Weekly Roundup

“Professors, We Need You!” Nicholas Kristof argues in the New York Times that professors need to make themselves relevant in real-world debates. Professors argued back that they already do, and that they might be better off staying in the (shrinking) ivory tower: for one thing, there are no FBI background checks.

Food research is notorious for flip-flopping, but studies suggest that consumers of whole milk and butter are less likely to be obese. NPR explores this “full fat paradox.”

“These gender differences that everyone knows exist, and they know they’ll always exist and they’re biological — when I started pressing on them I found that a lot of those assumptions hadn’t really been tested.” New York Magazine interviews psychologist Terri Conley, whose work debunks evolutionary explanations for men and women’s sex preferences.

Jackie Chan has joined the fight to halt the consumption of endangered animal products for food and traditional remedies.

Lonely people are more likely to die sooner, and lonely cancer patients suffer detrimental lifestyle impacts.

Man’s best friend, indeed: dogs’ brains react to voices and emotional cues similar to those of humans.

High school grades predict college success better than SAT scores do.

A new study in JAMA Pediatrics suggests a link between using acetaminophen (paracetamol; found in Tylenol and other medications) during pregnancy and ADHD/hyperkinetic behaviours in children. However, doctors believe that these results do not warrant a change in the drug’s classification as a safe painkiller for pregnant women.

Over 120 research papers residing in Springer and IEEE subscription publications have been removed after Cyril Labbé discovered that they were produced by SCIgen, a program designed by MIT graduate students to generate nonsense computer science papers. If you suspect a given computer science paper is gibberish, you can test it using Labbé’s website.…

Weekly Roundup

One in four Americans believes that the sun revolves around the Earth, according to the results of a NSF survey presented at the recent AAAS meeting. But according to Time magazine, Europeans fared even worse on that question, with one in three responding incorrectly.

Despite an outpouring of protest and offers of rehousing, Copenhagen Zoo killed its “surplus” male giraffe Marius, and then performed a public autopsy with children in the audience. Meat from the corpse was fed to the zoo’s lions. Marius’ death has sparked discussion on the ethics of zoo conservation, with some blaming the zoo’s actions on Denmark’s pragmatic culture.

The health outcomes of people living in food deserts, areas without access to fresh food and which have prompted healthy eating initiatives, aren’t improved by improving access to fresh food; some researchers even believe food deserts aren’t the issue but that the cumulative stress (allostatic load) caused by long-term poverty is responsible for illness. Nutrition is a confusing field with a “dysfunctional research establishment.” All we know without a doubt is that Americans really love pizza.

A report commissioned by The Beer Store, Ontario’s beer retailer, claims that beer would become more expensive if customers could purchase it at convenience stores. But the author of a previous study commissioned by the Ontario Convenience Store Association disagrees.

Bill Nye, The Science Guy debated Ken Ham, young-Earth creationist and head of the Creation Museum, on the question “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?” The entire debate can be viewed on YouTube. While some in the scientific community welcomed the publicity, others claimed that Nye lost by showing up. Post-debate, creationists provided answers to evolutionist issues raised at the debate, while Buzzfeed collected questions from creationists which have been tackled by quite a few bloggers.

Some sciences are just harder than others: a new study in the  Interdisciplinary Journal on Research and Religion claims that social science professors are more religious and politically extreme than their counterparts in the natural sciences, and that the difference is due to the higher intelligence of the natural scientists, thanks to the correlation of both religiosity and political extremism with lower intelligence. [via Marginal Revolution]…

Weekly Roundup

What should a first-semester, first-year, part-time, mature psychology MA student do upon discovering faulty math in an extremely popular paper in American Psychologist claiming that complex fluid dynamics proves that a ratio of 2.9013 positive to negative emotions is the tipping point for human flourishing? Well, if you’re Nick Brown, you team up with Alan Sokal and psychologist Harris Friedman and publish a takedown in the same journal.

GoldieBlox, the engineering toy designed for girls that we’ve written about before, won Intuit’s Small Business, Big Game contest, beating thousands of competitors. Here‘s their prize: a professionally-produced commercial.

It’s been a bad week for the organic food movement: a PLOS One study sponsored by the organic milk industry claiming that the fat profile of organic milk is better for your heart has been debunked, and Slate published an analysis of the pesticide risks of feeding children regular produce, concluding that they are not significant.

After the passage of a comprehensive Child Rights Law in the United Arab Emirates, it is now illegal to not breastfeed your baby. [via Jezebel]

Much has been written about Stephen Hawking’s black hole U-turn, prompted by his submission of a paper to arXiv claiming that “there are no black holes.” But as PopMech points out, Hawking’s quote continues with “—in the sense of regimes from which light can’t escape to infinity. There are, however, apparent horizons which persist for a period of time”: Hawking is weighing in on a debate about event horizons. And to top it off, the Borowitz Report posted a satirical column wherein Michelle Bachman claims that Hawking’s reversal means we shouldn’t believe climate or evolutionary science, which quickly went viral. [via Gizmodo]

Children’s “weight fate” may be set as early as kindergarten: according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, overweight 5-year-olds are much more likely to be overweight as teenagers.

Fighting a straw snowman: in a curious piece at Scientific American, The truth about “wind chill”: Does it even really exist? Mark Fischetti argues that “wind chill is not real” because skin temperature would never fall to reported wind chill levels, then goes into the details of the perceivable phenomenon. [via Salon]…