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Una de mis bandejas para hielo es amarilla y tan novedosa que, cuando se coloca en el congelador, moldea el agua en trocitos de hielo con forma de pato.

Quizás usted haya visto moldes para hielo como este, con todo tipo de formas, desde aviones hasta logotipos de superhéroes.

Read more: From breast implants to ice cube trays: How silicone took over our kitchens

Estos moldes, que ya son comunes, simbolizan cómo el material utilizado para fabricarlos – la silicona – ha transformado nuestra cocina en las últimas dos décadas.

La silicona se inventó originalmente como material aislante para motores eléctricos de alta temperatura y más tarde se usaba para implantes de senos. Pero, al final, los diseñadores se dieron cuenta de que era el material ideal para una amplia gama de artículos para el hogar.

¿Robots exploradores en Marte y… moldes para pastelitos?

Los ingenieros especializados en diseño como yo adoran trabajar con silicona debido a su durabilidad, flexibilidad y asequibilidad.

La silicona, también conocida como polisiloxano, es un polímero – la palabra que los científicos usan para los plásticos – que se conoce por su textura gomosa.

También tiene características que otros materiales no tienen. Por ejemplo, los robots exploradores de Marte tienen partes y...

Watching helium gas lift balloons into the air is a lot of fun – or perhaps a tragedy if that balloon belonged to a small child who let it go. And, who hasn’t sipped the helium gas from a balloon and then quacked like Donald Duck? Although, that’s not the smartest thing to do since helium can displace the air in our lungs, or cause other problems with respiration.

Aside from balloons and making our voice squeaky, what use is helium? Should we care whether or not we run out of the gaseous stuff? Helium is a gas. It probably is not very surprising to hear that helium and human beings have almost nothing in common, but we still need each other. Our 21st-century economies depend on helium, and helium needs us to figure out better conservation strategies lest we run out of the stuff.

A global plastic waste crisis is building, with major implications for health and the environment. Under its so-called “National Sword” policy, China has sharply reduced imports of foreign scrap materials. As a result, piles of plastic waste are building up in ports and recycling facilities across the United States.

In response, support is growing nationally and worldwide for banning or restricting single-use consumer plastics, such as straws and grocery bags. These efforts are also spurred by chilling findings about how micro-plastics travel through oceans and waterways and up the food chain.

I have studied global trade in hazardous wastes for many years and am currently completing a book on the global politics of waste. In my view, today’s unprecedented level of public concern is an opportunity to innovate. There is growing interest in improving plastic recycling in the United States. This means getting consumers to clean and sort recyclables, investing in better technologies for sorting and reusing waste plastics, and creating incentives for producers to buy and use recycled plastic.

Critiques of recycling are not new, and critiques of recycling plastic are many, but I still believe it makes sense to expand, not abandon, the system. This will require large-scale investment and, in the long term, implementing upstream policies, including product bans.


Small interfering RNA sounds like something from a science fiction novel rather than a revolutionary type of medicine. But this odd-sounding new drug offers a novel strategy for treating disease by targeting the root cause rather than just the symptoms. This is an exciting approach because it enhances the effectiveness of the treatment and reduces side effects.

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the very first therapeutic small interfering RNA (siRNA), Onpattro (patisiran), to treat nerve damage caused by a rare disease called hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis (hATTR). Hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis affects about 50,000 people worldwide. The major cause is the buildup of a protein called amyloid in the peripheral nerves, heart and other organs. Small interfering RNA was first described in 1998 and its discoverers were awarded the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 2006. Twenty years later the discovery has been translated into a new form of medicine.

Proteins make up the largest structural and functional portion of our cells and tissues. The instructions to make a particular protein is encoded in our DNA. In order for the protein to be made, DNA must first be transcribed into an intermediate molecule called messenger RNA, which is then translated into a protein. Simply put, DNA makes RNA makes protein.

It’s sometimes reported that one in every three bites of food depends on bees. As is often the case when an easy to grasp notion spreads, there’s a dose of truth and a dollop of exaggeration.

