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Insects scuttle, chew and fly through the world around us. Humans rely on them to pollinate plants, prey on insects that we don’t get along with, and to be movers and shakers for Earth’s ecosystems. It’s hard to imagine a world without insects. That’s why news reports in recent months warning of an “insect apocalypse” sparked widespread alarm. These articles, which were based on long-term insect collections and a review of past studies, suggested that people alive today will witness the indiscriminate extinction of insect-kind. I study fungi that can be used to control harmful insects, such…
Natural climate solutions let nature do the hard work in the fight against climate change by restoring habitats such as forests and wetlands. This could absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help biodiversity thrive. Stephen Woroniecki – a PhD Researcher in Climate Change Adaptation from Lund University in Sweden – discusses how this approach could address the ecological crisis with Guardian columnist and environmental campaigner George Monbiot. Q: What has inspired you about natural solutions to climate change and what are their chief advantages over other approaches? They bring…
Researchers 35 years and younger, the annual Eppendorf &Science Prize for Neurobiology, which is awarded for contributions to neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology, is now open for entries. Applying requires a 1,000-word essay and tell the prize mittee about your work. The prize is $25,000 plus Science magazine will publish an essay about your work. You'll have travel paid to the Prize Ceremony held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in the USA and AAAS throws in a 10-year AAAS membership (but only a digital…

Channel Surfing

Brain & Behavior

Researchers 35 years and younger, the annual Eppendorf &Science Prize for Neurobiology, which is awarded for contributions to neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology, is now open for entries. Applying requires a 1,000-word essay and tell the prize mittee about your work. The prize is $25,000 plus Science magazine will publish an essay about your work. You'll…
Two science books cheap (Kindle version, two bucks): The Male Brain: A Breakthrough Understanding of How Men and Boys Think Dr. Louann Brizendine, the founder of the first clinic in the country to study gender differences in brain, behavior, and hormones, turns her attention to the male brain, showing how, through every phase of life, the "male reality" is fundamentally different from the female…
Last week, an antivaxer "challenged" me to look over a paper purporting to show that aluminum adjuvants in vaccines cause inflammation of the brain and therefore contribute to autism, a paper that she would be "citing frequently." Being someone who lives by the motto, "be careful what you wish for," I looked it over in detail. Not surprisingly, my conclusion was that the experiments were poorly…

Education

It's not infrequently that, whenever I plain about the increasing infiltration of quackery and pseudoscience into medicine, I sometimes lament that skeptics and supporters of science-based medicine are massively outgunned, because we are. Thus, we have the continued growth of what I like to refer to as "quackademic medicine," the infiltration of pseudoscience into medical academia in the form…
I've caught a fair amount of flak over my opposition to so-called "right-to-try" laws. Right-to-try laws have proliferated throughout the US like so much kudzu over the last three and a half years, to the point where 37 states now have some version of these profoundly anti-patient laws on the books. At the federal level, three weeks ago the Senate passed a federal version of right-to-try, with…
Acupuncture is nothing more than a theatrical placebo. I wish I could take credit for the term "theatrical placebo" to describe acupuncture, just as I wish I could take credit for coining the term "quackademic medicine" to describe the unfortunately increasing infiltration of quackery into academic medical centers and medical schools and as I wish I could take credit for the term "Tooth Fairy…

Environment

Insects scuttle, chew and fly through the world around us. Humans rely on them to pollinate plants, prey on insects that we don’t get along with, and to be movers and shakers for Earth’s ecosystems. It’s hard to imagine a world without insects. That’s why news reports in recent months warning of an “insect apocalypse” sparked widespread alarm. These articles, which were based on long-term insect…
Natural climate solutions let nature do the hard work in the fight against climate change by restoring habitats such as forests and wetlands. This could absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help biodiversity thrive. Stephen Woroniecki – a PhD Researcher in Climate Change Adaptation from Lund University in Sweden – discusses how this approach could address the ecological crisis with…
“There are two problems for our species' survival - nuclear war and environmental catastrophe - and we're hurtling towards them. Knowingly.” ―Noam Chomsky Well, another week of science has gone by, here at?Starts With A Bang!?and everywhere else in the world, and while we're down one space mission from the start of the week (Cassini), there are still lots of good things on the horizon! We're just…

Free Thought

For nearly as long as I can remember, I've been a fan of Jeopardy! Indeed, if I'm at home at 7:30 PM on a weeknight, Jeopardy! will usually be on the television. Given that, I remember what was basically a bit of stunt programming in 2011, when Jeopardy! producers had IBM's artificial intelligence superputer Watson face off against two of the most winning champions in the history of the show,…
The 75th World Science Fiction Convention took place in Helsinki and seems to have had the second-highest attendance ever: more than 7000 people in the Messukeskus convention centre, 2000 of whom had (like myself) never attended a WorldCon before. There were 250 programme items only on the Friday between?10 am and?10 pm, so there is no way that I'll be able to tell you everything that went on. (…
“The ability to listen and learn is key to mastering the art of munication. If you don't use your verbal skills and networking, it will disappear rapidly.” -Rick Pitino It’s been a week full of amazing and controversial stories about the Universe here?at?Starts With A Bang!?Did you catch the fantastic live event on Wednesday at Peddler Brewing pany in Seattle: Astronomy on Tap, starring me…

