Fake Banner
Despite Lacking Science, FDA Made 10,000 Vaping Products Illegal. Now It Wants More Armed Agents To Enforce It

It will be up to science history to try and gain insight into the reasons the federal government...

Amanita Muscaria Mushrooms Are An Alternative Medicine Fad More Toxic Than Fentanyl

Online supplement marketers prey on consumers by exploiting the margins of President Bill Clinton's...

Is It Safe To Buy Food At A Farmers Market?

There is populist rhetoric about Buy Local but what few in the public realize is that the definition...

COVID-19 Made Stereotyping Of Asians Uncool - Mostly To Gain Political Traction

Only a few years ago, American colleges used a "secret sauce" of race in admissions that voided...

User picture.
picture for Fred Phillipspicture for Tommaso Dorigopicture for picture for Jim Myrespicture for Hontas Farmerpicture for Heidi Henderson
Hank CampbellRSS Feed of this column.

I founded Science 2.0® in 2006 and since then it has become the world's largest independent science communications site, with over 300,000,000 direct readers and reach approaching one billion. Read More »

Risk factors like salt and sugar intake and high blood pressure for heart attacks and disease need constant rethink if they are going to be more than folk wisdom.

Low-salt and sugar-free have too many vested interests to get critical thinking on how valid population-level statistics are for individuals, and 'high' blood pressure rarely gets questions about how reliable the correlation was that picked 130/85 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) as high blood pressure for everyone. Thosa blood pressure numbers are the clunkily-named systolic on top over the diastolic below. The top is the pressure in arteries as the heart beats while the bottom is the pressure at rest.(1)
If humans in space are happening any time soon, it will be despite government involvement rather than because of it. NASA couldn't even build a telescope without going 25 years and 1,000 percent over budget. By the time all cultural parties pick away at a manned space program, it will be so expensive and time-costly it won't be worthwhile, and the private sector will throw all that baggage out and just do it.

The James Webb Space Telescope program showed NASA is incapable of doing Big Engineering now, but they can put cute robots on other planets, and fund smaller projects, like how we might grow plants. Early results for how monitors that plants can wear and will stretch as plants grow are due to a NASA grant, and that is a very good thing.
Like old media such as newspapers and televisions, content on social media is tailored toward audience engagement. Television and newspapers have long known that 'dead bodies sell' but in social media it can be sold in real-time. It has sped up information - and cynicism. Fifteen years ago Reuters was caught augmenting photos of an Israeli attack on terrorists so it looked like more smoke and destruction than actually occurred and few in media were bothered, more recently outlets pulled a photo of British Princess Kate of Wales because it had been retouched. Only after the audience flagged it, though.
As the century turned, the science community began to become critical of a once-honored field; epidemiology.  If you are not familiar with it, it is people who correlate causes to outcomes. They don't show it, they usually are not scientists, but they look for links and then if those look interesting scientists will follow up on it.

This was an occupation once so conservative and evidence-driven that they were the last to accept that heart disease and cancer might have a hereditary factor. When epidemiologists showed that smoking causes lung cancer the data were so overwhelming and comprehensive that Big Tobacco began to stockpile money for the inevitable lawsuits because they had denied it.
One of the few things that can get a government union employee in a mandatory industry like education fired is hitting a student. Yet the link between increased tolerance and less accountability for students has correlated to increased violence by teachers. If there are no repercussions for behavior, behavior gets worse.

Everyone seems to know this except academic psychologists, who instead argue that grades are the problem. Don't want to be assaulted? Don't have accountability for any student who will suffer no lasting repercussions if they assault you while if you defend yourself you will be fired, go to jail, be sued, and vilified by the internet for eternity.
Former Vice-President Al Gore has a giant mansion but buys carbon offsets to mitigate the damage. Do they work?

It depends, and that means it is unlikely. Lots of corporations dove into the carbon offset market, Mr. Gore made hundreds of millions of dollars investing in them, but there is no standard beyond 'we will plant this many trees.' The story is certainly compelling. There is no guilt about a mansion or private plane if you pay someone to plant trees that absorb carbon dioxide emissions equal to what you burned and create wildlife habitats and nice views for humans in the process.