The stat is based on a 2007 study that found that 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators of one kind or another to enable pollination and seed production

While some crop pollination happens naturally, there’s a commercial side to this as well. And that’s where buzzing honey bees enter the picture. They represent by far the most commercialized provider of pollination services, with farmers across the world paying beekeepers to ferry their hives into fields of apples and almonds so that the bees flit from flower to flower, transferring pollen and allowing the fruit and nuts to develop.

My own research has focused on the vital importance of honey bees to California’s almond production, an industry worth US$11 billion to California’s economy. And in fact, almonds are also vital to the health of American beekeeping operations.

As the world celebrates Honey Bee Day on Aug. 18, I thought it’d be a good time to explore the economics of beekeeping.

Leaders of the scientific community – most of whom are also Democratsare voicing relief now that the Trump administration has nominated Kelvin Droegemeier to direct the White House Office of Science and Technology. This office has been leaderless since Trump assumed office.

Droegemeier, a well-respected meteorologist specializing in severe weather such as thunderstorms, has also served on the advisory board of the U.S. National Science Foundation. He would bring a mainstream scientific voice into an administration that is often portrayed as somewhere between apathetic and hostile about matters relating to science.

But those who expect Droegemeier to provide any sort of counterweight to administration policies will likely be disappointed. The history of presidential science advising shows that the effectiveness of science advisers is determined not...

Picture two different families, each dealing with a diagnosis of dementia in one of its members. In one case, the patient is a retired executive, whose family tries as long as possible to keep the diagnosis secret, relying primarily on professional caregivers and eventually a nursing home. In another case, the patient is a grandmother. As soon as the diagnosis is suspected, her family pulls together, bringing her into their home and surrounding her with affection.

These two approaches to dementia reflect very different attitudes toward the disease. One regards it as an irreversible neurologic condition associated with considerable stigma, a problem best left to health professionals and kept out of public view. While not denying that dementia is a medical condition, the other seizes on it as an opportunity to draw together around a loved one in need, giving family members not a secret to keep but an opportunity to care.

A disease of patients and their families

Dementias touch many lives. For example, the most common dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, currently afflicts 5.7 million Americans and is expected to afflict 14 million by 2050. This increase partly mirrors population growth. But because risk increases with age, the rise also reflects our success in battling other causes of death, such as heart disease and stroke, enabling people to live longer. And the effects of the...

When Facebook recently removed several accounts for trying to influence the 2018 midterm elections, it was the company’s latest move acknowledging the key challenge facing the social media giant: It is both an open platform for free expression of diverse viewpoints and a public utility on which huge numbers of people – and democracy itself – rely for accurate information.

Under pressure from the public and lawmakers alike since 2016, Facebook responded in early 2018 by making significant changes to the algorithms it uses to deliver posts and shared items to users. The changes were intended to show more status updates from friends and family – sparking “meaningful interactions” – and fewer viral videos and news articles that don’t get people talking to each other. As a result, users have spent far less time on the site, and the company’s stock-market value has dropped.

Yet the problem remains: The very features of social media that encourage participation and citizen engagement also make them vulnerable to hate speech, fake news and interference in the democratic process. This inherent contradiction is what the company must resolve as it shifts from being just one startup company in a crowded marketplace of big-data businesses to a public information utility with monopoly power and broad social influence.

No longer a platform

Facebook continues to struggle with the...

Boots Riley’s new film “Sorry to Bother You” does anything but apologize.

In telling the story of Cassius, a young black man who becomes an extraordinarily successful telemarketer after he starts using his “white voice,” it showcases the magnitude of racial and class oppression.

Colloquially, Cassius’ use of a “white voice” is known as code-switching, and the film highlights something that most African-Americans could probably tell you: The ability to code-switch is often a prerequisite to becoming a successful black person in America.

