RealClearScience Newton Blog

Everything I Got Wrong About COVID-19

Ross Pomeroy - June 14, 2021

Each of us, in our own way, was tested by the Coronavirus Pandemic. Some lost livelihoods, others lost loved ones, and all of us soldiered through as best we could. As a science journalist, my unique challenge was to provide RealClearScience readers with the most up-to-date, evidenced information possible. During a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic of a never-before-seen infectious disease, this task proved difficult indeed. Now that the pandemic seems to be abating in many parts of the world, a gradual victory won through the combination of infection-derived immunity and an arsenal of...

The Problem With 'Survival of the Fittest'

Ross Pomeroy - June 3, 2021

Today, Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species is recognized as one of the greatest books in scientific history, but when it was initially published, the broad reaction was hostile. Laypersons in general were uncomfortable with, and even insulted by, the ramifications of evolution by means of natural selection. "Humans aren't apes!" they proclaimed. One reader who was a fan was English polymath Herbert Spencer, who envisioned the concept of evolution touching culture, ethics, and even the human mind. Spencer did have one key nitpick, however. He thought that the phrase "survival of the...

The Conspiracy Theory of Society

Ross Pomeroy - June 2, 2021

The QAnon conspiracy theory posits that "a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles run a global child sex trafficking ring which conspired against former President Donald Trump during his term in office." These pedophiles are presumed to be powerful members of society, many of them Democrats. Although patently untrue, according to a new poll, roughly fifteen percent of Americans embrace the foundational tenet of QAnon – that a cadre of Satan-worshipping pedophiles controls the government, media, and financial sectors. A similar proportion agreed that "Because things have gotten so...

Scientist Goes on Epic Rant About 60 Minutes' Gullible Story on UFOs

Ross Pomeroy - May 28, 2021

On Sunday, May 16, the long-running television news magazine 60 Minutes aired an entirely credulous report on U.S. Navy sightings of supposed Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs), the new name for UFOs. Absent from the segment was any skeptical viewpoint on the otherworldly claims presented. Viewers were left thinking that something strange must be out there. Last week, RCS linked to Mick West's excellent piece deconstructing much of the 60 Minutes report. Bottomline: almost all of the videos, which are characteristically blurry and out-of-focus, can be explained away without invoking...


Did Karl Popper Doubt Evolution?

Ross Pomeroy - May 24, 2021

"I have come to the conclusion that Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme—a possible framework for testable scientific theories." To biologists, these words, spoken by eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper, might seem like a betrayal. To creationists, a victory. Popper, the ardent empiricist and architect of falsifiability – the notion that for something to be scientific it must be testable – seemed to have doubts about evolution by means of natural selection. It's partially true, but only in a philosophical, some might say...

How Long Can Americans Remain Ignorant and Free?

Ross Pomeroy - May 17, 2021

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson called freedom the "firstborn daughter of science." Freedom stems from science. Indeed, Jefferson treated science with such reverance that he commissioned portraits of three great scientific thinkers: Francis Bacon, who argued that scientific knowledge arises from inductive reasoning and careful, skeptical observation; Issac Newton, who formulated the laws of motion and gravitation; and John Locke, the prominent empiricist who stated "whatever I write, as soon as I discover it not to be true, my hand shall be the forwardest to throw it into the fire." Their...

Four Incredible Dinosaur 'Graveyards'

Ross Pomeroy - May 11, 2021

Over their 165 million-year reign on Earth, hundreds of billions of dinosaurs lived and died. Occasionally, they did the latter en masse, making it much easier for us to find their fossilized remains and examine them. Concentrated areas of dinosaur death have become colloquially known as "dinosaur graveyards". The following are some of the most remarkable. 1. The Hilda Mega-Bonebed. Around 75 million years ago, a herd of Centrosaurus that may have numbered in the thousands was swept up in a torrential flood that inundated the lowlands of what is now Alberta. The hapless, top-heavy dinosaurs...

A Lot of Animals in the U.S. Are About to Be Uncomfortably Full

Ross Pomeroy - May 6, 2021

The periodical cicadas of Brood X are starting to emerge. At this very moment, the forerunners of one of nature's great spectacles are burrowing up and out of the ground in fifteen U.S. states – from New York down to Georgia, and North Carolina across to Illinois. At the crescendo of this cacophonous, four-to-six-week-long event, billions – perhaps trillions – of cicadas will swarm trees at densities upwards of 1.5 million per acre, the males using unique organs call tymbals to shriek their signature mating call at volumes unsafe to human ears over prolonged periods. To us,...


How Frank Luntz, Chris Christie, and Five Simple Facts Changed Skeptical Trump Voters' Minds on COVID Vaccines

Ross Pomeroy - April 29, 2021

COVID-19 vaccines have become politicized, and we are all to blame. Right-wing media downplayed the severity of the disease and hyperbolized government interventions. Left-wing media blared panic-inducing reports which convinced 41% of Democrats that the COVID hospitalization rate is greater than 50% (it's actually closer to 5%). YouTube provocateurs incorrectly claimed the available vaccines are harmful. Twitter mobs shamed people for not wearing masks outdoors, even though there's little evidence it's necessary. These inane acts were all fueled by ideology. As a result, with 142,692,987...

Most Societies Completely Misunderstand Yawning

Ross Pomeroy - April 26, 2021

In many societies, yawning often gets a bad rap. We stifle yawns in conversation lest our companions deem us uninterested. We swallow them at work meetings so bosses don't think we're unengaged. To Cara Santa Maria, a PhD student in clinical psychology, award-winning science communicator, and co-host of The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast, this seems rather backward. "Yawning did evolve as this social cue… We think of it as a way to communicate to our kin that we’re safe, that we’re settled, that we can relax," she said on a recent podcast episode. "Yet socially,...

