Monday, December 25, 2017

Biotech Fights Peanut Carcinogen

Aflatoxin is a potent carcinogen.  It is produced by a fungus that grows readily on corn and peanuts, known in the Developing World as 'groundnuts' (which makes more sense IMHO).  Billions of people suffer from chronic exposure. Dr. Dilip Shah was part of a team at the Danforth Center that created solutions to solve this problem.  On this week's podcast we talk about those solutions, and how they may lead to better health around the world.   

Monday, December 18, 2017

"Expert" Commentary on a Paper They Didn't Read

The story of canola oil causing dementia and memory issues seems like old news.  But I received an email that it has popped up again in the wacky press, another alleged expert weighing in on this obvious relationship that actually is not even remotely supported by the data in the paper.  These cases are especially egregious because these health-oriented websites get huge traffic, and lousy information is consumed rapidly and shared widely. 

The claim emerges again, but this time with a new twist! 

The author, Michelle Schoffro Cook didn't even read the paper, but is happy to lend her opinions that further advance this misinformation, along with a dandy of a tangential spin.  How do I know she didn't read it?  She notes in her analysis that it was published in the journal Nature.  It was not.  Nature wouldn't touch this paper with a 10 impact factor pole. 

It is not a bad paper.  It is not a good paper.   I would not have done the experiments that way, but the authors reported how they did it and only slightly overstepped the data in their Discussion.  

The problem is the university communications office that turned a few data points into a national culinary catastrophe. 

Food Activists Stop Technology from Serving the Poor

This is an article that appeared in Real Clear Science, and details the emotional hardship of seeing a problem and a solution separated by a barbed-wire fence.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

To the Easily Offended,. Lighten Up.

In the news, the CDC was apparently told to not use seven words/terms in its internal documents. I've seen other examples like this, as in my state where the Governor does not allow the terms "global warming," "climate change," or "sea-level rise" in official documents. 

So on a Saturday morning the creative juices are flowing and I made a funny list of alternatives. Yes, it is funny.  "Humor arrr arrr," as Mork would say.

But it is 2017 (still, please make it stop) and with every harmless, funny intention comes the outrage. 

Turns out that some small gaggle of folks find the term "Mansition" a slam to the transgender community. 

First, I have a lot of empathy for transgender people.  Not only do I recognize the challenges of having an identity that is traditionally forced into one box or the other, I also understand its personal and damaging implications of surviving in an intolerant world.  I stand up for this community as I understand the potential biological origins. To me, not fitting conveniently into one gender box or the other is is completely perfect, normal, and explainable outcome of human development. 

I've known trans people and have great respect for their struggles and frustrations. 

Once again, go back to intent.  Was the intent of this infographic to install a new vernacular?  

No. It was to give folks a smile on a Saturday morning. 

But if you think it was serious, do you think that my intent was to "reduce the spectrum of identities" of trans people?  Brand the unborn as reptiles?

Give me a break. 

Plus, if you are a trasgenderperson, you are by definition identifying at the start or destination as more traditionally male characteristics, or are somewhere in between.  "Mansition" kind of works. 

So before you start the hate mail to me or my employer, please step back, take a breath, and ask about my intentions. 

Anyone who knows me is aware that I would be the first person to step in an defend anyone in the LGBT community if they were being harassed.  

That's why this funny list of new terms almost didn't happen.  I could not think of something for "transgender" that some (ugh) of the hyper-offendible would bend the meaning outside of its intent and suggest as a hateful epithet.  "Mansition" seemed to elude potential for wrongful interpretation. 

But leave it to the internets of meaning benders to make a neutral, humorous term into hate speech. 

I'm sorry if this offended anyone, that was not the intent. 

However, I'm standing by this one and will not take it down.  And keep in mind that if I experience repercussions because of the willful misinterpretation of meaning and intent, you will remove a strong empathetic supporter and defender from the cause. 

Put your outrage somewhere else. This is not a good investment.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

TB113 - The Tragic Story of Nikolai Vavilov; Science Moms Documentary

Can politics shape science into disrepair?  Can government decisions harm people and long-term progress?  These questions were answered in the tragic story of Nikolai Vavilov.  The story is told by Dr. Jules Janick, Emeritus Professor from Purdue University.  In the second half the film "Science Moms" is discussed with Natalie Newell.  The complete episode can be found here, or anywhere you consume podcast media!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

How the Media Gets It Wrong - Case Study in Canola Oil and Alzheimer's

The manufactured hyperbolic connection between canola oil and Alzheimer's Disease is a perfect example of how a grain of research is extrapolated to wild new proportions. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Explaining the Dicamba Story

The herbicide dicamba has been implicated in substantial off-target movement and crop losses.  But what is the whole story?   I wrote this article for Real Clear Science with Cameron English.