How Congress wrecked its own science bill, explained in 600 words

“Earlier this year, it looked like Congress would do the unthinkable: pass a truly big, bipartisan bill. The legislation, known as the Endless Frontier Act, would provide a huge funding boost to American science research — framed as a way to compete with China. In the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) led the charge, and it looked like the bill would pass with support from both parties.
But in the past few months, two things happened: As the legislation worked through the Senate process, it was watered down, reducing how much new funding would go to research. Then last week, a vote on the bill was delayed, as Republicans threatened to kill the legislation altogether.

To put it another way: A bill meant to show the US could own China instead proved how dysfunctional the American political system is.”

The myth about smart black kids and “acting white” that won’t die

“While the “acting white” theory used to be pretty popular to bring up in debates about black academic achievement there’s a catch: It’s not true.
At best, it’s a very creative interpretation of inadequate research and anecdotal evidence. At worst, it’s a messy attempt to transform the near-universal stigma attached to adolescent nerdiness into an indictment of black culture, while often ignoring the systemic inequality that contributes to the country’s racial achievement gap.
Yet McWhorter — despite being a scholar of linguistics, not sociology — has become one of the primary defenders of the “acting white” theory and has dismissed those who debunk it as “pundits” who are “uncomfortable with the possibility that a black problem could not be due to racism.” But the people who challenge it are not pundits — they’re academics who’ve dedicated significant time and scientific scrutiny to this theory. Here’s why they say it’s a myth.”

“The “acting white” theory — the idea that African-American kids underachieve academically because they and their peers associate being smart with acting white, and because they’re afraid they’ll be shunned — was born in the 1980s. John Ogbu, an anthropology professor at the University of California Berkeley, introduced it in an ethnographic study of one Washington, DC, high school. He found what he dubbed an “oppositional culture” in which, he said, students saw academic achievement as “white.”
The acting white theory has since become a go-to explanation for the achievement gap between African-American students and their white peers, and is repeated in public conversations as if it’s a fact of life.
Authors such as Ron Christie in Acting White: The Curious History of a Racial Slur and Stuart Buck in Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation have written entire books (heavy on personal observations, anecdotes, and theories) dedicated to the phenomenon.
Even President Barack Obama said in 2004, when he was running for US Senate, “Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”

“Despite abundant personal anecdotes by African Americans who say they were good students in school and were accused of acting white, there’s no research that explicitly supports a relationship between race, beliefs about “acting white,” social stigma, and academic outcomes.
Even those who claim to have found evidence of the theory, Toldson explained, failed to connect the dots between what students deem “white” and the effect of this belief on academic achievement.
“Observing and/or recording African-American students labeling a high-achieving African-American student as acting white does not warrant a characterization of African-American academic underperformance as a response to the fear of acting white,” he said.”

“A prime example of a shaky study on this topic, according to Toldson, was Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer’s 2006 research paper “Acting White: The Social Price Paid by the Best and the Brightest Minority Students.” Published by Education Next, the paper purported to affirm Ogbu’s findings by using Add Health data to demonstrate that the highest-achieving black students in the schools Fryer studied had few friends. “My analysis confirms that acting white is a vexing reality within a subset of American schools,” he wrote.
But the numbers didn’t actually add up to support the “acting white” theory, Toldson said. To start, the most popular black students in his study were the ones with 3.5 GPAs, and students with 4.0s had about as many friends as those with 3.0s. The least popular students? Those with less than a 2.5 GPA.”

“Plus, Toldson pointed out, even if the results had shown that the highest-achieving students at all schools had the fewest friends, that would have indicated a connection between grades and popularity, but wouldn’t have supported the core of the “acting white” theory itself. “Methodologically, the study has to make the ostensible leap that the number of friends a black student has is a direct measure and a consequence of acting white,” he explained.”

“In 2009, the authors of an American Sociological Review article, “The Search For Oppositional Culture Among Black Students,” concluded that high-achieving black students were in fact especially popular among their peers, and that being a good student increased popularity among black students even more so than for white students.
McWhorter has dismissed this study as one that “encourages us to pretend,” because he says that black kids may be dishonest when asked if they value school. It’s unclear why the suspicion of dishonesty only applies to black students and not the white students who were also studied. He’s also written the self-reports can’t be trusted because, according to reasoning he attributes to Fryer, “[a]sking teenagers whether they’re popular is like asking them if they’re having sex.” That may be fair, but it doesn’t explain the stronger link between being a good student and self-reports about popularity for black teens than for white teens.
In 2011, Smith College’s Tina Wildhagen, in the Journal of Negro Education, tested the “entire causal process tested by the ‘acting white’ theory,” using the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, and found that “the results lend no support to the process predicted by the acting white hypothesis for African-American students.”

