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Posts under ‘Technology, science, and math’

That sinking feeling

We’re a little lower to the ground these days. Or maybe it’s just that the ground itself is lower. GPS data show #Harveyflood was so large it flexed Earth’s crust, pushing #Houston down by ~2 cm! #EarthScience #HurricaneHarvey #txflood pic.twitter.com/88lNScJBq9 — Chris Milliner (@Geo_GIF) September 4, 2017 Chris Milliner, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Jet […]

The Texas Infectious Disease Readiness Task Force

We have such a thing, and at a time like this that’s good to know. Most Texans don’t regularly concern themselves with infectious diseases such as typhus, Ebola, Zika, or the plague. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, public health experts worry that tetanus and MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant skin infection, could become more prevalent. Thanks […]

Typhus in Texas

One more thing to worry about, in case you needed it. Strickland spent four days in a hospital receiving treatment and needed about a year to fully recover from the potentially fatal disease transmitted by fleas believed nowadays to be carried most abundantly by opossums and other backyard mammals that spread them to cats and […]

Hacking voting machines

I’m just going to leave this here. Google and Apple invite hackers to find flaws in their code and offer hefty rewards to those who find them. It’s a common practice in the industry. The government’s done it too, with programs like “Hack the Pentagon.” But opportunities to test how secure our voting machines are from hackers have […]

More birth control by mail options

Good to see. “We want women to see us and say, ‘These are people who believe that if you want birth control you should have it,’” said Hans Ganeskar, co-founder and CEO of Nurx, a California-based site founded in 2015 that can both dispense and prescribe by way of computer or app. Nurx (pronounced New […]

Let’s use mutant mosquitoes to fight Zika

What could possibly go wrong? The Bayou City’s teeming mosquito population spawns in dark, wet nooks and carries a slew of deadly tropical diseases that could ravage the region. So Houston is pondering a sneak attack, something akin to a Trojan Horse. Harris County officials are negotiating with a British biotech company, Oxitec, to create […]

To the moon!

If this is on your bucket list, you may be in luck. SpaceX, the ambitious rocket company headed by Elon Musk, wants to send a couple of tourists around the moon and back to Earth before the end of next year. If they manage that feat, the passengers would be the first humans to venture […]

Still talking vaccines and measles

Because it keeps needing to be talked about. Earlier this month, Dr. Peter J. Hotez, a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, detailed a disturbing prediction for 2017 in an op-ed for the New York Times: the country could be facing a measles outbreak, and […]

Trump and the anti-vaxxers

In case you needed another reason to dislike Donald Trump. President Trump’s embrace of discredited theories linking vaccines to autism has energized the anti-vaccine movement. Once fringe, the movement is becoming more popular, raising doubts about basic childhood health care among politically and geographically diverse groups. Public health experts warn that this growing movement is threatening one of […]

Some things never evolve

The SBOE, for instance. The Texas State Board of Education on Wednesday voted preliminarily for science standards that would keep in language that some say opens the door to creationism. The votes came a day after the board heard from scientists begging them to remove the language. Board members are set to hold a second […]

More on the STAR Voting System

The Chron updates us on the latest in modern voting technology. The drumbeat of election rigging and foreign hacking of voting machines have energized ongoing efforts to develop a new model of digital election equipment designed to produce instantly verifiable results and dual records for security. Election experts say this emerging system, one of three […]

Fire ant-killing robots

Let’s just luxuriate in the glory of that headline for a moment, shall we? Harley Myler is working on a “war of the worlds.” That’s what the Lamar Electrical Engineering Department chair calls his latest project: a walking robot that incinerates red fire ants. The idea is to use a camera to identify the species […]

Plague vaccines

Cool. More than six centuries after the Black Death wiped out more than a third of the population of Europe, a University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston team has shown that in experiments with rodents, their three vaccines effectively protected against the infection that causes the disease. Just as important, they did not cause […]

The coming measles outbreak

I hope we’re wrong about this. Peter Hotez used to worry mostly about vaccines for children in far-away places. An infectious diseases researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, Hotez is developing shots against diseases in poorer countries such as hookworm and schistosomiasis. But now, Hotez is anxious about children much closer to […]

We’re going to be fighting about vaccinations for a while

I wish it weren’t so, but it is. Texas is one of 18 states that allow non-medical exemptions to the vaccines required for school attendance. California had a similar law allowing non-medical exemptions, until last year when it enacted a law that has one of the strictest requirements in the country after a 2014 outbreak of measles traced […]

Who wants to go to Mars?

