Showing posts from 2014

Sony, KJU, and a Coward's Way Out

Next week another movie I don't want to see was going to premier.   The Interview was a comedy about journalists interviewing Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea... and then they were given the job to assassinate him.  The huge advertising campaign suggests that the film's script and humor are rather simple and targeted to eighteen year old dudes. As we all know by now, alleged North Korean hackers cyber-attacked Sony and made terrorist threats to anyone showing or seeing the movie.   Theaters pulled the film, Sony ceased promotion.  Way to go, morons.  You just bent to threats and further empowered anyone not appreciating artful criticism. Art pokes fun at international leaders. Remember the scenes from good movies like Naked Gun ?  Ayatollahs, Sadam Hussein, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Fidel Castro-- all sitting around a table arguing, portrayed in a less-than-lovey way.  Yep, and here's how Sony and Kim Jong Un played these cards wrong Whe

Never Met a "Merv" I Didn't Like

The folks over at Safe Affordable Food retweeted one of my recent articles on the cost of activism. A guy named Merv was not very happy about that, nor very congenial.  I was nice. 

The Value of Vani

Can she be an ally? I’ve been extremely critical of Vani Hari, aka “The Food Babe”.   She freely demonstrates, without humility, her complete disregard for science and evidence when vilifying food, chemistry and farming. She has amassed a substantial group of venomous followers that subscribe to her leadership.  As we attempt to illuminate products, technology and method to feed a growing population, Hari’s shameful resistance to reality needs to be met.  We've done that, and I'm proud of the push back from Steven Novella, Kavin Senapathy, John Coupland, David Gorski, The Chow Babe and the Food Hunk.  Well done.  But when scientists take the time to show her errors, she lashes back with a string of lies and allegations that are truly curious.  She’s stated in her recent writings that I’m just a pawn doing the bidding of corporate ag, which of course, is supported by zero evidence. It turns into two groups.  One that manufactures the trash, and another that poin

Vani Hari (Food Babe) and Silencing Critics

When you can't discuss things scientifically, just do your best to make sure critics can't be heard.  This is the level of Hari's continued assault on science and reason in the food theater. After a rather pointy article in NPR's The Salt blog, she now throws herself on the sword, a victim of Big Food and Evil Scientists. Like me! On her website about the "attacks" she refers to me loosely... The bottom line is that the time ended and there was no public Q&A.  There was no way that the 300 students she just misinformed could question her claims.  I have posted a letter from the organizers that invited her, stating that she did not answer questions except for a small group that convened to meet her by the stage.  That's true.  However, students left without the opportunity to challenge her claims.  That is not a question. Of course, she ties me in with Monsanto.  Blatantly false.  But since when does she need evidence before maki

Status of the Strategic Shampoo Reserve

I hate waste. I like clean hair. I also travel.  A lot. I started to think about the little bottle of shampoo that I'd get in a hotel.  I'd use a little goob of it, but then would think about where the rest of the bottle would go next. Certainly they don't have people spending time on refilling them.... My guess was that they went in the garbage, an assumption confirmed by discussions with housekeeping.  So I decided that I was going to cut my soap-suds footprint by taking the little bottles home and using them there. Now a new first-world problem.... I accrue close to one-hundred little bottles. So I decided to marry them into a common container, a strategic shampoo reserve.  Here the many fragrances and colors combine into a delightful mixture that feels weird, smells awful, and doesn't work well. An addition of Citron Essence hotel shampoo to the strategic shampoo reserve. I'm glad to report that as of 12/7/2014 the reserve stands at about

Don Huber's Mystery Organism- One Year Later

Food Democracy Now quotes Dr. Huber about sacrificing our future and children.  He claims now for almost a decade to have an organism in his hands that contributes to a suite of human disease, illness and death. He will not release it to the scientific community.  How many must die before he will stop sacrificing our children and our health?   Dr Huber, when will you release information on the deadly pathogen?  What are you waiting for?  ****** One year ago on November 12, 2013, Dr. Don Huber, Emeritus Professor at Purdue University stood in front of an audience here in Gainesville, FL and told them about his research.  He claimed to have isolated an organism, a new "entity" that exudes from GMO soybeans.  It infects cows and causes abortions and causes many diseases in humans. The audience gasped with every picture of dead calves. They were in shock about his findings.  Dr. Huber had unveiled proof that the GMO industry and Monsanto were killing u

Thank God It's On the Internet FOREVER.