“in a study published in the American Sociological Review in 1998, James Ainsworth-Darnell and Douglas Downey, using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, found that black students offered more optimistic responses than their white counterparts to questions about the following: 1) the kind of occupation they expected to have at age 30, 2) the importance of education to success, 3) whether they felt teachers treated them well, 4) whether the teachers were good, 5) whether it was okay to break rules, 6) whether it was okay to cheat, 7) whether other students viewed them as a “good student,” 8) whether other students viewed them as a “troublemaker,” and 9) whether they tried as hard as they could in class.
Findings like these fly in the face of the idea that black students think academic achievement is “white” or negative, or that it’s something they must actively shun for acceptance and popularity.
When Toldson analyzed raw data from a 2005 CBS News monthly poll of 1,000 high school students who were asked their opinions on being smart and other smart students, he saw this reflected again.
Students were asked, “Thinking about the kids who get good grades in your school, which one of these best describes how you see them: 1) cool, 2) normal, 3) weird, 4) boring, or 5) admired?” The responses of black boys, black girls, white boys, and white girls were around the same. But black boys were the most likely (17 percent) to consider such students “cool.”
Students also answered this question: “In general, if you really did well in school, is that something you would be proud of and tell all your friends about, or something you would be embarrassed about and keep to yourself?” Eighty-nine percent of all students said they would be “proud and tell all.” Black girls were top among this group, with 95 percent saying they’d be proud. Meanwhile, white boys, at 17 percent, were the most likely to say they would be “embarrassed or keep to self” or report that they “did not know” how they would handle the news that they were doing very well academically.
As recently as 2009, researchers have revisited the theory and confirmed the findings of pro-school attitudes among black students.”

“Fryer’s research found that the very highest-achieving black kids were the least popular — but this likely had much less to do with beliefs about acting white and more to do with the fact that the very smartest kids of any race tend to suffer social stigma.
“In my own research, I have noticed a ‘nerd bend’ among all races, whereby high — but not the highest — achievers receive the most social rewards,” Toldson said. “For instance, the lowest achievers get bullied the most, and bullying continues to decrease as grades increase; however, when grades go from good to great, bullying starts to increase again slightly. Thus, the highest achievers get bullied more than high achievers, but significantly less than the lowest achievers.”
In a 2003 study titled “It’s not a black thing: Understanding the Burden of Acting White and Other Dilemmas of High Achievement,” published in the American Sociological Review, researchers concluded that the smartest black and white students actually had similar experiences and that the stigma was similar across cultures”

“Jamelle Bouie gave his take on the distinction between these two experiences in a 2010 piece for the American Prospect:
“As a nerdy black kid who was accused of “acting white” on a fairly regular basis, I feel confident saying that the charge had everything to do with cultural capital, and little to do with academics. If you dressed like other black kids, had the same interests as other black kids, and lived in the same neighborhoods as the other black kids, then you were accepted into the tribe. If you didn’t, you weren’t. In my experience, the “acting white” charge was reserved for black kids, academically successful or otherwise, who didn’t fit in with the main crowd. In other words, this wasn’t some unique black pathology against academic achievement; it was your standard bullying and exclusion, but with a racial tinge.””

“(McWhorter has vigorously defended the “acting white” theory against academic critics primarily by citing 125 letters he says he received from people describing their experiences that reflect the theory. While he argues that accounts in these letters should be accepted without question, he disregards data such as the scientific study responses indicating pro-school attitudes among black kids because of his view that “personal feelings are not reachable by direct questioning.”)”

“some high-achieving black kids — like kids of all races — experience social stigma. These individual facts are painful, and they resonate with people in a way that makes it easy to blur what’s missing from the “acting white” equation: an actual, causal connection between the accusations of acting white, social stigma, and lower academic outcomes. There isn’t one.”

Marijuana and Pregnancy: What Does the Science Say?