As a race scholar and sociologist, I’ve studied biracial Americans who engage in code-switching. I found that the ability to deftly code-switch has some real advantages. But it also has its fair share of pitfalls.

More broadly, it has led me to wonder what the persistence of code-switching tells us about race, opportunities and making connections in America today.

Adapting to the dominant culture

Code-switching is the practice of interacting in different ways depending on the social context, and it isn’t limited to race. Most of us interact differently when hanging out with friends than we would during a job interview.

However, due in large measure to structural inequality and centuries of segregation, different cultural norms and ways of speaking have emerged among white and black Americans.

But because dominant culture is white, whiteness...

Nonprofits help immigrants and refugees who settle in the U.S. in many ways. They encourage naturalized newcomers to become citizens, for example, and advocate for more humane detention conditions.

We are scholars who research why people give their money to, and volunteer for, what they believe to be good causes, including giving out of grief. We became interested in what happens when refugees themselves start their own nonprofits.

The organizations we studied began as personal projects of the founders. Most of these groups support educational efforts in the childhood villages of the Sudanese exiles known as Lost Boys in what now is South Sudan. As the political climate around immigration and refugees intensifies, we find that these groups are beginning to play new roles as platforms that highlight the contributions refugees are making to their local communities here in the U.S.

Lost Boys’ international nonprofits

The Lost Boys of Sudan were traumatically separated from their families as children during the country’s second civil war which started in the late 1980s and went until 2005. They lived in refugee camps in neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya for a decade.

In 2000, some 3,800 Lost Boys were resettled in the U.S. through a program implemented by the U.S. government and United Nations Human Rights Commission. Lost Boys were resettled in dozens of U.S. cities, including...

Desde el comienzo de la campaña presidencial de Donald Trump, la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México ha sido el foco de su ira y sus campañas políticas.

Esa frontera es el lugar donde más de 18.500 de los 119.437 agentes que componen la Patrulla Fronteriza trabajan para evitar que las personas accedan ilegalmente a EEUU.

A pesar de encontrados sentimientos y los titulares de los medios alrededor de lo que ocurre en esa frontera, pocos entienden el trabajo real de un agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza.

Read more: A night enforcing immigration laws on the US-Mexico border

Yo mismo soy sociólogo y he estudiado y escrito sobre las fronteras entre México y EEUU desde 1977. Pasé dos años vinculado a los agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza mientras estos aplicaban las leyes de inmigración.

Esta es la historia de qué hacen los agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza, contada a través de las experiencias de dos agentes que trabajan en el turno nocturno en el sur de Texas y de mi investigación hasta la fecha.

El trabajo de rutina

El intenso calor en el Valle del Río Grande bajo, en Texas, puede llegar ser sofocante. Es abril, y los agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza deben olvidarse de la temperatura de 39 grados y los vientos de 40 millas por hora.

Su trabajo es sencillo: proteger...

Mainstream press coverage of President Trump has been unfavorable. Thomas Patterson found that 80 percent of stories in the first 100 days of the administration were negative in tone.

The president has attacked the media as “fake news” and journalists as “the enemy of the American people.”

The president’s anti-press assaults are so frequent and potent that newspapers across the United States banded together August 16 to publish simultaneous editorials defending the press’s important watchdog role in democracy.

But for all the president’s complaints, he also craves validation from the media. Trump has given exclusive interviews to The New York Times and, in addition to loving Fox News, reportedly watches CNN and MSNBC every morning.

Trump’s quest for good press is particularly evident in the White House newsletters, a daily email update sent to anyone who cares to subscribe online.

White House spam

As a scholar of media and politics, I have followed the White House newsletters since the Obama administration began sending them in 2009.

The White House Communications Office produced more than 2,000 newsletters during President Obama’s eight years in office. They announced his daily schedule, made official policy statements and provided a regular diet of sleek presidential photos. At times, the Obama newsletter offered behind-the-scenes stories about life inside the White House.

The Trump administration has continued the practice. Its daily email is called 1600 Daily or West Wing Reads, depending on the content and the day....

