Pulitzer Prize-winning "Toms River", an environmental precautionary tale you need to know about

Pulitzer Prize-winning "Toms River", an environmental precautionary tale you need to know about

            Toms River, by a friend, Dan Fagin, came out a year ago, to deservedly great reviews. It’s an epic piece of science journalism and a powerful human story, intelligently woven into a compelling narrative. It offers powerful lessons about environmental risks and risk perception, our fear of industrial chemicals, our mistrust of chemical companies, and the frustrating limits of science to answer important questions about public and environmental health.

            It has just won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, and anyone who knows Dan is thrilled for him. Anyone devoted to helping the public understand environmental issues, as Dan and I do, and who wants greater awareness of the psychology of risk perception specifically, as this blog does, is delighted.

            I wrote about Toms River when it came out, less of a review per se and more about the issues it raises, which I reported on back in my days as an environmental journalist for a TV station in Boston.

            Please check out that post, Toms River, Woburn, and the sad lack of clean answers about 'Cancer Clusters' and certainly get and read Dan’s wonderful and important book.

A brief history of human dignity

What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.

Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree / AdobeStock
Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
  • That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
  • We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
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Astrophysicists: Gamma-ray jets exceed the speed of light

Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.

An artist's drawing of a particle jet emanating from a black hole at the center of a blazar.

Credit: DESY, Science Communication Lab (used with permission by Astronomy Picture of the Day, which is co-managed by Robert Nemiroff at Michigan Tech).
Surprising Science
  • Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
  • The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
  • The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
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Is free will an illusion?

Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.

Sponsored by John Templeton Foundation
  • The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
  • According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
  • "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."

The Arecibo telescope has collapsed: A look at its 57-year history

Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.

The Arecibo radio telescope

Credit: dennisvdwater via Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
  • Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
  • The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
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