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Science is awesome

I love science. Don’t get me wrong, I did not take easily to studying covalent bonds or the force required to overcome friction to move an object…but I sure love reading about the amazing things other people are doing with all that stuff that went over my head in high school.

Last week I saw a story about the work of paleontologists at the University of California, Berkeley, who were trying to figure out the number of tyrannosaurus rex who lived during the Cretaceous Period. Using density data, data from climate models and the fossil record, researchers are estimating there were approximately 20,000 adult T. rex in North America at any one time. Then estimating there were 127,000 generations of the species, they determined there were approximately 2.5 billion of them here, overall.

If you’re wondering why in the world such information is important, it comes down to the study of population density and preservation rate in species, and therefore a better understanding of modern animal communities. But to me, it’s just cool. The 6-year-old in me just thinks “Whoa! 2.5 billion T. rexes…”

Another story from last week, Domino’s is working on an autonomous pizza delivery system with a self-driving robot car. (Again, self-driving robot car bringing pizza. Cool.) A company called Nuro is developing a vehicle specifically for that purpose. It is not alone in working on autonomous delivery vehicles. It’s easier to work on technology that transports stuff, as opposed to nervous human passengers. But of course, one leads to another.

It’s easy to give scientists credit when their work results in “Oh, that’s awesome!” announcements. These days it’s just as easy to jump all over them when they are trying to make life and death decisions about a killer virus and the vaccines that might help us beat them.

Depending on which side of the discussion you were on before the announced pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution, you may be either frustrated with the delay in resumed injections or frustrated the shot was ever approved in the first place. Chances are you are not a doctor or scientist with enough education or information on the matter to offer anything more than an emotional reaction.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki tried to defend the folks working on a very difficult problem right now.

“Science moves at the speed of science and they want to review more data,” she said. “We believe they are the gold standard, the (Food and Drug Administration) FDA is the gold standard in the world,” she added. “Actually, their thorough and transparent approach should give the American public additional confidence in the role they play and the approach the United States takes to the approval of vaccines out on the market.”

In the meantime, if you are the sort of person who bought into all the conspiracy theory nonsense about vaccines to begin with, you are probably finding ways to let the J&J pause reinforce your arguments right now.

On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who understands science isn’t always, well, an exact science, you are patiently waiting for more information without panicking and possibly weighing whether you should schedule an appointment for one of the other vaccines.

For those folks, don’t get thrown off your game. Science IS awesome, and we are seeing it working right now, rather than failing.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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