Category Archives: Science

New article: coronavirus lingers on surfaces longer than we thought

While most cases of Covid-19 are surely contracted via interperson contact (hugging, respiratory droplets, talking next to someone, handshakes, and so on), this new article from Virology Journal, produced by five Australian researchers, suggests that the virus can linger on various surfaces substantially longer than we suspected, and those infection-bearing surfaces (called “fomites”) can carry […]

Once again: the supposed need for the self-justification of science

Reading the latest edition of The Chicago Maroon, our student newspaper, I saw an op-ed about self care by Ada Palmer, an associate professor of History. I’m not going to write about that; her piece is pretty straightforward and empathic towards our students, who will be having a rather stressful semester. Rather, when I looked […]

Why science needs philosophy: an op-ed in PNAS

Although some scientists (I believe Lawrence Krauss is one) have said that philosophy is useless to scientists, I’m not one of these miscreants. Although I recognize that philosophy can’t find out truths about the real world as opposed to “truths” within logical systems, it can certainly be an aid to thinking about science. Two examples […]

Can scientific theories be falsified? One scientist says no

The provocative title of the Scientific American Article below, by physicist Mano Singham, is, I think, deeply misleading.  The idea that science progresses by eliminating incorrect explanations, which is what falsification is all about, seems to me not only a good strategy, but one that’s historically worked very well. To say it’s a myth is […]

An innocent joke about worms triggers a scientific firestorm on Twitter

I’d heard about this kerfuffle, and wrote it off as a tempest in a petri dish until I saw this article in the Daily Beast. Surprisingly, the Beast, which I thought was on the liberal side of the spectrum,  took sides against the Perpetually Offended, as it should have given the ridiculous nature of the […]

Boudry on scientism and “ways of knowing”

It’s been a while since we’ve discussed either scientism or “ways of knowing” on this site (the two ideas are connected). I’ll reiterate my views very briefly. “Scientism” has two meanings, as Maarten Boudry notes in his piece below, but the most common non-pejorative meaning is that of science making claims outside of its ambit, […]

Recent paucity of science posts

More than one reader has mentioned to me the absence of science posts on this site, and Malgorzata, who translates them into Polish for Listy, has also noted this.  The reason is not that they take work, which they do (about three or four times the time of a “normal” post), but because I haven’t found […]

Five timely readings for the day

I have nothing to say, but it’s okay (Good morning!).  Actually, duck duties in the pouring rain (yes, I got soaked, but in a good cause), combined with overdue grocery shopping, has put a crimp in my day. But, mirabile dictu, I have five—count them, five—pieces that are worth your time to read. I’ll give […]

Paper retracted for title and wording: “Where there are girls, there are cats.”

I haven’t seen the original version of this paper in Biological Conservation, which investigates the correlates of feral cat density in 30 Chinese universities, but a piece in Retraction Watch, below, implies that the title (and perhaps other bits of the paper) caused its retraction by Elsevier (the publisher) until until it was changed. The […]

“This is the nice thing about science . . . “

by Greg Mayer Mark Mulligan, a vaccine researcher at NYU, was asked by NBC News if he was optimistic about the prospects for the covid-19 vaccine he is working on.  He replied, This is the nice thing about science. You don’t have to have faith or belief. (NBC’s transcript, for some reason, edited out “. […]