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Chris Bush
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Chris Bush

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How does one opposed to vaccines justify their belief in the face of such facts?
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Ever-inquisitive Phil Plait - The Bad Astronomer - is beginning his "Crash Course in Astronomy" YouTube series. Scientist-educators like Plait deserve as much support as we can give them to rid the universe of ignorance and tenacious superstitions one humbling fact or inspiring question at a time.
It is my pleasure to introduce you to the very first episode of my new online video series, Crash Course Astronomy. I’m not gonna lie to you: I’m pretty happy about this. It was a lot of fun to write, and a lot of fun to film it. I hope...
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These twelve items have two important things in common:

(1) They're important and valuable things, and
(2) They have absolutely nothing to do with autism.

Lead is a heavy metal which melts at low temperatures. It's used in large batteries like the ones in your car, as well as as a stabilization weight and radiation shield. It can be poisonous if you ingest it, though, so be careful! (The #1 safety risks in most radiation labs is actually accidental lead poisoning from the shielding equipment)

Fluoride is an ion of the Fluorine molecule. It's critical for human health: without it, your teeth will decay and fall out. In some places, it's found naturally in local foods and water, but in other places, it gets added to reservoirs or table salt instead. Water fluoridation is considered one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, and is a major reason why people today have healthy teeth. It was also believed by some to be part of a Communist plot to corrupt the Purity of Essence of our Precious Bodily Fluids. (And yes, people describing the plot Liked to Capitalize Things)

Antibiotics are probably the single greatest public health improvement of the twentieth century: they're drugs which can give our immune system the capability to fight off bacterial infections. Without them, common diseases like strep and TB will simply kill you. However, antibiotics do nothing against viruses. In fact, if you don't have a bacterial disease, or take only part of a course, antibiotics are dangerous: they'll kill just the bacteria which were most vulnerable to them, leaving behind the strongest and most resistant ones to breed! Overuse of antibiotics has resulted in the development of many strains of bacteria which are resistant to even very powerful antibiotics, leading to the fear that we may soon be vulnerable to these diseases again. The most important things you can do are (a) don't ever pressure a doctor to prescribe them when they aren't appropriate, and (b) fight their overuse in ranching, where they're given as prophylactics to otherwise healthy animals -- thus breeding deadly resistances.

Vaccines are antibiotics' competitor for greatest public health victories. They're small doses of dead or weakened viruses which are injected into you, letting your immune system learn to recognize and destroy the real ones when they come. They're the reason that so many of the deadliest diseases of the past -- smallpox, measles, pertussis, and the like -- are things of the past. However, unscrupulous folks have tried at times to convince the public that these are dangerous (generally as part of a scheme involving lawsuits), and as a result, some people are avoiding them! This can cause many other people to die, because of what’s called herd immunity. You can learn more about vaccines from this great comic:
https://medium.com/the-nib/vaccines-work-here-are-the-facts-5de3d0f9ffd0

Pesticides are chemicals which kill pests which destroy crops. These are a dangerous, but important, tradeoff: their residues can be poisonous, especially if they accumulate in groundwater; they can kill insects which are not just beneficial, but critical, like bees; and their misuse can lead to monoculture, which we’ll talk about in a moment. On the upside, they greatly increase crop production, and have been a major factor in ending starvation. They can also kill insects like the tsetse fly and malaria mosquito which are major vectors of disease. Together, this makes them a powerful lifesaving tool which has to be carefully managed.

GMOs are any sorts of organisms whose genes have been modified. This is a blanket term for a wide range of things, from corn that produces additional nutrients, to wheat that can grow in a wide range of climates, to goats which can produce antibiotics in their milk (!), to crops which are immune to certain pesticides and herbicides. “GMO” is a term for the technique which produces all of these. Some of these are huge benefits, but some of them are dangerous: for example, herbicide-resistant crops can be doused with huge doses of powerful weed-killers. In addition to their normal risks, this creates what’s called a “monoculture,” where only one species of plant can survive. This can make an entire crop vulnerable to a single blight, so it’s extremely dangerous for food security. Also, many companies who make such products are known for unethical business practices, so many people hear “GMO” and think of them. But don’t be led astray! GM is a technique which saves lives, too.

