Closing my browser tabs 12/15/14

Here are some serious and not-so-serious things to read about science as you drink your eggnog this week.


“Vaccines work. Here are the facts” is an awesome cartoon by Maki Naro, refuting the antivaccine arguments and giving a great and accessible overview of why vaccination is important. This deserves to go viral, so please share it with your friends! And while you’re on the treadmill or walking your dog this week, take a listen to “The Most Important Playground Conversation”, a discussion hosted by Voices for Vaccines in which VM writer Colin discusses strategies for discussing vaccination science with other parents.

Science publishing

Retraction Watch just received a $400,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation to develop a database of retracted papers. This database would mean that scientists could check that the literature they rely upon in writing grants and papers haven’t been retracted. And they’re hiring an editor and database developer! This is outstanding news for those of us concerned about improving the quality of scientific publications.

Women in Science

Women have played a meaningful, but largely unrecognized, role in the history of amateur radio. The Mary Sue has a great article honoring female ham radio operators, which I particularly enjoyed because I’m one of their number! To my fellow YLs, 33 from KF5ZMF!! To everyone else, check it out and consider studying for your ham license! It’s not incredibly difficult, and it’s tremendous fun.

Science literacy and skepticism

I really like “Ask for Evidence”, a guide to evaluating the legitimacy of scientific and medical claims. It’s a simple, straightforward and clear explanation, and a good potential teaching tool. Explore the site–there are a bunch of posts by specific topic as well! You might, for example, use these approaches when evaluating claims made by the “Food Babe” who recently revealed some serious shortcomings in her understanding of chemistry.


Did you know that the human milk microbiome has been characterized? That the flora present within human milk differs between mothers who gave birth vaginally and by caesarian? This post gives a really great explanation of this fascinating research.

Sweet Science

Tommy Toehold is hands-down my favorite combat sports cartoon journalist. (If you’re an MMA fan, then you’re probably nodding your head right now). I’m mentioning him in this post because he recently did an awesome video about the women’s MMA show that my sister is the matchmaker for, “How Invicta Took Over The World”. I’m a bit biased, but the latest Invicta show in Houston last week was pretty incredible, and he really gives a great introduction to the show. However, I still think that Tommy’s funniest video of all time is this one of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg commentating on the EA UFC game’s glitches. (Warning: language in these videos is safe for neither work nor children.)

Finally, just a reminder that if you want daily links to science stories I find interesting (some of which I included above), “like” the VM page on Facebook!

7 thoughts on “Closing my browser tabs 12/15/14

  1. Duane Law December 15, 2014 / 3:07 pm

    Love it.

    Cartoons supporting vaccinations … just above a backhanded acknowledgment that the conventional evidence base needs serious correction because inconvenient research results have been systematically suppressed …

    Rock on. You’ll connect the dots someday. I can feel it …


    • Colin December 15, 2014 / 7:20 pm

      When you say “just above,” you’re creating a false equivalence. The cartoon is a clever way to reach a mass audience that isn’t going to engage, just as you haven’t engaged, with the body of scholarly research. (Which, as is obvious, hasn’t been repressed. People can publish whatever they like these days.)

      • Chris December 15, 2014 / 8:46 pm

        “People can publish whatever they like these days.”

        Like the recent published paper that just says “Get me off your f___ing mailing list,” and the recent paper by Maggie Simpson, Edna Krabappel, and Kim Jong Fun titled “Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations.” The are both nonsense papers to fool predatory pay-to-publish journals.

        And if you follow Retraction Watch, you will see that many are retracted for very good reasons. This one was retracted for “undeclared competing interests” and “concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis.”

        Plus there are lots and lots of paper retracted for data fraud. That is not repression, that is science correcting itself.

  2. Thom Hickey December 22, 2014 / 3:11 am

    Thanks for this and for so many mind expanding posts this year. Regards Thom.

  3. Laurie January 31, 2016 / 11:17 pm

    Just a nit-pick on the “Vaccines work. Here are the facts” cartoon. A v good cartoon alright but thimerosal is not actually ethyl mercury, rather it is ethyl(2-mercaptobenzoato-(2-)-O,S) mercurate(1-) sodium. Fact remains of course it’s the compound, and the dosage, that makes the difference.

    Just discovered your blog BTW, congrats, nicely done …

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