I imagine that sounds like a pretty good option to a lot of people right about now. Wealthy business leaders like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are creating buzz around and making progress toward the exploration of deep space, experts said Wednesday during SpaceCom in downtown Houston. “I think we’re entering an era of philanthropic […]

As long as we’re talking about improving our voting machines

Then this is what we should be talking about. [Travis] County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir called Rice University computer science professor Dan Wallach, who has been poking holes in voting-machine security for years. He’s testified before Congress on the subject. Now DeBeauvoir wanted him to design a new one. “Wow,” he says. “That doesn’t happen very […]

Texas versus the feds: A Series Of Tubes edition

Ken Paxton will never run out of reasons to sue the Obama administration. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is jumping into Ted Cruz’s fight to stop what the U.S. senator calls President Barack Obama’s illegal internet “giveaway.” Paxton and three other attorneys general filed a lawsuit Wednesday night aiming to halt the Obama administration’s plan […]

Rice prof wins MacArthur grant

Awesome! Babies were dying in the Malawi hospital and there was little Rebecca Richards-Kortum could do about it. For Richards-Kortum, a bioengineering professor at Rice University, it was a heartbreaking realization, one that haunted her as she toured the modest health care facility more than a decade ago. But her despair was quickly replaced by […]

Too many kids are not getting vaccinated

We let this happen, thanks to the fervor of a vocal minority. The number of Texans who exempt their children from vaccination for non-medical reasons rose nearly 9 percent last school year, continuing a now 12-year-long trend that public health officials worry could eventually leave communities vulnerable to outbreaks of preventable diseases. The new numbers […]

Want to know how close you live to a polluter?

There’s an app for that. More than two million Texans live within a half-mile of an oil and gas facility, putting them at risk of exposure to toxic fumes, according to a new app released Wednesday by national environmental groups. The online tool — which includes a searchable map — places about a fifth of […]

If we can’t ban it, we’ll BS about it

The “it” in question is of course abortion, with the state of Texas lying to women about its effects and risks. Death and infertility were just two of the risks a doctor described to Kryston Skinner when she chose to have an abortion last year. The 23-year-old knew it wasn’t the right time for her […]

Another bad year for Kemp’s ridley turtles

This does not look good. The nesting season for the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is ending with zero nests found on either Galveston Island or the Bolivar Peninsula for the first time in at least a decade, although the number rose for the entire coast. The decline in nesting on the Upper Texas Gulf […]

First baby affected by Zika born in Texas

Won’t be the last, unfortunately. A baby boy born with microcephaly in Harris County is the first Zika-affected infant in Texas, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Wednesday. The baby’s mother contracted Zika in Colombia, and the baby was infected in the womb, according Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health. […]

Building a better mosquito trap

I love this story. Harris County officials are teaming up with tech-giant Microsoft to find and research mosquitoes that could carry the Zika virus or other mosquito-borne diseases, the county public health department said Tuesday. As part of “Project Premonition,” 10 traps will be placed across Harris County. Each trap can transmit data on when […]

Our bioscience future

Looking bright. Biotechnology continues to grow in Texas, contributing to the state’s overall economy by adding jobs, making strides in research and innovation and last year attracting $1 billion in federal funding for research, a new report on business development from a biotechnology trade association found. As the Texas economy struggles under the weight of […]

Remembering Buckyballs and the Nobel Prize they won

Twenty years ago, two Rice University chemists won the Nobel Prize for a revolutionary idea about carbon molecules. The discovery of Buckyballs, a new form of carbon that ushered in the era of nanotechnology and won a Nobel Prize, happened largely by accident. In 1985, Rice University chemists Robert Curl and Richard Smalley hosted British […]

Use of abortion pill rises

Until the Lege reconvenes, anyway. There’s been a sharp increase in the number of Texas women who are using the abortion pill to end their pregnancies now that federal officials have eased restrictions on the drug, according to officials at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. Until recently, the number of women seeking medically induced abortions […]

Here come the drones

Look! Up in the sky! Companies in Austin and Addison on Wednesday became the first two firms to become officially credentialed to operate unmanned aircraft systems under a new training and safety program that officials said promises to boost Texas’ place in the emerging drone market. At a statewide conference hosted by the Texas A&M […]

Anti-vaxxers gain ground in Texas

There’s a lesson in here that we need to learn. On a Friday night little over a year ago, a Texas mother of three was attending a school dance when she got a text message that stopped her cold. A state lawmaker from Dallas had filed legislation taking aim at a provision in state law […]

Find those leaks

I don’t care how. A pair of state and federal government inspectors spent two weeks traveling around northern Colorado’s oil and gas fields in early 2012, filming with an infrared camera. Air pollution was rising in the region, and attention was turning to the rapid increase in drilling activity. The inspectors focused on Houston-based Noble […]

Dan Wallach: 2016 Electric Power Usage Update

Note: From time to time, I solicit guest posts from various individuals on different topics. While I like to think I know a little something about a lot of things, I’m fortunate to be acquainted with a number of people who know a whole lot about certain topics, and who are willing to share some […]

Fighting pertussis

Sure hope these folks can make a lot of progress in their work. Of the more than 30,000 children hospitalized with pertussis in the United States each year, 10 to 20 will die. Worldwide, pertussis infects more than 16 million and causes nearly 200,000 deaths a year. “We need to come up with some therapeutic […]

An app to help the homeless

This is a great idea. A shower. A meal. A place to sleep. Those basic needs come to mind when most think of the homeless. Our Calling, a Dallas nonprofit, has given the homeless an iPhone app. The faith-based nonprofit is using technology to help people who live under bridges, near crack houses and in […]