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    The human colony on the planet Argo has long explored and exploited the technology left behind by an extinct alien race. But then an archaeology team accidentally activates a terrible weapon...
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    "Seldom does a storytelling talent come along as potent and fully mature as Mike Brotherton. His complex characters take you on a voyage that is both fiercely credible and astonishingly imaginative. This is Science Fiction."
    -- David Brin

    "Star Dragon is terrific fare, offering readers a fusion of hard science and grand adventure."
    -- Locus Magazine

    "Star Dragon is steeped in cosmology, the physics of interstellar travel, exobiology, artificial intelligence, bioscience. Brotherton, author of many scientific articles in refereed journals, has written a dramatic, provocative, utterly convincing hard science sf novel that includes an ironic twist that fans will love."
    -- Booklist starred review

    "Readers hungry for the thought-provoking extrapolation and rigorous technical detail of old-fashioned hard SF are sure to enjoy astronomer Brotherton's first novel."
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    "Mike Brotherton, himself a trained astrophysicist, combines the technical acuity and ingenuity of Robert Forward with the ironic, postmodern stance and style of M. John Harrison. In this, his debut novel, those twin talents unite to produce a work that is involving on any number of levels. It's just about all you could ask for in a hardcore SF adventure."
    -- Paul di Fillippo, SCI-FI.COM

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Science Denying Scare Mongers on Flu Shots!

January 30th, 2013

So I got an email forwarded with the subject line, “Influenza Vaccination Dangerous and Ineffective.”  Yeah, you know, not so dangerous, certainly not statistically when compared to the danger of the flu itself, and since when did a number like 60% effective (a conservative estimate of effectiveness that rolls in a number of factors) mean “ineffective?”

When you have biased libertarian/conservative types who don’t trust the government, or scientists, or statistics, that’s when.  It’s the same kind of biased reasoning that leads them to reject climate change (which almost certainly requires regulations — a dirty word to them — to be addressed, and it’s something liberals like Al Gore believe in so a double reason to deny it).

Don’t believe me?  After I got the forwarded email, I went to see where this type of news was being discussed and spread.  It’s all conservative/libertarian news outlets (e.g. the New American story here, a publication of the John Birch Society) and blogs, as well as fringe crank/conspiracy sources (like this one from rense.com) that feed the anti-authority/government/science biases.

Many of the stories I scanned made a point of how vaccines are tied to abortion and aborted fetal tissue (which also calls 60% effectiveness “highly ineffective”) or can cause — not miscarriages — but “spontaneous abortions.”  (See this critique of this biased nonsense.)

Yeah, there are some liberal nut cases still convinced many vaccines cause autism, which is well debunked, but this business about flu shots seems rooted in the libertarian strain of conservatism and conspiracy theory.  Some also seem just pro-nature/anti-science (which is only a conflict to those who don’t understand science), and think the flu is natural or god’s will and not to be prevented through government or technological efforts.  Some are pushing alternative medicine, on much shakier grounds than vaccines, in order to prevent flu.

If “Influenza Vaccination Dangerous and Ineffective” becomes a widely believed and passed on meme, people will die unnecessarily.  My wife works at a retirement home and flu/flu leading to pneumonia is what kills a lot of the elderly there and elsewhere.  Even if you’re young and healthy, you may pass on the meme or the flu itself and contribute to the death of your loved ones, or someone else’s loved ones.

Don’t do it.  Vaccines are not perfectly safe or perfectly effective, but that’s a far cry from “dangerous and ineffective,” especially when we know for a fact that the flu kills thousands annually, and in the past some individual strains have even killed millions.

I’ve been too busy to get a shot this year, but I’m going to make an effort if they’re still available in my area just to be pro-science and anti-science denialism.

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