What is scientific consensus

You’ll most likely have seen instances where the term “scientific consensus” has been misused or misunderstood. People for example often confuse it with appeals to popular opinion or think it is the result of discussions or determined by a vote or just finding a compromise. Because of this, opinion polls – even if predominated by unqualified individuals – are used to argue that no scientific consensus exists for a particular topic even if it clearly does.

It’s important to note that a scientific consensus is not proof for a scientific theory but that it’s the result of converging lines of evidence all pointing to the same conclusion. It is therefore not a part of the scientific method but is actually a consequence of it. When people argue against a scientific consensus, they are usually

— source skepticalscience.com | BaerbelW | 30 Nov 2022

Nullius in verba


The Myth of Normal

the pandemic actually revealed to us how toxic our idea of normal has been, because it showed us the desperate need for human connection that we all have. But this is in a culture that has been isolating and atomizing individuals for a long time, where loneliness has been an epidemic for decades. It showed the noxious effect of racism and inequality, because the people who had the greatest risk for being affected by COVID were those of a lower social class and of people of color.

The normal that we came from, in my perspective, was already a toxic normal. We don’t want to go back to it, because my contention in this book is what we consider to be normal in this society is actually neither natural or healthy, and, in fact, it’s a cause of much human pathology, mental and physical. And actually, people’s pathologies, what we call abnormalities, whether it’s mental or physical illness, are actually normal responses to what is an abnormal culture.

the key here is trauma. Trauma is a psychological wound that people sustain. And I’m saying that in this society, most of us, because of the nature of the culture, the way we raise children, the way we have to relate to each other, the very values of a society are traumatizing for a lot of people, so that it’s false to say that some people are normal and others are abnormal. In fact, we’re all on a spectrum of woundedness, which has great impact on how we relate to each other and on our health.

— source democracynow.org | Sep 16, 2022

Nullius in verba

The Neandertal in Our Genes

Scientists have always been fascinated by the question of human origins: When and where did modern humans—Homo sapiens—first appear? What distinguishes us from other members of the genus Homo and enabled us to develop such unprecedented culture and society?

Indeed, hardly any question fascinates humanity as much as our own roots. For thousands of years, clerics, scholars and philosophers have been racking their brains about where we come from, who are we and where are we going. The French painter Paul Gauguin was so captivated by that line of inquiry that he even dedicated a painting so named in the 19th century. The work, which deals with both the meaning and the transience of life, remains his most famous.

We have come a lot closer to answering these big questions thanks in part to the work of the paleogeneticist Svante Pääbo. He achieved what others had long thought impossible: he decoded the genome of Neandertals, a relative of modern humans who went extinct around 30,000 years ago. The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm honored him

— source scientificamerican.com | Daniela Mocker | Oct 4, 2022

Nullius in verba

The Forgotten Life of Einstein’s First Wife

Today, 19 December, marks the 141th anniversary of the birth of Mileva Marić Einstein. But who remembers this brilliant scientist? While her husband, Albert Einstein is celebrated as perhaps the best physicist of the 20th century, one question about his career remains: How much did his first wife contribute to his groundbreaking science? While nobody has been able to credit her with any specific part of his work, their letters and numerous testimonies presented in the books dedicated to her(1-5) provide substantial evidence on how they collaborated from the time they met in 1896 up to their separation in 1914. They depict a couple united by a shared passion for physics, music and for each other. So here is their story.

Mileva Marić was born in Titel in Serbia in 1875. Her parents, Marija Ruzić and Miloš Marić, a wealthy and respected member of his community, had two other children: Zorka and Miloš Jr. Mileva attended high school the last year girls were admitted in Serbia. In 1892, her father obtained the authorization of the Minister of Education to allow her to attend physics lectures reserved to boys. She completed her high school in Zurich in 1894 and her family then moved to Novi Sad. Mileva’s classmates described her as brilliant but not talkative. She liked to get to the bottom of things, was perseverant and worked towards her goals.

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm in Germany in 1879 and had one sister Maja. His father, Hermann, was an industrial. His mother, Pauline Koch came from a rich family. Albert was

— source blogs.scientificamerican.com | Pauline Gagnon | Dec 19, 2016

Nullius in verba

No evidence that depression is caused by chemical imbalance

After decades of study, there remains no clear evidence that serotonin levels or serotonin activity are responsible for depression, according to a major review of prior research led by UCL scientists.

The new umbrella review — an overview of existing meta-analyses and systematic reviews — published in Molecular Psychiatry, suggests that depression is not likely caused by a chemical imbalance, and calls into question what antidepressants do. Most antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which were originally said to work by correcting abnormally low serotonin levels. There is no other accepted pharmacological mechanism by which antidepressants affect the symptoms of depression.

The popularity of the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory of depression has coincided with a huge increase in the use of antidepressants. Prescriptions for antidepressants have risen dramatically since the 1990s, with one in six adults in England and 2% of teenagers now being prescribed an antidepressant in a given year.

Many people take antidepressants because they have been led to believe their depression has a biochemical cause, but this new research suggests this belief is not grounded in evidence.