I was really excited to watch the Intelligence Squared debate. I've been looking forward to it for seemingly ages. Bottom line-- it was as predicted.  Fear, questions, and magical thinking against science, reason and evidence.  And science won.  Not only did science win, the fear-based empty fact-free claims from the other side are permanently stored online for everyone to enjoy forever. I'm not going into too much post-event analysis, but I will take the time to point out some of the major things we all need to take note of. Mellon has no clue.   Here's someone that is so out of her league.  Her antiquated talking points are no match for reality.  She did a nice slam on conventional breeders, people that are working very hard to improve crops using cross breeding-- and she seems to believe they are not doing a very good job. She also seems to think that Europe is this wonderful place that has ag all figured out.  Of course, they import massive amounts of food from


A lot of folks don't know it, but I loves me a good debate.  In college I was the president of our Debate and Individual Events Team at Northern Illinois University, and our tiny rag-tag team of rhetorical hammers finished 7th in the nation against the huge perennial powerhouses from other universities.  That was a good score. It was there that I learned a lot about argument and a lot about how to frame a persuasive message. My coaches were (and still are) the best in the business. Vielen danke Santa, Shrek and Solomon! Tomorrow is the big debate on Intelligence Squared.  Chuck Benbrook and Margaret Mellon are squaring off against Alison Van Eenennaam and Robb Fraley.  It is anti-GMO vs transgenic science in an NPR-mediated battle royale! Today I provided valuable debate insight and information Alison and Robb,  I'm so glad that these two where chosen against Chuck and Margaret.  It almost seems a little unfair. Two likable and charismatic scientists against a couple of s

Investing in Postdocs and Giving Thanks

I received an email yesterday from someone I had not spoken two in probably six months. Back in April I gave a presentation to the postdocs at the University of Florida.  It was advice about communicating their science, sharing their science, and thoughts on job interviews. Such things are sorely needed.  We produce way more Ph.D.s than the number of jobs to support them, so we end up with a large number of postdocs in circulation. These folks are professional scientists, as good as they get. We just don't have enough jobs for all of them, so it is not unusual for a Ph.D. scientist to be making $35,000 a year, six years after the degree is over, with no hard promise of a job.  Interviews are ultra competitive and skilled scientists often fail at that last critical moment-- impress the committee on paper and get the interview, but fall short in person and don't land the job. After the seminar I was approached by a 5th year postdoc.  We can call him Dr. S, since he has a


A few weeks ago I wrote a note to Bill Nye about his incorrect opinions on transgenic technology.  No response.  Sort of. I got an email and was told I could share the content, but not the name, and no screen shots or direct quotes.  Apparently this is someone that knows about Bill Nye, his production group and his handlers.  The feeling is that it is from someone close to him, or someone on his team. It could be completely false too.  I'm about 50/50 on authenticity. I would just post the whole thing. But, he said I could use only paraphrased information in a blog, and asked me to not use his name, so I won't.  The note says that if I play by these rules maybe I'll get more info, and that as a science fan he's hoping for the debate.  Weird. The note said that Nye's associates seek to use him as a political wedge, and that Nye himself is right on board. It is apparently a transition of Nye from a media science communicator to a political figure to work against

Deadly Aviation Pretzel Gas: Foodbabeliness in Action

Today while flying home from a scientific conference I could not help but remember the Food Babe’s warnings about commercial aviation.  Her recent post warns of recirculated filth and high amounts of nitrogen, somewhere like 50%.  Of course, that’s about 30% less than ambient air.   Her claims were widely, and appropriately criticized. Today I took a good look at the inside of that cylinder in the sky and noticed hazards that Vani didn’t catch. She failed to account for other airborne dangers on the plane, problems that likely contribute to the deadly quality of cabin air more than anything she may ever fear. But before I start, we all know that commercial aviation is plagued with funny odors.  While we sit in a chair in the sky the nose is treated to a parade of organic funk, wafting through the cabin.  Whether it is the chronically unshowered and unsleeved, the woman that insists on taking off her shoes and putting her feet all over everything, or the folks that secrete gase

A Letter to Support My Claims Against The Food Babe

A few weeks ago I attended the Food Babe's talk at the University of Florida. I listened to her talk about herself and provide lots of false information to my students, and waited for the opportunity to ask dismantling questions from one of the two microphones in the room. She did not take questions from the audience. The event ended and the audience left. She was paid $6000 for over an hour's time to promote her brand and spread her filth.  Now scientists and educators have to fix it. I first wrote about the night and the lack of a Q&A period here.  The story spread quickly through social media, the place with a love-hate relationship with Hari. Vani Hari responded by claiming that there was in fact a Q&A session, that she did answer questions from the audience. So it is my word against hers.  Via social media she explained to her followers that she did answer questions.  We know she didn't. The answer may be that she knows nothing about scientific p

Science Center : Opinion and Activism are the New Science?

