Why America’s Christian foundation is a myth

A new book by constitutional attorney Andrew Seidel takes on Christian nationalism.

  • A new book by attorney Andrew Seidel, 'The Founding Myth: Why Christian nationalism Is Un-American', takes on the myth of America's Christian founding.
  • Christian nationalism is the belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation on Christian principles, and that the nation has strayed from that original foundation.
  • Judeo-Christian principles are fundamentally opposed to the principles on which America was built, argues Seidel.
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Made in the USA

So much of the world you know was made possible by Intel founder Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the integrated circuit.

Sponsored by Intel The Nantucket Project
  • In this awe-inspiring short documentary, Michael Malone, author of The Intel Trinity, traces the history of Silicon Valley technology, starting with the integrated circuit, invented by Intel co-founder Robert Noyce.
  • Ever wondered how Moore's Law came about, and who it's named after? Gordon Moore, Intel's other founder and the law's namesake, explains the remarkable growth and improvements to quality of life made possible by the integrated circuit.
  • With quantum computing on the horizon, there's no telling how technology will change humanity in the next decades. That's a cause for excitement, and trepidation; new technology requires new cautions.
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Microplastics in the soil point to another potential ecosystem collapse

When these particles are eaten by earthworms, the results are not good.

  • New research from Anglia Ruskin University states that microplastics in soil are causing earthworms to lose weight.
  • Soil affected by microplastics produces less crop yield due to less productive earthworms and lower pH levels.
  • If this trend continues, our entire agricultural system could be compromised.
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Political engagement online takes work, too. Here’s why.

When it comes to effectively propagating a message in the modern day, few do it quite like internet activists.

  • Groups with more resources, more organizational infrastructure, and more conservatives leanings tend to use the internet for political activism more so than their working class, left-leaning counterparts.
  • Building a political movement with a strong online component takes a tremendous amount of work and expertise, such as understanding how to leverage algorithms on social media to better propagate a message.
  • When it comes to sending out a message online to as wide an audience as possible, be mindful to develop ways to not just reach those who have the time and resources to be constantly online.
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Forgotten Nazi pesticide rediscovered — it was safer than DDT

For decades, Americans sprayed the notorious pesticide DDT all over their homes and fields. But it turns out we may have known about — and ignored — a safer alternative used by the Nazi regime.

Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • DDT, or dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, was an extremely popular pesticide during World War II up until the '70s, when it was banned.
  • DDT was believed to be extremely safe, but it turns out this was only due to enthusiasm for the pesticide drummed up by its efficacy during World War II.
  • Researchers have uncovered a far more effective pesticide that Allied forces wound up ignoring, in part because of its association with the German forces.

When DDT, or dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, first came into use as a commercial pesticide, it was hailed as "magic," a "miracle," as part of "the world of tomorrow." As crystals of DDT come into contact with their intended arthropod targets, they open up their neurons' sodium ion channels, forcing the neurons to fire uncontrollably and leading to spasms and eventual death. In many ways, DDT was a magical pesticide — unlike others, pests didn't have to eat it, they just had to come into contact with it; it kept working long after it had been applied; and it seemed harmless to humans and many other beneficial insects.

But nobody uses DDT anymore because it is very much not harmless to humans and other beneficial insects. It's incredibly toxic, and during World War II and the few years after it was applied liberally throughout American homes with no understanding of its overall environmental effects.

DDT's half-life ranges from 22 days to 30 years — that long-lasting effect that seemed to be a boon at first turned out instead to be a curse. Agricultural runoff ensured that DDT found its way into the bodies off a variety of fish, where it accumulated and then passed on to predators feeding on the fish. It broke down the eggshells of bird species, making it more difficult for them to reproduce. Because of this, the bald eagle was in serious risk of extinction prior to the 1972 ban of DDT. In humans, DDT lowers semen quality, makes spontaneous abortions more likely, and increases developing children's risk for autism.

Rediscovering a forgotten pesticide

Xiaolong Zhu and Jingxiang Yang, NYU Department of Chemistry

A monofluoro analog of DDT, as seen through an optical microscope. Solid fluoridated forms of DDT killed insects more quickly than did DDT.

Of course, DDT hadn't been universally accepted as a harmless wonder pesticide, but the general public was generally enthusiastic about its use. In part, this was because of its incredible efficacy in World War II.

Wars bring thousands of soldiers into close contact and forces unhygienic conditions. Malaria and typhus epidemics frequently lasted long after conflicts ended. In World War I's Eastern Front alone, for instance, typhus infected an estimated 30 million. During the war, 1.5 million soldiers would also become infected with malaria. Strategists were eager to jump on any solution that could be used to hold off the lice and mosquitoes that formed the war's deadliest fighting force.

So, despite potential environmental concerns, the short-term benefits of a pesticide made it a strategic necessity. Furthermore, DDT's costs were more acceptable during wartime, where casualties were expected and where the risk posed by pest-borne diseases were far higher than the risk posed by a toxic pesticide. Both sides knew this. However, the Germans didn't use DDT. Instead, they used fluorinated DDT, or DFDT.

But after the war, DFDT was relegated to the history books as an understudied, presumably less effective form of DDT. That is, until researchers from New York University stumbled across the forgotten chemical during their studies of crystallized insecticides.

"We set out to study the growth of crystals in a little-known insecticide and uncovered its surprising history, including the impact of World War II on the choice of DDT — and not DFDT — as a primary insecticide in the 20th century," said Bart Kahr, study co-author, in a statement.

Kahr and colleagues were surprised to discover that DFDT appeared to function more effectively than DDT, killing mosquitos up to four times faster. "Speed thwarts the development of resistance," said study co-author Michael Ward. "Insecticide crystals kill mosquitoes when they are absorbed through the pads of their feet. Effective compounds kill insects quickly, possibly before they are able to reproduce."

Not only does a faster-acting compound mean that mosquitos and other pests are less likely to reproduce and develop resistance, but it also means that less material needs to be used, potentially mitigating the environmental concerns that led to DDT's eventual ban.

Why the Allies forgot about DFDT

After World War II, Allied forces were skeptical of the German's claims regarding DFDT's faster action and reduced lethality to mammals. One particularly dismissive report read, "The German claims as to the superior insecticidal action of their [DFDT], in comparison to DDT, are not clearly supported by their meager and inadequate tests against houseflies." Selling DFDT to the public, too, would have been a difficult task. As World War II drew to a close, news was trickling in about how another German-made pesticide called Zyklon B was being used.

Thus, DDT became the pesticide of the 20th century, even despite Paul Müller, the chemist who discovered DDT's pesticidal capabilities, advocating for the use of DFDT in his 1948 Nobel Prize speech. While more research is needed to truly quantify DFDT's environmental impact, one can't help but wonder if the decades of environmental degradation wrought by DDT could have been avoided had we taken a closer look at its alternative.

Amazon set to be next big U.S. defense contractor — critics urge for 'effective oversight'

"We seem to be racing toward a new configuration of government and industry without having fully thought through all of the implications," Steve Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, told MIT Technology Review.

Image source: SOPA Images / Getty
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The U.S. Department of Defense is choosing between Amazon and Microsoft as the winner of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract.
  • JEDI is a massive cloud-computing deal reportedly worth $10 billion.
  • Amazon appears to be the favorite. But it remains unclear how such a partnership between industry and government would affects concerns over privacy and the storage of sensitive military data.
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Nudging meat off the menu

How do you convince people to break the habit of a lifetime?

Politics & Current Affairs

To keep global heating below 2°C, the world's appetite for meat must change.

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