RealClearScience Newton Blog

Is Eudaimonic Happiness the Best Kind of Happiness?

Ross Pomeroy - October 26, 2021

There's a common perception that entrepreneurs and small business owners are overworked and stressed out. Both of those things can be true on occasion. At the same time, 94% of small business owners say they are happy with their lives, and 81% attribute this happiness to their entrepreneurship. The former value easily tops employees' self-reported happiness. In a 2012 survey of 11,000 graduates of the Wharton MBA program, respondents running their own businesses ranked themselves the most content. "Entrepreneurship" even dominated "income" as a predictor of happiness. The reason for this may...

What If We Had Subsidized Nuclear Power Like Renewables?

Ross Pomeroy - October 22, 2021

Recent news in the energy world has not been encouraging. Prices are rising rapidly due to a supply crunch coupled with blistering, post-pandemic demand. Renewables like wind and solar are faltering in an unprepared electrical grid. Coal burning is set to spike to make up for energy supply shortfalls at a time when the world needs to aggressively decarbonize. Some of this hardship might have been avoided if, over the past couple of decades, policy makers had the guts to support the safest, most reliable form of energy, which also happens to be carbon-free: nuclear. Instead, Germany is taking...

Law Enforcement Has Been Interrogating Incorrectly. Science Reveals a Better Way

Ross Pomeroy - October 19, 2021

On September 11, 2001, nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four planes and crashed them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in rural Pennsylvania, irrevocably altering the course of human events. 9/11 ushered in the United States' 'War on Terror'. To fight this global conflict, the George W. Bush administration allowed the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" – torture – by the Central Intelligence Agency and various components of the armed forces. Methods like beating, binding in contorted positions, subjection to deafening noise,...

10 Ways the Chinese Government Lied, Misled, and Messed Up Early on in the Pandemic

Ross Pomeroy - October 14, 2021

A plethora of politicians and government officials across the globe screwed up in their handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Chinese government, however, was acutely damaging with its ineptitude, because it, more than any other entity, had a chance to limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus when it first emerged in late 2019. Instead of trying to contain the virus with the help of the international community, however, the Chinese government lied, misled, and stalled. All of humanity has experienced the disastrous result of this negligence. In his new book, Uncontrolled Spread,...


Why Do Geniuses Commit Crime?

Ross Pomeroy - October 12, 2021

“Our society tends to regard as a sickness any mode of thought or behavior that is inconvenient for the system and this is plausible because when an individual doesn't fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a cure for a sickness and therefore as good.” The line between genius and insanity is a fine one indeed, as exemplified by former UC-Berkeley Professor Theodore J. Kaczynski, aka the "Unabomber", who wrote the words above. Kaczynski has an IQ of 167....

How to Fix Peer Review and Cure Science's Growing 'Cost Disease'

Ross Pomeroy - October 6, 2021

The engine of the modern scientific enterprise is peer review. When scientists complete a new study and seek to get it published in an academic journal, the journal's editor will send the paper out to some of the submitting scientist's colleagues to critique it. They'll judge the paper's quality and provide learned feedback. Remarkably, they do this for free, despite the fact that academic publishers are generally quite profitable, making money by disseminating finished scientific papers to libraries, academic institutions, and other researchers. Last year, psychologists Balazs Aczel and...

Are Humpback Whales and Killer Whales at War?

Ross Pomeroy - October 4, 2021

In the early 1980s, scientists Hal Whitehead and Carolyn Glass of the Newfoundland Institute for Cold Ocean Science observed for the first time scientifically something that whalers had anecdotally described numerous times in the past: killer whales (orcas) attacking humpback whales. On two occasions, while sailing off the coast of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic, Whitehead and Glass witnessed a dozen or more orcas harassing large groups of as many as thirty humpback whales. What they saw drilled home the findings of a previous study published in 1980 – 33% of the 756 humpbacks...

Five of the Most Heinous Nazi Medical Experiments

Ross Pomeroy - September 29, 2021

During the Holocaust, the Nazi Party's twisted 'ethics' yielded abominable medical experiments. When German doctors' ethos pivoted from focusing on the health of the individual to the collective health of society, horrible things could be justified at 'undesirable' individuals' expense so long as such actions promoted the wellbeing of everyone else. It was under this depraved mindset, seduced by the allure of limitless funding and resources, that Nazi scientists conducted all sorts of torturous experiments on unwilling human subjects, primarily in concentration camps. Over 15,000 people died...


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...