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In recent days, both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have suggested that the H1N1 flu vaccine may be unsafe and questioned the Obama administration’s recommendation that Americans get vaccinated, with Limbaugh asserting that “[y]ou’ll be healthier” if you don’t believe what the government says and Beck suggesting that the vaccine may be “deadly.” However, health experts have repeatedly stated that the vaccine is a safe and necessary tool to combat the virus, and that, in CDC chief Thomas Frieden’s words, “This flu vaccine is made as flu vaccine is made each year, by the same companies, in the same production facilities, with the same procedures, with the same safety safeguards” and “[t]hat enables us to have a high degree of confidence in the safety of the vaccine.” –“Beck, Limbaugh Fomenting Fear About H1N1 Vaccine,” Media Matters
Criticism of the NYTimes coverage of the decline of Harvard (where robot bees will soon swarm;
Neiman Marcus threatens the rich with Roz Chast/George Stephanopoulos dinner (via);
Technology Review‘s plans to save publishing;
NBC sued for font abuse;
museum with mechanized Madame Bovary;
Gazan zoo dyes donkeys into zebras
Last month, [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)] editor-in-chief Randy Schekman wrote to academy member Lynn Margulis, a cell biologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, asking for “a satisfactory explanation for [her] apparent selective communication of reviews” for a paper she ushered through the peer-review process. Schekman made the demand after a report in Scientific American cited Margulis as saying that she obtained “6 or 7″ reviews before netting “2 or 3″ favourable ones that recommended publication. The paper in question, by Donald Williamson, a retired zoologist at the University of Liverpool, UK, claims that the transition of caterpillars into butterflies can be explained by ancient butterflies inadvertently mating with velvet worms . This controversial idea is supported by Margulis, who is a strong proponent of the hypothesis that new species form by symbiotic mergers between unrelated organisms. She denies any wrongdoing and stands by the work. But Williamson’s claims met with scepticism from many scientists after the paper was published online. “If you know the literature on insect metamorphosis and insect development, you would know right away that this is absolutely ridiculous,” says Fred Nijhout, an insect developmental biologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. –“Row at US Journal Widens,” Elie Dolgin, Nature News
Herta Müller’s Nobel prize;
Robert Thurman and Pico Iyer talk about why the Dalai Lama matters (Ken Silverstein, however, still finds the Dalai Lama to be an “overrated gasbag”);
Lululemon: “Children are the orgasm of life.”
In terms of evolutionary history, I do not think that reciprocal altruism, inclusive fitness (kin selection), or group selection in its various forms can account for empathy-induced altruistic motivation in humans. Rather, generalized parental nurturance now seems the most likely evolutionary basis of empathic concern—even for strangers. Human parental nurturance is far more flexible and future-oriented than the parental instincts found in most—perhaps all—other mammalian species. It is need-oriented, emotion-based, and goal-directed. And it can be generalized well beyond our own children—in the case of pets, even to members of other species. If parental nurturance is the prototype for empathy-induced altruism, then the intensity of tender, empathic feeling for strangers should vary with perceived similarity to progeny, not perceived similarity to self. Is this true?
–“Empathic Concern and Altruism in Humans,” Dan Batson, On the Human (via)
Rep. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) takes a solo survivalist vacation in Marshall Islands, with beefcake photos;
evolutionary paleontologist: “finding your inner fish”;
Michael Swanwick is writing short-short stories about chemical elements (via);
clouds scare Russia;
Feynman: imagine the gods are playing chess (video)
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”