When even oil refineries admit climate change is real

Turn the irony knob up to 11:  a tar sands oil refinery asks the State of Delaware to enact a shoreline stabilization project in order to mitigate the effects of sea level rise.

I think my head is going to asplode.

But it does point out something important: even while Republicans stick their heads in the sand and continue to deny the effects of climate change, a wide range of businesses have caught on. They realize addressing climate change is critical to their long-term success, and they are taking action now.


I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the water management issue on the west coast of the United States. Continue reading ‘Water’

Zoo bashing

Earlier this week this article published in the Huffington Post on “11 things you should know before planning your next trip to the zoo.”

Articles like this really make me angry. They are written by people who have decided that zoos are awful, and only quote other people who have decided that zoos are awful. The quality of the reporting in this article is shoddy and the presentation of so-called “things you should know” is atrociously biased. So let me go through this point-by-point and address the claims.

Continue reading ‘Zoo bashing’

MERS update: two unsettling developments

Things have generally been quiet on the MERS front in the last several weeks. Authorities are discouraging Muslims from making the hajj pilgrimage this year, for fear of a large MERS outbreak in close quarters. In the meantime, medical researchers have been hard at work, and in the past few days two interesting results have come out.

Continue reading ‘MERS update: two unsettling developments’

Recap of Microsoft News Today

Here’s a recap of Microsoft’s news today: Continue reading ‘Recap of Microsoft News Today’

What a comment spam script looks like

Like most blogs, I get a fair amount of comment spam. I have a good automated filter that catches pretty much all of it, but once a week or so I look through what it’s caught to see what the patterns are.

The vast majority is the same form: generic complimentary statement about how wonderful my blog is, followed by a link to their ad/ecommerce/porn site.

Amusingly, today I found that someone’s spam generator is buggy, because it posted the entire script for generating all the variations of the generic complimentary statement. For your enjoyment, here it is.

Continue reading ‘What a comment spam script looks like’

Gender bias (and more!) in venture funding decisions

A great paper was just published in PNAS, authored by researchers from Harvard Business School, Wharton School of Business, and MIT Sloan School of Management. It looks at some of the underlying reasons for the gender imbalance in venture funding.

Continue reading ‘Gender bias (and more!) in venture funding decisions’

Cool research result of the day: predicting preeclampsia

Researchers at the University of Iowa published a paper today with some very cool, highly impactful results related to understanding preeclampsia: a dangerous hypertensive disorder in pregnant women known for rapid onset. Preeclampsia is life-threatening for both the mother and the baby. Today there is no test that predicts who is at risk for preeclampsia during pregnancy.

The researchers started with an observation: in other known hypertensive disorders, blood tests showed high levels of a hormone called vasopressin which is secreted by the pituitary gland. They suspected that vasopressin might have a role in preeclampsia as well. So they conducted an experiment in which they gave vasopressin injections to pregnant mice.  Those mice then showed many of the classic symptoms of preeclampsia.

Unfortunately, vasopressin levels in the bloodstream can fluctuate rapidly, so even if those levels were sometimes elevated early on in the pregnancy of a woman at high risk for developing preeclampsia, it would be a hit-or-miss endeavor to try to take a blood sample at the right time. But fortunately, there is another chemical, copeptin, which is secreted into the bloodstream simultaneously with vasopressin, and copeptin stays around much longer with steadier levels. The researchers studied blood samples throughout the pregnancy of a large number of women, and found that women who later developed preeclampsia had consistently higher levels of copeptin, starting as early as six weeks into the pregnancy.

This is amazing news, as it gives the healthcare community a way to identify women at high risk very early on. Unfortunately there is no cure or preventive therapy — though the vasopressin connection is a good start at finding one — but this would allow for close monitoring of women at risk and rapid response at onset. This will save many lives; 5% to 7% of pregnant women in the US are affected with preeclampsia — about 500,000 per year.

The researchers are doing a follow-on study to see if copeptin levels are also higher in urine samples, which would allow for easier, cheaper testing — and potentially self-administered tests at home.

The sage grouse, or how not to talk about conservation

Over the weekend the AP published a story about the greater sage grouse, which has become a political hot potato in an important election year. Continue reading ‘The sage grouse, or how not to talk about conservation’

New study: yep, vaccines are still safe.

Earlier this week the journal Pediatrics released a new research report on vaccine safety. It is actually an update to an earlier report issued by the Institute of Medicine in 2011: a comprehensive study with a report-out of almost 900 pages. This update focuses specifically on vaccine safety for children (not adolescents or adults).

Continue reading ‘New study: yep, vaccines are still safe.’

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