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Periodic Tabloid

The Wrong Way to Close ClimateGate

Today, the scientific leaders of the IPCC held a “side event” at COP15, presenting the main conclusions from their 2007 report (AR 4), updates on their planned Special Reports on renewable energy sources and extreme climate events, and some clues about their approach to AR 5. But the emails took center stage, as everyone in the room had anticipated.

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Ullyot Delight

For the past 20 years the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture has brought people of the highest distinction to Philadelphia for an evening of lively discussion. Academics, CEOs, government officials, university presidents, and others have all offered their perspectives on the chemical sciences’ contributions to society. This year’s honoree was Dr. Joseph M. DeSimone of the University of North Carolina.

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World AIDS Day 2009

It is just a few days after Thanksgiving, Christmas is a few weeks away, and the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are on the news. If you asked people about a current pandemic, they would be more likely to mention swine flu than AIDS; yet, today is World AIDS Day. Amidst the public-health hype over swine flu, it is easy to allow the AIDS pandemic to move to the back of our minds if it does not affect you directly. There are an estimated 33.4 million people living with HIV who do not have that luxury. The CDC claims that those living with HIV are at no greater risk for swine flu so long as the necessary precautions are taken, which can include the swine-flu vaccine. In 2008 there were 2 million AIDS-related deaths, whereas the WHO says that as of late November, there have been under 8,000 swine-flu deaths. 

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Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, a traditional harvest festival, which gives license to overeat. So, dear readers, enjoy the fellowship of family and friends, and then return to the fray next week refreshed and dieting.

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Sleepy Science

Science fiction aficionados may be familiar with a trilogy by Nancy Kress, in which she imagines the emergence of genetically modified humans who don’t require sleep. Alas, most of us need our nightly sleep and function miserably when sleep deprived. But what if the performance hit from too little sleep could be ameliorated by tweaking brain chemistry?

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Student Achievement in Science

It is an article of faith, especially in higher education, that student participation in research is utterly required for shaping attitudes, appreciation, and understanding of the scientific enterprise.

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Carlson Vs. Moore

In one corner, we have Moore’s law. In the other corner, there is Carlson’s curve. Moore’s law— named after Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel—famously predicted over 40 years ago that the transistor density of integrated circuits would double about every two years. So far, it’s been right. Carlson’s curve—named after biologist Rob Carlson—refers to a graph showing the diminishing cost per base of sequencing DNA over time. Like transistor density, DNA sequencing prowess is similarly exponential, and showing no signs of slowing down.

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Mind-Boggling Numbers

The universe is a big place. Estimates vary, but there are something like 1010 galaxies, 1022 stars, and 1080 atoms. Such numbers are hard to get your mind around, even in an era when trillions (1012) is commonly used when measuring government debt. But this is just the observable universe. Cosmologists are now pretty convinced that the true reality is a multiverse, or many parallel universes existing at the same time.

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Cancer News, Good and Bad

One of the reasons cancer therapy is effective is that conventional drugs are somewhat indiscriminate toxins. Thus, they kill lots of tumor cells, even if those cells are not similar in their molecular properties. This is a good thing since most tumor masses are thought to be heterogeneous at the cell and molecular levels. The bad news is that indiscriminate toxins can also damage normal tissues.

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On the iPod, Kindle, and Bedside Table

Like most contemporary people, I am a voracious consumer of information.  I readily concede that possession of information does not ensure wisdom, but at least it raises the possibility of a more informed judgment about the state of the world. Leaving aside television and the Internet, my main info sources are podcasts and books. Here are a few current favorites from each category.

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