Cool Links

In the outstanding "Charlie's Angels" film of 2000, a spectacular opening sequence is just that; one of our heroines (in disguise as LL Cool J in disguise as...an African prince? It's never said who "Mr. Jones" is supposed to be, other than awesome) pops the emergency exit door on the very large airplane with her elbow to carry a terrorist wearing a bomb vest into the open air and save everyone.

Drew Barrymore, the heroine in that scene, is about 5'4" and maybe 120 lbs. soaking wet. She couldn't have done that. At 6'2" and 100 lbs. heavier, neither could I. It's great cinema but terrible physics.
If you were an environmental activist or a politician looking to use any world event to gain cultural traction against nuclear science after slowly losing ground due to concerns about climate change, Fukushima was manna from heaven. The prospect of a nuclear meltdown is just what you hoped for to get the most viable clean energy source banned.
It's easy not to be sympathetic to heroin junkies. They are self-victimizing lifestyle addicts and the Obama administration CDC's efforts to blame Big Pharma for a recreational opioid addiction look ridiculous when the same Big Pharma is now saving the world from COVID-19.

But people addicted to heroin are not the same as those who eat too much cheese. There are limits to how we should let politicians diminish the plight of addicts. 
In 2010, during the California governor race, the Jerry Brown campaign called his Republican opponent Meg Whitman a "whore." Democrats not only had no issue with that, the National Organization for Women even rushed to endorse him to prevent criticism of him, with the rationalization that she 'was kind of a whore.'

A lot has changed since then. Democrats are no longer calling it The Monica Lewinsky Scandal or vilifying her to protect President Clinton, and George Soros can no longer get away with blaming fellow Democrat and current Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for Al Franken being forced to resign for his behavior.
With the James Webb Space Telescope reaching its final orbit in space, people are starting to express their belief, and even disbelief, that everything has worked so far. 

No one will be more surprised than NASA. When this project began as a successor to Hubble, the joint confidence level was only 50%. They got funding from Congress in 1996 claiming they could do it but to impartial experts it was a coin flip.
Neil Young has never been a favorite of mine so I won't miss not playing him on Spotify. Throughout his career he has simply shown an ability to easily pivot from things like breezy bigotry ("Southern Man") to anti-science posturing ("The Monsanto Years") and I always assumed it was for one of two reasons; he is misinformed and therefore easily exploited as one of the "useful" idiots that smart groups exploit, or he is just greedy and makes music he knows can sell.

Either way, he has hundreds of millions of dollars in his bank account and I do not. The free market has spoken. 
Germany is now paralyzed when it comes to dealing with a belligerent Russia. They are reliant on the former Soviet Union country for both food and energy and can't really protest if Russia invades Ukraine again. They even asked for a new pipeline to bypass Ukraine after the last invasion so they could ignore the problem NATO would want to address.

China has become increasingly aware that food security is important. Like energy, it is not just a basic need, but a strategic one. To feed over a billion people, they are embracing science internally while exporting all of the "organic" food that they can throw stickers on.
Prior to 2021, the demographic that overwhelmingly included vaccine deniers was Neil Young's political tribe. Find a Whole Foods, and you found deniers of vaccines and medicine and nuclear power. They were all corporate conspiracies.

So there is a certain irony that Neil Young pulled his music from Spotify(1) because they didn't get rid of contrarian pundit Joe Rogan when critics of COVID-19 vaccines use the same language and "precautionary principle" veneer against science Young and his ilk used until this year.
When Germany abandoned nuclear energy and declared they were going "green", the sensible world knew what it meant. They were going to be buying a lot more gas from Russia. And Russia was going to sell it to them because they know when people in another country are reliant on you to keep their kids from freezing, their politicians will turn a blind eye to anything you do.
The moon is over 238,000 miles from earth and we haven't been back there in nearly 40 years. The James Webb Space Telescope, long-delayed successor to Hubble, is nearly 4X as far away, so if anything goes wrong it can't be fixed. Everything must go right. And so far, it has. 

After a mid-course correction that lasted about 5 minutes, Webb is at its final orbit around L2, the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point.

