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"Food Evolution": A Tale Of Two Cities

June 24, 2017 - 4:34pm
Last night was the premiere of "Food Evolution", a documentary on the science in our dinner, and I saw it with a large audience for the second time.

Wait, premiere? Second time? Which is it?

It's both. And that is how it became a tale of two cities. And maybe even a metaphor for the two Americas we now live in.

Two weeks ago I moderated a panel on communicating science and, more importantly, risk, at the University of Guelph, Canada's most prominent agriculture school. In the evening, there was a showing of "Food Evolution" in an auditorium there. I don't know how many people attended, it was packed, and before the movie there was a show of hands on how many people were okay with GMOs, how many distrusted them, and how many were unsure. -->

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Lucid Dreams: Exploring The Dark Side

June 23, 2017 - 4:16pm
No, this post is not about some exotic new physics model predicting dark photons or other useless concoctions which physicists sometimes entertain with, in their frustration for the lack of guidance from experimental data of what really is it  that the Standard Model is an effective theory of. For that kind of stuff, please wait and check out my blog at some other time.
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Even Piglets Prefer New Toys

June 22, 2017 - 12:09pm
Kids are stimulated by new experiences. So are pigs. If you watched the 2014 video where a camera falls out of a plane and crashes into a pig sty you saw how intrigued they were by it, even though it clearly was not food.



A new study says that such "consumerism", a preference for shiny new stuff, is universal across the animal kingdom. And they showed it in piglets.
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Are New Government Guidelines For Genetically Engineered Products Going Far Enough?

June 20, 2017 - 11:30am
Since 2014, China has spent $4 billion on advanced agricultural science and is approving new technologies rapidly. Meanwhile, our food science regulatory system remains trapped in the 1980s, paralyzed by environmental lobbyists who buy full-page ads in the New York Times claiming they are "unsure", it just "needs more testing."
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No Scaffold Needed: Lab-Grown Cartilage Has Properties Of The Real Thing

June 19, 2017 - 1:13pm

Lab-grown cartilage grown shows similar mechanical and chemical properties to the natural articular cartilage which allows our joints to move smoothly, according to a new study in Nature Materials

A team biomedical engineers from University of California, Davis, created the lab-grown tissue similar to natural cartilage by giving it a bit of a stretch, growing it under tension but without a supporting scaffold. Their results show similar mechanical and biochemical properties to natural articular cartilage. 

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Acupuncture Works, At Least In Some Patients With Non-Specific Pain

June 19, 2017 - 11:30am
A randomized controlled trial of the use of acupuncture in emergency departments has found the treatment is a safe and effective alternative to pain-relieving drugs for some patients who visit looking for relief from things like a self-reported ankle sprain, a headache (invariably called a migraine) or back pain.
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New Perspectives On The U.S. Corn Belt

June 18, 2017 - 6:18pm

The nighttime satellite photos of the Earth reveal much about the population distribution of the developed world through the intensity of the artificial lighting being observed.

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Osteopaths Overturn Toxicologists, Declare Mice Are Little People And Chemicals Are Magic

June 18, 2017 - 12:30pm
A new study from the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine has found a connection between common household chemicals, quaternary ammonium compounds or "quats,", and birth defects, despite the fact that experts have never found evidence of harm.

Quats are often used as disinfectants and preservatives in household and personal products such as cleaners, laundry detergent, fabric softener, shampoo and conditioner, and eye drops. The research declared a link between quats and neural tube birth defects in both mice and rats and immediately sent out a press release, hoping mainstream journalists who love weak correlational studies will believe that mice are little people.
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Fundamental Quantum Uncertainty And Stingy Guitar Tuning

June 17, 2017 - 3:42am
There is a very simple high school homework exercise question that I have kept with me for 30 or so years because of its deep relevance for the understanding of fundamental physics. It teaches about the nature of quantum uncertainty, but sadly also about how terribly wrong textbooks can be, how nonsense makes it into print and is taught to millions as the wisdom of science, although about one minute playing with a guitar, or ten minutes of critical thought, should have told the author, or some teacher, or somebody for crying out loud. Now as I am teaching and writing a book on fundamental physics for lay people as well as applied and social scientists, it shall finally be resolved properly.

The question is simple; I rephrased it a little from the original: -->

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Organic Growing Process Linked To Higher Antioxidant Levels In Onions

June 17, 2017 - 1:34am
A new study has found that found that flavonoid levels and antioxidant activity in organic onions are higher than in conventional onions, which disputes a meta-analysis which debunked claims by discredited industry-funded economist Dr. Chuck Benbrook and colleagues who asserted that the organic process led to higher nutritional quality.

The new paper did find just that, though the benefit may be meaningless. Antioxidants and flavonoids have yet to show any measurable health benefit, but the demographic that buys organic food is more likely to buy those kinds of supplements touting benefits of phytochemicals. 
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Should Parents Be Supportive Of Children’s Negative Emotions?

