Archive for May 8th, 2009

Who Doesn't Vaccinate?

By Chris Mooney | May 8, 2009 12:10 pm

There’s an important paper in the New England Journal of Medicine this week about vaccine refusal, providing some alarming statistics on this growing phenomenon.

Let’s begin with the basics: In the U.S., “vaccine refusal” is more or less tantamount to obtaining a state level exemption from childhood vaccinations for non-medical reasons. Such exemptions are on the rise: According to the paper, “Between 1991 and 2004, the mean state-level rate of nonmedical exemptions increased from 0.98 to 1.48%.” That may not sound like much, but vaccine refusal is concentrated in certain areas, or clusters, where the incidence is much higher, and accordingly much more dangerous. States like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Michigan in particular are known for having such clusters. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Unscientific America, vaccination

Time Travel on LOST

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | May 8, 2009 10:00 am

While I’m on the way to NYC to meet up with Chris as we get ready to kick off the NYAS Two Cultures conference, let’s turn the blog back to exploring LOST

Last time, we considered time travel, and whether the position of where you arrive through such travel might be predictable.  A series of thought-provoking responses ensued, covering everything from the notion of fixed points in space to matters of the competency of your pilot.

Now for round two…

Readers who’ve been following LOST know that if the island’s resident physicist, Daniel Faraday, was right, then variables (a.k.a., time travelers) can alter the future.  [Paging Marty McFly].  So let’s reexamine the possibility of the space-time continuum by imagining that you are that variable.  Say you’ve made the journey back in time, but yout memories and experiences from the 21st century suggest to you that you have already had this role in the past.  (Still following me on this?)

Hence, are you doomed to fail on a mission to change the ‘present‘ you left? Or might free will* result in your making different choices this time–decisions that may yet result in new and alternative realities?


* Yes, many neuroscientists don’t believe in ‘free will’, but that’s another post entirely. For now, let’s stick with theoretical science fiction for fun…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Media and Science

The Two Cultures Divide That Matters is Between "Rich" and "Poor"

By Chris Mooney | May 8, 2009 8:15 am

Stefan Collini says it. Nature says it. Andrew Maynard says it.

In sum, having now read through many, many 50 year anniversary reactions to Snow’s original “two cultures” essay, I’m detecting an intriguing theme. A lot of people seem to think (and it’s hard to dispute) that the most relevant message from the lecture today is actually contained in its least known section–namely, Snow’s focus at the end of his speech on the importance of science in addressing the plight of the poor, disadvantaged, and undernourished of the world.

Snow did, after all, later write that he wished he’d retitled his essay “The Rich and the Poor.” And of all the “two cultures” gaps that we might conceivably postulate, there’s no doubt this one is still very much with us.

Snow was, above all, a great scientific humanitarian, and our world has just as much need of those now as it ever did.


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