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The viral site Upworthy, which knows how to attract an audience (last year, Fast Company called it "the fastest growing media site of all time...

The viral site Upworthy, which knows how to attract an audience (last year, Fast Company called it "the fastest growing media site of all time"), has asked its tens of millions of followers what they would like it to focus on in 2014.

Here are the results:

1. Climate change and clean energy.

2. Income inequality and poverty.

3. Human rights.

I guess this shouldn't be surprising, given Upworthy's socially-conscious tilt. Still, it's interesting to see how different this agenda is from anything you might hear out of Washington, for example.

And Upworthy...

Periodistas explican muy bien la compleja asociación entre el gen IRX3, el FTO, y la obesidad
Pere Estupinya
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(English intro to Spanish lang post) Mutations in the FTO gene have the strongest association to obesity in humans, but the mechanism of action remains unknown. Now, researchers from Chicago and Spain publish in Nature that FTO interacts with a distant gene called IRX3, which seems to be the one...

(English intro to Spanish lang post) Mutations in the FTO gene have the strongest association to obesity in humans, but the mechanism of action remains unknown. Now, researchers from Chicago and Spain publish in Nature that FTO interacts with a distant gene called IRX3, which seems to be the one that directly controls differential weight gain. Mice with altered IRX3 function are 30% slimmer than conventional ones. This distanct gene regulation is quite a complex topic to write about, but some journalists in Spain made a great effort to explain it clearly and in detail. In fact it’s the most read story in today’s elpais.com

Buen ejemplo de información científica compleja que ha sido tratada en exquisito detalle, especialmente por Javier Sampedro “Sí, el gen de la gordura existe”...

Illulstration for National Geographic's Black Hole Story
Faye Flam
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Let it be known that last weekend, thanks to National Geographic, a conversation on the nature of black holes took place in the salon where I get my hair cut.

It’s a setting where astrology gets a lot more attention than astronomy, but one of the hair cutters had read the latest National Geo...

Let it be known that last weekend, thanks to National Geographic, a conversation on the nature of black holes took place in the salon where I get my hair cut.

It’s a setting where astrology gets a lot more attention than astronomy, but one of the hair cutters had read the latest National Geo cover story, Black Holes, and he'd been looking forward to my appointment so he could talk about it. He gave me a good summary of the story, demonstrating that he comprehended it. There was real science communication achieved.

The story, by Michael Finkel, was an overview in broad brushstrokes, with no hype, lots of history, lots of background and no quotes. It serves as a lesson to editors who think people don’t care about science unless there’s a breakthrough that happened five minutes ago, a “human interest” angle, or news you can use....

  In a thatched hut among muddy paths in the Indian state of Orissa one finds a fellow who, on just the surrounding 2.3 acres of land, grows 940 different strains, or landraces, of rice. He calls the place a "seed ark" and asserts that is the only such collection of the diverse rice strains that once...

  In a thatched hut among muddy paths in the Indian state of Orissa one finds a fellow who, on just the surrounding 2.3 acres of land, grows 940 different strains, or landraces, of rice. He calls the place a "seed ark" and asserts that is the only such collection of the diverse rice strains that once were farmed across eastern India.

  The Kolkatta (nee Calcutta) native lives pretty humbly at the place - no electricity except for two solar panels to charge his phone and computer. He also is much more than a local farmer with a bee in his bonnet about heirloom rice. This is a  trained ecologist - including a spell at UC-Berkeley - with strong links to an international movement to preserve crop diversity. It has a big job. the expansion of mechanized industrial agriculture by its nature pursues the economic advantage brought by mass production and uniformity of the work routine. Biodiversity among crops is the loser. 

   This I...

"For the first time, a test that detects 10 types of lipids, or fats, circulating in a person's blood has been shown to predict accurately whether he or she will develop the memory loss and mental decline of Alzheimer's disease over the next two to three years," Melissa Healy ...

"For the first time, a test that detects 10 types of lipids, or fats, circulating in a person's blood has been shown to predict accurately whether he or she will develop the memory loss and mental decline of Alzheimer's disease over the next two to three years," Melissa Healy writes at the Los Angeles Times.

The question, of course, is: How accurately?

And how soon will it be ready? Healy writes--we're still in the lede here--that "a screening test based on the findings could be available in as little as two years."

I'm not a betting man, but if I were, I'd take all comers: If you think this will be available in two years, slap your cash on the barrel, pal.

