Tue November 26, 2013
The Salt

Al Gore Goes Vegan, Following In Footsteps Of Bill Clinton

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 4:13 pm

Former Vice President Al Gore has reportedly gone vegan.
Mark Lennihan AP

The decision to give up entire food groups can be a radical attempt to reform an unhealthy diet, as former President Bill Clinton demonstrated when he revealed in 2011 that he'd gone vegan, after heart bypass surgery.

But more often in this day and age, eschewing animal products is political.

And so that's why we were interested to read that former Vice President Al Gore, one of the world's most famous environmentalists, had — like his former boss — gone vegan, too.

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Tue November 26, 2013
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Time Travel Saves The Day

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 9:10 pm

The Cathedral Spires in the Black Hills of South Dakota are just one of innumerable formations across the planet that speak to the Earth's ancient history.
K. Scott Jackson/Ohio Water Science Center USGS

So I'm standing on the top of this hill near my house wondering about thankfulness. I needed to take a walk after getting double-teamed by news about the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan and a NY Times article about the coming crisis in food production due to climate change. Thanksgiving was just a week away and it was hard to square my own manifold blessings with a world full of difficulty and suffering.

And then I remembered time.

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Tue November 26, 2013
Krulwich Wonders...

Born Wet, Human Babies Are 75 Percent Water. Then Comes Drying

Robert Krulwich NPR

Look at this baby.

Lovely, no? Now think of this baby abstractly — as a sack of hundreds of millions of atoms. Here's the atomic formula for a new human being, arranged by elements, according to scientist Neil Shubin.

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Tue November 26, 2013

Comet Fans Psyched For A Celestial Feast On Thanksgiving Day

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 1:28 pm

Comet ISON on Nov. 14.
Courtesy of Mike Hankey

While most Americans are sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, astronomers will be looking up at an unusual comet passing near the sun.

The comet, known as ISON, has been hyped as "the comet of the century." It may not quite live up to that billing, but astronomers say it is a one-of-a-kind object.

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Tue November 26, 2013

What's In It For U.S. To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 1:28 pm

The chimneys of the Kolaghat Thermal Power Station loom above a field flooded for rice farming near Mecheda, West Bengal, India, in July 2011.
Dibyangshu Sarkar AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations negotiations in Warsaw over a climate treaty are moving at glacial speed — and that's in part because there's a fundamental problem.

In the coming decades, carbon dioxide emissions from China, India and other rapidly developing countries are expected to grow quickly. Residents there aspire to lifestyles Americans and Europeans enjoy today, and those nations aren't willing to slash emissions, because doing so could slow their economic growth.

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Mon November 25, 2013

U.S. May Be Producing 50 Percent More Methane Than EPA Thinks

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 7:59 pm

The EPA tries to keep track of all sorts of methane producers — including herds of methane-belching cattle.
Emmett Tullos Flickr

Methane is the source of the gas we burn in stoves. You can also use it to make plastics, antifreeze or fertilizer. It comes out of underground deposits, but it also seeps up from swamps, landfills, even the stomachs of cows.

And while methane is valuable, a lot of it gets up into the atmosphere, where it becomes a very damaging greenhouse gas.

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Mon November 25, 2013
Shots - Health News

Yes, Your Toddler Really Is Smarter Than A 5-Year-Old

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 1:42 pm

Children under age 2 can reason abstractly, researchers say.
Jandrie Lombard iStock

Parents, does your 18-month-old seem wise beyond her years? Science says you're not fooling yourself.

Very small children can reason abstractly, researchers say, and are able to infer the relationships between objects that elude older children who get caught up on the concreteness of things.

In experiments at the University of California, Berkeley, children as young as 18 months were able to figure out the relationship between colored blocks.

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Mon November 25, 2013
Medical Treatments

FDA Tells Google-Backed 23andMe To Stop Selling DNA Test

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 6:05 pm

The Food and Drug Administration has sent a warning letter to the company 23andMe demanding that its saliva test be taken off the market. The company claims the test can detect the genetic likelihood of more than a hundred diseases — a claim the FDA says the company has not proved sufficiently.


Mon November 25, 2013
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Dancing To The Tune Of Ph.D.

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 9:22 am

Andres Florez Screenshot/Vimeo

If you've ever sat through a (long, long) university graduation ceremony, you may have taken the time to peruse the dissertation titles of graduating doctoral students. Depending on the university and department, you'd probably find a sampling something like this:

Preliminary Measurements For An Electron EDM Experiment In ThO (Yulia Gurevich, 2012, Harvard University)

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Mon November 25, 2013
The Salt

An Omnivore's Dilemma: Would You Eat Michael Pollan Microbe Cheese?

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 3:03 pm

Microbiologist Christina Agapakis (left) and artist Sissel Tolass show off the cheese they made with bacteria from human skin. The project was part of Agapakis' graduate thesis at Harvard Medical School.
Courtesy of Grow Your Own ... Life After Nature at Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin