Archive for September, 2008

DISCOVER's Science Policy Project: Jay Keasling

By Melissa Lafsky | September 22, 2008 11:38 am

What are the three most important things the next U.S. president needs to do for science? To cut through the jargon and find an answer, we bring you the DISCOVER Science Policy Project, in which we give a group of the country’s most celebrated scientists and thinkers the chance to state their views. All past responses can be found here.

JAY KEASLING
Genetic engineering pioneer

Significantly increase funding for energy. As a nation, we spend far too little on energy research. If we spent on energy research at a level comparable to what we spend on health care research (relative to the size of the industries), we would be spending much more than we currently spend.

Invest heavily in basic research. Basic research fuels discoveries, which eventually fuel the economy.

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Weekly Science & Politics News Roundup

By Melissa Lafsky | September 20, 2008 3:40 pm

• Congratulations to Andy Revkin, New York Times reporter and DISCOVER alum, on winning the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, which is given to journalists who provide excellent reporting on “stories that simmer instead of explode”—though whether global warming falls into the former category or the latter remains to be seen.

• DrugMonkey sounds off on the “broken” NIH grant review system.

• The National Institute of Mental Health calls off a study on chelation in children. Why? Because it was dangerous and “unethical.” No kidding.

• We here in Mother Russia do not like silly American “Google.”

• Is media sensationalism a product of evolution?

• No politician is safe! An activist group hacks into Sarah Palin’s personal e-mail account, leaving McCain grateful that he doesn’t know how to use the Internet.

• Which scientific experts should the next U.S. president appoint to guide him? The National Academy of Sciences has a few ideas—and they’re happy to share.

DISCOVER's Science Policy Project: Craig Barrett

By Melissa Lafsky | September 20, 2008 3:37 pm

What are the most important things the next U.S. president needs to do for science? To cut through the jargon and find an answer, we bring you the DISCOVER Science Policy Project, in which we give a group of the country’s most celebrated scientists and thinkers the chance to respond to the following question:

What are the three most important things the next president can do to positively impact scientific research in the United States?

In the November issue of DISCOVER, we compile and analyze the results. In the meantime, we will be posting each response in its entirety here on Reality Base. Feel free to offer your own ideas and analysis in the comments section. All past responses can be found here.

CRAIG BARRETT
Chairman of the Board of Intel Corp.
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How Much Does Your Brain Control How You Vote?

By Melissa Lafsky | September 18, 2008 5:03 pm

Is Obama-mania located in a specific part of the brain? Does devotion to McCain spring from a different lobe? Last night, a packed crowd gathered to discuss this question at the NYU event, “Your Brain on Politics: The Neuroscience of Elections.” The headliners were three NYU psychology professors—John Jost, David Amodio, and Elizabeth Phelps—who presented their research on what brain biology can tell us about political views.

Jost started off by discussing the “Big Five Model of Personality,” which, according to his results, offers clues about the minds of hardcore liberals versus their conservative counterparts.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: The 2008 Election
MORE ABOUT: mccain, neuroscience, obama

DISCOVER's Science Policy Project: C. Everett Koop

By Melissa Lafsky | September 18, 2008 10:28 am

What are the most important things the next U.S. president needs to do for science? To cut through the jargon and find an answer, we bring you the DISCOVER Science Policy Project, in which we give a group of the country’s most celebrated scientists and thinkers the chance to respond to the following question:

What are the three most important things the next president can do to positively impact scientific research in the United States?

In the November issue of DISCOVER, we compile and analyze the results. In the meantime, we will be posting each response in its entirety here on Reality Base. Today’s entry is by C. Everett Koop, the former U.S. Surgeon General and founder of the C. Everett Koop Institute. Feel free to offer your own ideas and analysis in the comments section. All past responses can be found here.

C. EVERETT KOOP
Former U.S. Surgeon General

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Want to Know If McCain Believes His Own Speeches? Ask Your Computer

By Melissa Lafsky | September 17, 2008 5:03 pm

The quest for technology that can detect any lie is still plodding on. But while we may not be able to nail every falsehood, science is helping us tell when someone massages the truth. New Scientist reports that experts are now concocting “spin reading” software programs that analyze a person’s speech, voice, or facial expressions to sniff out his or her level of truthiness.

David Skillicorn, a math and computer science researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, has come up with a particularly timely trick: He developed an algorithm that “evaluates word usage within the text of a conversation or speech to determine when a person ‘presents themselves or their content in a way that does not necessarily reflect what they know to be true.'”

In other words, he created a Spin Detector. Here’s a quick summary of how it works:

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: The 2008 Election
MORE ABOUT: mccain, obama

DISCOVER's Science Policy Project: Steven Weinberg

By Melissa Lafsky | September 17, 2008 10:15 am

What are the most important things the next U.S. president needs to do for science? To cut through the jargon and find an answer, we bring you the DISCOVER Science Policy Project, in which we give a group of the country’s most celebrated scientists and thinkers the chance to respond to the following question:

What are the three most important things the next president can do to positively impact scientific research in the United States?

In the November issue of DISCOVER, we compile and analyze the results. In the meantime, we will be posting each response in its entirety here on Reality Base. Today’s entry is by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg. Feel free to offer your own ideas and analysis in the comments section. All past responses can be found here.

STEVEN WEINBERG
Nobel laureate in physics
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Don't Know Much About Technology: McCain Tackles ScienceDebate Questions

By Melissa Lafsky | September 15, 2008 4:58 pm

The ScienceDebate2008 project put together 14 questions for the candidates covering all the major bases, including climate change, energy, education, national security, biotech, conservation, and health care. (For a full list, go here.) Earlier this month, Obama submitted his responses. Now McCain has followed suit. Here are some highlights, with a few of our own annotations.

Innovation

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DISCOVER's Science Policy Project: Jack Horner

By Melissa Lafsky | September 15, 2008 1:28 pm

What are the most important things the next U.S. president needs to do for science? To cut through the jargon and find an answer, we bring you the DISCOVER Science Policy Project, in which we give a group of the country’s most celebrated scientists and thinkers the chance to respond to the following question:

What are the three most important things the next president can do to positively impact scientific research in the United States?

In the November issue of DISCOVER, we compile and analyze the results. In the meantime, we will be posting each response in its entirety here on Reality Base. Today’s entry is by legendary paleontologist Jack Horner. Feel free to offer your own ideas and analysis in the comments section. All past responses can be found here.

JACK HORNER
Paleontologist

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Weekly Science & Politics News Roundup

By Melissa Lafsky | September 12, 2008 1:35 pm

• M.I.T.’s president calls for a major R&D funding increase for alternative energy; the world (hopefully) listens.

• Newsflash: Doctors admit to sometimes acting unprofessional. Good thing they’re only laughing at you while you’re anesthetized, and not handing you prescriptions for a drug they’ve been paid to endorse… oh, wait, never mind.

• Ed Brayton summarizes McCain’s “sex ed-gate” mess.

• And Gristmill offers a breakdown of the “Palin v. Palin” climate change message.

• The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund has its say on aerial wolf hunting.

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