Category Archives: Follies of the Human Condition

Science for The People: Game Change

sftpThis week Science for The People is looking at the math and science of business decisions. They speak toDavid McAdams, Duke University Professor of Business Administration and Economics, about his book “Game-Changer: Game Theory and the Art of Transforming Strategic Situations.” Benjamin Ho about his economic analysis of apologies.

*Josh provides research help to Science for The People and is, therefore, a completely biased and cooperative member of the team. He does, however, insists on capitalizing the show name as he sees fit.

The Representative Disapproves

Representative Jackie Speier (CA, 14th District) has taken Science Magazine to task (PDF of full letter here) for their controversial cover and controversial response to criticism of that cover.

The July ll issue of Science Magazine featured a lurid cover photograph of transgender women in tight dresses and high heels with their heads cropped out of the frame.

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Narcolepsy update!

Last year, I wrote a post about the potential link between autoimmune dysfunction and narcolepsy. Today, a major study published in Science Translational Medicine linking narcolepsy and autoimmunity targeted at hypocretin expressing neurons has been retracted. Ed Yong wrote about the original study when it was released and posted this update on his blog at National Geographic.

Sometimes, even things in big journals (especially big journals?) turn out to be not quite true.

Putting his money where his mouth is on gender equality in science

Doing it right. UC Davis microbiome researcher Jonathon Eisen not only turned down an endowed lectureship because the series was too male dominated, but also engaged the lecture series leadership and suggested replacements (hat tip to Evelyn Padilla).

For a more journalistic account, check out Elizabeth Case (hat tip to Jonathon Eisen).

Last Man Science Fiction, 1805: The Bible as Gothic Futuristic Romance

Jean-Baptiste François Xavier Cousin de Grainville’s The Last Man (1805)

martinLastManLong-time readers know I’m a fan of post-apocalyptic science fiction, because it reveals so much about our feelings toward science and its place in civilization. Science mediates between us and nature; in modern civilization, we rarely encounter the raw power of nature without science’s buffering effects.

But are we like the sorcerer’s apprentice, putting the world at risk by playing with powers that are out of our league? Have we used science to truly transcend nature’s casual brutality, or are we just kidding ourselves? How much does our own human nature depend on the scientific underpinnings of civilization, and what happens when science’s support is yanked away — will it be Mad Max-style battling warlords, or pastoral communities in tune with nature’s rhythms, as in Earth Abides?

In End of the World fiction, the answers to these questions are all over the map, and that’s why this genre is so awesome.

I’ve already covered post-apocalyptic SF from the 40’s and 50’s, but it’s time to go back to the beginning of the genre, with the very first book that you could call a Dying Earth science fiction novel: The Last Man, by the French priest Jean-Baptiste François Xavier Cousin de Grainville. Published in 1805, it’s a bizarre rewrite of the Book of Revelations as futuristic Gothic novel, filled with temples, spirits, visions, and trans-Atlantic airships. Continue reading