Category: Science

How to Reduce Greenhouse Gases, Not Kill the Economy

GEORGE A. OLAH, professor of chemistry, USC Dornsife, and Chris Cox, USC trustee.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 10.

In the three weeks since the Obama administration issued its long-promised proposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it has become clear the plan is far from perfect. By placing the burden of expensive new carbon capture and sequestration technology on the U.S. alone, and potentially requiring steep cuts in domestic energy to conform to carbon caps, the proposal could send the U.S. economy into shock without making a significant dent in global emissions.

There is a better approach that can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while growing the economy and increasing U.S. energy independence.

The Illusion of Willpower

WENDY WOOD, professor psychology and business, Marshall School of Business, and DAVID NEIL.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 9

On a recent doctor’s visit, a compelling health video was looping in the reception room. It incorporated many of the accepted rules for achieving a healthy weight. The motivational video, tailored to the doctor’s clientele, illustrated simple ways to eat more fruits and vegetables and get exercise. It was striking, however, that many of the nursing staff, who must have heard this video a thousand times, didn’t seem to have taken it to heart. Nurses, as a national study revealed, are just as likely to overeat as the rest of the population.

Our Internal Food-Traffic Regulator

KATHLEEN A. PAGE, assistant professor, Keck School of Medicine of USC, and ROBERT S. SHERWIN, professor of medicine, Yale University.

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times on April 28.

Imagine that, instead of this article, you were staring at a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. The mere sight and smell of them would likely make your mouth water. The first bite would be enough to wake up brain areas that control reward, pleasure and emotion — and perhaps trigger memories of when you tasted cookies like these as a child.

That first bite would also stimulate hormones signaling your brain that fuel was available. The brain would integrate these diverse messages with information from your surroundings and make a decision as to what to do next: keep on chewing, gobble down the cookie and grab another, or walk away.

Studying the complex brain response to such sweet temptations has offered clues as to how we

The Fourth Science Domain

PAUL S. ROSENBLOOM, professor of computer science, Institute of Creative Technologies, Viterbi.

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

Introductory science courses, whether in physics, biology or psychology, typically span the discipline’s core ideas, along with glimpses of its past and future. Not so with computer science. Students either learn how to use basic applications — browsers, text editors, drawing programs — or acquire beginning programming skills. They may also be introduced to some key components of working computer systems, but the full scope and diversity of computing is not taught.

Unfortunately, what occurs in the classroom is just part and parcel of a larger problem: Computer science can’t seem to get any respect as a stand-alone science. To students, it’s simply programming. To scientists in other fields, it’s a tool that helps them in their research. To the public, it’s a source of productivity in the workplace and entertainment apps. Even many computing professionals see computer science as just a form of engineering.

Science the Messenger Gagged

COSTAS SYNOLAKIS, professor of environmental enginering, Viterbi School of Engineering.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

It is impossible to predict earthquakes with the precision that would have helped the 300 people who died as a result of the earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, on April 6, 2009. It is equally difficult, apparently, to predict court decisions.

After a 13-month trial, six scientists and one government official were sentenced to six years in jail Monday for giving authorities information that was “too reassuring” about the possibility that an earthquake would take place in the wake of a series of small earthquakes. The defendants will also have to pay compensation to the families of 29 of the 309 victims who, swayed by government reassurances, did not evacuate their homes, according to relatives.