Tag: science

The Cultural Logic of Calories and Body Types

We were promised calorie labels. New York City has required them in chain restaurants since 2008 and California since 2009, but the Affordable Care Act mandated them nationwide. In April 2016, the FDA issued a “final rule” on the calorie-labeling requirement, resolving questions like whether movie theaters and alcoholic beverages were included (they were), and… Read more →

Mothers’ Natures: Sex, Love, and Degeneration in the Nineteenth-Century United States

Every so often, some viral article or other will declare that science “proves” or “confirms” that intelligence is inherited from mothers. (I know, because my own mother will promptly share it on Facebook.) Swiftly, of course, revisionary articles will appear correcting or debunking this claim, chastising armchair geneticists for their overly-simplistic understandings of the X-chromosome…. Read more →

“The Mommy Instinct” and Vaccinations

“Mommy instincts:” that’s what Jenny McCarthy called them.1 You know, those innate feelings you get about your kids when they’re lying to you, or right before they knock over that glass jar on the counter. These instincts kick in about kids’ health, too. It’s a sense of detecting what other people can’t. And since Jenny… Read more →

Iron Man and the Science Fiction of Disability

In March 2015, a YouTube video sponsored by Microsoft’s #CollectiveProject made the social media rounds. In this video a well-known bionics expert presented a seven-year-old boy born without most of his right arm with a 3D-printed bionic arm created by engineering student Albert Moreno. As of today, the video currently has 10,447,323 views on YouTube…. Read more →

The Black Politics of Eugenics

Eugenics is still a dirty word. It makes us think about science gone horribly wrong. It reminds us of the ghosts of Nazis past. The specter of eugenics is invoked when discussing new genetic technologies, often serving as a warning that engineering humanity can go too far. It wasn’t always like this. For much of… Read more →

A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

The FDA is on a mission to redefine healthy, and they “want to get it right.” This undertaking stems in part from ongoing criticism of the FDA’s nearly twenty-year-old, fat-phobic labeling regulations, in which absurdities abound. For instance, low-fat toaster pastries — comprised predominately of unpronounceable ingredients from a chemistry exam, often meet requirements for… Read more →

Helen Atwater: The First Lady of American Nutrition You’ve Never Heard Of

When I was researching the history of American food guides, I came across one of the earliest resources, “How to Select Foods,” published in 1917 by Hunt and Atwater. At first I assumed that this Atwater was Wilbur Olin Atwater, the man so often heralded as “The Father of American Nutrition.” I was wrong. It… Read more →

The Anti-Vaccine Movement, Bad Science, and the Rise of Fake News

Fake news was one of the biggest news stories following the 2016 U.S. presidential election. From climate change to abortion, health care to international relations, formerly fringe information hubs like Breitbart took on unprecedented mainstream importance. Could it be that a sizeable chunk of Americans were more persuaded by conspiracy theories and political rumor than… Read more →

Kids and Science: An Interview with Rebecca Onion

Rebecca Onion is perhaps best known to our readers as a staff writer at Slate, where she started The Vault blog in November 2012 and co-hosted a podcast called “The History of American Slavery” for Slate Academy. Rebecca holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and her first book… Read more →

Learning to Love Science: Rebecca Onion’s Innocent Experiments and the History of an American Cultural Tradition

As a child, did your parents encourage you to participate in a science fair? Perhaps you received a chemistry set or model of the solar system for your birthday. Were you, like me, completely and utterly obsessed with dinosaurs to the point that you begged your parents for books on paleontology and tried to plow… Read more →