Neanderthals Were the Human Species Best Adapted to Cold. Here's Why

Ross Pomeroy - April 19, 2021

As the northern hemisphere wiggles out from Winter's chilling grasp, most humans dwelling there flock outdoors to welcome the emerging warmth. A neanderthal, however, might already think it's getting a tad balmy... While we can't know for sure what one of Homo sapiens' closest relatives would think of the rising temperatures, anthropologists are fairly certain that Neanderthals were quite acclimated to colder climates. Remarkably well, in fact. "It is well-accepted that Neanderthals appear to be the most cold-adapted of known fossil hominin groups," a team of anthropologists recently wrote in...

Four Incredible Facts About Chess

Ross Pomeroy - April 15, 2021

Chess has captivated the world like no other board game has. Arising somewhere in Asia in the 7th century A.D., it has since spread globally, attracting players of all ages and backgrounds, entranced by a game quintessentially simple to play and maddeningly difficult to master. Featuring pieces like rooks, knights, bishops, and pawns, each with their own unique abilities, the game pits players against each other as well as themselves... What piece to play? What move to make? Should I attack? Defend? The choices can be myriad, testing the mind to its limits. Here are four incredible facts...


Tucker Carlson Misrepresents the Science on Transgender Youth

Ross Pomeroy - April 8, 2021

The Arkansas legislature recently passed the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act, which prohibits minors from receiving hormones, puberty blockers, and surgeries related to a gender transition. Moreover, any healthcare provider who offers these services would face penalties. The Republican Governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, viewed the bill as “vast government overreach," arguing that it would interfere with medical care between physicians, parents, and patients. He vetoed it. "The bill is overbroad, extreme and does not grandfather those young people who are currently under...

Will We Actually Use Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics?

Ross Pomeroy - March 30, 2021

Legendary science fiction author Issac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics seem as timeless as they are thought-provoking. You'd be hard-pressed to find an adult sci-fi fan alive today who hasn't heard of them. Hard-wired into almost all of the positronic robots in his stories, the laws are designed as a safety mechanism to keep autonomous droids in check. They are: First Law A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Second Law A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First...

The Scourge of Chronic Scrotal Content Pain

Ross Pomeroy - March 23, 2021

In some cases, a knock to the groin can result in pain that doesn't go away. At any given time, an estimated 100,000 American men suffer from chronic scrotal content pain (CSCP), defined by at least three months of chronic or intermittent pain with severity that interferes with daily activities. The condition accounts for roughly 2.5% of urology visits each year. While CSCP sometimes results from a tumor, infection, or some other kind of readily correctable trauma, in as many as half of cases, the pain is idiopathic, meaning that it doesn't have a clear cause. In many instances, sufferers...

Amazing Creatures From Before the Time of the Dinosaurs

Ross Pomeroy - March 16, 2021

Dinosaurs really suck the air out of Earth's ancient history. Judging by coverage in the popular press, the timeline of our planet seems to go something like this: Earth formed. The dinosaurs arose and eventually went extinct from a cataclysmic asteroid impact. Then we arrived. Granted, the dinosaurs ruled our planet for a significant chunk of time – roughly 170 million years! (Humans and our ancestors have only been around for roughly three million.) So it makes sense that they'd receive a lot of attention. Still, there were some truly fascinating animals that dwelled on Earth before...


You're Related to Egypt's Queen Nefertiti. So Is Everyone Else.

Ross Pomeroy - March 11, 2021

Neferneferuaten Nefertiti, whose name can be translated as "The Beautiful Woman has Come", was a great queen of Ancient Egypt during its 18th – and perhaps its wealthiest – dynasty. After her husband Akhenaten's death, she may have even briefly assumed the role of pharaoh. Oh, and she's also the common ancestor of all humanity. That's right. Nefertiti might be your great-great-great... grandmother, or an aunt. Regardless, you're related. We have mathematics and modern genetics to thank for this astounding fact. It comes back to a concept called the global genetic isopoint, the...

White Supremacists' Pride in Drinking Milk Reveals Their Ignorance

Ross Pomeroy - March 4, 2021

A few years ago, white nationalists and neo-Nazis became strangely infatuated with drinking milk. They repeatedly shared videos of themselves chugging gallons of the stuff. Prominent white supremacist Richard B. Spencer proudly displayed a milk emoji on his Twitter profile, declaring "I'm very tolerant... lactose tolerant!" Geneticist Adam Rutherford, who teaches the history of eugenics, race science, and genetics at University College London, explained this peculiar, somewhat laughable saga in his recently-published book, How to Argue with a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality. It was...

Why Is the Gut So 'Emotional'?

Ross Pomeroy - March 2, 2021

You don't get a 'sinking' feeling in your feet, nor butterflies in your fingers, nor elation in your shoulders. You feel these sensations in your stomach. But why? As RCS originally reported nine years ago, the gut is home to at least 100 million neurons, and perhaps as many as 500 million, by far the most outside of the brain. Concentrated in the lining of the gastrointestinal system, embedded in the esophagus and even the anus, these neurons constitute what scientists have dubbed the "enteric nervous system." Through the vagus nerve, this 'second brain' has a direct line to the primary one...

Five Things Science Has Told Us About Cryptocurrency

Ross Pomeroy - February 22, 2021

With cryptocurrency prices skyrocketing to all-time highs, digital monies based on the ultra-secure blockchain are making some people very wealthy and catching eyes across the Internet. Scientists are also taking notice. While research into cryptocurrency is still in its infancy, dozens of studies have been published that shed light on these upstart digital assets and the people who purchase them. Here are five takeaways: 1. Cryptocurrency consumes a lot of energy. Cryptocurrencies are energy-intensive because they require computers to solve complex puzzles to verify transactions. People...