November 12th, 2012
01:27 PM ET

Obama, Romney dolls take a trip to space

A week ago, as President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were facing a historic election, small dolls that look like them had just plummeted to Earth from the edge of space.

Following in the footsteps of Felix Baumgartner, who broke the sound barrier during a historic jump last month, mini-Romney and mini-Obama escalated toward the heavens in a balloon, reaching 120,000 feet – nearly as high as Baumgartner.

They got there through a project by Earth to Sky Calculus, a group of middle and high school “science enthusiasts” in Bishop, California.  They’re practicing “launching balloons into the stratosphere for a satellite launch in 2013.”

Thanks to their adviser, Tony Phillips, for sending along these images of what I like to call “Bobblegangers.”  Be sure to click the video to watch the floating – followed by the plunges.  And send us your best captions.

Who should get to jump next from the edge of space – vicariously, via smiling figurine, of course?

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Filed under: 2012 Election • In Space
Debates never tackled climate change
October 23rd, 2012
06:00 PM ET

Debates never tackled climate change

We heard a lot about how the candidates feel about foreign policy in Monday night's debate. In fact, over three debates, we have seen the candidates debate any number of issues. But not climate change.

For whatever reason, President Obama and Mitt Romney never got around to tackling climate change in the debate forum. Neither, for that matter, did Vice President Joe Biden and GOP vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan.

This is the first debate cycle since 1984 that has not mentioned phrases such as "climate change," "global warming" or "environmental crisis." In 1988, the issue arose in the vice-presidential debate between Democratic candidate Lloyd Bentsen and Republican candidate Dan Quayle; both mentioned "the greenhouse effect."

Brad Johnson, campaign manager for the group Climate Silence, issued a statement circulating in the media highlighting this fact. The candidates "have failed to debate the greatest challenge of our time. Climate change threatens us all: The candidates' silence threatens to seal our fate," Johnson said in a statement, as quoted by Scientific American.

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Filed under: 2012 Election
340,000 votes may have come from Facebook message
Social media was shown to be quite effective in getting people to the polls, says a recent study.
September 12th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

340,000 votes may have come from Facebook message

With nearly 1 billion users, Facebook has clearly become a feature of many people’s lives worldwide. A new study suggests that the social network has the potential to get hundreds of thousands of people to engage in a single behavior – namely, voting.

Researchers report in the journal Nature that one Facebook message may have gotten 340,000 additional people to the polls for the 2010 United States Congressional elections.

The team, led by James Fowler, professor at the University of California, San Diego, designed the experiment with the cooperation of Facebook. Cameron Marlow of the data science division of Facebook collaborated on the study, too.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • News • Science Education
Has America really underinvested in science education?
July 26th, 2012
06:33 PM ET

Has America really underinvested in science education?

By Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Alex Berezow is the editor of RealClearScience. Hank Campbell is founder of Science 2.0. They are authors of the forthcoming book Science Left Behind. The views expressed are their own.

On Global Public Square last month, Fareed Zakaria made the case that the U.S. economy is struggling in part due to poor investment in science. He based this conclusion on two claims: First, that federal research and development (R&D) investment has declined over the past several years and, second, that American students have fallen behind in science education.

The first claim, while true, only tells part of the story. As we discuss in the upcoming Science Left Behind, American R&D investment has been relatively consistent for the past 30 years, never dropping below 2.3 percent of GDP. Though the federal portion of U.S. R&D investment has fallen during this period, the private sector has actually picked up the slack. Indeed, the most recent estimate for 2012 shows that the U.S. will spend approximately 2.85 percent of its GDP on R&D.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Science Education • Voices
Politics may be partly genetic, now what?
There are rampant misconceptions attached to the notion that there might be a role for genes in politics, says the author.
April 7th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Politics may be partly genetic, now what?

Editor's Note: Chris Mooney is the author of "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science–and Reality."

Is it possible that, as children, we’re already either “liberal” or “conservative”? Do we actually have at least some elements of a nascent ideology well before we even know what that means?

In the 1882 comic opera Iolanthe, Gilbert and Sullivan planted precisely this idea - long before there was any science to back it up. Here’s their verse – which is, admittedly set in a humorous context:

Nature always does contrive

That every boy and every gal

Who’s born into this world alive

Is either a little liberal

Or else a little conservative!
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Opinion: Why a different voting system might be better
March 16th, 2012
03:45 PM ET

Opinion: Why a different voting system might be better

Editor's Note: Matthew Lane is a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics at UCLA, and is the founder of Math Goes Pop!, a blog focused on the surprisingly rich intersection between mathematics and popular culture.  He is also a contributor to the Center for Election Science.  You can follow him on Twitter at @mmmaaatttttt.

Although Mitt Romney claims to be the mathematically inevitable Republican presidential candidate, voters remain less than excited about him.

According to a recent Gallup poll, only 35% of Republicans would enthusiastically vote for him this fall.  This is below the 47% John McCain had around this time in 2008, and also below the 55% and 53% enjoyed by Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, respectively, when they duked it out four years ago.  There's still plenty of time until November, but for now it seems Republicans haven't yet completely warmed to their presumptive nominee.

When the results of an election (primary or otherwise) run counter to our desires, it is easy to scapegoat the political process.  The right person didn't win, we may argue, because the system itself is broken.  The two-party system, for example, is sometimes cited as a leading cause of the current dysfunction in Washington.  But perhaps much of what ails the political climate comes from an underlying mathematical dilemma in the way we determine the winners of our elections.  The mathematics of voting highlights many problems with current systems, and also proposes some interesting solutions.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Voices

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