Many citizens and international observers cautiously hoped that the southern African nation of Zimbabwe would find its way from dictatorship to democracy this year. President Robert Mugabe was militarily removed from office in November 2017 after 37 years in office, opening the door for the country’s first real leadership transition since 1980.

Elections were set for July 30. And, for the first time in many Zimbabweans’ lives, Mugabe was not on the ballot.

Election turnout was high, with over 70 percent of the country’s 16 million eligible voters participating. Zimbabweans waited in long lines to choose between Mugabe’s replacement, the 75-year-old acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and a young lawyer named Nelson Chamisa who promised economic revival and political change.

“What everyone had hoped for was a turning of the page in Zimbabwe,” observed Michelle Gavin, an Africa specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A quick crackdown

Election day was peaceful enough, but the high spirits wouldn’t last long.

After Chamisa’s party alleged fraud, the election commission said it would take days to finalize the vote count. When people in the capital of Harare protested the delay, police and soldiers fired, killing seven unarmed citizens.

On Aug. 2, the election commission declared Mnangagwa president with 50.8 percent of the vote – just enough to avoid a run-off. Chamisa’s party rejected the results and, a week later, filed a legal challenge in court.

Mugabe was a violent, repressive ruler. And Mnangagwa – whose nickname is “the Crocodile”...

Today, there are twice as many people supervised on parole or probation as are incarcerated in the U.S.

Parole is a period of being supervised in the community following early release from prison for following the rules. Probation is a period of community supervision ordered by courts as a punishment for a criminal offense. Together, they are often called “community corrections.”

I was commissioner of New York City Probation from 2010 to 2014, and research I co-authored in 2018 with 20 fellow probation and parole officials found that the number of people in community corrections has grown four-fold since 1980. The number peaked in 2007 at 5.1 million Americans. In 2016 it was 4.5 million people.

This is unique internationally, as well as historically. Probation and parole were originally meant to serve as alternatives to prison. Instead, they have grown alongside a five-fold increase in incarceration between 1980 and 2009.

On Dec. 31, 2016, the most recent date for which data is available, there were roughly 2.2 million people incarcerated in prisons and jails throughout the U.S. Add that to the 4.5 million people being supervised in the community by a parole or probation agency, and 1 in 38 adults under some form of correctional supervision.

Community corrections has turned into an add-on, rather than a relief valve, to the mass incarceration dilemma in the U.S.

Too big...

Most Americans use rare earth elements every day – without knowing it, or knowing anything about what they do. That could change, as these unusual materials are becoming a focal point in the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.

Stanley Mertzman, a geologist whose specialty is X-ray analysis of rocks and minerals to determine their chemical composition, and who teaches mineralogy at Franklin and Marshall College, explains more about these little-known and fascinating elements – and the modern electronics they make possible.

1. What are rare earth elements?

Strictly speaking, they are elements like others on the periodic table – such as carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – with atomic numbers 57 to 71. There are two others with similar properties that are sometimes grouped with them, but the main rare earth elements are those 15. To make the first one, lanthanum, start with a barium atom and add one proton and one electron. Each successive rare earth element adds one more proton and one more electron.

With the school year starting again, it’s time to start to think about the routine of packing school lunches. For many time-pressed parents, this is a formidable task.

But it doesn’t need to be. I’m a registered dietitian and a clinical instructor, and I have a few easy suggestions. The first has to do with the food itself, and the others are about organizing the meal.

Packing a powerful lunch

Research has shown that a balanced lunch of complex carbohydrates and protein offers children energy and brain fuel to help them get through a day of learning. For the main course, pair a complex carbohydrate, such as whole grain breads, crackers, pasta, beans, fruit, milk and yogurt, with a protein as your child’s main course. Some examples include a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, beans with rice and salsa, peanut butter and jelly, tuna salad on crackers, yogurt and granola or cottage cheese with fruit.

