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Member since: 2002
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An Appleless Apple Pie, Brought to You by Science


"Nearly every great chef will say that cooking is an artform. But many fail to mention the craft also relies on some pretty well-established hard science. Few know this better than Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks, a book for those looking to improve their culinary skills through a richer understanding of exactly how stuff works in the kitchen.

This is why Potter, a self-proclaimed food and science geek, will be the first to report that a pie isn’t just a pie. The dessert you’re about to eat is chock-full of lessons in chemistry, physics and neurobiology. And whether or not your holiday guests ask for second slice depends on how well you master the basics of science.


The only thing better than a slice of warm pie is one accompanied by ice cream. “Ice cream is actually really complicated,” says Potter. “You could teach an entire lesson on ice cream.” One thing to know about the sweet creamy stuff, says Potter, is the role of colloidal dispersion, when a compound of certain substances, in this case individual ingredients, are evenly distributed as fine particles. “Colloids are a combination of different types of matter,” says Potter. “Foods are almost never one state of matter. There's usually something in them that causes them to be multiple states of matter—solid, liquid and gas.” To the naked eye and your mouth, that ice cream may seem like a perfectly blended mixture, but it’s not. “Ice cream is a complex colloid—multiples types of colloids at once—being water-based liquid containing pockets of air (foam), chunks of ice crystals (suspensions) and fats (emulsions) all at the same time,” Potter wrote in his book.


Once you understand how science plays on the palate, you can work all sorts of magic. Take one of Potter’s favorites: A mock apple pie doesn’t contain any apples. Instead, it uses crackers—and a keen sense of science—to manipulate the mind of anyone who reaches for a slice.



This story wins the Internet today, at least it gets my award!

Scientific Consensus and Corporate Influence


"A new study published in PNAS explores the messaging of organizations commenting on climate change and their relationship to corporate funding. The sole author, Justin Farrell, finds that those organizations who received corporate funding were likely to network their messaging together, and to engage in a campaign of casting doubt on the scientific consensus. There was no such network among those organizations not receiving corporate funding.


Those who are at odds with a particular scientific consensus will often argue that the scientific consensus can be comfortably ignored. Reasons given are often: the scientific consensus has been wrong in the past, the current consensus is the result of external or internal ideological, political, or financial influence, or there isn’t really a scientific consensus.

Ironically, these campaigns of denial demonstrate that it is not easy to manipulate the scientific consensus.


Despite their motivation, influence, and resources they were unable to affect the scientific consensus on climate change. They could not manufacture a consensus. All they could do is sow doubt in the real scientific consensus, and even then only among those ideologically aligned, not with the public at large, and not within scientific circles.



A good piece that covers the notion that even big money has a hard time changing the reality of the scientific consensus on a variety of issues.

Three Hospital Systems Settle Cases Alleging Pressure on Docs to Refer Patients Within the System

The Corporate Physicians' Dilemma - Three Hospital Systems Settle Cases Alleging Pressure on Employed Physicians to Refer Patients Within the System

"Physicians are sworn to provide the best possible care to each individual patient. Yet in the US, physicians increasingly practice as employees of large organizations, sometime for-profit corporations. Physicians may be in a bind when their bosses pressure them to make patient level decisions so as to increase revenue, regardless of their effects on the patients.

In particular, physicians' oaths may suggest that patients who require referrals for consultation, diagnosis or treatment should go to the professionals and facilities best suited to their particular problems. However, physicians bosses may want physicians to refer patients within their organizations.

Three recent cases illustrate this sort of bind for corporate physicians. All cases involved large monetary settlements by hospital systems of allegations that they paid physicians incentives to refer patients within the system, apparently without regard to patients' needs. They are discussed in roughly chronological order of media coverage.



A good read, but, of course, it's only part of the picture.

Range of Frustrations Reached Boil as Turkey Shot Down Russian Jet



... analysts said Mr. Erdogan had several more nuanced reasons to allow Turkish pilots to open fire. These include his frustration with Russia over a range of issues even beyond Syria, the Gordian knot of figuring out what to do with Syria itself and Turkey’s strong ethnic ties to the Turkmen villages Russia has been bombing lately in the area of the crash.

