Seeking a climate change
Paul Voosen | Chronicle Review | 3 November 2014
Dan Kahan of Yale University studies how the public understands science. His argument, roughly, is that we are happy with plausible explanations, we don’t demand true ones; and we choose explanations that match our broad cultural values. In debates about climate change, stem cells, GMOs, vaccines, nuclear power and evolution, the basic question is not the science as such. It is always: “What kind of a person are you?”
Measuring the multiverse
Natalie Wolchover & Peter Byrne | Quanta | 3 November 2014
The multiverse conjecture holds that our Universe is just one among an infinite number of universes ‒ and that this explains the mystery of life. If you posit an infinite number of universes, at least one of them is going to have life in it, and here we are. It is hard to imagine what the evidence for this conjecture might even look like ‒ but a Berkeley physicist called Raphael Bousso has some suggestions.
French wines feel the heat
Ullrich Fichtner | Der Spiegel | 30 October 2014
Global warming threatens the French wine industry. Regions and vineyards will lose their historic character. “A great, rich period will come to an end, perhaps as soon as 2050, which isn’t far away, or perhaps later, in 2100. Perhaps people will no longer get to know the great names, because it will no longer be necessary. Because Chateau Petrus, Cheval Blanc and Yquem will no longer be part of the world’s cultural heritage.”
I’m 41, single and pregnant
Rachel Sklar | Medium | 29 October 2014
Scientific advances and changing expectations are rearranging the fundamentals of pregnancy. Writer Rachel Sklar found herself unexpectedly pregnant for the first time at the age of 41 after a “lovely” summer romance. “The relationship ended, the pregnancy did not. I know how it looks: at 41, single and pregnant, I’m a sad, lonely outlier. But it’s 2014. I’m not.”
The top 100 papers
Brendan Maher, Regina Nuzzo and Richard van Noorden | Nature | 29 October 2014
Ranking of the 100 most frequently cited scientific papers of all time, from a universe of some 58 million published. “The vast majority describe experimental methods or software that have become essential in their fields”. Truly foundational papers ‒ Einstein’s special theory of relativity, for example ‒ score much lower than one might expect, because their main points quickly become too familiar to require citation.
The perfect grilled cheese sandwich
Felicity Cloake | Guardian | 5 November 2014
Here’s the health warning up front: it’s fried, not grilled. Now on to the science. You want the best sourdough rye bread you can find, sliced 1cm thick ‒ enough to “absorb the gooey cheese inside, and let the outside get nice and crispy”. Use two kinds of supermarket cheese, one for flavour and one for texture. “Red leicester and mozzarella makes for a ridiculously oozy, molten core." Pan-fry on medium heat in butter and cured pork fat. Eat.
A plutocratic proposal
Alexander Masters | Mosaic | 27 October 2014
The rich should be allowed to buy places for themselves and their loved ones in clinical trials of promising new drugs. This mechanism would generate new funding for medical research, enable more trials to go ahead, and eventually bring more drugs to market for everyone’s benefit. The effect would be greatest on research into rare and difficult-to-treat diseases, which traditional funders are reluctant to support.
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