Humanities

Over the last two Mondays, I've been writing about an unproven cancer therapy that I hadn't really heard much about before. The cancer treatment is called Rigvir; it is manufactured in Latvia and marketed primarily through a Latvian entity called the International Virotherapy Center (IVC). To recap, Rigvir is an unmodified Echovirus, specifically ECHO-7, that, according to the IVC, seeks out…
This blog is based in the United States, and I'm an American. Unfortunately, this produces a difficult-to-avoid baked-in bias towards medicine as it is practiced in the US and, to a lesser extent, as it is practiced in the English-speaking world, because English is my language and I can read accounts ing out of English-speaking countries. The same bias exists with respect to pseudo-medicine,…
Planting a gingko and listening to early Black Sabbath. Sailboat owners around ?lg? have a lot of trouble with their wind indicators. The local crows use them as merry-go-rounds, which messes them up. Me: "I am daft today." Autocorrect: "I am Daddy Toast." Friendly local fellow gladly gave us permission to stash our excavation gear overnight behind his garden shed. Heavy downpour making loud…

Life Science

When the big tsunami hit Japan in 2011, many objects were washed out to sea. This flotsam provided for a giant "rafting event." A rafting event is when animals, plants, etc. float across an otherwise uncrossable body of water and end up alive on the other side. With this particular event, I don't think very many terrestrial life forms crossed the Pacific, but a lot of littoral -- shore dwelling…
“It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” ―Galadriel, LOTR, J.R.R. Tolkien Well, we've been anticipating it for months (or years), but this is our very first time meeting up since the total solar eclipse here at?Starts With A Bang!?Did you get to see it? Was it as spectacular for you as it was for me? I'm already…
People talk about resurrecting the Mammoth, the Dodo, the Quagga, or the Tasmanian devil, or any number of extinct (or mostly extinct) creatures. I'm all for that. I suggest removing cattle farming in Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and adjoining areas of Canada, and repopulating the region with extinct megafauna. That would just be cool. There are difficulties with this, including figuring out…

Medicine

Last week, I wrote about Rigvir, a highly dubious cancer therapy developed in Latvia. Rigvir is an oncolytic virus, and its proponents claim that it targets only cancer cells for destruction, leaving normal tissue alone. Its history and how it came to be approved in Latvia in 2004 and added to the Latvian Health Ministry's list of reimbursable medications in 2011 remain rather mysterious, but how…
Back in the day I used to do a weekly feature every Friday that I used to call Your Friday Dose of Woo. For purposes of the bit, woo consisted of particularly ridiculous or silly bits of pseudoscience, quackery, or mysticism, such as the Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface. Amazingly, I managed to keep that up for a couple of years, but over time I started sensing that I was getting a bit too…
The reason there wasn't a post yesterday is simple. The night before, I was feeling a bit under the weather. As a result, I went to bed early, neglecting my blogly responsibilities. As I result, I missed the release of a whopper of a study that normally would have been all over like...well...choose your metaphor. On the other hand, the one day delay isn't necessarily all bad because it lets me…

Physical Science

“We do not realize what we have on Earth until we leave it.” -Jim Lovell Well, the ments are still on the fritz, requiring me to manually un-spam them one-at-a-time, but?Starts With A Bang!?is still going strong with some fabulous stories based on the best knowledge we have! This next week is poised to be a doozy of a fantastic one, as?Treknology?is out at last (Amazon is having a…
“There will be days when we lose faith. Days when our allies turn against us...but the day will never e that we forsake this planet and its people.” ―Optimus Prime There was too much to simply keep it to a single article a day this week here at?Starts With A Bang!?The dynamic duo of Megan Watzke and Kimberly Arcand published a delightful contribution on scale, and we're gearing up for a month…
"Life is not a miracle. It is a natural phenomenon, and can be expected to appear whenever there is a planet whose conditions duplicate those of the Earth." ―Harold Urey It's been yet another fascinating week of scientific stories here at?Starts With A Bang!?But as of the last 48 hours, there's something I absolutely have to talk about: the "Unite The Right" hate rally in Virginia, acpanied by…

Politics

A man who was not even known as a gun collector amassed an arsenal that all experts agree included illegal fully automatic weapons. He carried out an act of carnage, alone and using only those weapons, that exceeded in casualty count almost every military battle fought in recent decades by American troops, and that equaled or surpassed all but a very small number of terrorist attacks. He shot…
Two years ago, I wrote about a study that demonstrated how the antivaccine movement had learned to use Twitter to amplify their antiscience message. At the time, I noted how in 2014, when the whole "CDC whistleblower" conspiracy theory was first hatched, antivaxers were so bad at Twitter, so obvious, so naive. The Tweeted inane claims at government officials, scientists, legislators, and whoever…
Republican Senators have proposed one more bill to repeal the ACA. The Graham-Cassidy (or Cassidy-Graham) proposal would dramatically shrink the pool of federal money going to healthcare and revise how it’s distributed to states, in a way that is especially damaging to states that accepted the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. They hope to pass this destructive bill before the end of September, due to…

Technology

“You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it. That is all.” -Cassandra Clare Well, the cat's out of the bag. A little over a week ago, Scienceblogs announced to us writers that they no longer had the funds to keep the site operational, and so they would be shutting down. They asked us to keep quiet about this, people didn't and now you know. As of the end of this month, there will be no new…
"Truth in science, however, is never final, and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow. Science has been greatly successful at explaining natural processes, and this has led not only to increased understanding of the universe but also to major improvements in technology and public health and welfare." -National Academy of Sciences It’s no secret that peering…
“I see now that the circumstances of one's birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” -Mewtwo, Pokemon (via Takeshi Shudo) After a week of menting technical difficulties here on Scienceblogs,?Starts With A Bang!'s ments of the Week series is back with a vengeance! I'm so stoked that it's October, because?Treknology, es out in just two…