Science & Society

Our nation once again celebrates its unique capacity to transfer leadership with grace and dignity.  The joyousness of the occasion, however, quickly fades into solemnity as citizens and institutions alike assume their vigil, standing guard to keep watchful eyes on those in positions of power. 

You will read in many places of Gene Cernan as the last man on the moon. He certainly was that. To me and to all of us in the Village of Bellwood Illinois he was a home town hero. Bellwood is a bedroom community, mostly homes and small manufacturing located 7 miles due west of Chicago. This suburb was much smaller when Cernan would have lived here. Never the less we were all proud of our astronaut. 
 He was joined in that distinction by Lee J Archambault who flew on several space shuttle missions to help construct the ISS. Together they gave this tiny town with hard water a bonified spacefaring tradition. 

As some of you may know, I've become deeply concerned, and indeed appalled by the large numbers of fake doomsday news stories, because I am so often contacted by people who get very scared and sometimes suicidal as a result of reading these stories. Fourteen tabloids and other papers have published this story so far, and none of them mention that it originates from a site known to publish fake news. The story is that the world is going to end because of two snowy days in Salento in Southern Italy, which they say is a prophetic sign of an imminent massive supervolcano eruption. I think it is a particularly striking case of doomsday news based on chinese whispers starting off from a fake story.

Psst!  Wanna Buy Some Truth?

In case anyone has missed my many articles on the topic of global warming-induced climate change: I am totally convinced that humans have been causing global warming to an ever-increasing extent since we discovered the use of fire1.  I am also totally convinced that global warming has caused the global climate to change from the average conditions prevailing over thousands of years.  A change from the average is bad because it is making seasonal weather conditions less predictable for farming, fishing and food production generally.

Not long ago, I read an article Apocalypse now? Nuclear proliferation is the least of our worries, to which the sub-editor helpfully added the heading soon, a massive solar flare will bring the world to a halt claims the author of a new book.

Earlier today, President-Elect Donald Trump met with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and, at least according to RFK, Jr., wants the prominent Democratic anti-vaccine activist to head a commission on vaccine safety.

Alternative Title:
“Inevitable ‘Society of Walls’ versus the True Legacy of Donald Trump: Dear Donald, please reform Academia!

Confusion and misinformation are so intense in our time that even my readers, though at the right end of the IQ Bell curve, ask: How could deeply and widely knowledgeable scientists support Donald Trump in spite of his mentioning autism when criticizing vaccination procedures and doubting the “global warming consensus”?
In Scotland, traditional New Year greeting is

Lang may yer lum reek


meaning “long may your chimney smoke”.  So may you never be short of fuel for your fire.

So, if I understand this article rightly, this might be a bit difficult for Alaskans in 2017.

EPA To Alaskans In Sub-Zero Temps: Stop Burning Wood To Keep Warm

If you are sick and need to be readmitted to the hospital after already spending time there, your chances of being allowed back in have dropped since the weight of federal law has imposed penalties on readmissions under the Affordable Care Act, in an effort to contain costs that have ballooned out of control with almost 11 million new people on Medicaid rather than in private exchanges.

The authors of the analysis are cheering this as policy efforts that  motivate health care providers to improve performance but they didn't actually analyze successful medical treatment, they simply used the metric of readmission.

Nibiru easily ranks as the pseudoscience doomsday scenario I get most questions about. Many people, including teenagers, are terrified that we are all about to be killed by a planet called Nibiru which they think is going to hit Earth or do a close flyby in the very near future, for instance many of them have come to believe that it is going to hit us some time before Christmas, or shortly afterwards.