Simanaitis Says

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A TRIAD OF SCIENCE TIDBITS

THE NOVEMBER 12, 2021 ISSUE of Science magazine had an array of interesting topics, among them the Genetics of Aging in Rockfishes (they live to 150 years), Cash Incentives, Ethics, and COVID-19 Vaccination (should people be paid to care for themselves and us?), and Telescope Name Strikes Discordant Note for Many (NASA bureaucrat James Webb also had a hand in the  “lavender scare,” which targeted hundreds of gays and lesbians in the 1950s). Each, an interesting topic, but not exactly of Tidbit category. 

Three others caught my eye, however. Here they are.

Scientists Are Human. Science Editor-in-Chief H. Holden Thorp devotes his editorial to “Self-inflected Wounds,” foibles generated by the scientific community in discussing origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

H. Holden Thorp, North Carolina-born 1964, American chemist, professor, and entrepreneur. Editor-in-Chief, AAAS Science; former Provost of Washington University, St. Louis; former Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“There are details here,” Thorp writes, “that are hard to explain in a cable news hit.” 

Furthermore, Thorp says, “Scientists have consistently put forward a picture of themselves as highly objective automatons governed solely by their data, when in reality, science is a messy, human process subject to all features of human frailty.”

Thorp advises, “It may seem unfair that scientists are being held to such a high standard. But this is where we find ourselves right now. So, let’s strive to be much more thoughtful, because ineptness can cut deep and damaging wounds.”

Our Moon’s Origin. Science’s “In Other Journals” section has Caroline Ash and Jesse Smith asking ‘Did Theia Impact Earth Twice?” They’re citing a paper in Planet. Sci. J., 2:200 by E. Asphaug et al who suggest our Moon resulted not from a single impact, but a double hit.

The first encounter would have been a hit-and-run grazing by a proto-planet referred to as Theia (named for the Greek Titan Goddess of sight and heavenly light). Geophysical and geochemical evidence shows that debris from this grazing would have been left mostly on Earth, though orbits of both planets would have been affected.

Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech from Wikipedia.

Less than a million years later, a giant impact between Earth and Theia would have destroyed the latter and formed our Moon.

Never Too Old to Learn. The Science headline in its “News” section reads “Octogenarian Earns Physics Ph.D.,” and it’s a tale of striving for life’s goals: “This fall,” Science writes, “the 89-year-old hematologist earned a doctorate in theoretical physics from Brown University.”

As a young man, Science writes, Manfred Steiner “dreamed of pursuing physics but his mother and uncle persuaded him to focus on medicine. He obtained his M.D. in 1955 and a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1967 before serving on the medical faculty at Brown from 1968 to 1994.”

Science continues, “Steiner began taking physics courses there in 2000 and successfully defended his thesis in September, the university announced last week.”

In 2020,” Science reports, “only 1.2% of recipients of doctorates from U.S. institutions in the physical and earth sciences were over age 45, according to the National Survey of Earned Doctorates. The median age was 29.6 years.” 

Gee, I was a spring chicken: When I got my Ph.D. in math, I was 26.666…. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021 

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