Archive for category Public Policy


Posted by on Wednesday, 8 January, 2014


humorous cartoon about gifted kids




It isn’t easy being a teacher. Lots  and lots of pressure from parents, school officials, and the community. The kids with problems need (and demand) a lot of attention. It’s great if you have a gifted kid or two in the class.  It leave a little more time to deal with the ones who need your attention.

This bothers Dr.  David Lubinski (Vanderbilt University). We need these gifted kids too. We can let them go off and “figure it out” on their own. They’ll get by just fine and lots better than fine. But don’t they deserve more than that? They shouldn’t be punished for being smart. They’re going to run this asylum some day. 

Lubinski  had 300 subjects in his study – kids and grown ups. (The study was published in Psychological Science.) They were real smarties with unbelievable SAT scores.  As they got older, they did terrific. The got great grades, got advanced degrees, got great jobs, and did really well with their lives.

Is there a problem here?

Lubinski says we’re not doing what we could be doing.

Yes, as a group, they did great. That’s what you would expect, okay? Gifted people usually do. There are programs for them, but not enough and no federal programs at all. We need, say the authors, to do better by them. It’s in our interest as a nation.

What does MISTER ScienceAintSoBad think?

Well it must be frustrating to have the world’s smartest kid and not have everything all perfect for him or for her. But, you know what? I don’t think we’ll run out of astronauts if we don’t pave their paths with petunias. It’s an interesting study. But MISTER ScienceAintSoBad isn’t convinced.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 3

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The drawing is mine.

To leave a comment, click “comments” which can be found at the top right of each article just beneath the headline.




Adjusting Climate Change Away

Posted by on Thursday, 26 December, 2013
Cute Cartoon About Climate Change

Turn Off Climate Change



The planet you were born on is in trouble. When we take its temperature, we walk away shaking our heads.  The patient is burning up with a fever.

No matter who’s at fault (some say it’s not us humans), the seas keep rising and the storms keep getting nastier.

What to do?

Getting emissions cut back to neutral is a pipe dream.

And pointing fingers is a waste of time. It’s too late anyway.  The horse is out.

So some are asking if we can’t take a few risks.  What about all that scientific know-how we supposedly have? Could we engineer our way out of this mess? Maybe do something to the oceans so that more carbon gets captured by plankton? Change the clouds so that more sunlight gets reflected? Would  it be ethical to do stuff like that? Could we get all the countries in this huge world to go along with it?

Most of all, would such crazy and unprecedented projects work or would they blow up in our faces?

The Journal Of Climate Change thought this would be the right time to figure it out. Its December issue is a “special”. Twelve papers on the subject of geoengineering.

Maybe getting so many ideas under one cover and so many authors in one room (for a separate conference) could start the process of thrashing out some of the differences. At least, that’s the hope.  Ethicists and political scientists are in the mix. They’re supposed to help the techies to see the bigger picture. These aren’t, after all, exactly backyard experiments. If one or more of them actually gets the go ahead, it would be the first time anyone had the goobers to deliberately tamper with the planet in that way.

If it makes you feel better, a set of guiding principles (the Oxford Principles) has already been worked out to, maybe, guide the hand of future world wide climate experiments.

Just in case.

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The drawing is my own.

To leave a comment, click “comments” which can be found at the top right of each article just beneath the headline.


Posted by on Saturday, 21 December, 2013
Cartoon: People Struggling With Health Plans



Most Consumer’s Pay Too Much, Pick Wrong Plans 

We’re trying.

This healthcare stuff is confusing.

Dr. Eric Johnson (Decision Sciences, Columbia Business School) observed test subjects “enrolling” in simulated health plans. The testing was modeled on what people find when they use the major exchanges. He and his colleagues watched people sweat through the choices as they  clicked through possible health plans.


The great majority  chose stuff that they didn’t need and couldn’t afford.

Dr. Johnson is a specialist in consumer behavior. He’s helped in the design of health care plan systems for several states. According to him, 80% of consumers are paying too much.  $611 a week, he says, for a family making $42,000 a year. Painful!

You know what? I’m buying stock in a company that sells healthcare insurance.

Here’s the thing.

Dr. Johnson – did I mention the rest of his team, Ran Hassin, Allison Baiger, and Galen Treuer? – went further. He didn’t just expose the flaws. He made constructive suggestions. Among them:

1. Don’t choose a plan until you’ve looked at the services you think you need.

2.  Gussy up the software with more pop ups to explain terms that tend to confuse the uninitiated. Not everyone understand what a “deductible” is.

3.  Include relevant “tools”. Just adding a calculator saved money.

4. Default to the most cost effective plan. A simple step like that saved lots of $.

5. Lots of choices overwhelm and confuse people. Easy does it with the choices.

The report, Can Consumers Make Affordable Care Affordable?, was published in PLOS ONE.


This study wasn’t a dig at Obamacare. The authors were explicit about that. These problems weren’t caused by the affordable care act. They were caused by the fact that choosing a healthcare plan is just bloody complicated no matter who’s behind it.

