Global warming? First, get the facts

February 28, 2009

In a move that is likely to panic climate change denialists (and others who claim not to be denialists, but oppose acting because they claim to be “skeptical”), federal agencies working under the new Obama budget might actually do some of the necessary research.  Bob Parks told the story in his weekly missive.

3.  NASA: THINGS HAVE NOT GONE WELL IN CLIMATE OBSERVATIONS.
First there was the Bush Administration’s shameful cancellation of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) launch in 2000.  The only fingerprints on the cancellation belong to Dick Cheney.  It would by now have settled the critical issue of the role of solar variation in global warming.  Then, on Tuesday, the $278 million Orbital Carbon Observatory, designed to measure greenhouse gas emissions, crashed shortly after launch.  The good news is that the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that passed on Wednesday provides $9 million for NASA to refurbish DSCOVR, which has been shut up in a Greenbelt, MD warehouse for 9 years.


Synesthesia? In every school

February 28, 2009

Do the math:  930,000 U.S. kids with synesthesia, out of 60 million students.  (Okay, “synaesthesia” for the British search programs.)

You might have one. A pyschologist in Britain did the research.

For the first time, psychologists have documented the prevalence of a form of synaesthesia – the condition that leads to a mixing of the senses – in a large sample of children. Over a twelve month period, Julia Simner and colleagues tested 615 children aged six to seven years at 21 UK schools and conservatively estimated that 1.3 per cent of them had grapheme-colour synaesthesia, in which letters and numbers involuntarily trigger the sensation of different colours.

“[This] implicates over 170,000 children age 0–17 in the UK alone, and over 930,000 in the USA,” the researchers said, “and suggests that the average primary school in England and Scotland (n = 168 pupils) contains 2.2 grapheme-colour synaesthetes at any time, while the average-sized US primary school (n = 396 pupils) contains 5.1.” Inevitably, the prevalence for synaesthesia as a whole, considering all the sub-types, would be even higher.

A hall-mark of grapheme-colour synaesthesia is that the colour triggered by a given letter or number is always the same – a fact the researchers exploited to identify the condition in school children.

Indeed, when asked to associate letters with colours, the children identified as synaesthetes showed more consistency over a 12-month-period than the other children did over a ten second period!

Researchers calculated about 5 such students in the average U.S. school, assuming a student population of about 400.

400!  In Texas that’s a tiny high school that may have difficulty fielding a football team.

In Brain, a journal of neurology (abstract available, full text with subscription).

ResearchBlogging.orgJ. Simner, J. Harrold, H. Creed, L. Monro, L. Foulkes (2008). Early detection of markers for synaesthesia in childhood populations. Brain, 132 (1), 57-64 DOI: 10.1093/brain/awn292


Tip of the old scrub brush to Research Digest Blog.

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