It's not until her seventh graf that Healy reports that the test could "sort the...

The CDC announced in late February that many Americans are still too fat. Not much eyeball-grabbing news there, but in a clever move by the CDC press office, someone turned the focus on one small blip in the data. In the 2 to 5 year old category, obesity rate appeared to fall from about 14% to about 8.5%, which...

The CDC announced in late February that many Americans are still too fat. Not much eyeball-grabbing news there, but in a clever move by the CDC press office, someone turned the focus on one small blip in the data. In the 2 to 5 year old category, obesity rate appeared to fall from about 14% to about 8.5%, which still doesn’t sound exciting until someone turned it into a relative drop and declared that obesity rates fell by 43%.

That gave CDC’s press office a tempting morsel of reporter bait to dangle.

Many news organizations bit on it, though most included the more modest absolute percentage change too. That was the case with the New York Times, story, Obesity Rate for Young Children Plummets 43% in a Decade, USA Today’s...

Andrew Solomon, the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, has done what I think is the first interview with the father of Adam Lanza since the December...

Andrew Solomon, the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, has done what I think is the first interview with the father of Adam Lanza since the December, 2012 day when Adam killed his mother, 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and himself. The interview appears online at The New Yorker.

Solomon elicits some riveting admissions and observations from Peter Lanza, who ultimately tells Solomon he wishes Adam had never been born. "That didn’t come right away. That’s not a natural thing, when you’re thinking about your kid. But, God, there’s no question," he said.

Peter showed Solomon a picture of himself with Adam and his brother, Ryan, who was initially suspected to be the killer. "One thing that struck me about that picture is that it's clear...

On Tuesday, March 18th, the National Press Foundation is sponsoring a webinar entitled "Tips for High-Fidelity Science Reporting."

"Any journalist who wants...

On Tuesday, March 18th, the National Press Foundation is sponsoring a webinar entitled "Tips for High-Fidelity Science Reporting."

"Any journalist who wants to improve her or his work on scientific topics will benefit from this webinar. It will highlight common challenges in communicating science and offer specific tips to enhance the fidelity and richness of scientific reporting," says the announcement.

Do not sign up for this. Better yet, send the National Press Foundation an email and tell them to cancel it.

The webinar is not intended to boost science journalism. It's intended to boost the fortunes of The Coca-Cola Company, which needs little help from us.

I'll give the press foundation a score of 50% on transparency. The announcement for the webinar says, prominently, "This program...

Here are a few items from the past week or two that I'm not going to get to, but that I couldn't entirely let go:

  • Why do people who convulse over the bogus science at Kentucky's Creation Museum tolerate the pseudoscience marketing at Whole Foods? "From the probiotics aisle to the...

Here are a few items from the past week or two that I'm not going to get to, but that I couldn't entirely let go:

  • Why do people who convulse over the bogus science at Kentucky's Creation Museum tolerate the pseudoscience marketing at Whole Foods? "From the probiotics aisle to the vaguely ridiculous Organic Integrity outreach effort (more on that later), Whole Foods has all the ingredients necessary to give Richard Dawkins nightmares," writes Michael Schulson in The Daily Beast. Jerry A. Coyne comments on Schulson's article at The New Republic...
Paul Raeburn
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Which countries are coming closest to achieving gender parity in scientific research and development?

You might be surprised.

Women are vastly underrepresented in the sciences around the world. To find the countries that lag the most, click on this interactive graphic from UNESCO's Institute for...

Which countries are coming closest to achieving gender parity in scientific research and development?

You might be surprised.

Women are vastly underrepresented in the sciences around the world. To find the countries that lag the most, click on this interactive graphic from UNESCO's Institute for Statistics.

And once you see the results, see if you can try to explain them.

-Paul Raeburn

UNESCO - Women In Science Interactive

"Planeta": Bonito espacio sobre medioambiente en Ecuador
Pere Estupinya
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(English intro to Spanish lang post) Today we comment on a weekly ecuadorian publication called Planeta, which is part of the newspaper El Comercio. Planeta publishes only a few stories per week, but it deals with environmental and conservation issues affecting the country. It’s very well...