Turkey has been quietly seething ever since Russia began military operations against Syrian rebels two months ago, wrecking Ankara’s policy of ousting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The Turks were forced to downgrade their ambitions from the ouster of Mr. Assad to simply maintaining a seat at the negotiating table when the time comes, said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a nonpartisan research group.


The bombing was creating political problems for Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Cagaptay said. “In the days leading up to the incident, many newspapers, especially the pro-government publications, were running headlines highlighting the suffering of the Turkmens, who are closely related to Anatolian Turks,” he said. “I think the government felt that, in terms of domestic politics, it had to do something to ease some of this pressure that had resulted from the Russian bombardment against Turkmens in northern Syria.”


Complicating matters further, Turkey and Syria have a longstanding border dispute in exactly the area where the Russian plane, a Sukhoi Su-24, was shot down, and Russia has sometimes voiced support for Syria’s claim. It is a narrow strip of territory, the Hatay Province of Turkey, that runs south along the Mediterranean Sea, deep into Syria.



The most concise piece covering most of the pieces of the puzzle I've seen. A good read.

Texas Is Number One! Uh, in turkey deep-fryer incidents...


" Texas leads the U.S. in Thanksgiving day cooking and grease-related fires, according to State Farm.

Oil-powered turkey fryers are widely available this time of year, but officials say you should probably leave it to the professionals.

Deep-fried turkey may be more tasty to some, but officials say it's a recipe for disaster. Thanksgiving sees nearly twice as many fire-related incidents in one day as the typical day. And Amarillo firefighters are urging caution.

"We recommend that you don't fry your own turkey, that you take it somewhere else," says Amarillo Fire Captain Larry Davis. "But if you're going to do that, Just some common sense rules---don't overfill your fryer with oil. Keep the fryer at least 15-20 feet away from the house. If it's windy keep it even further away from that. Make sure your turkey is thawed out, make sure that it's dry because any type of moisture will have a violent reaction with that type of grease. Also, if you can, make sure that you have a fire extinguisher on hand as well."


Oh, goodness.

If You’re Buying a Turkey From Whole Foods Because It Was “Humanely” Raised, Read This First


"In preparation for this year’s Thanksgiving feast, more consumers than ever before will seek turkeys that have been humanely raised. For these shoppers, optimistic messages offered by Whole Foods and other animal welfare–oriented food retailers will provide assurance that they’re making an ethical food choice. “Our birds live in harmony with the environment and we allow them plenty of room to roam,” explains a Diestel Turkey Ranch brochure, prominently displayed at many Whole Foods meat counters. Diestel turkeys raised at the Ranch’s main farm earn a 5+ welfare mark—the highest—from the nonprofit Global Animal Partnership, which contracts with third-party certifiers and administers the company’s rating system for humanely raised animal products. Diestel is one of only a handful of Whole Foods meat suppliers out of about 2,100 to achieve this remarkable distinction. So, along with the Diestel’s promise that “on our ranch a turkey can truly be a turkey,” it seems safe to assume that the Diestel turkeys sold at Whole Foods lived a decent life.

But a recent undercover investigation by the animal advocacy group Direct Action Everywhere tells a more complicated story. Located in Sonora, California, Diestel’s showcase farm gives every appearance of being a model operation. According to its brochure, as well as videos on the company’s website, healthy-looking turkeys roam shaded pastures in a natural setting. Yet, as investigators discovered, the birds roaming in Sonora may be at best a token sampling of Diestel’s overall turkey population. The main source of Diestel’s turkey output appears to be an industrial operation with 26 barns (housing about 10,000 birds each) located 3.5 miles down the highway in Jamestown, California.* (This location earned a 3 from the Global Animal Partnership.) Direct Action investigators became suspicious in part because of a 2013 water discharge report—something the regional water board filed in response to complaints that toxic waste from a Diestel facility was making its way into local drinking water. The report also revealed that the Sonora farm produced about 1 percent of Diestel’s turkeys. So something didn’t add up.

