Given that the Tea Party movement was launched with a furious on-air outburst by CNBC's Rick Santelli in February 2009, when he called for a "Chicago Tea Party" to protest the White House mortgage-bailout plan, it's not surprising that this is the year of the "mad as hell" voter.
If the summer of 2009 was the season of "death panels," as the debate over health-care reform exploded, this is the season of "17.5k dead women a year." That's the body count scaremongers are predicting if the Food and Drug Administration rescinds its provisional approval of the drug Avastin for metastatic breast cancer.
Surely we don't need another book to tell us how stupid we are? In 2008 alone, "Predictably Irrational," by MIT behavioral scientist Dan Ariely, regaled us with examples of behavior and decisions that defy logic (the aspirin we're told costs $1 makes our headaches go away faster than an identical one that we're told costs a nickel), while "Sway" described "the irresistible pull of irrational behavior," and "Nudge" explained how slightly reframing decisions—to increase employee participation...
New research helps explain why so many Americans think President Obama is a Muslim, by showing that simply having people focus on their own social identity, when it is different from a candidate's—rather than having them think about a candidate's race or age—is enough to get many to believe false information about the person.
You could practically hear a collective groan from enviros across the world yesterday when The New York Times reported on city apartment dwellers who leave their air conditioning running for days and days when they are not even home: with "utilities included" in their rent, these model citizens don't pay for it, and they want to walk into a nice cool room when they get back from vacation or just a tough, hot slog from the subway.
The fact that humans are subject to all these failures of rational thought seems to make no sense. Reason is supposed to be the highest achievement of the human mind, and the route to knowledge and wise decisions. But as psychologists have been documenting since the 1960s, humans are really, really bad at reasoning.
Investors interested in pharma stocks and patients eager to know if an experimental drug works have one thing in common: they devour stories reporting the results of clinical trials, which assess whether a new drug is safe and effective. Now it turns out they have something else in common: they're not getting the whole story.
There are many, many ways to screw up experiments on the biological effects of cell-phone radiation, and in 20 years of studies scientists seem to have used every one. The result is a confused public and nearly incoherent government policies that careen back and forth like a drunk after last call.
Tar balls? A sheen of crude? Oil mousse? Amateur hour. The real villains of America's beaches are not the scattered and dissipating messes from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but the nationwide and relentless releases of disease-causing pathogens—human and animal feces—that reach the shorelines from storm runoff and sewage overflows.
Now that the well appears to be capped, scientists are calling for an end to the knee-jerk and unscientific engineering projects designed to protect the wetlands. Rather than keep the coastline safe, the experts argued in an impassioned letter to Ret. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, these projects could change the ecology of the coastlines for good.
The controversy over alleged exaggerations of climate science has now been fully debunked, even by the newspapers pushing the story, but the public is no longer paying attention.
When will we ever learn? Over and over, experts tell us, and the media reports, that people who engage in behavior X (let's say it's making paper dolls in their spare time) have a lower rate of disease Y (heart attacks, say) than people who do not make paper dolls. Inside the latest example of the problem with observational studies.
Using computer models of ocean currents, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, part of the Commerce Department, conclude that once the oil in the uppermost ocean has been picked up by the Gulf of Mexico's energetic Loop Current, it is likely to reach Florida's Atlantic coast within weeks.
Jews have historically considered themselves "people of the book" (am hasefer in Hebrew), referring to sacred tomes, but the phrase is turning out to have an equally powerful, if unintended, meaning: scientists are able to read Jewish genomes like a history book.
Neuroscience is having its dark-energy moment, feeling as chagrined as astronomers who belatedly realized that the cosmos is awash in more invisible matter and mysterious ("dark") energy than make up the atoms in all the stars, planets, nebulae, and galaxies.