of anything.

I was on the competitive shooting team in college. We had to go to class.
Unless it's a child of Jenny McCarthy or the anti-vaccine, anti-GMO, anti-science demographic that listens to her, kids of today who are reading classic fiction may not understand the world characters of the past lived in. Cholera? Scarlet Fever? Jungle Fever? 

A lot of great books written today simply lack a plot, unless the emotional anchors for The Velveteen Rabbit and Little Women could be transformed into worries about global warming and how much water should be in a toilet flush.

At Discover, Elizabeth Preston outlines a whole bunch of great books that kids read and that revolved around medical facts of the day. Want to know what Tiny Tim had and how he was likely cured? You have to go read the article.
Someone asked me one time if I had an easy explanation for evolution and I told them I have a three-word one: "hair and milk".

Nothing shows how much we have in common (descent) with other mammals than those three words. When a baby is hungry the baby knows what to do.

Or not. Apparently the mechanism of suckling is up for debate. It sounds funny but I like that science is out to understand the mysteries of obvious, common-sense things about nature, like how a baby extracts milk.

Alex Berezow at Real Clear Science has all of the juicy details.

Cosmologically speaking, 'near' does not mean what it means colloquially. After last week's "Cosmos" show, astronomers were chuckling at the representation that space was some sort of asteroid-laced minefield. In reality, you are less likely to get hit by an asteroid in space than you are on Earth - because space is that big.

So when astronomers stated scientifically that Asteroid 2003 QQ47 would pass 'near' us, they were speaking the language of science but the language of doomsday prognosticators is another thing entirely.

12 million miles is 'near' to astronomers but to you and me that is 50 times farther away than the Moon...and therefore nothing to fear. 
Jonathan Eisen and Darlene Cavalier get a nice shout-out in the Sacramento Bee today, for their work gathering microbes for an experiment in space.
Stonyfield Farm wants to be environmentally conscious -and they want to sell expensive organic yogurt but not saddle customers with a lot of liberal guilt about a container.

They may have done it with Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls, which is being tested in a few Whole Foods stores. The organic vanilla or chocolate frozen yogurt is encased in an edible skin flavored like peach or banana or coconut or strawberry.

Co-founder Gary Hirshberg says the edible, protective skin is bound via molecular interactions between its two key ingredients, organic fruit and natural ions, whatever that means. Grapes figured this out without a lot of gibberish and there has never been anything 'organic' about them, they have been genetically modified for millenia.
In the mid-1800s an American plant lice made its way to Europe. It wasn't Native Americans returning the disease favor but the sap-sucking aphids still did a number on France, killing the rebounding post-French Revolution, post-Napoleon economy.

The obnoxious little grape phylloxera were the result of mad science experiments - but since it was old-timey, random experimentation a lot of environmental activists would regard it as far superior to precise, controlled modification.
40 percent of the ruined vineyards later, and the damage was done.This inforgraphic,presented by: Mocavo - Genealogy Search, has the details.
There are a lot of conferences out there. If you are in science, or even science media, you have gotten emails soliciting papers. The benefit for them is you pay a big registration fee, the presumed benefit for the contributor is you get to say you did a paper at a conference.

Likely inspired by the Sokal affair, where a hippie physicist got tired of hippie, anti-science nonsense in philosophy and created a paper stuffed full of postmodernist gibberish that was immediately accepted by because it was by a physicist and lauded the weakness of physics compared to philosophy, a group at MIT knew they could get all kinds of papers accepted at science conferences the same way.
Duct tape, or duck tape if you are old school (1), can fix anything, according to the public. Well, according to men in the public who are often too lazy to do it right.

But it has to have limits and engineers love to find out where things go from linear to nonlinear.

So if you give engineers the same amount of duct/duck tape, who could make their friends stick to the wall the longest?  The answer, found a Lockheed team, is about 15 minutes. Team "Ron Made Us Do It" won. Naturally, they suspended a systems engineer, because 15 minutes of wasted time there makes little difference (I kid, I kid).
At a young age, I gave up on trying to master the latest high-fives, hand signs and generally trying to be cool. 

I couldn't do the math.

But math geeks can, and Ben Orlin at Math With Bad Drawings is apparently the coolest. He can show you how all of the various high fives relate to math.

Just one sample, since I put germaphobes in the title:

The Asymptote. This representation of one of the coolest behaviors a function can have is also good for germaphobes afraid of physical contact.

And he has 13 more!