A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Cutting calories can stop cancer cells from spreading

Something different to discuss – for the medical-revolution cynics among us. Cells from a human triple-negative breast cancer were implanted in mice under their mammary fat pads. Triple negative breast cancer is a nastier form of breast cancer which is harder to treat because these cells don’t respond to the usual anti-estrogenic drugs.

The mice were then allowed to eat only 70% as many calories as they would normally freely choose to eat.  This is a particularly interesting study because it shows that calorie restriction inhibited the expression of certain micro RNAs even from foreign (non mouse) implanted breast cancer cells, and this apparently kept the cancer from spreading. Notably fatalities from cancers don’t usually come from the initial solid tumor but from the metastasized version, so this is potentially very useful.

The mechanism involves strengthening the matrix around the cancer cells. When these cancer cells have metastasized they produce more of these particular micro RNA’s which in turn appear to stop production of proteins that strengthen the extracellular matrix. In other words, the cancer cells probably use the micro RNA’s to degrade the cellular matrix around them in order to spread. The implications of this are both that the [...]

Earth creates tides in the rock that is the Moon

Earth from the Moon | NASA

Thanks to the Earth’s gravitational pull, the Moon is slightly egg shaped. The closest part bulges out by 51cm towards the Earth, and here’s the weirdest thing, the bulge moves.  The same side of the Moon always faces Earth, but if you stood on the Moon, the Earth would appear to wobble around a particular patch of “moon-sky”. And like a tide of rock, the bulge in the surface, slowly rolls around on the Moon –  following the pull from the Earth.

The ball of rock called the Moon is  3,474 km in diameter. I’m guessing the Man-on-the-Moon would not notice the tide much.

Though I imagine it will be a right headache for future Moonville Skyscrapers.

Despite  the force required to deform a ball of rock that large, and from such a distance, climate models in their infinite wisdom know that the science is settled and the Moon has no significant effect on Earth.

You might recall that Ian Wilson has other ideas, and suggests lunar cycles set up atmospheric standing waves which may seed ENSO patterns.

And we wonder why those models don’t work?


That West Antarctic melting couldn’t be caused by volcanoes could it?

We’re all doomed:

West Antarctic ice sheet collapse ‘unstoppable’ [ABC]

Irreversible Changes Now Affect Antarctica and the World [Live-science]

‘Nothing can stop retreat’ of West Antarctic glaciers [BBC, By Jonathan Amos]

West Antarctic ice collapse ‘could drown Middle East and Asia crops’ [The Guardian, Suzanne Goldenberg]

Antarctica’s ice collapse threatens metres of sea level rise within decades  [The Ecologist]

Global warming: it’s a point of no return in West Antarctica. [The Guardian Eric Rignot]

“Last week saw a ‘holy shit’ moment in climate change science. A landmark report revealed that the collapse of a large part of Antarctica is now unstoppable”

What else is going on in West Antarctica? Oh. Look where those volcanoes are…

Guess which science correspondent mentioned the word “volcano”? None of the above. Did any of those responsible publicly funded climate scientists mentioned it in their press releases? (A gold star to anyone who can find one). Lucky Antarctic volcanoes are not hot.

Thanks especially to Janama, Jaypac, John, Sophocles and Tom. That is what comments are for!

Locations of volcanoes in Antarctica known to have been active since [...]

Yale says “Global Warming” is a better misused-phrase for propaganda — dump “climate change”

What’s the point of language — especially in science? If you are naive, you might think it’s to communicate a fixed concept so everyone understands and can voice an opinion on the same thing. You would be wrong. The real purpose of scientific terms is to motivate the punters to behave differently (especially if that means “give us more money”). That’s why the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has assigned 5 PhD’s and a guy called Feinberg to spend days, weeks and months analyzing surveys to find out which propaganda term is more “effective”. The simple answer is “global warming” ekes out more fear and pain among democrats than “climate change”; therefore expect to see its use rocket.

The Guardian

The survey sample of 1,657 people, compiled over a two-week period late last year, found a large swathe of Americans turned off by the words “climate change”.

“The use of the term climate change appears to actually reduce issue engagement by Democrats, Independents, liberals, and moderates, as well as a variety of subgroups within American society, including men, women, minorities, different generations, and across political and partisan lines,” the researchers said.

Americans in general were 13% more likely to [...]

The remarkable rise of UKip — tiny fringe disappearing loony skeptics win popular vote eh?

It’s a “Political Earthquake” according to the French PM. The EU and British local Elections have been marked by the smashing rise of Euroskeptics, climate skeptics, and skeptics-of-politics in general. (Monckton dares anyone to suggest a more skeptical party than UKip). UKip got 16% last time round in the European elections of 2009, this time it’s looking at something like 28%. “We’re coming for YOU, Red Ed’: Nigel Farage boasts…

Mark Steyn

Sunday’s UK election results were the first since 1910 in which a party other than Conservative or Labour came out on top in a national vote. That’s to say, Nigel Farage did something nobody from outside the two-party system has done in over a century: he won.

