When they handed out the science genes I was at the back of the line. How far back? Well, after a semester of earth science in high school, my teacher pulled me aside and advised, “You need to switch to the typing class.”


That said, in some sort of weird juxtaposition, news items with a leaning toward the scientific interest me. I am fascinated by how brilliant science minds must be to come up with what they come up with. 


For instance, have you ever been shooting hoops on a basketball court and had someone chide you that you're so untalented you could not hit the broad side of a barn? No more. A science guy has developed a motorized basketball backboard and hoop and combined it with computer software that tracks the flight of the ball. The result is that regardless of your talent level, you can't miss. You can shoot at the barn wall by facing the basket, backwards or blindfolded. The ball will always go in. Seeing is believing at:


Of course, to power that backboard electricity is needed. Chances are, thanks to science, that power will come from the sun. According to the International Energy Agency: “Solar output is expected to lead a surge in the next decade, with renewables accounting for 80 percent of growth in global electricity generation under current conditions. Renewables are expected to overtake coal as the primary means of producing electricity by 2025.” (


The IEA also notes that solar is now the cheapest form of electricity for utility companies to build. “The IEA’s main scenario has 43 percent more solar output by 2040 than it expected in 2018. The cost to build power plants is a major part of why so much of the world has stuck with coal and gas power. Solar's cost has fallen almost completely below both gas and coal worldwide. Right now it’s in the sweet spot of low cost and increasing availability.” ( and


Hopefully at some point the switch to renewables will pay off with less air pollution. This is important when you consider another aspect of scientific research. The Health Effect Institute says: “New research says air pollution is the leading cause of death for newborns in their first month of life, and was responsible for killing nearly a half-million babies last year.”


Much of the problem is in poorer countries, but pollution affects everyone on the globe. “More than 90 percent of the global population experienced fine particle air pollution that exceeded safety guidelines from the World Health Organization. In 2019, air pollution moved up from the fifth to the fourth leading risk factor for death globally, continuing to exceed the impacts of other widely recognized risk factors for chronic diseases like obesity, high cholesterol, and malnutrition." 



That's a bit of grim science news, but there is some good news too. Doctors may have found a new organ hidden in your head. “For the past three centuries, doctors have been under the impression that humans have three major types of salivary glands, found near the ears, below the jaw, and under the tongue. Now, we think there is a fourth.” 


This could be significant in the treatment of cancer. “Dutch researchers were looking for tumorous growth using a new kind of advanced scan of tissues when they spotted thin, flat glands, each about two inches long, on the tubes joining the ears and throat and hidden under the base of the skull. There will be debate over whether the glands are a new organ or part of a system of 1,000 minor salivary glands found across the lining of the mouth and throat. Either way, they believe knowledge of the glands could help patients with head and neck cancer who undergo radiation therapy.” (


Anything that advances the fight against cancer is surely a good thing. On the other hand, sometimes medical science proves that just because you can do something does not mean that the outcome is desirable (for most of the population). This might be the case for a German man who just set a Guinness World Record for most body modifications. “Rolf Buchholz said his enthusiasm for body modification didn't awaken until he got his first tattoo at age 40, but he soon became addicted and now has 516 body modifications, including tattoos, piercings and subdermal implants.” This guy's appearance is certainly unique (and for me a bit disturbing). Se it at:


With many students doing remote learning, science's cousin (technology) recently provided something positive. “ A teacher in California says she never logs out of online classes until all her students have logged off—a policy that meant she was able to call for help when a man broke into a home while two teen students were still logged on. She says that that as the students started screaming for help, she called 911 and stayed online with them until police arrived. An intruder entered through a front window and ran through the house. Police later apprehended the culprit. 


The children's mother saluted the teacher. “Thank you for staying logged in to help my kids by calling 911 and for giving them the protection and comfort that they needed at that moment even though you were miles away." (


Finally, science has delivered on a new Christmas tradition for the third year in a row – the KFC “11 Herbs & Spices Firelog.” Although it’s typically a December release, KFC has launched it early this year! (


The fire log is designed to make your home smell like fried chicken. It comes from Enviro-Log, a brand that uses 100 percent recycled waxed cardboard and burns cleaner than firewood. The “11 Herbs & Spices Firelog” costs $15.88.

Combine the log with a Hallmark movie and your romantic Christmas Eve is all set.


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and