RealClearScience Newton Blog

Gary Taubes Can't Accept He's Wrong About the Science of Obesity

Ross Pomeroy - September 17, 2021

In 2012, Gary Taubes, a journalist who has penned numerous popular books extolling the benefits of low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets to treat obesity, launched the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI), a laudable effort to fund rigorous scientific studies to research his key contention: that it's not the number of calories that counts when it comes to weight gain, but rather the type of calories. If the NuSI experiments backed his hypothesis, decades of conventional dietary wisdom would be overturned. Rather than telling the more than 100 million Americans who are obese to eat less and move...

I Caught COVID-19, and That's Okay

Ross Pomeroy - September 15, 2021

After 18 months of living through and covering the COVID-19 pandemic, I finally caught the disease that's changed the world as we know it. And that's okay. How can I be so calm about contracting COVID-19, a disease that how now killed more than 4.6 million people worldwide? Because I was ready for it. I maintain a healthy weight, I exercise, I eat a balanced, varied diet, I sleep pretty well, and – most importantly – I am fully vaccinated. Thus, my symptoms, which started last Friday, have been relatively mild. I was extremely congested. My nose ran. My nostrils incessantly stung....

Was Cleopatra the First 'Mad Scientist'?

Ross Pomeroy - September 7, 2021

Cleopatra is cemented in history as the last great Egyptian queen – her exploits and life the repeated focus of art and media. While her military pursuits, affair with Julius Caesar, and fling with Mark Antony garner most of the acclaim, lesser known are her unethical dabblings into science. This is what captured the attention of science writer Sam Kean in his latest book, The Icepick Surgeon: Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science. Kean cited the Greek historian Plutarch, who reported that Cleopatra was fond of experimenting with poisons, frequently using prisoners as...

Hydroponics Reveals That Organic Food Is About Ideology, Not Sustainability

Ross Pomeroy - August 30, 2021

Organic food producers, which eschew synthetic pesticides for "natural" ones, regularly market their products as more sustainable than conventional offerings, but they're not. An analysis of 71 studies by Oxford University researchers revealed that organic milk, cereals, and pork generated higher greenhouse gas emissions per product. A more damning study published in 2018 found that organic peas farmed in Sweden have a 50% larger impact on climate change than conventional peas. Organically-farmed winter wheat is even worse – it's almost 70% more intensive. Driving these differences is...


The Milky Way's Supermassive Black Hole Is... Tiny?

Ross Pomeroy - August 5, 2021

At the center of the Milky Way exists a supermassive black hole four million times more massive than our sun. We haven't actually seen it, but we know it's there through numerous pieces of evidence. One, there's an extremely bright and compact radio signal coming from that location. Two, astronomers have observed dozens of stars dancing around it at high speeds. And three, in 2018, scientists detected clumps of gas nearby moving at about 30% the speed of light, consistent with hot gas orbiting a black hole. So this black hole is there and it's big – supermassive, in fact! But as dense...

You Are (Probably) Going to Be Infected With the Coronavirus

Ross Pomeroy - August 2, 2021

It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. It may not be next week. It may not be this month, when the rapid ascension of the Delta variant in the United States could send confirmed daily case counts spiking to 200,000 or more before settling down again. It may not even be next year. But someday, you will almost certainly be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. This uncomfortable fact may come as a surprise to many Americans, particularly to those who have spent hours sanitizing surfaces and groceries, who have dutifully adorned a mask even when not required to do so, and who have made...

One of the Greatest Debates About Consciousness Involves Zombies

Ross Pomeroy - July 27, 2021

An influential subset of philosophers has been debating 'zombies' for decades, and not the sort you see in horror movies and television shows. While the common conception of a zombie is of a ravenous, flesh-eating corpse, the philosophical version is decidedly less macabre. It's simply a person – one who behaves and looks just like everyone else – but who lacks consciousness, most basically defined as awareness of internal and external existence. This hypothetical entity, first conceived back in the 1970s and subsequently popularized in the mid-1990s by New York University...

Four Scientific Questions We May Never Know the Answers To

Ross Pomeroy - July 19, 2021

Questions set the scientific method in motion. Without that initial curiosity, that "I wonder...", that "What if...", we would not have the technology, the medicine, nor the knowledge that we have today. But not all questions have readily attainable answers. Despite our formidable advances in probing reality over the years, there are some things we are still incapable of concretely knowing. One day, that could change, but for these topics it's currently hard to fathom how. Here are four questions that humans may never know the answers to:   Do You See Red Like I See Red? What does 'red'...


'Time-Traveling' on an Airplane: One of the Cheapest Tests of Relativity

Ross Pomeroy - July 15, 2021

One of the most mind-bending aspects of Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity is time dilation. Time moves more slowly for a person in motion compared to a person at rest. This effect also applies in gravitational fields. Someone closer to a gravitationally-dense body like a black hole would be subject to a slowdown in time compared to others farther away. Mind you, life wouldn't proceed in 'slow motion' for these people. Everything would seem normal within their own frames of reference. The relative differences would only be noticed when everybody meets up. In our own existence, we really...

Why Americans May Be Dependent on Processed Cereals

Ross Pomeroy - July 12, 2021

Many American consumers are skipping the cereal aisle in grocery stores, viewing its contents as basically boxed candy. That’s understandable. A lot of cereals are chock-full of added sugars and refined grains, which can contribute to obesity and metabolic dysfunction. Ironically, at the same time, there may be no aisle more essential to the Americans’ health. That’s because cereals have become the de facto source for Americans’ micronutrients. For decades, cereal manufacturers have fortified their products with synthetic vitamins and minerals, and now, we’re...

What If an Alien Probe Visited Earth?

Ross Pomeroy - July 6, 2021

Popular media portrayals of extraterrestrials visiting Earth have tended to display the dramatic: giant spaceraft, killer robots, and nefarious aliens. A more realistic scenario is decidedly more mundane, but still undeniably world-shattering: a single, robotic probe, visiting Earth in orbit or landing as a rover. Back in 1998, Allen Tough, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto and an expert in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) before his death in 2012, postulated that there might be alien civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy with the ability to send out...

The 11,000-Year-Old Site Where Neolithic Humans Got Absolutely Hammered

Ross Pomeroy - June 29, 2021

Nestled near the top of a gentle sloping hill in the Southeastern Anatolia region of Turkey, surrounded by picturesque views of coarse, grassy savannah stretching into the distant horizon, rests the ruins of an ancient site dated to between 9,400 and 11,000 years ago. This is Göbekli Tepe. Though its dilapidated stones and worn-down pillars might hint at humble, solemn uses, archaeological examinations over the past decade have revealed a more convivial truth: Göbekli Tepe may have hosted some truly epic parties. Southern Anatolia is at the northern end of the Fertile Crescent, a...


Five Science Brain Teasers That May Leave You Stumped

Ross Pomeroy - June 22, 2021

The science-minded tend to love brain teasers, so as the RCS editor, I've been lucky to stumble upon a few of them over the years. I'd like to share five of my favorites. For some of you, they might be easy, for others, deceptively challenging, but all of them teach us something. And that's what really matters! You'll find the answers below the image of Star Trek's Data and Geordi, dressed as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. 1. A semi-truck with an enclosed trailer full of perched birds needs to cross a rickety, worn bridge. If all the birds took flight at the same time, will it reduce the...

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...