Balloons may make you think of things at birthday parties, but they’re also the best way to get high into the stratosphere. Weather balloons, made of modern materials like mylar and kevlar and filled with Helium, can fly over 100,000’ above the ground fairly cheaply, making it possible to understand weather patterns in places where satellites can’t be. They were also the way the recent record-breaking skydivers got up: you can watch +Alan Eustace's record-breaking jump at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsftfzBrVko. In the process of doing this, he and his team invented several new technologies which should make flight safer, balloons cheaper, and more.

Tubesocks are long socks which can protect your shins. More important than protection, they wick moisture away from your feet, which are some of the heaviest sweat-producers in your body: they can produce as much as a quarter-pint of sweat each day. By moving the moisture away, they can protect you from frostbite in the cold, and fungi like athlete’s foot in the heat.

Testicles are the organs in which sperm is produced in male animals. They’re also important glands, producing hormones such as testosterone which help regulate bodily function. They hang outside the body in most land mammals in a sac called the scrotum, because sperm production works best when the testes are kept below body temperature. Because your body considers them pretty important, they’re therefore covered with nerves to quickly tell if something’s wrong. That means that you don’t want to hit them, but that they often enjoy gentle touch.

Bunnies, also known as rabbits, are small mammals with big ears. They’re shy herbivores, depending for their survival upon their ability to hear and quickly run away from prey – but also on their ability to reproduce quickly, so that their groups can sustain losses and keep going. Most species of rabbit live in burrows, often networked together to form a warren. People’s opinions of them are split: some people raise them for food or fur, while others love them as pets. They can also turn into a plague, as happened when they were introduced into Australia: feral rabbits caused tremendous damage to agriculture and local species. You can see many pictures of bunnies at http://goo.gl/FVlVJD.

Strippers are a kind of sex worker. Most famously, they perform erotic dances (often using a fixed pole as a prop) for an audience. But most of their work takes the form of one-on-one interaction with patrons, performing individually for them in settings from the public (such as table dances) to private rooms. Strippers will create one or more personas for this, working to create a fantasy environment for the patron in which they feel aroused, appreciated, and at the center of attention. Many strippers travel from city to city around the year, as the best business is often found in different places at different times. The most important thing to remember about strippers is that, while they may be playing any number of roles that seem different, they are professional entertainers and should be treated with respect.

Dromedaries are the famous “one-humped camels” of the Sahara and Arabian deserts. Their two-humped Bactrian cousins live further east. Dromedaries are known for their incredible ability to store water in their bodies, allowing them to travel across the entire desert. Unlike horses, they have paws rather than hooves, which gives them excellent traction on difficult terrain. As a result, they are highly valued as pack and riding animals, and camel racing is a major sport. Dromedaries were what made the Spice Road and the western part of the Silk Road possible, and they continue to be an important way to transport people and goods across the desert to this day.

So next time someone shows you a list like this, think through all of the various items in them and realize all of the ways in which they’ve made our world a better place. Some of them, like pesticides and bunnies, involve tradeoffs which you need to manage carefully; others, like antibiotics and vaccines, simply need to be used correctly to make the world a better place.

To learn more:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoride and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_fluoridation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibiotics and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibiotic_resistance
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pesticide
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balloon
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sock
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testicle
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stripper
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dromedary

Thanks to +Robyn Miller  for the image!
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Chris Bush

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Google fotografiert wieder Straßen. Wie hier eben in Berlin. Leider mit finster blickendem Fahrer, der 'nem Journalisten auf keinen Fall ein paar Fragen beantworten wollte. Dabei würd ich zu gern mal mit einem reden... Wer einen kennt, oder selbst einer ist und Lust dazu hat, bitte melden. Gern auch anonym.

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Chris Bush

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Announcing Crash Course Astronomy!

