Science Education & Policy

Dear class of 2016,

Finishing school can be a daunting experience but you are young, bright and have your future ahead of you — easy for me to say, you might think.

I could fill a book with the things I wish I’d known when I left school – how to iron, how to put up a shelf, how invaluable learning languages is. Though the biggest one is how everyone is in the same boat, and how no one really knows what they want to do when they leave school.

So, with this in mind, let me impart some of my age old wisdom onto your young shoulders. Here are some of the most important life lessons I wish somebody had taught me before the final school bell rang.

An old friend of mine gave my family a personal tour of NASA recently which reverberated in my daughter’s bones. She touched the face of history running her fingertips over the very controls used to put Americans on the moon as well as the Apollo 17 command module displayed in Space Center Houston. Her video registers the personal impact in musical images far better than my words.

The 2016 presidential election has been conspicuously light on substance, particularly on matters of science and policy. In an effort to provide some clarity to voters who place an emphasis on science, we have created a chart that scores the presumptive Republican and Democratic Party candidates on key scientific issues. Please keep in mind three major caveats:

Men still outperform women in undergraduate introductory biology tests and humanities scholars are scrambling to blame the tests. And the wealth of families. Anything except the fact that on different tests in different classes at different times, test performance will vary and is not a problem that can be fixed by creating a test where women, or poor women, will be guaranteed to do better.

How is performance different? When it comes to memorization tests, facts, both genders are equal, but when tests include cognitively challenging questions that require elevated critical thinking, females and lower socioeconomic students score lower than their male or high-status peers. Publishing that result without hedging is a sure way to get through out of a university.  


Environmental groups, who ordinarily love centralized government and social authoritarian mechanisms to block science and progress, have suddenly embraced the free market - well, when the free market is using social authoritarian mechanisms to block science and progress, anyway.

Last year, after review and stalling well beyond believability, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the AquAdvantage salmon, an Atlantic salmon that expresses a gene from a Chinook salmon and grows faster.

In Japan, where the suicide rate is quite high but guns are banned, they use rope. So it is accurate to state that rope ownership is closely tied to suicide rates in that country.

Using that same methodology, it is easy to do the same with guns and suicide. States with higher estimated levels of gun ownership had higher incidents of gun-related suicides, according to a new paper in the American Journal of Public Health which covers 33 years, from 1981 to 2013, and the authors claims is the most comprehensive analysis of the association between gun ownership and gender-specific suicides rates among the 50 U.S. states. 


Friends of the Earth, an activism group generally devoted to impeding science and progress, is excited that the Texas Clean Energy Project, a carbon capture and sequestration facility in Texas, has support from the Department of Energy that is set to expire.

Frenkel and his loverThe erotic video Rites of Love and Math caught my eye on a Colbert interview.

Books Small PictureThese tips will help researchers for whom English is a second language, and who work at universities and research institutes where the international publishing culture is still young. 

I was enthralled by reading the latest post by Greg Kotkowski on the Amva4NewPhysics blog. He has something to teach us all about how we should be rational and use our knowledge to address everyday problems, rather than follow the groupthink and be driven to take irrational measures.
Have a look at it and let me know if you liked it!