Thursday: Science Fair

In this roundup: Google’s Science Fair, keeping one eye peeled, and odd news.

Featured video here profiles the grand prize winner of Google’s sixth annual science fair. The caliber of work this program yields every year is pretty amazing. I hope Google or its parent Alphabet helps these contestants protect their work from corporate poaching while encouraging them to continue their research. This soil moistener, for example, is something a few companies would like to get their hands on, as orange peels and avocados are surely less expensive than existing superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) currently used as soil moisteners.

What this youngster may not have thought about as she focused on drought-stricken farms, is that SAPs are used in other non-farming products. Diapers in particular use SAPs — and that’s a massive market dwarfing the demand for soil moisteners. Let’s hope this teen’s work does what she wants it to do rather than getting snapped up by mega-corps with other uses for her research.

What I’m watching

Strange/odd news

  • FCC wants search history under your control (Bloomberg) — Big social media firms’ use of your search history is regulated by the FTC. As more telecom/ISPs provide broadband internet services, their access to your search history has not been safe from predatory resale. The FCC wants to protect search history, ensuring it cannot be used by telecom/ISPs and third parties without subscribers’ permission. A vote on this rule is scheduled October 27th. Keep in mind the data from Yahoo’s subscribers is what made it such an appealing buy-out target for telecom Verizon.
  • ‘Fusion’ RNA may not indicate cancer but chimeric tissue (ScienceDaily) — In spite of the way we rely on what we do know, we still don’t know a lot about genetics. This particular study suggests cancer tests relying on detection of ‘fusion’ RNA may not find cancer but chimeric tissue. (This is why I worry about CRISPR technology, but that’s another story.)
  • New study says Tabby’s Star even stranger (Carnegie) — Two researchers from Carnegie Institution and Caltech analyzed data on star KIC 8462852, also known as Tabby’s Star, named for Yale University researcher Tabetha Boyajian. They found the star had indeed dimmed by 14 percent between 1890 and 1989, confirming work by another Louisiana State researcher. The pattern of dimming — slow at first and now rapidly increasing — doesn’t match theories the star has been obstructed by orbiting planets or by a comet swarm. The pattern may support the theory that an advanced life form has built a Dyson sphere to harvest the star’s energy.

Longread: Surprisingly, Max Boot
Boot’s not on my usual list of reads, but this article spells out one of the biggest problems with this election: America is turning into a confederacy of dunces. Having just finished putting my oldest through college and launched my youngest in his freshman year at university, I can agree wholeheartedly that our education system is utterly jacked up. I can tell you from experience that my kids visited state and/or U.S. government three times during their K-12 public schooling, but I know the majority of their cohort did not retain what they learned in a way which will encourage civic understanding and participation. Add a complete lack of statewide and nationwide computer education and our youth are not prepared to make informed decisions about governance using technology to aid their choices. And the GOP, having undermined education for decades with its whining about taxes and spending and teaching to standards, is reaping the harvest of its refusal to do more than the minimum. They’ve insured indoctrination instead of real knowledge. Enjoy your party’s death at Trump’s hands.

¡Ya basta! Hope you are all someplace snug and safe this evening.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
4 replies
  1. Pathman says:

    The Max Boot article is bullshit. The support for Trump is in older people and only about 25% in “millenials.”

    • Rayne says:

      Education has been systematically impoverished in this country for more than two decades. It’s not just Gen Z and Millennials impacted by the drain of investment; this affected late Gen X as well. While Boot’s assumption that these younger voters trended toward Trump and Sanders because of a lack of knowledge is flawed, he is accurate when he points to their not knowing fundamentals of U.S. governance. How has this not been rectified by three different, two-term presidencies? Because it’s not just about the White House — it’s about Congress and about state funding for education.

      The Boomers and the last of the Greatest Generation are affected less by the current education system than by the tectonic shift in media over the same period of time — like the highly-ideological hyper-concentration of broadcast media and the loss of the Fairness Doctrine, combined with the more recent migration to internet versus traditional newsprint papers. The latter shift these two generations are not prepared for by their now anachronistic education acquired pre-internet. But how much of the news they receive every day is now prepared for them by their children’s and grandchildren’s generations and the education systems they have underfunded for more than two decades?

      This problem isn’t just about Trump’s rise as a politician. It’s much bigger. It’s more insidious when even Max Boot goes against the conservative line to point to a problem and he can’t see its roots in his own ideology.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Boot is certainly resolutely right wing, imperial and authoritarian.  The facts in his article are, however, largely correct.  The right wing politicians (and their Democratic doppelgaengers) Boot normally applauds are much to blame for the problems he discusses, such as defunding and privatizing education from K-12 through university.  Charter schools are one example.  So is the virtual privatization of top public ivy league schools such as Miami of Ohio.  Boot cites another, the defunding of civics instruction – the understanding of the political system, who participates, to what ends, with what outcomes and at whose cost.  It is now as moribund as American training in geography – our physical, cultural, economic and spatial relations to each other and the planet’s resources.  Not a subject the elites would have us learn more about.

    The lack of education has specific ideological ends.  It is an old trope for the right.  It aims to expand ignorance and submission at work and about government.  In part, the right is still fighting an old enemy best defined (wrongly) by Reagan: 1960’s hippies and long-haired recalcitrant youth going to school on their parents’ tax dollars, who don’t know how good they had it in Hoover’s and Eisenhower’s America.  Ignorance and submission also advance the neoliberal agenda of extracting resources from the public while eviscerating government’s ability to devote those resources to any ends but the elites’.

    It’s an odd message to come from Boot, but it’s an important one for everyone to listen to.

    • Rayne says:

      They literally can’t see the house burning down around them. They can’t see how their small government conservatism carried to an extreme has destroyed the very thing they loved. Hoover’s and Eisenhower’s America depended on a fundamentally American institution: public education for all. And they killed it.

      Their demands for charter schools — treating children as profit centers — only digs the hole even deeper. When profit is the focus, educational outcomes are not. And presto, ITT as an example of privatized secondary education, brittle when it has no government support to rely on.

      I hope Boot makes the rest of the connection. He’s half way there.

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