I am very, very pleased to announce that I'm working with Hank Green on a new educational video series: Crash Course Astronomy! I'm writing and hosting it, and we'll cover everything from the Earth to the edge of the visible Universe.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/11/10/crash_course_astronomy_a_new_educational_web_series.html
I’ve been hinting for some time about a secret project I’ve been working on, and the time has finally come to announce it: I’m writing and hosting an online astronomy video series! The series will air on the PBS Digital Studios YouTube network starting in January, and — get this...
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Amazing universe simulator: unfortunately not for Chromebook!

And not for a Mac either. 

http://sploid.gizmodo.com/holy-crap-this-amazing-universe-simulator-makes-me-wan-1648625304/+caseychan
It's been a long time since I craved a computer program, but now I want Space Engine so much that I'm ready to buy a PC just to be able to immerse myself in it. Developed by Vladimir Romanyuk, Space Engine is a complete sandbox simulation of the Universe with mind-blowing graphics. Check this out:
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Chris Bush

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These Latvian cycling advocates built giant bamboo car skeletons to demonstrate the space taken by single occupancy vehicles.

http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/10/lets-bike-it-bamboo-car-skeletons/
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Chris Bush

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Fact-based discussions - For a more digestible lunch
Apropos a recent frustrating conversation with colleagues reflecting the baffling trend of "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge," where "your" is replaced with "scientific". Our lunch talk evoked (herbal-)garden-variety auto-pilot statements on GMOs, vaccines and homeopathy, the left-wing counterparts to right-wing biases against evolution, climate change and...well, science in general.

Science journalist Peter Hadfield, aka Potholer54, makes videos demonstrating the importance of and rewards in researching the facts as well as the dangers of failing to do so.

"Let's have an honest and sensible debate based on the evidence in the scientific literature rather than a blanket attack on GMOs that misinforms and plays on people's fear and ignorance ... I find it much easier to go with the science whether it fits my beliefs or not." -Potholer54
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Ah yes, the “Bird 9”. Meet our rocket: http://imgur.com/nCqs3EQ
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Net Neutrality is a key to having an open Internet. Without it, telecom companies have the power to decide who is and isn't allowed to have a business online. (Hint: if you compete with them, the answer is "no." Hint #2: if your business is successful, expect them to ask you for a "tax" for the answer to be yes. Hint #3: expect that tax to be a significant percentage of your income.) They also get the power to do far more sinister things -- like read and modify the web pages you see in order to insert anything from tracking to ads, or even hijack your traffic outright.

Net Neutrality isn't "Obamacare for the Internet," as Senator Cruz seems to think. It's making sure that a handful of the most unpleasant bastards in the country don't have veto power over your ability to start a business or take your business to whomever you please. 

Fortunately, +Matthew Inman has a great explanation of what Net Neutrality actually means.

It's really about crab tacos.

(Incidentally, I was very glad to hear Obama's statement about it earlier today. "Reclassification" is a technical term, but it basically means that cable companies have to treat everyone's traffic the same, and aren't allowed to boost their friends and harm their enemies. It's the regulatory banhammer that the cable companies were being threatened with if they didn't actually regulate their own behavior the way they said they would -- which, in the Netflix incident, they decidedly didn't.)
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I approve of this message.
 
Buckminster Fuller.
Brilliant man. Most of his quotes are wise and inspiring http://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller
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I did a bunch on Wikipedia on him. Sounds like a really cool guy, but also like I wouldn't really get his books if I bought a copy.
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It feels very weird to be posting a video from +Fox News and encouraging everyone to watch it. I'm not sure if I'm in the Twilight Zone or what the hell is going on. But I do know this: if you know anyone that is freaking out over the whole Ebola thing, sit them down and force them to watch this video. If they're still arguing after that, make them watch it again. This is about as period point blank about the insanity of the Ebola scare in this country that one could ask for. Just still surprised about the source!
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Dresden
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Cincinnati - Columbus - Camp Lejeune - Atlanta - Berlin - Mainz - Dresden
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More questions than answers...Okay, only questions.
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