Texas Fights Air-Quality Standards Because Lower Ozone Levels Can Kill People

Categories: Politics, Science

Wikimedia Commons/Turn 685
TCEQ: Sure it looks bad, but it's not like you're going to leave your air conditioning.
Here's the good news: Dallas-Fort Worth ozone levels for the first this year dropped below the federal standard of 84 parts per billion. The bad news: the 84-ppb standard the area has just now met for the first time is from 1997. The current standard is 75 ppb, well below DFW's 81 ppb mark. Worse still, most scientists consider the newer standard too high and say people exposed to that much ozone are at increased risk of asthma, heart disease and lung disease. For years, scientists and public health advocates have been pushing for a limit closer to 60 ppb.

Predictably, Texas disagrees, and not just on the grounds that tougher restrictions will eat into economic growth. As the Texas Tribune>reports, one of the state's top environmental regulators argues that lower ozone levels could actually kill people.

"I haven't seen the data that says lowering ozone will produce a health benefit," Michael Honeycutt, the agency's chief toxicologist told the Tribune. "In fact, I've seen data that shows it might have a negative health benefit."

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A UNT Prof Says Girls Actually Throw Like Girls, So What's with Mo'ne Davis?

Mo'ne Davis, game face in tow.
It's a phrase that's uttered too often at Little League games and on the playground. Even adults playing slow-pitch softball use it as a crutch. "You throw like a girl." It's an easy, if seemingly sexist, shorthand for the lunging, forearm focused, dart-throwing motion that happens to be one of the worst ways you can throw a baseball, softball or any other kind of ball.

In 2012, Dr. Jerry Thomas, professor of kinesiology and dean of the University of North Texas' College of Education, conducted a study try to find the basis for the stereotype in 2012, why girls do, in fact, throw worse than their male peers across all age groups.

Almost everywhere, Thomas says, the primary reason girls throw slower and shorter than boys is a lack of practice. If a male child throws poorly, his dad will help him throw better, which isn't traditionally true for girls. Thomas sought to research a culture in which this wasn't true, where girls and boys began throwing at the same age, with the same emphasis.

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Dallas Creationist Researchers Have Already Proven Bible's Version of Earth's Beginning, According to Their Own Website

Categories: Science

This isn't art as much as journalism, according to science.
You've probably heard about the nine researchers with real Ph.D.s who are on a mission to prove that the Bible's version of how the Earth formed is real, using scientific evidence. Sure, many pastors have argued for years that the creation story in Genesis shouldn't be taken literally and that it's more about the message. But those pastors aren't scientists.

"Our attempt is to demonstrate that the Bible is accurate, not just religiously authoritative," Henry Morris III, CEO of the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research, told The Dallas Morning News in a profile of the group.

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More Or Less Everyone Agrees That Rick Perry Is a Moron for Comparing Homosexuality to Alcoholism

Categories: Politics, Science

Gage Skidmore
Smug, per usual
If nothing else, Rick Perry deserves points for hubris.

In California to stump up business for Texas -- including a proposed factory to build batteries for Teslas -- the governor responded to questions about the Texas GOP platform's endorsement of dangerous reparative therapy for LGBTQ individuals by comparing homosexuality to alcoholism.

"Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that," Perry told the Commonwealth Club of California, "I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way."

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Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Still Doesn't Believe in Climate Change

Thumbnail image for DroughtLakeDeadFish.jpg
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Lake O.C. Fisher outside San Angelo, summer 2011.
Global climate change is real, it's caused by people, and it will have a significant, often unpredictable impact on the United States and the human beings who live here.

Those are the takeaways from the third-ever National Climate Assessment, an 840-page, congressionally mandated tome released by the White House on Tuesday.

The effects of climate change, the report says, are already being seen in longer, hotter summers, shorter winters, and an increase in extreme weather events. This will continue, and it will get worse.

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A North Texas Family Has Sent Roses for Every NASA Space Flight Since 1988

Categories: Science

It took more than two years following the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986 for NASA to launch its next manned space flight. Shortly before it returned to earth, a bouquet of roses arrived at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"I didn't actually decide to do it until the day the STS-26 mission was to land, and I didn't know that I even could get it done in time," Mark Shelton, who sent the flowers on behalf of his Dallas-area family, later told NASA. "I called information to find a florist near the space center, and then I asked the florist if they could deliver roses to Mission Control. At first they said they couldn't do it ... but then they said they would try. But I had no idea if they actually made it or not."

