November 12, 2009
What You Should Read — Sesame Street and the Environment, Smart Pigs, Vaccines, the Amazon, and more…
Here’s a roundup of the best of what I’ve been reading in the past couple of weeks:
Are global warming and deforestation too scary for Sesame Street?: A couple of years ago Sesame Workshop named these as adult topics too scary for young children. Instead they focus on teaching kids to respect the Earth. Climate change and deforestation are scary, and I’m okay with keeping them away from five-year-olds. Am I wrong?
One Giant Leap seen again: Bad Astronomer Phil Plait has images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter of the Apollo 11 landing site. You can even see the lunar lander footpads.
Pigs Prove to Be Smart, if Not Vain: Pigs successfully pass the mirror self-recognition test, a sign of cognition. But if pigs are smarter than we think, will we still eat them? (No bacon would be a bad thing.)
An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All: This is the article that inspired my Vaccine Week last month. You may have also seen Does the Vaccine Matter? in The Atlantic. I left that one out because, despite the headline on the cover, it’s not about swine flu—it’s about whether or not vaccinating the elderly against the seasonal flu saves any lives. An interesting question, but that story misses the boat, as was pointed out on Respectful Insolence.
What Ever Happened to the Amazon Rain Forest?: Brenden Borrell (author of great Smithsonian stories on chilis and cassowaries) tackles the issue of whether or not the Amazon rain forest has been saved. Short answer—not yet.
And though I had been looking forward to reading Superfreakonomics (having been a fan of Freakonomics), I’ve decided to skip it. I’ve now read several essays critical of their climate change chapter, but it’s the open letter on Real Climate from geophysicist Raymond T. Pierrehumbert that has convinced me that the Freakonomics team desperately needs a fact checker. I’d offer my services, but Smithsonian keeps me pretty busy.
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