“Try as I might, I cannot remember a time when Britain’s various elites were as united in fury as they are now over UKIP leader Nigel Farage.. The Right and Left of the Political Class Have United Against A Common Enemy: Us”

James Delingpole

Mark Steyn‘s advice to the non-UKIP parties (which they didn’t heed):

You can’t keep calling these guys “fringe” “extremists” when they get more votes than you. So instead of shrieking about “fruitcakes” and “loonies” why not [...]

Antarctica, not warming but melting? Has the missing heat turned up in West Antarctica?

UPDATE: A newer post on Antarctica points out that there is a volcanic chain running under or near the parts of Antarctica that are warming or melting. The scientists and media forgot to mention…

The new-old scare is Antarctica and what a messy situation it is. Only two weeks ago Matthew England was saying that Ocean winds were keeping Antarctica cool, and that Antarctica was stealing Australian rain.

Now a new Cryosat study by Malcolm McMillan et al is generating headlines saying that Antarctic ice is “disappearing at twice the rate predicted”.[1] (Can someone calculate the date it will be all gone?)

Well, at least it’s worse now than it was all of three years ago when the new Cryosat data first started.

Now they finally can record “near continuous 96% coverage of the continent”, with “a fivefold increase in the sampling of coastal regions where the vast majority of all ice losses occur.”  It’s good that we have better data, but these are very short trends. Who’s leaping to hit the panic button? If there is message here it’s that ice loss is a complicated beast; it isn’t just about temperature, but also about precipitation, ablation, and [...]

Newton, Einstein, Watson and Crick, were not peer reviewed

Sir Isaac Newton

Peer review by anonymous unpaid reviewers is not a part of the Scientific Method.

Once upon a time the fate of a scientific paper was dependent on an Editor whose reputation depended on making sound decisions about what to publish. Modern science shifted responsibility from a single identifiable editor to an anonymous “committee”. What could possibly go wrong?

From Zocalo Public Square

Melinda Baldwin looked at the history of peer review:

I was incredibly surprised to learn that Nature published some papers without peer review up until 1973. In fact, many of the most influential texts in the history of science were never put through the peer review process, including Isaac Newton’s 1687 Principia Mathematica, Albert Einstein’s 1905 paper on relativity, and James Watson and Francis Crick’s 1953 Nature paper on the structure of DNA.

A revolution in science happened without formal “peer review”. Who would have thought?

Crucially, journals without refereeing processes were not seen as inferior or less “scientific” than those that used referees. Few scientists thought that two anonymous readers would better judge a paper than, say, the great physicist Max Planck (who was on the editorial board of the prominent German journal [...]

Weekend Unthreaded

Photo by Geoff Sherrington

A first: one patient’s widespread cancer treated with an engineered virus

Myeloma Cells | Wikimedia

This is another example of why I’m so passionate about getting research money out of dead-end efforts to change the weather and into medical research. The extraordinary news broke last week that the Mayo Clinic had used a genetically modified virus to cure treat one woman of metastasized and widely spread cancer – specifically myeloma. There are a lot of caveats, this research is quite risky, and it doesn’t apply to most people or most cancers, it is a proof of principle.

The potential for transformative medical breakthroughs is spectacular right now.  Medicine is, after all, just an information game. The information is expensive but the material resources are dirt cheap — all the answers to the holy grail of the fountain of health are found in rearrangements of common elements — like the kind found in the dirt of a pot-plant. For the first time humanity has the tools to hunt and hammer out the information. If people knew what glittering marvels were within reach, they surely would want to channel our best and brightest and all our spare resources.

The  main caveat here (a pretty big one) is that the trial had only [...]

Only 3% of Americans name “environment” as top issue.

The Gallup poll results for May show the environment is not the most important issue for 97% of Americans.  Golly, but those naming the environment as the top concern tripled from 1% – 3% from April to May. It’s a blip up in a long term trend that’s falling. H/t to

How many times do people need to tell politicians that being a skeptic isn’t  the vote killer that some commentators would like you to believe? Even people who believe in man-made global warming just aren’t as concerned about the environment as they are about jobs, corruption, and the economy.

Which politician will make cleaning out corruption their trademark policy?

Where’s the balance?

According to some the media doesn’t report on climate often enough. But where’s the “balance” — if 97% of the public are more concerned about something else, perhaps the message should be something else?

For those all-knowing super intelligent beings who protest that the public won’t worry about the right things if you don’t tell them, we can only ask if 20 years of non-stop campaigns, reports, advertising, documentaries, and Nobel Prize winning (flawed) documentaries are enough?