June 26, 2008I seem to remember from statistics class that anything less than 95 percent probability is junk science. This is an editorial from the most recent issue of GEO, a Norwegian magazine about earth sciences
"it is useful to remember that the IPCC concludes that there is only a 90% chance of a connection between global warming and the burning of fossil fuels. In other words, there is a 10% chance - which I consider significant - that there is no connection between the two."
In honor of the 33rd International Geological Congress being held in Oslo this summer, GEO' 04/08 issue is published in English, so the editorial is legible for people other than the maybe 5 million that speak Norwegian.
May 13, 2008OK, so say we accept the premise that CO2 causes global warming, is there any case where energy use will be beneficial for the planet? Yes, according to New Scientist:
They say the use of biogas plants, which store the decomposing manure and capture the natural gas it releases, could improve rural farmers' livelihoods, while protecting the environment.
Biogas digesters are used across the Indian subcontinent, Africa, and Latin America, but few rigorous studies have been done of their overall costs and benefits. So Govindasamy Agoramoorthy of Tajen University and Minna Hsu of National Sun Yat-sen University, both in Taiwan, surveyed 125 rural households in India that use biogas plants.
May 13, 2008Humane Society of the US just released another expose video on animal cruelty in the meat industry. They argue for more regulation so that the responsibility for downer cattle is firmly placed on someone's shoulder.
Their ultimate goal is to eliminate factory farming, where cattle are raised one place, transported to a feedlot where they pack on a lot of weight, and then transported to a meat packing plant where they are finally slaughtered. It is meat production by bussing, and it is part of the reason why we have downer cattle, which HSUS are so concerned about.
HSUS, which is not related to your local Humane Society in any way, shape, or form, is arguing for more regulation. They want regulation that says who is responsible for downer cattle at the meat packing plant, at the auction houses, and anywhere else....
May 12, 2008New Scientist recently mentioned a really cool method for cellulose based ethanol in their daily 60-second science podcast. During the second world war, our GI's had a problem with a cloth eating fungus that ate through tents and shirts.
It sounds like something out of a bad science fiction novel. During World War II, a fungus called Tricoderma reesei ate its way through US military uniforms and tents in the South Pacific. It chewed up the cloth and used special enzymes to convert the indigestible cellulose into simple sugars. Now that infamous fungus is getting some good publicity. It looks like it might hold a key to improving the production of biofuels.
Scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory published a paper on the fungus's genetic...
May 7, 2008The Scientist has research grants as a theme this month, and the cover story tries to figure out what happens when NIH grants are denied because of budget cuts. The agency has gone from a 19.7 percent approval rating on Type 1 grants in 1999 to 9.1 percent approval rating in 2005. For Type 2 grants the approval rating has gone from more than 55 percent in 1999 to about 33 percent in 2005.
I am not pointing this out because I lament the loss of research funding, I think this type of funding belong in the private arena and should be funneled through 503(c)'s. I am pointing this out because this is a great story about the end results of the horse-trading that goes on in Congress.
This man's laboratory might be the $100,000 spent by Congress on the High Falls Film Festival in Rochester, NY or the $200,000 spent on...
May 6, 2008Something is wrong with the FDA. They doubled their staffing at the beginning of the 1990's, which lead to a temporary decrease in processing speed, but bureaucratic inertia soon set in and approval times slowed down again.
FDA is going to increase their staff with 1,300 people by October, which will be paid for increased industry fees. It is pretty drastic that a government agency increase their staffing with 13 percent, but industry can afford the increased fees right? It actually only means that the increased cost will be passed down to you and me, also known as Joe and Jill consumer. Grandma will have more expensive drugs at the pharmacy and your sister's friend who is a single mom will not be able to afford that breast milk pump she needs to go back to work.
FDA also announced a...
May 6, 2008As reports of food prices going through the ceiling are trickling in, some of the countries that traditionally reject plants bred with molecular plant breeding methods (PMBs) are reconsidering.
Japan's largest corn processor have started buying PMB corn for human consumption, although Japan have permitted PMBs for animal feed.
63,000 tons of PMB corn arrived in Seoul, South Korea on Thursday last week and officials said that they couldn't get hold of enough non-PMB corn because the European's are sweeping the small supply that exists off the market.
The trouble with getting hold of non-PMB crops has hurt inside Europe too,...
May 6, 2008As a science writer with a liberal arts/ social studies background, I frequently run into brick walls where I do not have detailed enough knowledge about the subject. Physics will be one of those subjects where I gladly admit to being more ignorant than I ought to. Messages from my friend Miranda Hvinden frequently sends me looking for definitions as well (she is a microbiologist and a smart cookie) because she sometimes delves into details beyond my scope of knowledge. I frequently turn to Wikipedia to get the scope of scientific theories and definitions of technical terms.
I used to love the online edition of Encyclopedia Britannica when I was in undergraduate school. I studied comparative religion and intellectual history, and the trusty old Britannica gave me run downs and overviews that got me into the subject matter quicker. T...
May 5, 2008How long should it take to lift an import ban, when all the parties agree that there are no health safety or science issues involved? In the EU, it has taken 11 years and it is still working on the issue.
My buddy Richard North, author and former food safety inspector blogged about the EU ban on US poultry imports recently, when EU promised to deliver a "progress report" on their efforts to lift the import ban.
According to North, the EU banned US poultry imports because US poultry farmers wash the poultry in a disinfectant to eliminate pathogens such as e. coli and such. This is not allowed in the EU, so they stopped importing poultry from the US. EU's version of the FDA has said this practice is not only safe, but desirable. EU bureaucrats however, know how angry EU poultry farmers will be if the ban is...
May 5, 2008EU was supposed to have an authoritative discussion on plants bred with molecular plant breeding techniques (PMB's) in May. The organization has been fined by the WTO for using PMB bans as a trade barrier but stubborn politicians are blackmailing each other with approvals and denials of various organisms, costing consumers and companies billions of Euros. According the story from Reuters, it does not seem that the May discussion will resolve any issues eitherâ€¦