When considering complex carbohydrates, look for three to five grams of fiber per serving. Two slices of whole wheat bread usually contains three grams of fiber or more. A piece of fruit is a good way to get in complex carbohydrates, satisfy a sweet craving and avoid sweets with added sugars. Keep in mind that research suggests children should eat less than 25 grams of added sugar per...

Nearly 2 million Muslim pilgrims are gathering in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. This five-day pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for all Muslims who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.

What is the religious and political significance of this annual pilgrimage?

The fifth pillar

Millions of Muslims come from countries as diverse as Indonesia, Russia, India, Cuba, Fiji, the United States and Nigeria – all dressed in plain white garments.

Men wear seamless, unstitched clothing, and women, white dresses with headscarves. The idea is to dress plainly so as to mask any differences in wealth and status.

The pilgrimage is considered to be the fifth pillar of Islamic practice. The other four are the profession of faith, five...

With news that companies like Starbucks, Hyatt and Marriott have agreed to ban plastic straws, it’s a fitting time to consider the role of plastic in our daily lives. Plastics are an often overlooked modern wonder – cheap and multipurpose substances that can be fashioned into myriad products.

Drinking straws are just the literal tip of humanity’s plastic addiction. In 2016 global plastic resin production reached nearly 335 million metric tons. By some estimates, it could grow to approximately 650 million metric tons by 2020, roughly 100 times the weight of the Pyramid of Giza.

Our lab is one of a number of research teams looking for potential solutions to society’s plastic problems. We study a tiny photosynthetic bacteria, which we are using as a production platform to convert light and carbon dioxide into renewable compounds, including bioplastic alternatives. Bio-based plastics are a promising option for reducing plastic waste, but scaling them up will require substantial investments, both in making them and in special facilities for disposing of them.

A southern city has now become synonymous with the ongoing scourge of racism in the United States.

A year ago, white supremacists rallied to “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville, protesting the removal of a Confederate statute.

In the days that followed, two of them, Christopher C. Cantwell and James A. Fields Jr., became quite prominent.

The HBO show “Vice News Tonight” profiled Cantwell in an episode and showed him spouting racist and anti-Semitic slurs and violent fantasies. Fields gained notoriety after he plowed a car into a group of unarmed counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Today this tragedy defines the nature of modern racism primarily as Southern, embodied in tiki torches, Confederate flags and violent outbursts.

As historians of race in America, we believe that such a one-sided view misses how entrenched, widespread and multi-various racism is and has been across the country.

Jim Crow born in the North

Racism has deep historic roots in the North, making the chaos and violence of Charlottesville part of a national historic phenomenon.

Cantwell was born and raised in Stony Brook, Long Island, and was living in New Hampshire at the time of the march. Fields was born in Boone County, Kentucky, a stone’s throw from Cincinnati, Ohio, and was living in Ohio when he plowed through a crowd.

Jim Crow, the system of laws that advanced segregation and black disenfranchisement, began...

Beginning next year, the Common Application – an online form that enables students to apply to the 800 or so colleges that use it – will no longer ask students about their criminal pasts.

As a formerly incarcerated person who now is now an endocrinologist and professor at two world-renowned medical institutions – Johns Hopkins Medicine and Howard University College of Medicine – I believe this move is a positive one. People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning.

While I am enthusiastic about the decision to remove the criminal history question from the Common Application, I also believe more must be done to remove the various barriers that exist between formerly incarcerated individuals such as myself and higher education.

I make this argument not only as a formerly incarcerated person who now teaches aspiring medical doctors, but also as an advocate for people with criminal convictions. The organization I lead - From Prison Cells to PhD – helped push for the change on the Common Application.

My own story stands as a testament to the fact that today’s incarcerated person could become tomorrow’s professor. A person who once sold illegal drugs on the street could become tomorrow’s medical doctor. But this can only happen if such a person, and the many others in similar situations, are given the chance.

There was a time not so long ago when some in the legal system believed I did...