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Texas A&M Scientists Want the World's Largest Hadron Collider to Encircle Dallas

Categories: Science

The Higgs boson might have been discovered in Texas, if only.
It's been two decades since Congress killed the Superconducting Super Collider. Had the $11 billion project been completed, it would have become -- and would still be -- the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world, and Waxahachie of all places would be the global epicenter of particle physics research.

Instead, the federal government wound up spending $2 billion to build a 14-mile hole beneath Ellis County, and the Higgs boson was discovered several hundred feet below Switzerland.

Scientists, though, have never quite abandoned the ambition that led them to envision the SSC, which explains why a group of them at Texas A&M (plus one from Michigan State University), are suggesting reviving the project as "Higgs Factory," which would be complemented by a 270-kilometer (167.8-mile) hadron collider.

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UT Southwestern Researcher Identifies Gene That Tricks the Body into Healing Like a Fetus

Categories: Science

Somewhere along the way, the purifying imperatives of evolution decided to dial back our bodies' ability to rapidly regenerate tissue. Nobody knows exactly why. It could be because cancer in mammals would grow like wildfire if it didn't. But this ancient property remains in fetuses and infants and diminishes significantly as we age.

Researchers say it may not have to. Dr. Hao Zhu of the Children's Medical Research Institute at UT Southwestern believes the gene Lin28a can be reactivated to enhance tissue regeneration after surgery, serious injury and to combat degenerative disease. "As we age, our tissues get worse and worse at regenerating. They get worse at coming back from injury," Zhu tells Unfair Park. "The curious thing is that the genetics behind this, the biology underlying that principle, is poorly understood. We believe some genes being turned off or on are responsible for that phenomenon."

By triggering Lin28a and the enhanced metabolic state of youth, we may be able to "trick adult tissue into thinking it's younger."

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Report: Conflicts of Interest in UT Study Finding Significantly Lower Fracking Emissions [Updated]

Categories: Biz, Science

Joshua Doubek
Public Accountability Initiative accuses UT of weaving yet another tangled, conflict-ridden web.
Last time the Public Accountability Initiative put out a report on conflicts of interest it uncovered in a University of Texas fracking study, an independent review panel concluded the school should withdraw it.

Now the nonprofit research group, which explores the nexus of business and government, is back with another report claiming to have identified yet another undisclosed conflict in a UT study that significantly lowers the overall methane leakage from fracking calculated by other researchers.

Just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the paper out of UT's Cockrell School of Engineering said new equipment has reduced methane emissions during completion (when water, fracking fluid and gas rush back to the surface) by some 99 percent. It calculates that the overall methane leakage rate during production is .42 percent -- comparable to recent EPA estimates but far below those found by researchers at Cornell.

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UTA Survey of Barnett Shale Water Wells Finds Contaminant Levels Highest Near Fracking

Categories: Science

UTA researchers, from left to right, Brian Fontenot and Kevin Schug.
The question Dr. Kevin Schug set out to answer was refreshingly simple: Does drilling activity in the Barnett Shale contribute to groundwater contamination? There is no shortage of assurances of safety from industry, or claims of mysterious illness from aggrieved landowners and environmental types. So, Schug and a fellow researcher at the University of Texas at Arlington, Dr. Brian Fontenot, decided to let science sort it out in 2011. In a study that is the first of its kind in the Barnett, the researchers tested 100 private water wells in a 13-county area. Some were located at various distances from natural gas wells. Others were completely outside of the Barnett Shale.

They analyzed the groundwater for arsenic, heavy metals and compounds commonly found in the concoction of chemicals, fine sand and water blasted thousands of feet beneath the surface at enormous pressures. Many of these contaminants occur naturally in the Barnett Shale. But on average, they were found in high concentrations in the water wells nearest drilling activity. In the study's active drilling-area, arsenic was detected in 29 water wells at levels exceeding federal limits. "It was clear in times where we found really high arsenic levels, you're up close to a wellhead," Schug tells Unfair Park.

Though the study, published last week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, identified a correlation, Schug is quick to point out that they haven't singled out a mechanism for what could be causing the contamination. It could be a failure in the casing designed to protect groundwater. Mechanical vibrations might be disturbing particles in neglected water well equipment. Perhaps it's the lowering of the water table by the fracking process.

"I think our biggest conclusion is that more work needs to be done," Schug says.

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