Author Archives: Bob Welbaum

The Future of Ethics

Let me ask a provocative question — do our ethics change over time? Consider — about a third of the population of ancient Rome consisted of slaves, but today we know slavery is wrong. Also, at one time, birth control was illegal in this country, but today it’s an accepted, even encouraged, practice. The same

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Remembering Justice Thurgood Marshall

On June 13, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was appointed a Supreme Court justice by President Lyndon Johnson. He was the first African American named to the nation’s highest court. Not that he had never been in those hallowed halls before — he had argued and won his first Supreme Court case at age 32 in Chambers v.

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Unusual Rainbows

My first visit to Yosemite National Park in California happened to coincide with a full moon. Taking in all the wonders the park has to offer, I listened to an evening presentation given by a ranger. She explained how, if you stand in just the right place near one of the major waterfalls during a

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How Did The Alligator Cross The Road?

No, this is not a joke. Animals of many species cross our highways, frequently with tragic results. There are over one million collisions between vehicles and large animals each year in this country. The predictable result is hundreds of deaths to both us and the animals, not to mention property damage running into the billions

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Gender Differences in Sports — It’s All About Fairness

You may recall reading about the U.S. Women’s National Team in soccer protesting about not being treated equally with the men’s team. You may remember their 2019 gender-discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation over pay and workplace issues (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/sports/u-s-soccer-reaches-settlement-world-cup-women-s-team-n1249603). Well, it’s come up again, this time in softball. The Women’s College World Series

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Laughter Isn’t Just for Humans

We think of laughter as a uniquely human trait. Laughter for us is inborn — even deaf babies laugh. Plus there is a cultural component, as people in some cultures laugh more than others, but it’s a universal part of our behavior. Now scientists are saying it’s an important part of animals’ behavior too. New

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Another Reminder of Racism

Are we a racist country? No matter your politics, the inescapable conclusion is if we aren’t today (a big if), we certainly have been for most of our history. I do a lot of reading, especially about our past, and I keep running across these little reminders of how divisive our race relations used to

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Do We Need Maple Syrup Alternatives?

There are some aspects of our lives that we always take for granted. For example, having maple syrup, which was first made by the Indigenous peoples of North America long before Europeans arrived. Its availability has made it a breakfast staple, as well as being an important part of the economies of the Northeastern United

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What We Can Learn From Cicadas

The late spring is always a trying time to be a substitute teacher, with students quickly losing interest as the summer approaches. This pandemic year has been hard on everyone, from wearing masks and hybrid schedules featuring double periods to in-person learning only four days a week. Nice weather means students can take mask breaks

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What’s Next For Radio Astronomy?

As a casual observer of astronomy, I’ve learned two things — There’s more to the universe than what you can see, and you have to think big. For example, radio astronomy studies the sky at radio frequencies. This subfield of astronomy dates back to 1932, when Karl Jansky at Bell Telephone Laboratories detected radiation coming from within our home

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