What frightens you? Climate change? Losing your sight? Genetically modified organisms? Chemicals in products that might harm you? That might harm your children? Donald Trump? Hillary Clinton? Terrorists? The National Security Agency? Your mother? A loud, unexpected noise? Mentally ill people getting their hands on guns? Continue reading

Nuking Climate Change

Soon after the Paris agreements on climate change were signed, The Guardian carried an opinion piece titled “There is a new form of climate denialism to look out for—so don’t celebrate yet” (Oreskes, 2015). What’s being denied is the possibility that the goals of the agreement can be met using a 100% renewable energy resource strategy—the explicit implication of which is that nuclear energy is a necessity in order to prevent the world from going to hell in a climatic hand basket. Continue reading

Feeling Powerless and Being Powerless

Feeling helpless is not the same as being helpless.

Some time ago, I came across a study in Science magazine that describes how feeling a lack of control affects the decisions you make. A new study by the same researchers develops these results. Continue reading

The Diabetes Gene

Research published in the journal Genetics reports on “the gene responsible for traits involved with diabetes.” That news might lead you to believe that we can now predict who will need treatment for diabetes, how to treat those people, and maybe even how to prevent those people from developing diabetes in the first place. Continue reading

The Society of Organisms

The American Chemical Society maintains the most comprehensive database of commercial chemicals in the United States. Fifteen thousand new chemicals are registered to the database not every year, not every month, not every week, but every day: 15,000 per day Continue reading

The Ebola Scare

As I’m sure you know, the Ebola virus is rampaging through Equatorial West Africa. In a report scheduled for release next week, the CDC estimates that half a million people will have been infected by the end of January 2015. What’s scary about Ebola is that of those half million people, 83% will die—and it will be a terrible death—that’s 415,000 dead. To date the toll has been in the thousands. Continue reading

Synthetic Biology

Ecover, maker of environmentally sensitive cleaning products, has gotten into trouble. It and a number of other makers of so-called green cleaning products have replaced the palm oil they use in their products with an oil produced by algae. Continue reading

Aldehyde Politics

Aldehydes are a class of potently toxic biochemicals. You might recognize the name from a notorious family member: formaldehyde. Aldehydes have been difficult to study because they are very reactive and therefore don’t hang around long enough to be examined. Nevertheless, it would be reasonable to assume that the extreme reactivity of aldehydes spells bad news from human and environmental health. Continue reading

Are Crazy People Dangerous?

Are crazy people dangerous?

Much of the politics around gun control contemplate restricting gun ownership based on mental health status. Whenever there’s a mass murder, the heat of that politics increases. Continue reading

Peak Soil

Food is less nutritious than it used to be. Compared to values from 1950 (the first year for which there are data), nutrients in crops have declined up to 40%. For example, a serving of broccoli eaten in 1950 had significantly more vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, and other nutrients than the same size serving of broccoli eaten today. In other words, to get the same nutrients today, you’d have to eat up to 40% more food. Continue reading