(English intro to Spanish lang post) Today we comment on a weekly ecuadorian publication called Planeta, which is part of the newspaper El Comercio. Planeta publishes only a few stories per week, but it deals with environmental and conservation issues affecting the country. It’s very well illustrated, and we’ve noticed a good amount of scientific contents. This week reporters from Planeta talk about a study by local researchers showing the changes in diet and habitats of the spectacled bear, effects of ocean acidification, and the delicate situation of the pink iguana from Galapagos. From previous weeks we’ve read stories about mangroves, colibries, a description of the beautiful ecuadorian cloud forest, biodiversity in Yasuni, a new strategy to clean rivers, and even audio files from different natural areas in the country.   

Descubrimos una publicación semanal de El Comercio (Ecuador) llamada...

Money matters.

It's fair to examine and question the sources of journalists' paychecks, whether they cover science, politics, or Edward Snowden. But it's not fair to build something up as an exclusive when the news has already been released elsewhere.

By these precepts, a recent...

Money matters.

It's fair to examine and question the sources of journalists' paychecks, whether they cover science, politics, or Edward Snowden. But it's not fair to build something up as an exclusive when the news has already been released elsewhere.

By these precepts, a recent article in PandoDaily raising questions about the Ukranian connections of Glenn Greenwald's publisher, the billionaire Pierre Omidyar, is both fair and unfair.

On Feb. 28, PandoDaily ran a story under the headline, "Pierre Omidyar co-funded Ukraine revolution groups with US government, documents show."

The article began with a description of a reporter at one of Omidyar's blogs, The Intercept, digging into the developing story in Ukraine and...

In the current issue of Nature Genetics, researchers report that they've found mutations in genes that seem to protect against the development of Type 2 diabetes. They are called loss-of-function mutations, because they disrupt the genes enough so that the genes no longer work.

This is a big deal for two...

In the current issue of Nature Genetics, researchers report that they've found mutations in genes that seem to protect against the development of Type 2 diabetes. They are called loss-of-function mutations, because they disrupt the genes enough so that the genes no longer work.

This is a big deal for two reasons: The mutations offer a lot of protection--a 65% reduction in risk of Type 2 diabetes--and because loss-of-function mutations are usually harmful, not helpful. The study suggests that it might be possible to develop a drug to mimic the action of these loss-of-function mutations. Such a drug would be a blockbuster.

Gina Kolata at The New York Times took this opportunity to launch a kind of...

Quanta, Wired, etc: How a bright spot in a distant galaxy might be a shout-out from his royal invisibleness, Dark Matter. Plus: femme astrophysicists
Charlie Petit
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Hmmm. Anybody else ever notice like I just did that the unseen hand of the material universe, Dark Matter,  has a certain nominal consonance with Darth Vader, aka the Dark Lord? Cloaked from view, deploying invisible forces. Take your pick: they rule. (Hmm, answer is yes, as I just looked up. See for just one...

Hmmm. Anybody else ever notice like I just did that the unseen hand of the material universe, Dark Matter,  has a certain nominal consonance with Darth Vader, aka the Dark Lord? Cloaked from view, deploying invisible forces. Take your pick: they rule. (Hmm, answer is yes, as I just looked up. See for just one example this story from nearly four years ago by Ron Cowen back when he was filing about a scoop per week for Science News Magazine).

   To start over. The last few days has seen a few news stories on the arcane topic of dark matter and more specifically on the search for ways to detect its presence by ways more direct than gravitational anomalies in galaxies, galactic clusters, and other cosmically large arenas. The popular wisdom among cosmologists is that dark matter, whatever it is, accounts for roughly 85 percent of all matter. Recently users of the Fermi Gamma-...

A documentary film on the discovery of the Higgs boson, which promises to capture the excitement of scientific research on an unprecedented scale using the world's largest machine, opens tonight in New York.

At a press briefing at Google's New York headquarters...

A documentary film on the discovery of the Higgs boson, which promises to capture the excitement of scientific research on an unprecedented scale using the world's largest machine, opens tonight in New York.

At a press briefing at Google's New York headquarters, David Bradley, a theoretical physicist who participated in the discovery and helped make the film, called Particle Fever, said that despite knowing what was likely to happen when scientists turned on the Large Hadron Collider, he was surprised by his reaction to the discovery.

"Now we've seen the Higgs," he said. "I felt much more emotional about that than I expected to." Nima Arkani-Hamed, another theorist who stars in the film, said of the Higgs boson, "We've never seen anything like it before anywhere in physics." Fabiola Gianotti, one of the key experimental physicists on the project, said the search for...

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