Science & Society

A few years ago, politicians introduced us to a new metric for performance; estimates about what might have happened became real numbers that were shown as proof of success. Instead of touting actual economic benefits from tax spending, we were treated to the economic losses the spending avoided. No one knew if the numbers were real because they hadn't happened, they were only estimated by the same political groups interested in promoting their success.

It was dizzying, and it worked in the mainstream media, and so it was only a matter of time before other agenda-based groups adopted the same technique.


Predictions for 2014: No firm direct detection of dark matter, a better understanding of the Higgs boson, an announcement that Fermilab will live with a muon and neutrino related program, and a surprising and troubling reception for Neil DeGrasse Tysons Cosmos.  Those are my predictions for 2014.  Various collaborations are working very hard to detect dark matter and it seems we have tantalizing clues that something is there to find.  2014 will see more clues but not a discovery.  As we work on the Higgs we will understand it better.  I predict it will be well explained by the standard model of particle physics.  That Fermilab will have a new lease on life with a neutrino and muon based program in the future is a bit of a gamble.  Las

The federal government's proposal to discontinue protection for the gray wolf across the United States could have the unintended consequence of endangering other species, insist academics who don't actually live in places where wolves are running wild, threatening animals and people.


Stem cell-based gene therapy holds promise for the treatment of devastating genetic skin diseases, but the long-term clinical outcomes of this approach have been unclear.

In a recent study, researchers evaluated a patient with a genetic skin disorder known as epidermolysis bullosa (EB) nearly seven years after he had undergone a gene therapy procedure as part of a clinical trial. The study revealed that a small number of skin stem cells transplanted into the patient's legs were sufficient to restore normal skin function, without causing any adverse side effects. 


Women's perceptions of what is considered normal and desirable female genitalia may be influenced by exposure to modified images, according to psychologists writing in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Requests for labiaplasty - reducing and making the labia minora symmetrical - have become a fad and are now the most widely performed female genital cosmetic procedure covered by Australian government health care over the past decade, increasing five-fold between 2001 and 2010. 


Protests at economics meetings that lament globalization are done by the Agricultural 1 Percent - people fortunate enough to be born in countries where food is plentiful and cheap and they can protest rather than try to eke out a subsistence living in a difficult climate.

Yet the reality of economics defies their beliefs that trade and industry in developing nations will ruin those countries. Instead, an analysis of food availability and food self-sufficiency since 1965 by Aalto University in Finland found that food availability in the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, China, and Southeast Asia increased substantially even though food self-sufficiency has remained relatively low.


Low-income, Hispanic and African-American Californians need to have a tax on sodas and other sugary beverages if they are going to have reduced risk of diabetes - which could be a substantial cost for taxpayers in a world of government health care.

Over the course of the next decade, the scholars estimate that lowered incidence of these diseases would save over half a billion dollars in medical costs. 2 or perhaps 3 of each 20,000 people.


Individuals with a family history of premature heart disease, heart attacks or stroke in a first degree relative before the age of 60 years, continue to have a higher risk of dying despite earlier referral to general physicians, lifestyle changes and drug treatments. 

 Doctors are aware of the increased risk individuals with family history of heart disease face, with around a 40% higher chance of being affected than the average population. In response, these individuals are usually referred earlier for interventions to reduce the risk, but research published by the University of Glasgow in the European Heart Journal has shown that even when early interventions are instituted, these patients are still 12-20% more likely to die prematurely. 

About ten years ago, what is now the Electron Microscopy Laboratory at the University of Reading, was set up, to take over from individual EM units in other departments by purchasing more modern equipment.

On of the pleasures of working there was interaction with people from other departments, and one particularly enjoyable excursion was doing pollen samples for people, so introducing me to the science of Palynology.

When you hear people talk about diversity, they often mean they want a majority of people just like them. Anything less is worrisome. It's that way in sports teams, the halls of academia and even church.

People who are part of a religious congregation's largest racial group are more likely to feel they belong and be more involved, whether their group is barely half or nearly all of the members, according to surveys collated in a sociology paper.