Is the Supreme Court’s legitimacy undermined in a polarized age? – By Kevin J. McMahon, Professor of Political Science & Director of the Graduate Program in Public Policy, Trinity College

The Conversation

When I learned Justice Anthony Kennedy would retire, my thoughts went immediately to the confirmation of the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch.

The Senate’s confirmation of Gorsuch was unprecedented in the history of the country. Never before had a “minority president” named a “minority justice.”

I’m a scholar of the presidency and the Supreme Court. I will soon publish an article in the Chicago-Kent Law Review that considers the concepts of a “minority president” and a “minority justice” in relation to presidential appointments to the High Court for much of American history.

Here’s what I mean by these terms.

Court out of step with America?

Since Donald Trump lost the popular vote in the 2016 election, he is, by definition, a minority president, elected by a minority of the voters.

Similarly, I define a “minority justice” as a nominee who won confirmation with the support of a majority of senators, but senators who did not represent a majority of voters.

Consider Gorsuch. He was supported by a majority of senators – 51 Republicans and three Democrats. But the votes earned by those 54 senators only added up to a total of 54,098,387.

The 45 senators who opposed Gorsuch, all Democrats, collected 73,425,062 votes in their most recent elections – a nearly 20 million-vote difference.

There are now three Supreme Court justices – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Gorsuch – that fit the description of a “minority justice.” And they are the only three in the nation’s history…


Episode 40: Watching Vesuvius

“Time to Eat the Dogs” podcast

Sean Cocco talks about the 1631 eruption of Vesuvius and its impact on Renaissance science and culture. Cocco is an associate professor of history at Trinity College. He is the author of Watching Vesuvius: A History of Science and Culture in Early Modern Italy.


Trinity College Foundation Testing Program Brings Precise Results To Homeowners

Hartford Courant

For homeowners in Northeastern Connecticut who suspect their foundations might be crumbling, testing for the problem can sometimes cost $4,000.

But now, thanks to a partnership between the Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements and Trinity College, a less expensive test is available.

Jonathan Gourley, senior lecturer and laboratory coordinator at Trinity’s Environmental Science program learned of the problem from his neighbors in Bolton. Gourley approached Christoph Geiss, the director of Trinity’s Environmental Science program, and the two realized they could use magnetic testing to determine whether the concrete contained the dreaded pyrrhotite.

“I heard about the issue, but I was like ‘something is crumbling people’s basements, what can I do about it?’” Geiss said. “For once, what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years might be useful.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said as many as 34,000 homes may be at risk for failing foundations in large part because of a mineral known as pyrrhotite that was present in the concrete aggregate used for the foundations that are now crumbling.

Pyrrhotite can be very difficult to test for, Geiss said. His and Gourley’s test involves heating the samples to see when the material loses its magnetic properties. Concrete including pyrrhotite becomes non-magnetic at 325 degrees and regular concrete at 580 degrees. They also test how much sulfur is in a sample — which confirms the presence of pyrrhotite in the sample as well as estimates how much might be present.

While the testing method has been around for some time, its application is new. Gourley said the tests they are conducting are much more precise than visual inspections done by engineers. He estimated that the lab processes about five to 10 cores a week…


Colleges in America and Ecuador Team Up to Study Dengue and Zika

Twenty years ago, Ecuador built a new highway. The road ran from the north coast of the country to the mountains and connected the remote coastal province of Esmeraldas to the rest of the country.

The highway brought a lot of change quickly: electricity, development, logging, and an unwanted hitchhiker: disease.

Scientists from six colleges in the US and Ecuador have been studying the impact of that road on 21 rural villages for the past 15 years in a wide-ranging program called Eco Dess, which stands for Ecología Desarrollo, Social y Salúd – or in English, Ecology, Development, Social, and Health.

Last year, Eco Dess received its latest funding: a grant from the National Institutes of Health to research the highway’s effect on the spread of Zika virus and Dengue Fever.

“Dengue, which is considered an urban disease, is showing up in our area,” said Dr. Joseph Eisenberg, the project leader and chair of epidemiology at University of Michigan.

He said the appearance of Dengue shows that the area, while still rural, is urbanizing.

“We’re interested in what it means to be urban and why,” he said.

Diseases are more than microorganisms. They’re pathogens spread by people. Choices made by the communities affected by the diseases influence who is infected, how many disease vectors there are, and how the disease spreads.

“Exposure to the viruses that cause Dengue and Zika is a product of human behavior and mosquito behavior,” said James Trostle of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., a long-time member of the Eco Dess research team.

Trostle, an anthropologist, is one of Eco Dess’s principal investigators. He’s been with the project since 2003.

It’s Trostle’s job to study the human behavior in the equation. He focuses on the way social networks influence the spread of disease, how human behavior helps mosquito populations flourish, and how rural and and urban development – road building in this case – draw people and mosquitos together…


Afraid of the Keto Diet Full Time? Try Keto Cycling

Healthline (7/26)

The ketogenic diet is hard to stick with. Really hard.

But now a new trend is making the diet more accessible with a cheat day of delicious carbohydrates.

“Keto cycling” is a more lenient take on the ketogenic diet that lets people “cycle” in and out of ketosis with a single day where carbs are OK.

More specifically, there should be a planned day of higher carbohydrate intake — obviously, you shouldn’t go crazy on sweets and other unhealthy carbs.

Why try keto cycling?

Many people on the ketogenic diet are likely trying to lose weight, but because of the diet’s oppressive menu restrictions, it can be hard to stick to. This can lead to dangerous eating habits such as yo-yo dieting or even abandoning the diet completely.

“For a lot of my patients, ketogenic has worked fairly well, but the challenge for many is that it’s hard to sustain, and they sometimes find that they go back to old habits after getting off the diet,” Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, a licensed, registered dietitian, and wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, told Healthline

Some dietitians and nutritionists have begun recommending keto cycling as a way for individuals to actually stick to the diet for the long run. The rationale is that by allowing people to have carbs once a week, they will be more fulfilled with their diet and stick to it and maintain healthy eating habits…

Susan A. Masino, PhD, a professor of applied science at Trinity College in Connecticut and an expert on the ketogenic diet, told Healthline, “I do know that it would definitely not be recommended for someone prescribed the ketogenic diet for seizures, and probably not if [it] was prescribed for other medical conditions. However, for those who are using the ketogenic diet to boost health, it may be a way to gain benefits and sustain it long term.”

“I’m more a fan of balance, so I don’t see the need to go super heavy with carbohydrates one day, and light on the next,” said Kirkpatrick. She recommends that, if individuals are interested in introducing more carbs into a ketogenic diet, “they should focus on smart carbs that are lower on the glycemic index, like legumes and beans, berries.”