“Studies on marijuana use during pregnancy are inconsistent and inconclusive. But cannabis is not known to be teratogenic—that is, to cause birth defects—in humans. The bulk of scientific evidence suggests that risks posed to developing fetuses are relatively minor and babies exposed to marijuana in utero still fall within normal ranges of outcomes.

A 2020 review looked at longitudinal studies on “the impact of prenatal cannabis exposure on multiple domains of cognitive functioning in individuals aged 0 to 22 years” and found that “evidence does not suggest that prenatal cannabis exposure alone is associated with clinically significant cognitive functioning impairments.” Researchers did note some differences—”those exposed performed differently on a minority of cognitive outcomes (worse on < 3.5 percent and better in < 1 percent)" — although "cognitive performance scores of cannabis-exposed groups overwhelmingly fell within the normal range." A 2016 review of studies on potential ties between in utero marijuana exposure and adverse birth outcomes—things like low birth weight and preterm delivery to miscarriage and stillbirth—found "maternal marijuana use during pregnancy is not an independent risk factor for adverse neonatal outcomes after adjusting for confounding factors." Instead, any increases in adverse outcomes appeared "attributable to concomitant tobacco use and other confounding factors."" ... ""The best new evidence on this comes from a 2019 study out of Canada," Oster writes. Matching women who used cannabis with demographically similar women who didn't, researchers did "find evidence of worse birth outcomes among the cannabis users," including "an increased risk of prematurity and NICU transfer. The increases are moderate but statistically significant: preterm birth occurred in 10% of cannabis users and 7% of non-users." An August 2020 study from the same authors found marijuana use correlated with slightly higher incidences of intellectual disability and learning disorders, as well as higher chances of having autism spectrum disorder. "The percent increase is large—about 50%—and significant," Oster points out, though the researchers do note that the overall incidence rate is still small. Though the researchers tried to demographically match participants between groups, it can still be hard to totally compensate for the ways marijuana users may differ from non-users." ... "The biggest problem is that it's hard to isolate specific factors like marijuana consumption. The population of women who not only use marijuana during pregnancy but are also willing to admit to researchers that they do may differ from those who don't." ... "A review of evidence published in February 2020 "points to the possibility of lower birth weight, diminished IQ and more behavior problems among children whose mothers used cannabis during pregnancy, but notes it is very difficult to separate the marijuana use from other demographics or other variables,"" ... " With the limited evidence available, it may make sense for most pregnant women to avoid marijuana to minimize possible risks to their offspring. But the best choice for one woman and her baby won't be the best choice universally. For women who have extreme morning sickness that makes getting adequate nutrients through food and vitamins difficult, and for whom marijuana mitigates nausea, using cannabis might make sense. Likewise, women with certain mental health conditions helped by marijuana may deem it safer than their usual prescription drugs."

Neanderthals died out after Earth’s magnetic poles flipped, causing a climate crisis 42,000 years ago, a study says

“Earth saw a lot of commotion when its magnetic poles flipped 42,000 years ago.

Scientists have known about the flip since the late 1960s. Earth’s magnetic poles aren’t static – they’re generated by electric currents from the planet’s liquid outer core, which is constantly in motion. As of late, Earth’s magnetic North pole has wandered considerably on a path toward northern Russia.

But for the most part, scientists didn’t think the last pole flip had a major environmental impact. Sure, the planet’s magnetic field got weaker, allowing more cosmic rays to penetrate the atmosphere, but plant and animal life wasn’t known to have been greatly affected.

A new study now suggests a more dramatic phenomenon occurred: The additional cosmic rays may have depleted ozone concentrations, opening the floodgates for more ultraviolet radiation in the atmosphere. Shifting weather patterns may have expanded the ice sheet over North America and dried out Australia, prompting the extinction of many large mammal species. A solar storm, meanwhile, might have driven ancient humans to seek shelter in caves.

As competition for resources grew, our closest extinct human relative, Neanderthals, may have died out.”

“Not all researchers are convinced by Turney and Cooper’s analysis. Chris Stringer, an anthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London, told The Guardian that although the Laschamps excursion could have contributed to Neanderthals’ demise, it’s hard to know exactly when they died out.

“They did survive longer and ranged more widely than just Europe, and we have a very poor fix on the timing of their final disappearance across swathes of Asia,” Stringer said.

