moldybluecheesecurds 2

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

8-Year-Olds Publish Scientific Bee Study | Wired Science |

8-Year-Olds Publish Scientific Bee Study | Wired Science | "A group of British schoolchildren may be the youngest scientists ever to have their work published in a peer-reviewed journal. In a new paper in Biology Letters, 25 8- to 10-year-old children from Blackawton Primary School report that buff-tailed bumblebees can learn to recognize nourishing flowers based on colors and patterns."
No one is too young for science and science is fun. To quote the kid: "We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before." This is absolutely brilliant and should be part of every school curriculum.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ban on Cribs with Drop-sides Seems Like Overreach

In the last decade, 32 infants have died in cribs with sides that can lower down, called drop-side cribs.  Because of this, and a bounty of recalls (over 7 million cribs), the U.S. government is going to essentially ban the sale of drop-side cribs

I agree that we have a problem when manufacturers have to recall so many cribs.  But there are approximately 8 million children who are age 0-2 and in the last decade there have been over 40 million kids in the last decade who have been ages 0-2.  That means 1 in every 1.25 million infants has died in a drop-side crib in the last 10 years.  For comparison, 2,500 infants die of SIDS each year (1 in every 1,600 infants).  And 40,000 Americans die every year in car accidents (1 in every 7,500 people).

It's a tragedy when a child dies, but enough of a tragedy to ban every drop-side crib?  I'd be more confident if we knew that cribs with fixed sides will be manufactured with more care for safety than drop-side cribs, but I doubt it (it would be interesting to know how many infants died in non-drop-side cribs in the last decade).

There are many hazards for infants, but I can think of a few (persistent endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA) that probably deserve more attention than drop-side cribs.

Monday, December 06, 2010

TSA's misdirected anti-terror efforts: a "nude awakening"

There's probably no better summary of my feelings about the latest techno-mythical anti-terror device at airports.  From a college junior, no less:

The odds of dying on an airplane as a result of a terrorist hijacking are less than 1 in 25 million — which, for all intents and purposes, is effectively zero — according to Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. By comparison, the odds of dying in a normal airplane crash, according to the OAG Aviation Database, are 1 in 9.2 million. This means that, on average, pilots are responsible for more deaths than terrorists.

In the same vein, the average American is 87 times more likely to drown than die by a terrorist attack; 50 times more likely to die by lightening; and 8 times more likely to die by a police officer, according to the National Safety Council’s 2004 estimates. I can go on, the point is this: the risk of a terrorist attack is so infinitesimal and its impact so relatively insignificant that it doesn’t make rational sense to accept the suspension of liberty for the sake of avoiding a statistical anomaly.

To cut all taxes or not?

Paul Krugman says of extending all the Bush tax cuts (including those for the wealthy) "Let's Not Make a Deal."

But Nick Silver suggests that Democrats don't necessarily have any bargaining chips, unless they're seriously prepared to let the entire $4 trillion tax cut program expire.

My vote?  Let the cuts expire and see if Republicans are willing to start fresh with tax cuts in January when they have to argue about the deficit impact.  Or just pass an entirely new program of Obama middle-class tax cuts.  Let the Republicans oppose that.

Hard to understand opposition to food safety

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

This Election Celebrated Multiculturalism

From my Uncle's brilliant Christmas letter:
And – this may surprise some of you – I'm pretty darn grateful for the elections just past, not for policy reasons (considering, if you will, how well the GOP did the last time it controlled the House) but because it's pretty darn cool that, having elected a black man President, we now have a Speaker who is, well, kind of an orange color, which I think speaks well for the inclusive impulses of the American electorate.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Buy organic strawberries

California sacrifices farm workers in favor of strawberries | Grist: "Strawberry pickerAfter a long battle, the state of California has overruled its own scientists and approved the use of the powerful neurotoxic pesticide methyl iodide on strawberries as a replacement for the ozone-depleting pesticide methyl bromide. Grist has covered the issue extensively, but it was Sam Fromartz, author of Organic, Inc, who brought up the crucial point:"

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Pollution Makes Gays - Support the Environmental Protection!

Pollution Making 'Male Birds Mate With Each Other': Scientists : TreeHugger

P.S. subject is very, very tongue in cheek

Close the Washington Monument

Schneier on Security: "The grand reopening of the Washington Monument will not occur when we've won the war on terror, because that will never happen. It won't even occur when we've defeated al Qaeda. Militant Islamic terrorism has fractured into small, elusive groups. We can reopen the Washington Monument when we've defeated our fears, when we've come to accept that placing safety above all other virtues cedes too much power to government and that liberty is worth the risks, and that the price of freedom is accepting the possibility of crime."

How Germany got it right on the economy

Harold Meyerson: "But then, Germans have something to honk about. Germany's economy is the strongest in the world. Its trade balance - the value of its exports over its imports - is second only to China's, which is all the more remarkable since Germany is home to just 82 million people. Its 7.5 percent unemployment rate - two percentage points below ours - is lower than at any time since right after reunification. Growth is robust, and real wages are rising."

It's quite a turnabout for an economy that American and British bankers and economists derided for years as the sick man of Europe. German banks, they insisted, were too cautious and locally focused, while the German economy needed to slim down its manufacturing sector and beef up finance.

Wisely, the Germans declined the advice. Manufacturing still accounts for nearly a quarter of the German economy; it is just 11 percent of the British and U.S. economies (one reason the United States and Britain are struggling to boost their exports). Nor have German firms been slashing wages and off-shoring - the American way of keeping competitive - to maintain profits.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Public Disinterest (in Making Media Work)

Guernica / Public Disinterest: "In 1930, the FRC made clear the meaning of public interest by denying a license renewal to a Los Angeles station used primarily to broadcast sermons that attacked Jews, Roman Catholic church officials, and law enforcement agencies. In 1949, the FCC again defined what it meant by the public interest when it introduced what later became known as the fairness doctrine. Broadcasters had to devote “a reasonable percentage of time to coverage of public issues; and [the] coverage of these issues must be fair in the sense that it provides an opportunity for the presentation of contrasting points of view.”


Seventy-five years after the Federal Radio Commission declared there was no room on the public airwaves for “propaganda stations” and denied a license renewal to a station that attacked Jews and law enforcement agencies, the airwaves are filled with both propaganda and venom. Today the airwaves, stripped of commons rules, feed hatred."

My Nerdy Half Has Died and Gone to Heaven