Mosquitos, Malaria, and Murder… Oh My!

I hate bugs/insects/creepy crawlies just as much as the next person (OK, probably more…) but I never realized that mosquitos were not only obnoxious summer-day-fun-ruiners, but also the most lethal animal in the world.  Here’s the infographic:

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First of all, don’t even get me started on how humans are so high up on the list…SAD.

Anyway, clearly Mosquitos are lethal murderers and the most dangerous animals in the world.  They are one of the most populated animals, and they are apparently found nearly everywhere in the world (except Antarctica).  Most of the deaths are attributable to the diseases carried by mosquitos, like malaria.

I bring this up, because last month there was a lot of buzz (haha) in the news about mosquitos thanks to the one and only Bill Gates and his “Mosquito Week”.  From trips to southeast Asia, Gates has grown passionate about trying to fight mosquitos and mosquito-born diseases.  Check out his TED talk.

The good news is when you have a philanthropist like Bill Gates support a cause like this, it stimulates scientific research, drives progress, and improves human health.   I’m eager to see the long-term effects of his philanthropy, and I don’t doubt that eventually malaria, and other mosquito-born diseases will be eradicated thanks to the efforts of Bill Gates.  When you invest in science, everyone wins!

Satirical “Modern-day” NASA Space Camp is all too real…

The Onion posted a pretty sweet article about a “Modernized Space Camp” where kids can experience what it’s like to currently work for NASA.  Obviously, this isn’t real… it’s satire… and it is funny…however, the ultimate message is pretty depressing and all too familiar for us.

Modernized Space Camp Allows Kids to Simulate Frustrations Over Lack of Funding

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The Onion does a pretty good job of bringing to light the reality, not just for NASA, but all government funded research in America… Lack of funding is not only frustrating, but also counterproductive.  How sad is it that some of the best educated scientists in America are using their brain power “begging” for money instead of driving forward scientific innovation and progress!?

Mark Regnerus: conflict of interest? Responsible Conduct of Research fail

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Mark Regnerus is currently an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, a research associate of the university’s Population Research Center, and a senior fellow at the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. He is widely known for his New Family Structures Study, which examined the impact of same-sex parenting. You may have heard of it because it has been used as expert testimony in state court cases for same-sex marriage (more here). While it always seemed that this research reeked of conflict of interest (his own department called it ‘fundamentally flawed’), his anti-gay bias was out in full force in a recent radio broadcast (More info and audio here from Good As You). Last I checked, when doing research, there isn’t a good and evil, just what is true and what is not. If you are so biased, how can your results not be fraudulent?

 

Out of curiosity I looked to see what funding sources Mark Regnerus uses for his research. Most is private funding from various family and anti-gay groups. However, he has also received National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding in the past (2 R03 awards, and others as co-investigator). I guess for those awards he didn’t have to take responsible conduct of research classes? Or if he did, he seems to have ignored them.

Political debate of NSF funding highlights political distrust of science and scientists (to score political points… ugh)

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Jeffrey Mervis writes in Science this week about the political debate surrounding National Science Foundation (NSF) funding. More importantly, he highlights that the views of science in the government have much broader implications on science funding and policy. Unfortunately, the views of science in the government don’t look too promising.

AWESOME!! Elon Musk, SpaceX, unveil new spacecraft (Dragon V2) to take humans to space

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“Thursday’s event included a dramatic unveiling of the new spacecraft, which stood about 15 feet tall, with a rounded, cone-shaped top. At one point, Musk even went inside and sat in one of its four reclined seats.”

“One big upgrade from earlier models is that Dragon V2 will be reusable, which will cut down on costs and open up opportunities for humans to explore. Thanks to propulsion and other technology to slow its re-entry into Earth’s orbit and control its descent, Musk said the spacecraft should be able to land most anywhere much like a helicopter.”

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/29/us/spacex-new-spacecraft/

http://www.spacex.com/dragon

CDC: US measles outbreak continues. Connection with vaccination??

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The CDC posts that the measles outbreak in Ohio and other parts of the country is continuing. The new report also shows that this outbreak constitutes the highest number of measles cases in the US since the 1990’s, with it likely continuing to increase. It is still somewhat unclear if this increase is due to lack of vaccinations, or a large measles outbreak in the Philippines. However, I am gonna make an educated guess that lack of vaccinations is a major player in the outbreak, given that certain communities that tend to be anti-vaccination are the center of the outbreak (cough cough, Amish in Ohio).

“In the United States, the number of people who choose not to be immunized for religious, philosophical or personal reasons has begun to become a public health problem, Schuchat said. Others are unaware of, or unable to get, vaccinations before they arrive in the United States. A small number of adults can lose their immunity over time and may need to be re-vaccinated.”

Some, Nolt said, have a “more traditional, conservative, old-fashioned way of life and set of sensibilities that views medicine as something that is used to heal or cure, rather than to prevent” disease. Others have a “theologically informed…sense that we should place our trust in God and not in vaccines.””

Washington Post article here. CDC press release here.