Bernie Sanders Wants A Debate Just About The Environment

While Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) isn’t the first candidate lagging in the polls to demand more debates, he proposed Sunday that an extra one be dedicated entirely to discussing environmental concerns and the move toward renewable energies.

In an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” the Democratic presidential candidate suggested the idea while making his case for the Democratic National Committee to sanction more than four debates.

“I think the environmentalists deserve a debate, so we can talk about how we move aggressively to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel,” he said.

Sanders has not shied away from denouncing fossil fuels and highlighting their role in climate change. He is one of three presidential candidates who pledged last month against accepting campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Upon the release of Pope Francis’ environment-focused encyclical in June, Sanders remarked, “Denying the science related to climate change is no longer acceptable.”

He also called upon the DNC on Sunday to sanction other topical debates, including one to “talk about why the rich get richer and everybody else gets poorer” and one to discuss how candidates intend to make college more affordable.

“When 80 percent of young people did not vote in the last election, 63 percent of all Americans did not vote, I think debates are a good thing,” he said, calling the decision to limit the debates “dead wrong.”

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This 50-Cent Paper Microscope Could ‘Democratize Science’

foldscope 1

A couple of months ago, I received an interesting package in the mail. It looked like a standard manila envelope, but inside was a device that could quite possibly revolutionize the way we view the microscopic world. I’m referring to the Foldscope, an origami-based optical microscope that is small enough to fit inside your pocket. The real kicker: the entire cost of the instrument is less than one dollar.

The Foldscope has received some recent and well-deserved media attention (the lab’s publication on this device recently made it in the top 20 papers in PLOS One for 2014) but I hadn’t seen many videos on the Foldscope being put to the test in the field. It seemed like there was a lot of potential for this invention, but I wondered how it would fare on one of my expeditions through a jungle searching for unknown species. So I decided to assemble my miniature paper microscopes and travel to one of the most remote places in the world, the rainforest of the Peruvian Amazon, to give them a go.

The Results

Long story short, this device is amazing. During my time in the Amazon rainforest, I was able to investigate tiny insects, mites, fungi and plant cells from 140x to 480x magnification without requiring a large and expensive conventional microscope.

The cells from a flower petal recorded by connecting a cell phone to the Foldscope.

Some of the diverse arthropod specimens could potentially be new to science, so it was really exciting to document images and videos of these organisms right there in the field by connecting my phone to the Foldscope.

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A spider infected by a parasitic fungus known as Cordyceps. The circles show regions of the fungus viewed under —> Read More

This 51-Year-Old Carried Her Daughter’s Baby — And It Helped Put Her MS In Remission

After struggling with fertility issues and losing a baby at 24 weeks, Mandy Stephens became a parent this summer with the help of a very special surrogate — her own mother.

Fifty-one-year-old Sherri Dickson volunteered to be her 32-year-old daughter’s surrogate after Stephens’ first pregnancy ended in early labor and loss of her baby boy, whom she named Theo. “Watching your child lose a child is the definition of sadness,” Dickson said during an appearance on “Good Morning America,” adding. “I can’t describe it any other way. It breaks your heart.”

Because Stephens’ preterm labor was linked to cervical incompetence, doctors in her native North Dakota cautioned that future pregnancies would be similarly high-risk, the new mom explained on the show. She and her husband Jamie started meeting with adoption agencies and researching surrogacy to explore other options.

Both Stephens’ mom and younger sister volunteered to be surrogates, and after meeting with doctors, the couple determined that letting Dickson carry the baby was the best choice. The mom had already experienced three pregnancies, had not yet gone through menopause and was better equipped to avoid psychological attachment issues, she told Be Magazine.

Dickson was more than happy to help bring her grandchild into the world, especially since her past pregnancies were “so easy.” She told KYFR-TV, “I like being pregnant. I don’t mind being pregnant. If It was something I could do for her, why not.”

Carrying a baby also brought an extra benefit to Dickson, who has multiple sclerosis (MS). Though her age and medical condition may have led to complications, she actually found that pregnancy helped put her MS in remission — a phenomenon that many researchers are looking —> Read More

Challenging the Ice Bucket ‘Breakthrough’ — A Toxic Blend of Science and Marketing

Everyone, it seems, knows about the Ice Bucket Challenge, the viral phenomenon that raised record-breaking sums for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association. This feel-good movement was critiqued by many, but no one can claim it was a bad thing: It raised lots of money, the overwhelming majority (96 percent) of which was used to support research or services or education related to this horrible disease. What’s wrong with that?

The problem arises when we indulge the false narrative that these sorts of short-term infusions of money lead to major scientific “breakthroughs.” This absurd argument — that the Ice Bucket Challenge has led to a “breakthrough” in ALS research — is now being made on the pages of the venerable Washington Post and was widely picked up by many other news outlets. The reporting was based on a study that first appeared in Science magazine, which explained issues relating to a dysfunctional protein in ASL patients, suggesting that this discovery could lead to new therapeutic strategies in treating the disease.

Here’s why I take issue with much of the reporting on this research.

1. This new finding is not a “breakthrough.” I say this because, intrigued by the hype, I went back to read the original paper on which this story was based. Okay, full disclosure: I really tried to read the paper, but it’s full of biological mechanisms and scientific jargon that I don’t fully understand, so I can’t say I read (or absorbed) it in its entirety. (Feel free to read the paper in Science yourself; perhaps you’ll do better than I did.) Still, I understood it sufficiently to conclude that this study is elegantly conducted and yields important scientific insights. However, it is —> Read More

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