— source University College London | Jul 20, 2022

Nullius in verba

Teachers’ Forum Condemns NCERT’s Decision to Remove Chapters on Climate Change

After widespread outrage, a teacher’s forum has also stepped in to criticise NCERT for removing crucial chapters concerning climate and weather change from students’ syllabus and has urged a rethink on the issue and reintroduction of the chapters. In a statement released recently, Teachers Against Climate Crisis (TACC) highlighted said chapters on the greenhouse effect, weather, climate and popular environment movements from syllabi for classes 6th to 12th were crucial and should not have been removed.

The deleted chapters include an entire chapter on the greenhouse effect from the Class 11 geography syllabus, a chapter on weather, climate, and water from the Class 7 syllabus, and information about the monsoon from the Class 9 syllabus. The forum also voiced concern that information about popular people’s movements like the Chipko movement and the Narmada Bachao Andolan had been removed from the “Democratic Politics” syllabus as part of the “Popular Struggles and Movements” course.

— source newsclick.in | 12 Jul 2022

Nullius in verba

Scientists discover new ‘origins of life’ chemical reactions

Four billion years ago, the Earth looked very different than it does today, devoid of life and covered by a vast ocean. Over the course of millions of years, in that primordial soup, life emerged. Researchers have long theorized how molecules came together to spark this transition. Now, scientists at Scripps Research have discovered a new set of chemical reactions that use cyanide, ammonia and carbon dioxide — all thought to be common on the early earth — to generate amino acids and nucleic acids, the building blocks of proteins and DNA.

“We’ve come up with a new paradigm to explain this shift from prebiotic to biotic chemistry,” says Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, PhD, an associate professor of chemistry at Scripps Research, and lead author of the new paper, published July 28, 2022 in the journal Nature Chemistry. “We think the kind of reactions we’ve described are probably what could have happened on early earth.”

In addition to giving researchers insight into the chemistry of the early earth, the newly discovered chemical reactions are also useful in certain manufacturing processes, such

— source Scripps Research Institute | Jul 28, 2022

Nullius in verba

How Humans’ Ability to Digest Milk Evolved from Famine and Disease

The dawn of dairy farming in Europe occurred thousands of years before most people evolved the ability to drink milk as adults without becoming ill. Now researchers think they know why: lactose tolerance was beneficial enough to influence evolution only during occasional episodes of famine and disease, explaining why it took thousands of years for the trait to become widespread1.

The theory — backed up by an analysis of thousands of pottery shards and hundreds of ancient human genomes as well as sophisticated modelling — explains how the ability to digest milk became so common in modern Europeans, despite being almost non-existent in early dairy farmers. This ability, known as lactase persistence, comes from an enzyme that breaks down milk sugar and usually shuts down after young children are weaned.

The study, published in Nature on 27 July, is the first major effort to quantify the forces that have shaped this trait, says Shevan Wilkin, a molecular archaeologist at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. “Lactase-persistence evolution was much more complicated than we ever thought.”

— source scientificamerican.com | Ewen Callaway | Jul 28, 2022

Nullius in verba

Alberuni’s Impressions of Brahminical Society in India

An excerpt from Indians: A Brief History of a Civilization by Namit Arora.

Central to ‘the Hindu world of thought’, writes Alberuni, ‘is that which the Brahmins think and believe, for they are specially trained for preserving and maintaining their religion. And this it is which we shall explain, viz. the belief of the Brahmins’. This declaration makes it clear which section of Indian society – and its ideas, beliefs and values – is the one Alberuni mostly describes in India (i.e., Alberuni’s India, 1030 CE, translated by Edward C. Sachau).

‘The Hindus have numerous books about all the branches of science,’ he writes. They ‘have books about the jurisprudence of their religion, on theosophy, on ascetics, on the process of becoming god and seeking liberation from the world’, on various schools of thought like Samkhya, Mimamsa, Nyaya, Yoga, Lokayata and many more. He feels overwhelmed at first, ‘How could anybody know the titles of all of them, more especially if he is not a Hindu, but a foreigner?’

But Alberuni rolls up his sleeves and dives right in. ‘I do not spare either trouble or money in collecting Sanskrit books… and in procuring for myself, even from very remote places, Hindu scholars who understand them and are able to teach me.’ He learns Sanskrit, finding it a difficult language due to its range and complexity, much like Arabic. He observes that the Hindus of north India speak Sanskrit in two registers, a

— source thewire.in | Namit Arora | 18/Apr/2021

Nullius in verba

Astronomers have spotted the farthest galaxy ever

An international team of astronomers, including researchers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, has spotted the most distant astronomical object ever: a galaxy. Named HD1, the galaxy candidate is some 13.5 billion light-years away and is described Thursday in the Astrophysical Journal. In an accompanying paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters, scientists have begun to speculate exactly what the galaxy is.

HD1 is extremely bright in ultraviolet light. It breaks the highest quasar redshift on record by almost a factor of two, a remarkable feat. HD1 was discovered after more than 1,200 hours of observing time with the Subaru Telescope, VISTA Telescope, UK Infrared Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope. HD1’s red color matched the expected characteristics of a galaxy 13.5 billion light-years away surprisingly well. The team then conducted follow-up observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to confirm the distance, which is 100 million light years further than GN-z11, the current record-holder for the furthest galaxy.

— source Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | Apr 7, 2022

Nullius in verba