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  • The Sign of Four Estates: The Week in Review, April 30 - May 6, 2017 

    May 7, 2017, 10:00

    Jodi and I pose in front of the U.S. Capitol Building. We had just emerged from a memorable and excellent visit with Texas Congressman Peter Sessions'…

  • The Dock in the Clouds: The Week in Review, April 23-29, 2017 

    April 30, 2017, 10:06

    My first night at CERN. The weather was unpleasant, wet and cold. But the view of the lab at night, with its various office lights twinkling in a steady…

  • A Force for Greatness: Science Policy Links for the Week of April 16-22, 2017 

    April 23, 2017, 03:42

    Given how much the past few months have been largely about "eating the seed" corn by threatening to pillage the nation's scientific capabilities, this week was…

  • The Pump with No Handle: The Week in Review (April 16 - 22, 2017) 

    April 22, 2017, 10:16

    My gitlab CERN page shows that the last 10 days have been solid blue with coding activity. Being away from SMU and working in London has been ridiculously…

  • The Case of the Street that Wasn't: The Week in Review (April 9-16, 2017) 

    April 16, 2017, 10:40

      A view of the London Eye and Westminster from the Waterloo Bridge. Taken on Easter Sunday, 2017. This last week has been eventful! It began with…

  • Eating the Seed Corn: Science Policy Links for the week of April 9-14, 2017 

    April 14, 2017, 13:29

    Signs and portents abound in rhetoric from the current executive branch of the United States. Science, the only known way of establishing reliable information…

  • A Tale of Two States: The Weeks in Review, March 26 - April 8, 2017 

    April 8, 2017, 10:00

    Traveling from Dallas to Hartford, Connecticut. The last couple of weeks have been quite a mix, with the first one being not-so-interesting (just another…

  • Eating the Seed Corn: Science Policy Reading List for April 7, 2017 

    April 7, 2017, 17:00

    "The Pillars of Science Denial", from http://drrajivdesaimd.com/2013/12/01/imitation-science/ The US President still has selected no science adviser,…

  • Eating the Seed Corn: Science Policy Reading List for March 30, 2017 

    March 30, 2017, 22:13

    The assault by the Executive Branch of the US government continues on basic scientific research and sound policy based on science. Here is a reading list…

  • A Study in Fahrenheit (The Weeks in Review, March 13 - 25) 

    March 25, 2017, 16:06

    Our treacherous refrigerator. I reached into the freezer to grab one of the waffles. It compressed under the touch of my fingers. Frozen waffles aren't…

  • Tips for Science Advocates 

    March 16, 2017, 19:53

    Many of the 2008 high-energy physics laboratory users who advocated for basic science research investment in a trip to Washington D.C. in 2008. I spent a…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review, March 5-12, 2017 

    March 12, 2017, 21:42

    To get to the Tri-Cities in Washington - Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick - you hop a flight in Seattle and make the short trip inland to a beautiful mountain-ri…

  • EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Rejects that the Earth is Round - A Lesson in Two Parts 

    March 10, 2017, 11:39

    Part 1 - What he said The flat earth of Pruitt's imaginings. CNBC's program "Squawk Box" recently interviewed the new EPA chief, Scott Pruitt. In an…

  • Signs and Portents: The Man Behind the Mask 

    March 9, 2017, 13:00

    The mask comes off. Scott Pruitt only partly covered his true feelings at his recent Senate confirmation hearing. Now he's dropping all of the pretense he…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review, Feb. 26 - March 4, 2017 

    March 5, 2017, 20:37

    Parked on the tarmac at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, waiting for our gate to clear so I can finally go home. This was quite a week. I…

  • Signs and Portents: Starving the Limb 

    March 4, 2017, 11:26

    President Trump addresses the U.S. Congress on Feb. 28, 2017. His scripted speech focused on a vision of a flourishing America, including science, while…

