Boing Boing 

Why oversimplified science news headlines may not be healthier for you

Here's why I wish SEO didn't factor into science news: the hunger for traffic encourages headline writers to tart up the findings of studies beyond recognition, and away from more boring truths. Case in point, this NPR item, forwarded to me by more than one friend: "Why Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You."

This headline is amplified by secondary and tertiary outlets, Facebooked and tweeted, each time diluting the actual science in the story to concentrations so weak, they might as well be labeled homeopathic tincture of news.

But let's dig further. The study it references, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, examined a number of existing studies and comes to a more nuanced conclusion than the viral headline suggests. Quote:

The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Oh, and,

Studies were heterogeneous and limited in number, and publication bias may be present.

So the meta-study of all these studies concludes that existing science shows consumption of organic produce is associated with lower levels of pesticide exposure. And, that there is no conclusive evidence from existing studies that, say, an organic apple will always be higher in nutrients than an apple grown with man-made chemical pesticides and the like.

Well, fine. I buy organic when possible not because I presume the organic apple has more vitamins, but because we don't really know how chemical pesticide residues affect our bodies over longer periods of time (not to mention intergenerational DNA, or the bodies of farm workers, or our environment). It makes sense to me that the less of those chemicals we use and consume, the better.

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Brain Rot: Hip Hop Family Tree, Mr. Magic, The Juice Crew, and Spyder D

Read the rest of the Hip Hop Family Tree comics!

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Jobs reincarnated

The late Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs has been reincarnated as a handsome warrior-philosopher in a mystical palace floating over Cupertino, a state of affairs that the Wall Street Journal reports is "impossible to corroborate".

Better services, less piracy

John Brownlee on why he stopped pirating music:

It’s clear to me, in retrospect, that my piracy was mostly mere collecting, and like the most fetishistic of collectors, it was conducted with mindless voracity. A good collection is supposed to be made up of relics, items that conjure up memories, feelings and ideas for the owner so strongly that he gets pleasure in simply being in close contact with them. A tended garden. My collection was nothing like this: it was just a red weed, swallowing up and corroding anything I did care about within its indiscriminating mass.

tl;dr newer streaming/subscription services, such as Spotify and Rdio, have nailed it.

Legends of Zita the Space Girl: a worthy followup to the most excellent kids' science fiction graphic novel

Back in June, I reviewed the delightful science fiction kids' comic Zita the Spacegirl and mentioned that the sequel would be out in September. That sequel, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, comes out today, and is a most worthy follow-on to a most excellent kids' comic.

The first volume of Zita introduced us to Zita, a regular girl from Earth, throws herself through a transdimensional portal to rescue a friend, and comes to ally herself with a motley band of robots, aliens, a giant mouse, and a rogueish showman named Piper, fighting off a death-cult that is determined to perform a human sacrifice to avert a deadly asteroid impact.

In Legend, Zita is now a celebrity, travelling from world to world with Piper and her friends, being exhibited to gawkers who want a glimpse of the hero who saved Scriptorium. On one nameless space-station -- a worldlet every bit as weird and hilarious as the setting in book one -- Zita meets a very special admirer amidst the throng. Her new friend is a discontinued doppelganger robot with the power to assume the likeness of anyone it meets. The poor robot has been literally doomed to the scrapheap, the last of its kind, and when it meets Zita, they swap identities, and Zita gets a moment of much-needed respite from the crowds.

This seems like a great deal to Zita (and her giant mouse friend, Pizzicato) until the robot decides to make the switch permanent, and takes off with Piper and Zita's friends to attempt the rescue of yet another world from an invasion of bloodthirsty Star Hearts. Zita is taken in by another band of travelling performers, who, like Piper, are more than they seem.

What follows is another action-packed, high tension adventure story that is marvellously inventive, beautifully drawn, and filled with both comedy and real pathos that had both me and my four year old very worried for both the heroes and the villains in this story.

As I said, this is a most worthy follow-on to a fabulous first volume, and it ends in a way that makes it clear that creator Ben Hatke has more volumes to come.

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl

Cory and Charlie Stross coming to Lexington tomorrow; then Brooklyn, Brookline and Rochester

Tomorrow morning, Charlie Stross and I kick off our tour for Rapture of the Nerds tour, with stops in Lexington, KY; Brooklyn, NY: Brookline, MA; and Rochester, NY. Be there or be left behind!

Tuesday linkdump

* The Haunted Clock: outstanding analysis of all the clever that went into the chiming-13 grandfather clock in Disney's Haunted Mansions. Bonus trivia: a Simpsons animator is a former HM butler, and sneaks Mansion trivia into many episodes.

* Slowed down birdsong sounds like classical music. Seriously. It's like Animal Kingdom Inception. (via)

* European Commission Looks To Backdoor In ACTA By Pushing For Same Results Through 'Voluntarism'. Because heavily lobbied, totally compromised Eurocrats know more than politicians, the public, scholars, industry and tech experts about how to run the Internet.

* Venom. DeviantArt's Captainsarasparrow shows just how totally awesome facepaint can be. (Neatorama)

* VICTORIAN PROFESSIONAL MOURNERS, 1800s. Imagine how awesome being a goth would be if it was still possible to command a handsome salary simply by standing around, looking sad and wearing black. Hot Topic should pitch the world's funeral directors on a revival of this noble trade.

* The Incoherence of Antonin Scalia. Judge Richard Posner eviscerates Judge Antonin Scalia's new book. It's a judgefight! Great read. I just wish Posner's own rulings were a little more coherent.

* Byrne's BAM Bike Racks. David Byrne designed the new bike racks for TK

* 21 World War I Recruitment Posters From Around the Globe. (via)

* Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck Whittled Down for Barneys's Holiday Campaign. Body dismorphia for the animated set. (via)

* "We asked for nothing. They offered us less" - Ontario's teachers. The Ontario government manufactures a labour crisis to help it win key by-elections, punishes hardworking teachers for political advantage.

* Polycistic Kidney Disease Cake. De-gross-a-licious!

* 2012 Hugo Award Winners. Among Others wins best novel -- and what a book it is, too!

* How copyright enforcement robots killed the Hugo Awards [UPDATED]. The Ustream live-cast of the Hugo Awards died suddenly when a cleared, authorized Doctor Who clip (from an episode for which Neil Gaiman won the Hugo) triggered Ustream's third-party piracy-detection app. Ustream apparently has no way of turning this off once it's triggered.

* Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, thinks homeopathy works. The UK LibCon government continues to put flaming, irredeemable shitheads into positions of importance. I thought that sticking George Osborne in the Chancellor's office was as bad as it could possibly get, and yet... As the Telegraph's Tom Chivers says, "This is not unlike putting someone who thinks the Second World War began in 1986 in charge of the Department of Education."