Science & Society

Spend anytime in the online autism community, and you'll find a rich cast of characters offering a diverse perspective on what it means to be autistic. From clinically diagnosed autistics in early adulthood to late middle age to individuals who have self-identified as autistic, I've had the chance to read over 130 autistic bloggers on the directory, in addition to other autistics whose writings appear in print, on websites, forums, and facebook. 

Which science kills the most people each year?  Prompted by a quote-- "guns don't kill people-- physics kills people." ('3rd Rock from the Sun') -- it's time we look at which science really is the deadliest.

So let's set up the big three: Physics, Chemistry and Biology.  In a Hollywood movieland world, Physics would be the clear winner on early deaths.  Car crashes, gunshot wounds, bicycle accidents, falling down, people hitting each other, and that biggie called 'war' are all physics-driven deaths.
There has clearly been enough controversy around the risks and hazards created by the Fukushima reactor problems over the past days.  Part of the controversy seems to originate with the idea that if a risk to public health is being suggested, then this is scaremongering and clearly an anti-nuclear sentiment.  On the other hand, if the risk is downplayed, then this is viewed as being pro-nuclear and representative of industry favoritism.

I would suggest that when examining such risks that there are actually two perspectives that need to be considered and that we must be especially aware of the reliability of scientific data in reassuring the public.
Back in October I made my picks for the hotly contested Etsy/NASA contest.  And now the winners are announced.  Neither of my picks (stenciled glass bottles and wooden toy blocks for alien children) made it.  And, well, I'll say I'm not leaping up to buy any of the winners.  Still, it was a neat little contest with interesting implications.

DIY satellite news every Tuesday here and at Project Calliope
How The Media Has Hurt The Japanese People

First and foremost I have a personal message for the 180 or so heroes who have been working in shifts around the clock to save their nation from a worse disaster than the one that Japan has already suffered.

To the Heroes of Fukushima: 

May you each be most correctly and sincerely honored - not just by by your own nation, but by the whole world.  You have risked your lives to save others.  You are morally remarkable people who have actively taken part in serving our global society.  Through your diligence and perseverance you have become public role models.  You each deserve at least these three medals of honor:

In Nanjing, that is close to Shanghai, and I suppose also in other places around here*, you cannot buy salt anymore. Every last grain has been bought up. Why? Apparently, some evil guy started the rumor that table salt, which is sodium chloride (NaCl), can protect you from radioactivity. We are not talking about iodide salt here, nor even sea salt either, which has some iodide in it, but simple salt, which there is already way too much in the Chinese diet.

*(Update: In the whole of China, the first person died already from eating too much salt!)

So I check my blog comments this morning, and guess who the culprit is? IT IS ME! According to the comments to my last article, I am the one to blame! How so?

Language may have an undervalued role in learning the meanings of numbers.   A study based on research using deaf people in Nicaragua who never learned formal sign language showed that people who communicate using self-developed gestures (homesigns) were unable to comprehend the value of numbers greater than three because they had not learned a language containing symbols used for counting.
Really?  Seriously  according to OK Cupid's analysis of their data from asking 642533 people the question  5% of men (gay and straight) and 10% of women (gay and straight) think the Earth is bigger than the Sun.  This finding is in a posting by Ok Cupids researchers about gay Vs straight sex. 
Given the general fear regarding radiation levels around Japan, this seems the perfect time to give a short introduction to this important topic. There is a lot of confusion regarding radiation and radiation poisoning and this article will try and break it down. 

Radioactive decay