  • Anti-Steve - The Week in Review: Feb. 17-25, 2017 

    February 25, 2017, 04:47

    This past week was my last week at CERN during my two-week trip to the laboratory. It was a week filled with many activities: we has an awesome group…

  • Anti-Steve: The Weeks in Review, Feb. 6 - 18 

    February 18, 2017, 09:46

    This sign hangs on the door of an office not far from my own office at CERN. Seeing it was a delightful moment of science humor on a walk back to work. I…

  • On being a scientist in America right now 

    February 4, 2017, 16:50

    There is a question that hangs on the lips of scientists in America right now. If science is under threat, what is the best way to act? There is no simple…

  • Dog Whistles: Phrasing that Encodes Anti-Science 

    January 31, 2017, 19:46

    A "dog whistle" in a political sense is a code phrase that stands for an idea other than the one used in the phrase. Let's look at a dog whistle in the…

  • Trump, Behind Closed Doors, Insists Earth is Flat (a lesson) 

    January 24, 2017, 21:58

    The flat earth of Trump's imaginings. Image from Ref. (2) A story hit the press today - behind closed doors last night, while meeting with both Democrats…

  • Signs and Portents: Rumors of Energy Dept. Gutting and Basic Science Tweets Deleted 

    January 24, 2017, 21:36

    Rick Perry answering questions at his Jan. 19, 2017 confirmation hearing for Secretary of Energy (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster). Perry may have been auditioning…

  • Signs and Portents: White House Website Energy Policy Sketch 

    January 22, 2017, 20:42

    A screen capture of the whitehouse.gov energy policy page from 1/22/17. In a continuing effort to collect the signs and portents from the Trump administrati…

  • Signs and Portents: Rex Tillerson on Climate Change Policy 

    January 18, 2017, 06:32

    Mr. Rex Tillerson seated at his confirmation hearing on January 11, 2017. It's been days since the confirmation hearings of Mr. Rex Tillerson for United…

  • Science Policy Under Trump: Vaccine Policy . . . or maybe not. 

    January 10, 2017, 20:55

    A chart from the CDC showing the rate of measles infections and how it dropped precipitously upon the introduction of the first measles vaccine. Like all…

  • Astrophotography Sunday 

    November 20, 2016, 07:19

    I awoke to the buzzing of my wristwatch. It was 4:30am. The telescope and all its accessories were already in the car. I only needed to get out of bed and…

  • A vigilant eye on science leadership in the U.S. 

    November 14, 2016, 20:24

    Scientists in Washington D.C. in 2009, spreading the message about the benefits of science to society. This was a trip I helped co-organize and involved…

  • Our Possible Futures 

    November 13, 2016, 21:57

    A coal-fired power plant, one of the engines our species created that had ushered in a new age of the Earth: the Anthropocene. Photo by Robert Ashworth. I…

  • Keep talking 

    November 12, 2016, 20:24

    Born in America, he's a humble whiz kid with a penchant for physics and computers and a knack for whipping up miracles in a laboratory. His only crime this day…

  • CERN Travelogue: Week 1 

    October 23, 2016, 13:33

    Walking back from dinner in nearby St. Genis on Thursday night, I stop to photograph a number of office lights on at nearly 11:30pm at CERN. The work never…

  • The Second U.S. Presidential Debate 

    October 9, 2016, 19:15

    A week of sexual-assault-themed events have led to tonight's second debate. Trump was caught on tape bragging about having sexually assaulted women, and then…

  • Bad at two things - intelligent designers on dark matter 

    October 5, 2016, 20:21

    It's been a while since I felt it necessary to comment on the people who profess that things like "intelligent design" are science. However, tonight on Twitter…

  • The Vice Presidential Candidate Debate 

    October 4, 2016, 18:54

      Mike Pence (R) and Tim Kaine (D) square off on Oct. 4 in the first and only US Vice Presidential candidate debate. Tonight is the first and only…

