What I'm Reading (Dec. 29)

Related articles

Ghosts of Science - love science, not the scientist?
Twitter as Townsquare – a broken metaphor?
Twins – Identical or Similar?
Sesame and penicillin

For those who follow my articles, you will know I am concerned about how reputations can tarnish one’s accomplishments, especially for those where the moral ground has shifted – say the Founding Fathers. (Are there no Founding Mothers?) Science has its share of individuals whose work is foundational but whose attitudes or applications of those principles are disturbing, if not abhorrent.

“One might say that the controversy was foreshadowed by the final chapter of Wilson’s “Sociobiology,” his 1975 manifesto on how the science of social behavior should embrace evolutionary reasoning in humans. The book was as bold a scientific pivot as you will see. It took courage to be a master in one set of domains — as Wilson was in evolution, entomology, and biodiversity — and engage in another, especially the thorny topic of human behavior and culture, which Wilson took on in his book’s final chapter. “Sociobiology” made several important, resonant observations, but it was also criticized on the grounds that it directly or indirectly put forward a sort of reasoning that is adjacent to scientific racism and sexism. Detractors felt Wilson’s heavy emphasis on evolutionary explanations for human social behaviors radiated the same sort of reductive evangelism that underlies eugenics — science founded upon the idea that certain classes of humans were unfit to reproduce.”

From Undark, Ghosts of Science Past Still Haunt Us. We Can Put Them to Rest


Twitter and the Internet, in general, are often described as a town square. I have used and resisted that metaphor in my writing because, as I have often said, in the town square, you can readily identify the town idiot. Not so in the land of digits. I am not alone in my assessment.

“Second, town squares are public spaces, governed in some way by the public. That is what makes them a town square rather than a square in a town. They are not the playthings of whimsical billionaires. They do not exist, as Twitter did for so long, to provide returns to shareholders. … A town square controlled by one man isn’t a town square. It’s a storefront, an art project or possibly a game preserve.”

From Ezra Klein in the NY Times, The Great Delusion Behind Twitter


Identical twins are clones of each other, with 100% of their DNA in common. Shouldn’t we expect them to be vastly more similar to one another than the average person? In fact, shouldn’t expect them to, for all intents and purposes, be exactly the same person?”


A criminal case involving two medical students puts this question in sharp relief. From the substack of Stuart Richie, Identical twins aren't *that* identical


Penicillin used to be manufactured in New Brunswick, NJ. Still, the Squibb plant made several medications and the remnants of penicillin, no matter how hard they tried, got into those products – putting patients allergic to penicillin at risk. All penicillin production was subsequently off-shored to a separate facility, but the concern about cross-contamination persists. A new federal law requires sesame, an allergen, to be clearly labeled on products. But there has been an unintended consequence

“Food industry experts said the requirements are so stringent that many manufacturers, especially bakers, find it simpler and less expensive to add sesame to a product — and to label it — than to try to keep it away from other foods or equipment with sesame.

From the Associated Press via Marginal Revolution, New label law has unintended effect: Sesame in more foods