Weekly Roundup

The stars of rap and physics align. wwnorton.tumblr.com

Happy Monday! Here for your reading pleasure is the second installment of AmericanScience’s Weekly Roundup, the official rundown of recent science news:

  • A former NFL wide receiver makes the case that the league should loosen its policy on marijuana and take measure to reduce players’ use of opioid painkillers.
  • Weill Cornell psychiatrist Anna Fels calls attention to studies suggesting beneficial effects of low levels of lithium in drinking water. For a different perspective on therapeutic lithium, check out the work of physician-critic David Healy.
  • Since 2004, the National Institutes of Health’s budget has dropped more than twenty percent. In a series of stories, NPR is following how research universities across the country are grappling with this sharp decline in funding. They’ve developed a searchable database where users can map NIH funding patterns for individual institutions. How is your institution faring?
  • Dave Kaiser — theoretical physicist, historian of science, and, most notably, friend of the Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA — did an AMA on spacetime, the origins of the universe, and other trifles.
  • Last week, Massachusetts district attorney Sam Sutter dropped all criminal charges against two environmental activists who used their lobster boat to block a coal freighter from reaching the Brayton Point Power Plant last May. The move was met with mixed responses; many climate change activists saw this as an important case to test whether the defense’s argument—that the men had acted out of necessity, given the imminent threat of climate change—would stand up in a court room. The DA, an environmentalist himself, explained that he dropped the charges because he felt the defendants were in the right, and told the men that he would see them at the People’s Climate March in NYC next week.
  • The National Park Service is pushing back against a proposed Grand Canyon development plan that would include the installation of a cable-car gondola to bring visitors from the rim of the Canyon to the Canyon floor.
  • Germany has become a world leader in renewable energy, inspiring other countries to follow the German example of energiewende – the “energy transition.” The NYT offers a great analysis of the economics of renewable energy, in particular how German efforts have created an economy of scale that has dramatically lowered prices for solar panels and wind turbines for everyone around the globe.
  • With the fall semester in full swing it seems appropriate to share Wellesley’s tips on how to email your professor. (hint: think twice about emoticon use.) The page is part of the College’s Project on Social Computing.
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