My weekend vintage SF paperback finds. I picked these up purely for the giant rockets on the covers. 

Top: David Duncan’s Dark Dominion (1954), with a cover credited by ISFDB to Richard Powers.

Bottom: James Blish’s The Seedling Stars (1959), cover by Paul Lehr.

My research description, sans research

Over on my home page, I overhauled my research description, and ended up removing any actual description of my research. But it might be worth a read anyway.

Catching Up

Been busy, but in case you missed them, my Pacific Standard columns have continued apace:

Neuroscience and music:

How Language Helps Us Understand Music Without Words

Curiosity’s latest results on Martian habitability:

Our Search For Martian Life Is Really A Search For Our Place In The Universe

Imagine a world with an effective HIV vaccine. We’ll get there some day:

Why The HIV Vaccine Is Not A Pipe Dream

The FDA, the MiSeqDX, and the regulatory future:

The FDA Is Not Anti-Genetics

WTF evolution: a weird (and still questionable) theory of sexual selection that could explain why men have worse immune systems

Girls’ Immune Systems Rule, Boys’ Drool

Be sure to admire Pacific Standard's new makeover, which includes new sketches of the columnists and makes it even easier to find great content.

In case you missed it…

There’s some catching up to do here: my recent pieces for Pacific Standard include my thoughts on why the FDA does not need to protect you from your genome (but beware, nobody yet knows what harms or benefits will come from widespread direct-to-consumer genetic testing), what role microbes play in our (as in mammals) communications via odors, and how the decade-long erosion in National Institutes of Health funding has entirely wiped out all trace of the previously doubled budget. We’re well below where the pre-doubling trend would put us, with disastrous consequences for how science is done in this country. (You can check out more details on this in my write-up at the Finch & Pea).


tgoodwin95 asked: Hello Dr. White, I just recently read your article in the Pacific Standard, "The Scientific Debate About GM Foods Is Over: They're Safe." As a student, this is an area that interests me, and I'm doing a simple project on the benefits and the costs of GMOs. That being said could I send you a few questions that I had regarding your position? Is this an appropriate place to ask? Thank you!

Sure - you’re welcome to ask here. Or, if you’d rather contact me by email, you can find my contact info on my CV page (link in the sidebar).

- Mike

Times have changed in science

In 1960, an advisory report to the U.S. President on science funding warned against the situation that we’re in today - as economist Paula Stephan writes in her paper (PDF) on the history of post WWII funding:

The PSAC report noted the concern, stating that “We recognize that many university scientists are strongly opposed to the use of federal funds for senior faculty salaries. Obviously we do not share their belief, but we do agree with them on one important point—the need for avoiding situations in which a professor becomes partly or wholly responsible for raising his own salary.” It went on to say “If a university makes permanent professorial appointments in reliance upon particular federal project support, and rejects any residual responsibility for financing the appointment if federal funds should fail, a most unsatisfactory sort of “second-class citizenry” is created, and we are firmly against this sort of thing” (The President’s Scientific Advisory Committee, 1960, p. 24).

While I was in Toronto, I did my usual thing - scout out used book stores for classic SF. I hit Eliot’s Bookshop on Yonge street. The great thing about shopping for vintage SF in Canada is that you can find editions sold in Britain, Canada, and Australia but not the US. I found non-US editions of H.G. Wells’ atomic warfare novel, <em>The War in the Air</em>, John Christopher’s creepy, apocalyptic <em>The Possessors</em>, and Richard Cowper’s <em>The Twilight of Briareus</em>.  Also, because I was in Toronto, I had to get something by Judith Merril - <em>Daughters of Earth</em>, which I’ve seen in the U.S., but never picked up. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the extensive Merril collection at the Toronto Public Library.