Free Speech Zone

I've never been much for the word "tribe." It sounds too insular in 2018, the kind of term (see also "zeitgeist", "heteronormative", and "schadenfreude") thrown around by barely literate postmodernists with their heads in the clouds believing what they tell each other as the real world passes by.

That's not to say it isn't an accurate description of science media.

We certainly have tribes: There are progressive ideologues in large media corporations denying reality as they frame science belief (and denial) through their politics; there are academics who believe the public simply have a deficit of information and showing them some Powerpoint slides will fix it; we have zealots who believe every skeptical question must be met with fire and brimstone. 

Heck, we have...

During a research trip to Antarctica, Dr. Peter Neff, a postdoctoral associate in the University of Rochester’s Ice Core Lab, recorded the sound ice made when dropped 90 meters into a glacier borehole. He and his colleagues began to do it over and over and speculated as to what caused the crazy sounds.

The recording got about 8 million hits across various platforms, with many people wondering about what caused the odd sounds made by the plummeting ice.

Enter Mark Bocko, professor and chair of the electrical and computer engineering department at Rochester, and colleagues. They took a look and did some research and found that the answer is sound dispersion in acoustic...

Since this holiday season America is caught in the midst of a cultural miasma, where people are confused about what is acceptable sexual harassment and what is not, along with the usual recurring concerns about commercialization, I am compiling some practical guidance. I want to wish you a Ron Swanson Christmas.

Swanson, a character on the television show "Parks and Recreation", is a staunch libertarian, which sounds counter-intuitive for someone in city government but that is why he is there; he wants to keep spending low and he knows if he is in a job someone who might want to make government bigger cannot be.

In his role he makes sure government does nothing, so that it stays out of the way...

I've written recently about nitrogen-infused coffee (and also beer) and why the chemistry of adding nitrogen makes sense. (See: Nitro-Coffee: Good Science Or Nitrogenous Waste?). The following, helium-infused beer makes far less sense, but good luck not laughing during the four minutes of the video.

The screwballs in the following YouTube video are apparently astounded that when they try the same experiment five times that they get the same result every time. 

The video starts with beer critics about to drink helium beer. At first, they are skeptical. Will drinking helium beer make them sound like little girls when they speak the way a helium balloon does? Aren't we all...

I cannot say enough how important it is for physicians to have a working knowledge of junk science. While it sometimes can be difficult to not get snarky when patients claim they have nonsense diagnoses, it behooves the clinician to approach this type of situation with extreme diplomacy.  We cannot do this if we are not equipped with the knowledge to combat the plague which is medical quackery. 

The really sexy word around town, as I have noticed, is "wellness." Empires are built on the notion that we are, at baseline, not well.  And unless we buy what they sell, we will not attain both inner and outer beauty. What I did not know is how pervasive these wellness "clinics" are and the plethora of websites touting benefits that have no real foundation in evidence based medicine...

Netflix has declined to carry the agriculture documentary called "Food Evolution", for reasons they refused to specify. Like all documentaries, it is clearly a passion project so when disappointments like that happen, passions run high as well, and lots of speculation occurs among the fans. Some believe it's a conspiracy against science, that Netflix is politically aligned with the groups who make their money scaring people about food. (1) Others give them a pass and say science documentaries are probably just not a draw for their audience.

Is the Netflix audience not a science audience? Maybe not. In a poll of our office few people had it, which was a surprise to me. Netflix clearly dominates the home streaming market so they must know what they are doing, but they won't appeal...

As a native Midwesterner who made the move across the country to Seattle for graduate school, I have grown accustomed to very pleasant summers. Apparently, I have grown soft as well. When I got on the plane at SeaTac, it was about 75 degrees. When the plane landed on Venus in Kansas City, it was nearly 100 degrees. I guess I just never noticed how miserably hot Midwestern summers are. And the cicadas? Goodness. Shut up already.

Coming back to the Midwest -- which I don't do often since most of my family has left -- creates in me a weird mix of nostalgia and déjà vu. But it's definitely not as weird as these stories from the past week:

1. Mice fall from the ceiling of Chipotle. The PR team at Chipotle just can't catch a break. In 2015, you were...

There has rightfully been much public discussion on how to fight back against the scourge of fake news. We at ACSH attempted to shed some light on the issue by publishing a guide to detecting fake science news.

Perhaps just as troubling as the spread of fake news is the proliferation of non-news; that is, fluff pieces with little to no news value that seem aimed at generating clicks. The worthwhile goal of informing the public about relevant global events, which is presumably the entire point of journalism, has been replaced by entertainment.

Obviously, this isn't a new development, but it seems to have gone into overdrive in recent years. To stay in business, media...

1. Pregnant women can no longer just kill people in New Hampshire. Most states have fetal homicide laws. Fetuses that have reached 20 weeks after conception can be considered victims of murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide or assisted suicide. New Hampshire wanted to exempt women having an abortion from that, but their wording allowed pregnant women to legally be able to kill pretty much anyone. Republicans fixed it using a provision that allows the legislature to correct spelling errors.

...

We get email.

Liar. Jerk. Sock puppet. Propagandist. Criminal. Corporate slut. Satan's minion1. These are just a few of the names Dr. Josh Bloom and I have been called -- and that was just last week.  

What did we do to earn such reprobation? Were we cavorting with Gordon Gekko? Lobotomizing patients with Nurse Ratched? Sacrificing goats? Nope. In an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun, we explained why Wi-Fi is safe. And that's when the pitchforks came out.

The smartest reader2 commented:

Microwave ovens use 2.45 GHz to cook food. Most wi-fi also uses 2.45 GHz microwaves. So what is the difference between the...