Rawness versus Pasteurization

i-8dcc60b0394ead4a372a4be058676f4d-milkbuzz.jpgAlthough it is illegal to sell in most states, raw milk is gaining popularity as claims about its healthfulness multiply. Proponents of raw say the heat of pasteurization destroys beneficial enzymes and probiotic bacteria, while homogenization damages the natural structure of milk. Sharon Astyk drinks raw milk on Casaubon’s Book, but only from animals she raises herself. She says raw milk “tastes better,” “is easier to digest,” and “should be available for sale everywhere.” But she also acknowledges the inherent bacterial risks of rawness, warning that it is not for everyone and requires extra vigilance in selection and storage. On The White Coat Underground, PalMD regards the raw milk movement as so much woo, writing that the pasteurization of milk has been one of the biggest success stories in public food safety. Pal adds that milk is “not adversely affected by pasteurization” and its “nutritional value is preserved,” while dismissing the idea that humans utilize enzymes other than their own. And on Adventures in Ethics and Science, Dr. Free-Ride recounts the story of Louis Pasteur himself, who undertook his foundational experiments at a time when “your morning milk could be a good source of calcium and tuberculosis.”

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Not Nearly as Simple as Black and White

i-9731e02af7d5b95a69f2c09a45fcb1f5-racebuzz.jpgRacists often cite IQ as a genetically determined trait, attempting to justify and promote their supremacist attitudes. Even if IQ tests do not favor specific cultural or educational standards, is intelligence coded in our genes, or related to the color of our skin? Greg Laden answers an emphatic “no,” explaining that although intelligence may be heritable–that is, passed from generation to generation like a language–there is no evidence that it is specifically inherited, or genetically determined. On Gene Expression, Razib Khan parses data on African-American ancestry, revealing a genetic heritage that is mainly West African and about 20% European. And in a separate post, Khan reminds us that while statistics can characterize groups of people, individuals will differ widely in their genetic constitution and physical appearance. Finally, visit Dr. Isis on On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess to see HP’s inadvertently racist face-tracking software in (occasional) action.

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Dawn of The Systems Age [Updated]

On Collective Imagination, Joe Salvo declares the Information AgeĀ is done for, writing: “a period of history can be characterized by the dominant technology that separates the leaders from the followers.” He believes humanity has approached a tipping point where the separation between leaders and followers will cease to exist, as the internet democratizes the planet and good information becomes ubiquitous. So what’s up next? Salvo calls it a “Systems Age,” which involves “sensing, collecting, and manipulating data in near real-time with little to no human supervision.” Sounds like a lot of fun! For an artificial intelligence.

On Applied Statistics, Aleks Jakulin considers the importance of privacy but also the potential windfalls of sharing medical data, saying it would “allow massive advances in medicine.” And on A Blog Around The Clock, Coturnix (aka Bora Zivkovic) explores the ways our nascent age of interconnectedness affects book publishing, as the internet offers writers more ways to start writing, get noticed, self-publish and embrace new forms.

Round and Round

i-0ef7c9868028a5449c5288bb5d2cbe42-solbuzz.jpgYesterday was the winter solstice, meaning the sun concluded its six-month southward course and seemed to “stand still” before beginning its journey north. Of course, this being a heliocentric neighborhood, the tilt, orbit, and rotation of Earth are what really move the sun through the sky. But don’t let that stop you from appreciating colorful crayon diagrams of the ancient “two-sphere” model of the heavens with Dr. Free-Ride on Adventure in Ethics and Science. If that’s not a useful enough approximation, you can get a modern understanding of solstices and seasonal dynamics from Anne Jefferson on Highly Allochthonous. Also on Highly Allochthonous, Chris Rowan reveals a snapshot of Saturn’s mysterious moon Titan, whose northern hemisphere is just emerging from a fifteen year winter. With middling gravity, apparent lakes and plenty of atmosphere, Titan presents a compelling prospect for extraterrestrial life, although it only receives a fraction of the sunlight we enjoy here on Earth. Finally, visit Ethan Siegel on Starts With A Bang! for a satellite view of the recent snowfall that blanketed the northeastern United States.

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Volcanic Event of the Year

Erik Klemetti on Eruptions solicits your suggestions for the titular honor:

2009 is almost over and it has been quite a busy year, volcanically speaking. This is not to say that is was anomalously volcanic – more that many of the volcanic events captured the media’s attention. I’ll be putting together a “Volcanic Year in Review” for 2009 and at the end I’ll award the 2009 “Volcanic Event of the Year” (a Pliny?) … but now its your turn to nominate events for the award.

Suitable entries include “eruptions, signs of an eruption, a big research article, a media debacle/success” or just about anything else volcano-related. Don’t miss your chance to nominate!

Copenhagen, Claus & Christ

i-056faeb5a8565bc75ca2aae370a825f8-santabuzz.jpgThe climate summit in Copenhagen came to a tenuous conclusion on Friday, as five nations pulled a non-binding “agreement” from thin air. This agreement recognizes the threat of rising temperatures and pledges financial aid for developing countries, but sets no emission guidelines and is not legally enforcible anyway. On Casaubon’s Book, Sharon Astyk fears what global warming will do to Santa’s Workshop, writing that the major players at Copenhagen were “afraid to do hard things,” and content to “pretend to do something” instead. Meanwhile, Greg Laden on his blog points out that Copenhagen provided another chance for global warming denialists to miss the forest for the snow-covered trees. Seguing back toward the North Pole, Revere celebrates an otherwise secular family’s faith in Santa Claus on Effect Measure, writing that Christmas is “warm and pleasant at a dark time of year,” and an opportunity to buy gifts for “loved ones and friends to make them happy.” And on Aarvarchaeology, Martin Rundkvist considers the legacy and future of Christmas carols, after singing about Christ himself in an “increasingly vague and all-encompassing” Swedish Church.

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Under Seas New and Old

i-c9274ffd863f87f18b0e4ae4f14fba75-seabuzz.jpgDarren Naish inspects “trace fossils” on Tetrapod Zoology, geologic records of footprints and other indentations left behind by animals. Although these telltale signs can “provide excellent information on behaviour and lifestyle,” it can sometimes be hard to tell what kind of creature made them in the first place. Such is the case with a set of mysterious parallel grooves preserved in a Jurassic sandbar, which may have been formed by the snouts of ancient sea monsters trolling for snacks. On Laelaps, Brian Switek reconsiders unilinear assumptions of cetacean evolution, citing “a particularly rich fossil site” in Pakistan which has revealed a broad diversity of early whale species. And on Neurotopia, Scicurious outlines the sexual proclivities of diatoms, prolific photosynthesizers which often reproduce asexually but were recently caught doing it with each other by the millions. Finally, visit Eric Klemetti for an incredible video of an underwater volcano spewing ire on Eruptions.

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