  • Live Blogging: the first 2016 U.S. Presidential debate 

    September 26, 2016, 19:44

    I'll be live-blogging observations and thoughts on the back-and-forth between the two leading U.S. Presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump,…

  • US Presidential Candidates on Science and Policy - Research and Climate Change 

    September 21, 2016, 19:13

    How will the aspirant presidential candidates handle long-term vs. short-term goals in scientific research and engineering? What are their thoughts on climate…

  • The Higgs Boson and the Bottom Quark 

    September 18, 2016, 11:10

    A candidate event from LHC Run 1 for the production of a Higgs and a Z boson; the Higgs is reconstructed as decaying into a pair of bottom quarks, while the Z…

  • US Presidential Candidates on Science and Policy - Innovation 

    September 17, 2016, 15:54

    What is Innovation? Is it something you can't define but you know it when you see it? Let's see how the candidates tried to define what is needed to keep…

  • US Presidential Candidates on Science and Policy - Questions for the Candidates 

    September 17, 2016, 15:00

    A President alone cannot set all science policy for the nation, but a well-informed President is part of a solid science policy portfolio. Photo by Diego…

  • Mid-Campaign: the numbers on honesty 

    September 16, 2016, 19:14

    Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump might each claim the other lies more, but the numbers don't lie: so let's look at the numbers. We're mid-campaign in the…

  • Zipping through Oshkosh 

    September 9, 2016, 10:27

    We zip through Oshkosh after a brief stop. Have to keep moving North. We have appointments to keep and still many hours left to this drive. 

  • Pleasant day in Wisconsin 

    September 9, 2016, 09:00

    Sure, it is cloudy, but the weather is so pleasant. We are approaching Oshkosh on our trek north. I like the country out here. Very green and very open, dotted…

  • Northbound and down 

    September 9, 2016, 08:09

    Hello, traffic. We begin the trek north for a family event weekend in Wisconsin. Of course, we begin this trip the way all trips north in Wisconsin should…

  • Weight, in Numbers, Summer 2016 

    September 5, 2016, 18:20

    My weight, averaged over short periods of time beginning in early 2012, reported by my Withings scale.This summer was not only for physics research and…

  • End-of-Summer: Teaching at SMU-in-Taos 

    August 27, 2016, 18:57

    The eight students in our August Term Astronomy course, photographed along with us and the new teaching telescope ("Peruna's Scope") that we were able to…

  • A liar in the desert 

    June 22, 2016, 08:31

    To the U.S. Evangelical Community, wandering in what seems to them an 8-year political desert, this is a dangerous time for them - a time of temptation, a…

  • Field Notes: Two Weeks at CERN 

    June 16, 2016, 09:00

    A beautiful sunset as rain moved into the valley between the Jura and the Saleve. I take an evening walk at CERN to get a break from physics analysis…

  • Field Notes: Rencontres de Blois 2016 

    June 13, 2016, 05:42

    A panorama of one of the conference lunches at Rencontres de Blois. Physicists gathered after the morning sessions to discuss the talks, relax, and talk about…

  • The Data-Driven Life - a status report 

    March 25, 2016, 18:34

    Me in 2009 (left) and me in 2016 (right). The difference is at the level of about 40 lbs, and the shape of my head doesn't tell the full story. On January…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review, March 13 - March 18, 2016 

    March 19, 2016, 11:12

    The Moriond Conferences! This last week was a killer. I'm lucky I didn't get sick again. Up at 05:30 every day. In bed well after 21:00 or 22:00 every…

  • Presidential Candidates and Verbal Honesty 

    March 12, 2016, 14:55

    Verbal Honesty Score and the raw data that were used to compute the score. Data is from PolitiFact.com as of 3/12/2016. As a physicist, I am fascinated…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review, February 8-12, 2016 

    February 15, 2016, 11:42

    A scene from the SMU Research Day on Feb. 10. This was an incredible week, not because of anything that happened specifically to me but because of what…