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The drawing is mine.

To leave a comment, click “comments” which can be found at the top right of each article just beneath the headline.


Jersey Shore To Get Clobbered!

Posted by on Tuesday, 17 December, 2013
cartoon about flooding



You’re not going to like this. Not if you live in New Jersey.

Scientists from Tufts and Rutgers say sea levels are headed higher at maybe 1/2 an inch a year. 18 inches higher higher by 2050 and 40 inches by 2100.

By that time, you’ll be old even if you’re just a little kid now.

And I will be world famous.

160  years old and still blogging. People will want autographed pictures of me at my old, cracked PC.

I  hope I wont find myself writing about the misery in Atlantic City. Ken Miller, Robert Kopp, Benjamin Horton and James Browning of Rutgers and Andrew Kemp of Tufts did the work which appears in the journal Earth’s Future. It’s partly based on the recently constructed 25,000 year record of sea levels in the mid-Atlantic.  The projected rise is only partly due to rising temperatures. There’s other stuff too. Anyway, they’re not even confident in these horrendous numbers. It could turn out even worse. Maybe 28 inches by 2050. And – you know what? – they better be wrong because I like the Jersey coast.

Here’s the thing.

Mister ScienceAintSoBad is leery of being a “climate denier”. Nobody likes a climate denier. I have great respect for the researchers behind this report.

But MISTER ScienceAintSoBad is an optimist. No matter how bad the news, some part of me looks for a way out. Smart as they are, maybe they missed something. Maybe society will dare to intervene in a reckless, massive way and, somehow, get away with it. Maybe there actually is a benevolent being out there who will bail us, literally, out at the last moment.

What do I know?

In the meantime, will I be buying oceanfront property in New Jersey?

I won’t. But please don’t let my individual choice undermine property values. I never planned to in the first place.

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I drew that.

A Surprise: Marijuana Doesn’t Cause Cancer!

Posted by on Monday, 9 December, 2013


Cute cartoon about smoking pot


Have you ever smoked a joint?Because those things aren’t exactly full of wonderful stuff.  There are a lot more cancer causing things in marijuana smoke than in cigarette smoke. And marijuana smoke causes pre-cancerous changes in bronchial tissue and leaves four times as much tar in the lungs as cigarettes.

Even worse. Pot smokers hold the smoke in their lungs four times longer.

So just how bad is marijuana for you?


That’s the thing. A study by Donald Tashkin, M.D., of the University of California in Los Angeles was a big surprise. For pot smokers – even heavy pot smokers – there was  no detectable cancer effect in the head, neck and lungs. None at all. None.

The study was an epidemiological study that looked at hundreds of cigarette and marijuana smokers. Dr. Tashkin speculates that maybe marijuana smoke is so potent that the cells that are affected are too damaged to even become cancerous cells. I hope you find that comforting. Other studies seem to show there’s something in marijuana that inhibits cancer.One shows its active ingredient cutting the growth of lung tumors in half.

What does MISTER ScienceAintSoBad think?

The result seems crazy. Maybe another study will refute this one. Or not. There were some studies that pointed to long term brain damage but they got upended too. Newer studies say no. Seriously. There isn’t much proof that this potentially bad thing is a bad thing.

If you’re a grown up, you can make your own call but don’t forget it’s not exactly legal most places, okay?

If you’re a kid, don’t be s-t-u-p-i-d. You don’t need this.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad is surprised about all this. Maybe I missed something? Let me know, okay?

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The drawing is mine

And don’t forget the old saying “Better safe than high.”

A Spy Under Your Hood. Your Data And Who’s Going To Get It.

Posted by on Sunday, 24 November, 2013
Humorous cartoon about black boxes in cars

The Car That Knew Too Much


Almost all new cars now have “black box” event recorders. They collect data about the way the vehicle is driven.

Lots of data.

The black boxes were originally placed there to help make life/death decisions about when and how air bags should be deployed based on what’s happening in the car at the time of a crash. But the data can be used for other stuff too.

If there’s an accident and the accident was caused by bad brakes, there’s an opportunity to learn from that. Brakes will get better.

That’s a good thing. But I should warn you. This is a step in the “data wars”.


eSurance offers you you a big discount on premiums. All you have to do is add its gadget to your car.  “Drivesense” uploads the data from your car to its own database and then let’s you review your driving and learn from it. The hitch? Your folks get to review your driving and learn from it too. If things go good – if the gadget shows that you’re the right kind of driver – eSurance will reduce your premiums by up to 30 percent.

Would they use this data to raise your premiums?

Never, they say.

But what if you have an accident? Would eSurance deny a claim based on what is learned from Drivesense?

What do you think?

After an accident, automotive event recorders “lock down” the details of what was happening. I already described how car makers plan to use it to improve future designs.

With a court order, others can get it too. Even though it’s your car, the other party in the accident may be able to use the information from your black box against you.

Some people find that annoying as hell.

What else?


Could automotive event records be used to raise revenue for government? Maybe charge a tax based on miles driven?

Some states are on it. Congress might be too.

I’m serious.

