Science & Society

Options, Futures, and Other Derivatives by John C. HullThe derivatives market is staggering, often estimated at more that $1.2 quadrillion dollars.

An analysis of more than 14 million reviews on, a site where students write anonymous reviews of their professors, found that words like "brilliant" and "genius" are most often used to describe male professors, and in academic disciplines in which there are fewer women and African-Americans.

The findings are reported in PLOS ONE, a pay-to-publish journal which has been criticized recently for a lack of peer review and, ironically, being biased against female authors.

Many people including Stephen Hawkings and Elon Musk are worried about the possibility of an artificial program that might become intelligent and take over the world. The idea is that at some point in the future we may be able to develop artificial intelligences through programming that are equal in intelligence to humans but capable of living much faster, and able to rewrite their own programs to become even more intelligent.

A decade ago, the media perception was that the only "advocacy" research (science-y sounding stuff out to achieve a cultural goal) was small groups getting a little bit of money to deny things like global warming. In reality, the public knew better, and that scientization of politics had been going on ever since government started to take over science funding.

In the 21st century, it seems to be settled that quotas are a bad idea. By picking people based on a characteristic outside their ability to best do a job, it seems to be another term for discrimination. 

Some countries have done it anyway. Mexico, for example, passed quotas to create equal gender representation in government but a new social studies paper concludes that the quality of female candidates did not go down, nor did women rely on personal connections more than men to get elected.

Less than 40% of the results of clinical trials conducted at leading academic medical centers were shared within two years of completion, finds a study in the British Medical Journal.

Radioactive isotope in your tea, blatant patent theft and manuscript theft by a peer reviewer? Yep, these are all real actions by scientists who have screwed over other scientists just to get ahead. Why? Because in science "There is no prize for second place". Even in space, do you even remember which crew landed on the moon second? Go on, try not to google it. (For the record it was Charles "Pete" Conrad and Alan Bean). Throw in the pressure of not being given a permanent job and/or being fired for under-performance, despite blood, sweat and tears (pretty much literally for most scientists) and you come close to what a scientist goes through on a day to day basis.
Keeping the Gate is a "science and society" blog, which is to mean that it explores the relationship between science and society.  Journalists and producers play critical roles in regulating that relationship.  But the definition of journalism is changing as more and more people with compelling interests gain access to more and more channels through which to spin personal sentiments into the appearance of irrefutable fact.  

New government guidelines claiming a link between alcohol and cancer won't have a direct impact on drinking, but they do raise awareness of harm and so may alter social attitudes towards alcohol, according to an editorial in The BMJ.

Professor Theresa Marteau, Director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge and a member of the committee that produced the guidelines, concedes there is no evidence about any impact of health related guidelines on behavior, including for alcohol, risk information is still worth a try.  

A new paper finds that China's new efforts to price carbon could lower the country's carbon dioxide emissions significantly without impeding economic development over the next three decades.