  • LIGO, VIRGO, and February 11, 2016 

    February 10, 2016, 07:15

    The LIGO gravity wave detection experiment - Livingston, Louisiana site. 100 years ago, Albert Einstein published what is considered the foundational work…

  • Anti-Steve: the week in review (2/1-2/5) 

    February 10, 2016, 07:13

    My nominators for the SMU HOPE award, Christo (left) and Lucy (right). Photo by Mark Kerins. Last week was a whirlwind of a week. I attended an awards…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review (January 25-29, 2016) 

    January 31, 2016, 07:56

    The atomic spectral lines of hydrogen (bottom) and helium (top). These elements are the most abundant in stars like our sun. This photo was taken in preparatio…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review, January 18 - January 22, 2016 

    January 23, 2016, 09:41

    This was the best start to a semester that I have had in a long time. My first day of class was Tuesday, and my course has hit a major milestone this semester.…

  • PoliSci: Trumping Statistics 

    January 14, 2016, 15:17

    Trump brags about beating Hillary Clinton in a national contest, based on a total misunderstanding (or intentional misrepresentation) of numbers from Real…

  • Memes vs. Facts: What the President Said 

    January 6, 2016, 09:21

    The reality distortion field is strong with this meme. This circulated hours after the President gave a speech about executive power and how it might be…

  • Northbound 

    December 28, 2015, 20:03

    A toppled tractor trailer truck lying in the median ditch of I-35, a victim of the forces of nature parading through the central United States this week. To…

  • Anti-Steve: the end of the semester 

    December 23, 2015, 20:39

    The moon on the night of December 23, 2015. This was shot using my Nexus 6 aimed into the eyepiece of my telescope. In many ways, this was a remarkable…

  • When the Twit Hits the Fans: Faculty, Sportsball, and False Gods 

    November 20, 2015, 21:30

    Recently, snark and sarcasm about my University's Sportball program led me into the seedy, human-waste-filled undertow of the Social Web. Here are my thoughts…

  • Acts of Discovery Require Failure 

    November 20, 2015, 20:55

    All of the speakers at the TEDxSMU-sponsored "Loyd on the Lawn" event. Rain drove us into a breezeway but the power of Loyd Commons drew a crowd for a fun…

  • Bad Science Writing: College Paper Edition 

    November 9, 2015, 15:26

    A screen capture of the digital print version of this article on the Paleo Diet. It claims to debunk diets, but is so credulous that I think this word they…

  • Microcosm: when science and the public meet 

    November 8, 2015, 11:37

    A recent DCII Panel Event on "Scientific Research and Public Responses" at SMU. Science is a process by which reliable information is obtained by repeated…

  • Photos from the Joint Meeting of the Texas Sections of the APS+AAPT+SPS 

    November 1, 2015, 19:58

    Photos from our recent trip to Baylor University for the joint meeting of the Texas Sections of the American Association of Physics Teachers, American Physical…

  • Photos from a walk by The Old Stone Dam in Allen, TX 

    October 25, 2015, 19:02

    Some photos from a walk near The Old Stone Dam. I hadn't been to it yet, and it was as lovely as Jodi told it me it would be.    

  • Trick or Treat or Pseudoscience? 

    October 24, 2015, 16:14

    When a charity organization that works to support families and children dealing with childhood cancer partners with a race organization that promotes…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review, October 11-16 

    October 17, 2015, 10:32

    A flight back from CERN (well, London actually) kicked off my last weekend of Fall Break. Hilarity ensued. I haven't done a week-in-review in quite a…

  • Science and its Opposite: Social Media Story About Walnuts Labeled as Drugs by the FDA 

    October 12, 2015, 09:06

    A web article makes the claim that the FDA labeled Diamond Foods' walnuts as "drugs". But is that what really happened? Photo from Ref. 5. A social media…

  • The Lovely Neutrino: Some Resources for the Public 

    October 7, 2015, 01:25

    The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded for discovery of neutrino oscillation; but what are neutrinos, and what does it mean that they "oscillate"? Yeste…

