Your question might seem trivial to the untrained eye, but I believe it’s worth exploring. More than 75 percent of Americans eat candy [PDF]. More than half of us at least 10 times a month. We buy 600 million pounds of sweets for Halloween, which is fast approaching. So we should know what we are popping into our mouths. (Better yet, we should cut down on the stuff. Why yes, I am your mother.)
Thanks to environmental woes, we'll soon have to update everything -- even the subjects of our favorite cliches. Here are 10 of the most endangered.
1.IT’S LIKE COMPARING APPLES AND ORANGES.
The difference between apples and oranges used to be so stark that to compare them would have been, well, fruitless. But thanks to the triumphs of agriculture and biotechnology, soon we’ll have apples that are oranges. No word yet on whether they’ll keep the doctor away. Update: It’s like comparing apples to genetically modified apples.
2.THE EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM.
Reaping rewards is sometimes just a matter of being one step ahead of your competition. Birds, with their punctual proclivities, have long known this. But warming climates are throwing off their migration schedules, leaving them out of sync with their food sources. Being early no longer guarantees a damn thing. Update: The early bird gets just as many worms as the late, confused slob.
3.DOES A BEAR CRAP IN THE WOODS?
When someone asks a rather obvious question, you might slap your forehead or roll your eyes. Or you might counter with a snarky question of your own about the defecation habits of bears. Traditionally, this ursine activity has taken place among trees and streams and squirrels. But thanks to urban sprawl and irresponsible growth, it is no longer a given that a bear’s bowels will be moved in such picturesque environments. Update: Does a bear sometimes crap in the Best Buy parking lot?
Scientists announced Friday that Arctic sea ice has officially reached its minimum extent for the summer, shrinking to 5.1 million square kilometers. That's significantly higher than last year's record low of just over 3.4 million square kilometers, a fact that has led conservative news outlets and even members of Congress to suggest that worries about global warming and melting ice are overstated.
But as astronomer and Slate writer Phil Plait explains in this video, these claims are "incredibly misleading."
There aren't many people on Earth who have spent more of their life in space than Marsha Ivins.
A veteran of five Space Shuttle missions -- in 1990, 1992, 1994, 1997, and 2001 -- Ivins has spent a total of 55 days in orbit, on missions devoted to such diverse tasks as deploying satellites, conducting scientific research, and docking with Mir and the International Space Station. Her jobs? Flight engineer, load master, robot arm operator, and photography manager, among other things.
If social conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education have their way, the science textbooks used in the state's public schools will be rewritten to promote an anti-abortion agenda, cast doubt on evolution, and sow skepticism about global warming.
Texas is in the midst of its decennial process of approving textbooks for use in the state's public schools, a historically contentious event. Since July, board-appointed panels of citizen reviewers have been poring over draft science textbooks and haggling with publishers over their contents. The process has been playing out behind closed doors. But last week, the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal watchdog group, obtained the panels' official comments on high school biology textbooks, which show that reviewers have pushed to include creationist views, undermine climate science, and add disputed information on fetal development that's often cited by anti-abortion activists. These local efforts have wide-reaching implications. Because Texas has one of the largest public schools systems and some of the most rigid textbook requirements, publishers have traditionally tailored the classroom materials they sell nationwide to the Texas market.
On Tuesday, the State Board of Education held a public hearing on the textbooks under consideration, where some of the main players in the controversy weighed in. Their comments, especially on the topics of evolution and climate change, offer an illuminating glimpse into the contentious textbook debate playing out in Texas.
One of the biology textbook reviewers who voiced his views at the hearing was Ide Trotter, a retired dean at Dallas Baptist University and a tireless anti-evolution activist. He asserted that Darwinism was "dead" and complained that the textbooks under review treat evolution as an established fact. "Nothing could be further from the truth," he argued.
Under draft rules being announced this morning, new coal power plants will have to be a whole lot cleaner than the ones we've got today. In fact, thanks also to market conditions, new coal plants might not get built at all. Perhaps most important, the draft rules lay the foundation for a bigger move to cut emissions from already-existing coal-fired power plants, a plan due to be unveiled in June 2014.
In an interview with Grist, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the proposed regulations for new plants are not intended to push coal out of the energy mix. Still, the standards are pretty strict. The EPA had released an earlier version of them in March of last year, then decided to rework them, but this new set of regs still takes a hard line with coal.
Where on Earth are you most likely to die early from air pollution? NASA provides the answer with this mortally serious view of the planet, and it is: lots of places.
Like tar stains on a healthy lung, the sickly yellow and brown areas in this visualization represent regions with significant numbers of pollutant-influenced deaths. Heavily urbanized places in eastern China, India, Indonesia, and Europe are stippled by the darkest colors of snuff, meaning they experience rates of ruination as high as 1,000 deaths per square kilometer each year.
I am not a scientist and I don’t play one on the blogosphere. My background is in grassroots organizing and communications. And for the last decade, I have been honored beyond words to be part of Environmental Defense Fund. I get to wake up every morning thinking of ways to advocate for my two young kids and their generation’s future by mobilizing public support for solutions to the world’s biggest environmental threats.
And no threat is more urgent than climate change, a fact that has inspired EDF to make solving the climate crisis our No. 1 top priority issue for as long as I've been here.
Right now, one of the most important climate concerns is the issue of fugitive emissions -- specifically methane leaking from the natural gas supply chain. As most people who follow the climate debate already know, methane is a major climate pollutant 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. So, tracking methane leaks and venting is a very big deal -- if we get this wrong, climate consequences could be devastating.
The problem is that right now there is very little hard data to go on to say with any confidence what the extent of the natural gas industry’s methane leakage problem is, or even where in the supply chain methane is leaking.
The old maxim that you can’t manage what you don’t measure inspired EDF to look for ways to advance the dataset.
It's perplexing, even to many conservatives, that Republicans feel so strongly about this. Henry Olson, writing in the conservative National Review points out that stripping benefits from the poor while ignoring handouts to the wealthy opens Republicans to the charge that they are the party of the rich. And this is arguably the issue that put Obama over the top in 2012. Olson writes:
Admit it: When you see milk past the "sell by" date in your fridge you're apt to skip the smell test and throw that stuff out. What you might not know is that the date is actually meant for store stockers to keep track of product rotation. It offers little indication of when the milk may actually sour. You wouldn't be alone in tossing out perfectly good milk. Nine out of 10 Americans needlessly throw away edible, unspoiled food based on "use by," "sell by," and "best before" labels, according to a report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School.
Here in America, we're even worse: Roughly 40 percent of our food goes uneaten, amounting to an economic loss of $165 billion a year, the NRDC reported in 2012. The authors of this week's analysis found that much of that waste is due to "misinterpretation" of the date labels.