Visits to Diestel’s Jamestown facility—conducted by Direct Action investigators over nine months (they just “walked right in”)—revealed horrific conditions, even by the standards of industrial agriculture. The group saw turkeys that had been jammed into overcrowded barns, trapped in piles of feces, and afflicted with swollen eyes and open sores. Technically, the birds were allowed outdoor access, but investigators said they saw only one bird outside over the course of the nine-month investigation—an escaped turkey at that. In some cases investigators found dead turkeys strewn across the barn floor. In others, they were overwhelmed by noxious odors and had to leave. Company records (posted on the side of the barn) showed that up to 7 percent of the birds died in a single week. All of which is to say: Diestel Turkey Ranch is a factory farm.

When asked how Global Animal Partnership certifiers could have possibly failed to understand that the showcase farm did not represent the company’s standard model of production, Wayne Hsiung, a former Northwestern University law professor who founded Direct Action Everywhere, explained that the Global Animal Partnership itself “has a tiny staff … claiming to supervise the lives of 300 million animals.” (According to a 2014 tax form, the group pays just $96,711 in salaries and wages, and the bulk of its revenue for that year came from a $300,000 contribution from Whole Foods.) Whole Foods has responded to Direct Action Everywhere’s video footage of the abuse, writing, “Whole Foods Market is proud to stand behind the many hard working farmers such as the Diestel family, who are committed to maintaining a high level of animal welfare.” It noted that an “expert team” who visited the farm “within hours of the video being brought to our attention” declared the conditions at Jamestown to be “not as they were portrayed in the video.” Diestel also dismissed the allegations to the Wall Street Journal, saying that the video only focuses on a small window of time and that the Turkey flock is healthy.


Umm. Yeah.

Up In Arms By Bhi Bhiman: The Past Is Today. Is It Tomorrow?

If you don't know the history expressed in this song, well, you should.


Scientists create genetically modified malaria-blocking mosquitoes


"Using a groundbreaking gene editing technique, University of California scientists have created a strain of mosquitoes capable of rapidly introducing malaria-blocking genes into a mosquito population through its progeny, ultimately eliminating the insects' ability to transmit the disease to humans.

This new model represents a notable advance in the effort to establish an antimalarial mosquito population, which with further development could help eradicate a disease that sickens millions worldwide each year.

To create this breed, researchers at the Irvine and San Diego campuses inserted a DNA element into the germ line of Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes that resulted in the gene preventing malaria transmission being passed on to an astonishing 99.5 percent of offspring. A. stephensi is a leading malaria vector in Asia.

The study underlines the growing utility of the Crispr method, a powerful gene editing tool that allows access to a cell's nucleus to snip DNA to either replace mutated genes or insert new ones. Results appear this week in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Interesting, possibly positive stuff.

from Citizen: “You are in the dark, in the car...”


Claudia Rankine's "Citizen" Flies Up The Charts After Showing Up Trump!

The New Republic headline sucks, so I won't use it.

"After a photo of 23-year-old Johari Osayi Idusuyi reading Claudia Rankine’s Citizen—a poetry collection exploring themes of racial justice—at a Donald Trump rally went viral, the book shot up the charts. On Amazon, the book went from a sales rank in the mid-1000s to #23—66 spots ahead of Trump’s Crippled America. This weekend, the book, which was published by Minnesota’s Graywolf Press, hit the New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List at the tenth spot, 13 months after it was released. (Citizen has been on the list before—it is widely believed to be the only book of poetry to have ever appeared on the Nonfiction List.)

Asked if the book got a boost from its unexpected appearance behind Donald Trump, Rankine’s editor Jeff Shotts told me, “It would be hard to say otherwise.” But Shotts wasn’t surprised: The book, he told me, has become a symbol “for clear thinking about race and about what it means to be a black or brown body in this country ... that is ringing true for many, many people.”

Shotts also attributed the book’s success to its experimentation, particularly its use of the second person, which “is so powerful in terms of putting all of us—it’s literally you—into these situations.” That voice can help readers empathize with—if never quite truly comprehend—“what it means to position oneself in terms of a black or brown body, and also what it means to daily live with the exhaustion of racial micro-aggressions pointed toward you.”

This morning, Graywolf approved an 11th printing of Citizen, which will bring it to over 100,000 copies in print. But the independent not-for-profit publisher isn’t going to rest on its laurels. “We’re going to start a huge campaign,” Shotts joked, “for people to read our books behind every presidential candidate.”

The more people who read this fantastic work, the better! And good for Graywolf, too. They put out quality stuff!

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