  • Anti-Steve: The Weeks in Review, June 27 - August 9, 2015 

    August 16, 2015, 19:23

    I've gone silent for may weeks primarily out of a re-prioritization of my time since returning from CERN. It was a very busy finish to the work period at…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review (6/23 - 6/27) 

    June 28, 2015, 02:28

    On a touring walk of CERN for the new summer grad students, we found it... THE ANTIMATTER FACTORY! Always knew this thing was real... This was a very good…

  • Anti-Steve: The Weeks in Review, 6/13 - 6/22 

    June 24, 2015, 13:19

    The SMU CERN team, out for dinner on a rainy Saturday night in Geneva, Switzerland. Not pictured is one of our post-docs, who had just gotten off weeks of…

  • Anti-Steve: The Many Weeks in Review (5/2 - 6/12) 

    June 13, 2015, 04:12

    Jodi and I pose in front of the "Temple of Love" in the gardens of Versailles, France. It's been a busy month, and the only reason I am pausing to jot all…

  • Anti-Steve: The Weeks in Review, 4/12 - 5/1 

    May 3, 2015, 15:28

    As many of the physics students as we could find and cram in a photo for SMU Honors Convocation 2015. This was an incredibly busy month, and I've only had…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review (4/5-4/11) 

    April 11, 2015, 08:53

    A nice walk to Friday night dinner turned into family phone call meeting crisis time. Oh well . . . it just doesn't seem like a normal day without family…

  • Anti-Steve: The Weeks in Review, 3/15-3/28 

    March 28, 2015, 08:57

    A view of Mt. Ranier down the mall near the Suzzallo Library at University of Washington. The past couple of weeks have been extremely busy. Jodi and I…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review, 3/13 

    March 13, 2015, 06:42

    Remote monitoring of our "E-Shield" experiment using Firefox Hello. It's that time again - time to think back long and hard on the week that was. The past…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review (3/7) 

    March 7, 2015, 10:30

    Our back yard after this weeks most recent Texas "Icepocalypse." Its pretty! The beauty of this was a highlight of the week. This was a mixed week, filled…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review (2/27) 

    February 27, 2015, 09:29

    SMU undergraduate Nicole Hartman (right) explains her simulation of low-energy neutrinos scattering to Prof. Fred Olness, Chair of the SMU Department of…

  • Anti-Steve: The Week in Review (2/20) 

    February 20, 2015, 07:40

    The infant checklist for the electrostatic shield prototype run (see below). Just one small part of this exciting week. I thought it might be nice to use…

  • Several Studies Suggest - Weasel Phrases and Logical Fallacies 

    February 14, 2015, 11:42

    Weasels mythologically suck the eggs of fowl; "weasel words" are so-called because they suck the meaning out of words near them in an argument. Let's explore…

  • Zicam - revisited 

    February 8, 2015, 20:55

    Zicam sells its product using the methods of fake medicine. So, let's revisit by how much they are overcharging for zinc, their core ingredient. Photo from…

  • Strenuous Jogging and Bad Statistics 

    February 8, 2015, 19:13

    A hot-off-the-press study on risk of death and running is making headlines. What are the headlines? "Light Jogging May Be The Key To Long Life, Study Finds"…

  • An education experiment (for me): flipping the classroom 

    February 6, 2015, 16:48

    This semester, I am conducting what is, for me, an experiment in teaching. The seeds of this experiment were planted last semester, and prior to that by a…

  • Back into the swing 

    August 18, 2014, 09:20

    This is the week before classes start at SMU. It's going to be a busy one. After a travel-heavy summer, with projects not advancing as fast as they would have…

  • NavierStokes - a social bridge 

    August 12, 2014, 22:01

    NavierStokes is a software bridge for passing your messages between social networks. It is alpha software. Inspired by the creation of the pump.io open,…