James Channell, a geologist at the University of Florida, told NPR that historical records of ice cores dating back 42,000 years don’t indicate a global climate crisis. Still, he added, “there does appear to be a linkage” between the extinction of large mammals and the weakening of Earth’s magnetic field.

At the very least, the new study offers a hint about what could happen if magnetic north and south flip again.”

Study: Smoking bans saved countless lives — could they have increased drunk driving?

“While there is still some debate around the potential increase in drunk driving, there is a vast, peer-reviewed, scientific literature around the harms of secondhand smoke inhalation, and around the massive health benefits associated with the sharp decline in smoking in part due to smoke-free policies.

We know that smoking bans have been effective at reducing secondhand smoke exposure. Bans in restaurants, bars, and other hospitality establishments have the added benefit of ensuring that workers are not forced to carry the health costs against their will simply due to their place of employment. Bans have also been effective at reducing smoking and “reducing opportunities to smoke, changing smoking norms, and reducing smoking rates.”

Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, cancer, and death. Research has shown that heart attack admissions “rapidly declined” after the implementation of 100 percent smoke-free laws.

All of this to say that if there was in fact a small increase in fatal drunk driving accidents as a result of these bans, the bans were still worth it.”

Homosexuality! What causes it?–Video Sources.

What Is Homosexuality? WebMD. Male homosexuality: nature or culture? Emmanuele A Jannini et al. 10 2010. J Sex Med. Nature vs. Nurture: The Biology of Sexuality Kimberly Cornuelle. 11 16 2010. BU Today. No single gene associated with being gay

What the Science of Addiction Tells Us About Trump

“it turns out that your brain on grievance looks a lot like your brain on drugs. In fact, brain imaging studies show that harboring a grievance (a perceived wrong or injustice, real or imagined) activates the same neural reward circuitry as narcotics.”

“in substance addiction, environmental cues such as being in a place where drugs are taken or meeting another person who takes drugs cause sharp surges of dopamine in crucial reward and habit regions of the brain, specifically, the nucleus accumbens and dorsal striatum. This triggers cravings in anticipation of experiencing pleasure and relief through intoxication. Recent studies show that similarly, cues such as experiencing or being reminded of a perceived wrong or injustice — a grievance — activate these same reward and habit regions of the brain, triggering cravings in anticipation of experiencing pleasure and relief through retaliation. To be clear, the retaliation doesn’t need to be physically violent—an unkind word, or tweet, can also be very gratifying.”

“similar to the way people become addicted to drugs or gambling, people may also become addicted to seeking retribution against their enemies—revenge addiction. This may help explain why some people just can’t let go of their grievances long after others feel they should have moved on—and why some people resort to violence.”

“Trump’s unrelenting efforts to retaliate against those he believes have treated him unjustly (including, now, American voters) appear to be compulsive and uncontrollable. The harm this causes to himself and others is obvious but seems to have no deterrent effect. Reports suggest he has been doing this for much of his life. He seems powerless to stop. He also seems to derive a great deal of pleasure from it.”

“Like substance addiction, revenge addiction appears to spread from person to person. For instance, inner-city gun violence spreads in neighborhoods like a social contagion, with one person’s grievances infecting others with a desire to seek vengeance. Because of his unique position and use of the media and social networks, Trump is able to spread his grievances to thousands or millions of others through Twitter, TV and rallies. His demand for retribution becomes their demand, causing his supporters to crave retaliation—and, in a vicious cycle, this in turn causes Trump’s targets and their supporters to feel aggrieved and want to retaliate, too.”

“Political parties and interest groups have come to rely upon inflaming grievances and stoking vindictiveness to generate donations and motivate voters. Media, entertainment and social networking giants also rely upon grievance and revenge-based content to attract viewers and users and increase advertising and sales. More people need to become savvy about how, why and for whose benefit they are being made to feel aggrieved and must decide to stop dealing in the drug of their own destruction.”

Why some labs work on making viruses deadlier — and why they should stop

“The scientists who do this kind of research argue that we can better anticipate deadly diseases by making diseases deadlier in the lab. But many people at the time and since have become increasingly convinced that the potential research benefits — which look limited — just don’t outweigh the risks of kicking off the next deadly pandemic ourselves.”