June 16, 2017 - 11:47pm
Mothers supportive of their children's negative emotions rate their children as being more socially skilled than teachers do. Not really a big surprise, parents often think the way they have chosen to do things is the best way, even if their kids seem like many to be, well, brats.

Mothers’ supportive reactions were instead correlated to fewer socioemotional skills and more problem behaviors by third-grade teachers, who obviously see a different side of children.

Nonetheless, these contrasting patterns suggest a potential downside to mothers’ supportiveness of children’s negative emotions for third-grade children’s social adjustment in school. Or not, since it's surveys.
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The Bizarre Relationship Between Environmental Lawyer Stephen Tillery And A Federal Judge Who Helped Him

June 16, 2017 - 5:59pm

Attorney Patrick Murphy is representing infamous sue-and-settle environmental lawyer Stephen Tillery, senior partner and founder of Korein Tillery, as plaintiff in the court of Senior U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert in a lawsuit against Advanced Analytics Consulting Group, who Tillery says he gave $500,000 to in order to have them come up with results he could use in litigation against minor league baseball, but did not.

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Higgs Boson-Inspired Artwork By High-School Students

June 16, 2017 - 12:02pm
The "Art&Science" project is coming to the final phase as far as the activities in Venice are concerned. About 100 15 to 17-year-old students from high schools in Venice have assisted to lessons on particle physics and the Higgs boson in the past months, and have been challenged to produce, alone or in groups of up to three, artistic compositions inspired by what they had learned. This resulted in 38 artworks, many of which are really interesting. The 17 best works will be exposed at the Palazzo del Casinò of the Lido of Venice, the site of the international EPS conference, next July 5-12, and the three best among them will receive prizes during a public event on July 8th, in presence of the CERN director general Fabiola Gianotti. -->

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Formaldehyde Exposure In Marijuana Vaping

June 12, 2017 - 6:35pm
Formaldehyde sounds scary because it is for dead bodies. But it is also produced in our natural cellular respiration. Clearly "the dose makes the embalming fluid" but groups who want to scare people about diet soda whisper about its presence. And it is present, in levels that will be carcinogenic if you drink 7,000 sodas per day. More recently its presence in nicotine vaping liquid was being touted.
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Alan Alda's Art And Science Of Relating And Communicating

June 12, 2017 - 5:30pm

You are about to hear a huge sigh of relief from the entire science journalism community, because Alan Alda, a man who can interview E.O. Wilson and Jim Watson with ease, who hosted the terrific Scientific American Frontiers, and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communication Science at Stony Brook University, has trouble communicating.

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Yes! To Hell With Out Of Africa

June 12, 2017 - 7:37am
Ah, life is good lately; can’t stop winning. Almost never recommend anybody, ‘cuz humans disappoint, but if I do, its winners. Remember that “Erectus walks among us” guy with his “Out of Europe” theory? Yep – that’s the one I recommended, the most despised of the low. I only recommend those who are near my level. Well, ok, that orange fat disappoint I endorsed for POTUS is obviously not anywhere near my level, but that’s another story – I knew he would win and I just love to “Told’yer so!”
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Physics World's Review Of "Anomaly!"

June 9, 2017 - 12:18pm
A new review of my book, "Anomaly! Collider Physics and the Quest for New Phenomena at Fermilab", has appeared on the June issue of "Physics World". It is authored by Gavin Hesketh, a lecturer at University College London, and you can read it here. -->

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The Future Of Branding

June 6, 2017 - 10:59pm

A research firm has just bestowed the title “world’s most valuable insurance brand” on a mainland Chinese company. Other outfits issue similar announcements in diverse industries, despite that in 2014 The Economist made this remark about brands: “Their importance may be fading… no one agrees on how much they are worth or why.”

The decline of brands: We should have seen it coming, when mass customization first began to overshadow mass production. Scholars point to info tech to explain the growing irrelevance of brands; online customer reviews and social media now substitute for the “shorthand” information packages that brands once provided.

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A Giant Fireball Thrown At Venice

June 6, 2017 - 7:26pm
In the evening of May 30 a giant fireball lit up the skies south of Venice, Italy. The object, which was traveling very slowly along a south-north trajectory, was captured by three video stations in the area, plus observed by countless bystanders and recorded in pictures. The video data allowed to precisely measure the trajectory, which made it clear that the rock was headed straight toward the Venice metropolitan area, and that it would have landed there if it had not disintegrated in flight.
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Physics-Inspired Artwork In Venice: The Works By The Foscarini School Students

June 6, 2017 - 2:08pm

This article continues the series of postings in this blog on the results of artistic work by high-school students of three schools in Venice (out of five who took part initially) that participate in a contest and exposition connected to the initiative "Art and Science across Italy", an initiative of the network CREATIONS, funded by the Horizon 2020 programme of the EU.

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