The thinking is that by sticking it to.. scuse me – by taxing miles driven, maybe there’s an opportunity here to make drivers think twice about eco-friendly alternatives. Trains, bicycles, subways.

Did I mention that it might also be an excuse to just plain raise more taxes?


David Shamah (Tel Aviv Tech writing in ZD Net) discusses the biggest plan for all this data. Inter-vehicular connectivity. GM’s vision – and that of others in the industry – is that cars will be part of an enormous public network that swaps data back and forth between vehicles and other infrastructure to prevent accidents and optimize driving efficiency. This could certainly be the data backbone of self driving cars.

Typically, the event recorders are located under the drivers seat. Getting at it is a pain since it’s usually under the carpet. Although I haven’t seen it, I imagine mine with the words PANDORA scrawled across the top.

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The drawing is mine.







Idea For Disposal Of Nuclear Waste Emerges

Posted by on Friday, 8 November, 2013
Funny cartoon about unfunny problem of nuclear waste




Commercial nuclear power plants have been in use since the 1950’s and we still don’t know what to do with the stupid radioactive waste.

So we punt. In the US, we have over 100 nuclear reactors where the spent fuel is stored on site in casks and in “pools”.

Dumb? You bet it’s dumb! The reason we’re not smarter about this stuff is, as usual, politics but I can see from your face you don’t want to hear it.

Whatever! The question is what to do with it all. Dr. Neil Hyatt (Faculty of Engineering, University of Sheffield) has been working on the problem in England which is faced with a similar problem. His idea is to mix the “hot stuff” with slag from blast furnaces. This turns it into a glass. It also shrinks it down to roughly 15% of its original volume and locks it into a stable form in a “cost effective” manner.

Mister ScienceAintSoBad thinks Hyatt is going in the right direction. Reducing the volume and locking the stuff into an ultrastable form is a great idea. If our leaders can’t figure out a way to properly dispose of the stuff, maybe we can try encapsulating them in hot slag. It wouldn’t really solve anything but – be honest – wouldn’t it feel tremendously satisfying?

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 9 for Dr. Hyatt’s idea. It’s a good one.


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The drawing is one of mine


Posted by on Wednesday, 6 November, 2013

Humorous cartoon show two people discussing the meaning of time.



You just set your clocks, right? This time of year the day is so short we have to push some daylight towards morning so kids will be safe going to school. Did you know that changing the clocks can affect your chances of having a heart attack?

Here’s the thing.

Dr. Martin Young (University of Alabama,  Division of Cardiovascular Disease) talks about a Swedish study that showed heart attacks increase about 10% in spring, a day after the clock “springs back”, and they fall off when the clock “falls forward”. Why, isn’t totally obvious; it’s either tied to the position of the hands on the clock or to sleep deprivation. Mister ScienceAintSoBad votes for sleep deprivation.

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The cartoon is my own


A Complete Disaster But -Who Knows? Maybe It’s Good For Business.

Posted by on Sunday, 3 November, 2013

Cartoon about bad news being god news

Dr. Alan Sorensen (Associate professor of economics and strategic management at the Stanford Business School) says you shouldn’t worry . Bad stuff happens and it doesn’t have to be a disaster because being notorious is almost as good as being glorious.

The study was based on a systematic look at book reviews. The bad reviews  – the really stinky ones – helped in the long run because, bad as they were, they got the name of the writer out there. Besides, who can read anymore? Maybe potential book consumers couldn’t tell a good review from a bad one. Especially if the wit is sardonic like my own.

Well here’s the thing.

Dr. Sorensen  worked hard. He looked at 240 reviews . Try that, okay? It takes forever. And he had to come up with a systematic way of normalizing his results so that he could crunch his numbers and reach a conclusion. But he (or someone) has stomped on the generalization pedal too hard. These were only book reviews. This doesn’t show  that an accidental poisoning at a fast food restaurant or several plane crashes in a row will be good for business.

The authors say that offers “interesting avenues for future research”. That’s for sure.

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Image by Mister ScienceAintSoBad

Note: I wrote the above article for Pirozzolo Company (, a leading public relations company in Wellesley. It’s president and founder, Dick Pirozzolo, is fascinated by all the ins and outs of what it takes to shape public opinon.

I wish I could say the same. :)



Posted by on Wednesday, 30 October, 2013


funny cartoon of kid squeezed into school desk



You just bought yourself a nice ergonomic chair for your desk. It wasn’t cheap, but who needs back pain?

Meanwhile, back at school, guess what’s happening to junior? He’s doing contortions to squeeze into his crap school desk.

Is this bad?

You bet!

Ana Assunção is in the Biomechanics and Functional morphology Lab at the University of Lisbon. She was the lead in a project to figure out why so many students (two thirds of the ones she studied) have back pain. It didn’t seem right that so many kids between 12 and 15 years old were gimping around like their elders.

What she discovered is that poor fitting  school desks and too heavy backpacks are a lethal combo. What she didn’t discover is where school systems will find the money to do a better job with the furniture.


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The drawing is mine