Lagrangian points allow a spacecraft to "hover" in space, because gravitational forces and the orbital motion of a body can be in balance. L2 is behind our planet if we look from the sun and in that spot JWST orbits the Sun at the same rate as the Earth so it is stable.
A new opinion piece in Nature says that President Joe Biden has mostly followed the science and he is a lot better than President Trump - but how much of that is filtered through the reality that one is in their political tribe and the other guy a Republican muddles the issue. Academics said the same thing about Obama over Bush and it was so clearly partisan (and scientifically wrong) we wrote a whole book on it.
Late last spring, Sri Lanka listened to anti-science activists who claimed organic food was viable right now and less progressive countries simply lacked the political will to stand up to large corporations and banned all processes but organic.

Within a few short months crops had failed, GDP was in freefall, people were hoarding food, the black market became rampant, and the government was forced to roll back their bans.

Lesson learned. Yet the UK, home of both the anti-GMO and the modern anti-vaccine movement, keeps repeating these same lessons and never seems to learn from the same mistakes. 
China has no problem blaming other countries for SARS-CoV-2 - they tried to blame the US for it, claiming it was brought into China in frozen food and the hand-picked World Health Organisation panel said nothing - but their willingness to retaliate is clear. So clear that a panel of experts worried that even discussing the possibility of an accidental leak was cautioned against because it might risk "international harmony."

A Wellcome Trust email from Dr. Jeremy Farrar, current director of the Wellcome Trust and former Oxford professor, stated on February 2 2020 that a likely explanation for the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic was leak from one of the nearby labs in Wuhan.
With the departure of NIH legend Dr. Francis Collins, political allies are calling on President Biden to appoint a non-scientist to run that National Institutes of Health. Perhaps someone like their resident psychologist, Katherine Roe, PhD, who believes that animals are little people.

In the science world, not one defined by getting a graduate degree dealing with "psychology, language, and social and cultural issues", mice are not little people. That is why animal models and epidemiology are in the "exploratory" section. If scientists see something that looks like more than correlation, something that may have a plausible biological mechanism involved, they will tackle it.
For Christmas, my wife purchased a Keurig K-Supreme Plus SMART, the latest iteration in coffee pod machines from the company. It came out a few months ago, I even got a special pre-order offer, but when I went to the website a few times there were persistent failures in being able to buy it. So I forgot about it.

After using it, you may be wondering if the website issues were created by the same groups doing the code for the machine. When it works, it is fine. The problem is it does not work too much of the time.

The encapsulated introduction to it is that this is a smart device. It is hooked up to your network and using an app you can customize your coffee to your preferences. That sounds great, but there are caveats.

Electric vehicle owners get subsidized buy the poor to adopt an environmental halo. They use electricity, not fossil fuels, they believe, so they are saving the planet.

The environmental reality is much starker and just like ethanol and natural gas, which environmental groups once lobbied heavily to get into common use, they are going to turn on electric cars the minute the lawsuits look profitable.

The science community already knew that the batteries haven't improved in decades, hype claims aside, recycling even a fraction of them takes more energy than they are worth, and if they are not recycled they are toxic waste.
The James Webb Space Telescope successfully launched earlier today from French Guiana, ending years of doubt and skepticism that the successor to Hubble would ever be finished. 
The Europeans did their part with Ariane 5 and now it's up to a NASA that's been under constant criticism about overruns and a low joint confidence interval since the first delays were announced in the early part of the century and routinely since. 
Would you spend $12,500 for a hearing aid? I hope not. Yet in the Biden administration's latest stimulus plan, they were counting on the fact that centrist Democrats and Republicans would want so badly to include hearing aids in Medicare that they'd give giant subsidies to electric car companies and the wealthy Democrats who buy them.
If you have been in the pro-science community for even a short while, you know that the anti-agriculture and anti-vaccine and anti-natural gas contingents have tremendous overlap. Take a compass and draw a circle around a Whole Foods and you are going to find a nexus of people believe their Tesla uses electricity, but not fossil fuels, for energy, that organic food and supplements make medicine unnecessary, and that cancer is caused by things like cell phones, formaldehyde, or other supernatural things.
After nearly two decades of budget overruns, delays, and technical glitches, the James Webb Space Telescope is almost ready to launch. Its latest delay is just for one day, which means it could launch on Christmas.