I am not happy.  Opinion is the new science.  Activism is the new science. Undocumented claims are the new science. Arguments from ignorance are the new science.  That is, if you are a speaker at an event held by the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium.  You can watch the video her e.  I'll wait.  Or I can save you 1:21 of your life you'll never get back.  First of all I can say that I totally predicted this .  I predicted exactly what this would be, that it would start out with some neutral and credible (well, undeniable) science and then degenerate into a scientific abortion ending in a rallying cry for food labeling and a "right to know".  I'm like a damn psychic. It is pretty amazing.  Not really.  These things are incredibly predictable, and while I warned them, they suggested that 'teaching all sides' is a good move.  Ugh.  Hey dude, science is whatever you think it is, your opinion is as good as evidenc

Science Schmience. A Science Center Update

Today was interesting in that the angry emails and a few phone calls have come in to me and the hire-ups where I work.  Seems some folks are not happy that I've recommended, as a scientist, that a Science Center might best serve its reputation and credibility by endorsing events that have a basis in science-based evidence. They still are moving forward with the Science on Tap event, where a local dietitian with apparent intentions will grace the audience with her interpretations of transgenic crop science. To review, last week I was alerted by a South Florida farmer that the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium  (SFSC) was hosting a “Science on Tap” talk, held at a local bar.  The topic was entitled, “GMO’s (sic) Exposed” and was to be delivered by Michelle Parenti Lewis, a local dietitian.  I wondered what she might be exposing. The original story was posted on my blog, Illumination.  After I was notified of this event, a little google search revealed that the event

Protecting Bill Nye from De-nye-al

Yesterday's letter on Keith Kloor's Collide-a-Scape Blog was intended to illuminate inconsistency in Bill Nye's application of science.   While many critics hammered at his credentials and trashed him as a kid's entertainer, I defended him.  I respect Bill Nye and his ability to connect science to people.  It is something I wish I did better and something I am learning by watching experts like Nye. This is why I challenged him.  I need him to survive.  I need the Bill Nye brand to be successful.  We need him to be the friendly and approachable stuff in the interface between the public and the science. My letter to Nye was out of respect -- to help sharpen his impacts and protect his brand.  Right now there are many not happy with Nye, and they come from positions in climate denial and creationism.  They need Bill Nye to fail.  They seek to erode his credibility. What better way to harm his reputation as an objective science steward than to show that he ha

Women in Science, Revisited

This post is here because earlier today someone asked me to think of a reason to build a scholarship. I thought of Jessie. Jessica Justice was a dishwasher that became a scientist.  This is what I wrote about her, and it was published on April 7, 2010 on Skepchick.  Make sure you read the next post tomorrow.  If this moves you at all, tomorrow will bring tears. The topic is important today as it was then, and your note is still priceless Jessie. Science Needs Women Kevin M. Folta In three weeks I will put on the cap-and-gown professor outfit I bought on Ebay and witness something that probably never should have happened: the graduation of a self-described dumb blonde. Jessie came to my laboratory looking to make some extra cash as a dishwasher. Little did she know that she would be remolded, repackaged and refocused by a cadre of women that identified a change that needed to happen, then took the initiative to make it so. In my laboratory the ratio of X to Y chromosomes

Event Renamed, Maybe Postponed. Needs to be Cancelled.

I was blown away to see that the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium was sponsoring "Science on Tap" an event at a local bar that featured a speaker on a scientific topic. However, the speaker for November 13th was a local dietitian with clear activist leanings, planning what appeared to be a baseless criticism of transgenic crop technology in her talk "GMO's (sic) Exposed".  My analysis of the speaker and the situation here. A few emails and notes on social media brought a first wave of responses that suggested bringing in "all views" was the job of science and that her talk was appropriate.  My head almost exploded.  Since when is a "science center" promoting "teach the controversy"?  Science Center endorses a local dietitian to speak on the dangers of GMO foods.  Zero illnesses or deaths in 18 years.  88,000 deaths a year from alcohol. Finally tonight I received word from their CEO that they'd be "

You've Been Fooled, Science Center!

If you are planning to visit the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, you might not see Jesus riding a T. rex ,  or a model of the earth with expanding glaciers.  These are the things that crackpot pseudo-science museums might promote.  Nothing like that could happen here... or could it? An event next week was brought to my attention.  The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is sponsoring Science on Tap- GMOs Exposed!   November 13th you can go hear about how GMOs are 'exposed', whatever that means... Maybe we should dig a little deeper... The presenter is Michelle Parenti Lewis, a local RD.  So what can an apparently trained RD "expose"?  A quick google search shows that the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium has been duped.  They have scheduled what will likely not be a scientific talk, but an activist parasite posing as science.  This is the most disgusting of all scams. And they fell for it. A little poking around shows t