  • The science, not ethics, of unverified Ebola drugs 

    August 12, 2014, 19:52

    The Ebola Virus. Image from NIAID (Ref. 2). I haven't posted in a while. The current global Ebola panic, spread mostly by social media and the media and…

  • Messages from Blois 

    May 18, 2014, 08:03

    For the second time, I will be attending the Rencontres de Blois, a yearly conference that represents a convergence (perhaps even a conversation) between…

  • My comments at today's second P5 Town Hall Meeting 

    February 6, 2014, 09:41

    I am Stephen Sekula, an Assistant Professor of Physics at SMU conducting research on the ATLAS Experiment. These comments will be my own, and I will try to…

  • Travelogue: CERN, Jan 26. - Feb. 1 

    January 26, 2014, 20:21

    Jan. 26, 2014 - 03:18 CET I am on AA50 to Heathrow. We land in about 7 hours, leaving me 2 hours to connect to my flight to Geneva. Right now I am hopimng for…

  • I am not a psychic 

    January 18, 2014, 11:16

    I am not a psychic. The dead spirit of Carl Sagan does not speak to me. But it's fun to convince my class that it does. Meme origin unknown. For the first…

  • First day of classes, Spring 2014 

    January 17, 2014, 07:48

    It is the first day of classes for SMU's spring term, 2014. I am again co-teaching our University's only "Introduction to the Scientific Method" course -…

  • A Raspberry Pi-based Firefox Sync Server 

    January 10, 2014, 15:25

    The Raspberry Pi is an inexpensive and fully functional computer. I use them for server projects, and here describe how to setup a Firefox Sync Server on…

  • Moments in Time: Consider the Big Dipper 

    January 4, 2014, 21:26

    The Big Dipper played a small but important role in how I became a physicist. Here we see it as it looked from Berlin (Germany) in June 2011. From Ref.…

  • General Mills, Cheerios, Food Labeling, and Science-Based Policy Making 

    January 3, 2014, 14:11

    General Mills announces Cheerios will no longer contain genetically modified ingredients. So . . . will they be individually hand-carved from rocks, which…

  • SciFi: Bad reporting on the "acupuncture and breast cancer patients" study 

    December 24, 2013, 12:02

    Acupuncture is shown again to be no better than placebo. An AltMed news site spins it to say any acupuncture, even badly done, will help breast cancer…

  • They are dangerous 

    December 21, 2013, 19:57

    "  are not interested in science, and they are not interested in education. They are interested in political power. They are dangerous." (Vincent Cassone,…

  • A good example of a bad argument 

    December 18, 2013, 17:32

    Recently, a two new studies of multivitamins and their efficacy for purposes other than vitamin deficiency were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine .…

  • Wedge Salad 

    December 17, 2013, 00:11

    In their famous policy paper, "The Wedge," the founders of the modern Intelligent Design Creationism movement stated their political and social action plan…

  • The Princesses of Pseudoscience 

    December 15, 2013, 13:46

    Author's Update (12/19/13): I re-wrote the paragraph on GMO foods, their availability, and health benefits based on a reader comment to make the paragraph more…

  • More...

2 thoughts on “The Princesses of Pseudoscience

  1. A fine commentary, but the one paragraph in which you tout the advantages of GMO foods is a little overboard. First, golden rice, for all its advantages, is simply not yet available because it has not ever been approved as a safe food – it’s nonsense that its regulation has been so overwhelmingly cautious, but it has been, and nobody has derived any benefit from it so far. Second, saying that “GMO corn and wheat are …” implies, falsely, that there is some GMO wheat in use. It has never gone beyond experimental.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Charles! I updated that paragraph based on your feedback. It changes nothing about the main point of the post, which is that there are science issues and, separately, values issues involved in GMO foods. Children’s books like this one discussed on NPR confuse the values and science arguments, yet somehow are consistent with Common Core education standards even though they get the science issues wrong (e.g. there are no known threats from precision genetically engineered foods).

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