Science & Environment

Science news

Given how controversial genetically modified corn is, it's no wonder that the prospect of genetically modifying humans pushes a lot of people's buttons. But we already have gene therapies, and new technologies are making it faster, safer, and less expensive to modify the human genome in a range of ways. That has the science community and policymakers scrambling to set responsible guidelines for the use of genome editing.

Mark Faherty

When it comes to late winter on Cape Cod, and the knowledge that beach weather is still four months away, it’s the little signs of better things to come that keep you going. If you are paying attention to the birds around you every day, you should be brimming with hope, because they clearly are, too.

Speakers at the Stand Up For Science Rally in Boston's Copley Square.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

For decades, scientists have shunned direct involvement in politics. They’ve testified before Congress and provided scientific information to policymakers, of course. But most have avoided weighing in on specific policy moves out of concern that such opining could damage scientists' credibility as the source of objective, factual information. In the wake of the 2016 election, that seems to be changing.

Vaughan Turekian is Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State.
state.gov/e/stas

President Trump may not have a science advisor right now, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson does. His name is Vaughan Turekian, and he was appointed to the post in 2015. It's not a very old job; it was created by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright in 2000. It's also not a very common job; only seven foreign ministers in the world have a science advisor.

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov / Permit 15488

A sharp drop in the birth rate of rare North Atlantic right whales has scientists worried. So far this year, only three calves have been identified. A more typical season might bring between ten and fifteen newborn calves.  

"It's a frighteningly low number," says Dr. Charles "Stormy" Mayo, a Senior Scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown. 

Sea ice in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.
Brocken Inaglory / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

While New England is being pummeled by a series of winter storms, a different kind of storm has been wreaking havoc at the North Pole. For the third time this winter, a storm has pushed north from lower latitudes, bringing with it temperatures close to the melting point. It’s the kind of event that typically only happens once or twice each decade.

Meanwhile, sea ice – both Arctic and Antarctic – are at an all-time low for this time of year. What’s the connection? The short answer, of course, is it’s complicated.

John Holdren, science advisor and director of OSTP under President Obama.
Elsa Partan / WCAI

President Donald Trump has yet to name a science advisor, a position that dates back to the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. It wouldn't be the first time that a president has decided he's better off without one. 

President Nixon wasn’t happy with the advice he was getting from his Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  He fired his science advisor and he dissolved the office of science and technology. But in 1976, Congress decided the executive branch really needed such an office and so it restored it by law.

John Severns / Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Here's something you don't see everyday: two thirds of a legislative body not only supporting a bill, but actually co-sponsoring it. One hundred thirty-four Massachusetts state Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of legislation intended to help bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

likeaduck bit.ly/2lnhAOu / bit.ly/1dsePQq

Have you heard of “bird feeder fight club”? If not, that’s probably because I just made it up. But it totally could be a real thing, according to scientists using Cornell’s vast Project FeederWatch data set.

A DC8 packed with atmospheric sensors and samplers is making four laps around the globe.
Craig LeMoult / WGBH

One of the first science policy ideas put out by Trump transition team back in November was a proposal to move all earth science out from under the umbrella of NASA and perhaps give it to another agency, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That transfer hasn’t come to pass – at least not yet – and earth science is still carrying on. In fact, right now, scientists from Harvard University, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and – yes – NASA and NOAA are flying around the world trying to get a better handle on what’s going on in our atmosphere.

Pages